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December 5, 2002

Contractor fined for improper exposure to asbestos materials

TACOMA - The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has assessed $6,100 in penalties against a Pierce County company for exposing workers and the public to health hazards posed by asbestos at a Tacoma demolition project.

Barrett Construction was cited for three violations of asbestos-abatement rules designed to safeguard workers and the public from asbestos exposure. The violations occurred in May of 2002 during demolition of a Tacoma residence. The work involved uncontrolled demolition of cement siding, decorative "popcorn" ceiling and asphalt roofing materials, all containing asbestos.

Asbestos, a widely used mineral-based material that is resistant to fire and corrosives, represents a significant health hazard that has been linked to the loss of lung function, lung disease and several cancers that can lead to disability and death.

The employer was cited for one willful violation and two serious violations. Willful violations indicate that the employer knowingly or intentionally violated the safety or health rule, or exhibited plain indifference that a violation was occurring and failed to take corrective action. Serious violations are those that may lead to death or serious physical injury and the employer did know or should have known of the hazard. Specifically, the employer:

  • Willfully contracted an asbestos project to a demolition contractor not certified by L&I for asbestos removal. ($5,000 penalty).
  • Failed to provide information on the presence and likely disturbance of asbestos-containing materials to the demolition contractor ($500).
  • Failed to provide written notification to L&I before authorizing an asbestos project ($600).

The company has appealed the citation and penalties.

Separately, the demolition contractor was cited and penalized for not requesting an asbestos survey prior to the work and for not having asbestos-abatement certification.

Prior to disturbing or demolishing materials that may contain asbestos, property owners and contractors must either assume the material contains asbestos or perform a good-faith survey for asbestos. Property owners or contractors may obtain the services of a certified asbestos-abatement contractor for good-faith surveys and abatement, as well as an asbestos consultant for surveys and advice. Both may be found in the yellow pages under Asbestos Abatement and Asbestos Consulting & Testing, respectively.

Verification that an asbestos-abatement contractor has an approved certification may be obtained by calling 360-902-5435 or visiting the Web site at www.LNI.wa.gov/wisha/p-ts/asbestos/asbestos.htm. Regulations on asbestos worker and contractor certification and on abatement and demolition may be obtained from the Tacoma L&I office, 253-596-3868, or the Web at www.LNI.wa.gov/wisha/. A list of building materials that may contain asbestos may be found at www.epa.gov/asbestos/ or by calling the L&I office for assistance.

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