What began as an internal safety audit at a Chicago-area manufacturer has backfired into state enforcement action and a $1.2 million federal fine against the company for using untrained, unprotected workers to remove asbestos.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued penalties totaling $1,247,400 against AMD Industries Inc. in Cicero after the company allegedly assigned five unprotected, unsupervised and untrained workers to remove asbestos materials from the facility’s boilers, heating units and piping.
OSHA issued 19 willful health citations—its highest level of infraction—and eight serious health citations against AMD following an inspection in December 2010.
|The citations allege lack of training and personal protective equipment during asbestos removal.|
AMD, founded in 1922, manufactures metal display units for merchandise. The company did not respond to a request for comment Thursday (May 26).
OSHA’s inspection was triggered by a referral from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which learned in November that the company was using in-house, untrained workers to remove materials that contained 20 to 50 percent asbestos.
IEPA and the Chicago Department of Environment had discovered the asbestos during a joint inspection at AMD’s nearby scrapyard, according to a release by IEPA. Scrapyard officials told CDE that they had received some pipes from AMD that were apparently contaminated with asbestos. Those officials said they had immediately arranged for removal of the asbestos by a licensed abatement company.
The IEPA inspector then went to AMD’s headquarters, where he determined that employees had improperly removed asbestos-containing pipe insulation, IEPA said. AMD reportedly discovered the asbestos materials on its boilers, heating units and pipes during a safety audit in 2002.
After the OSHA visit, AMD secured the impacted area and restricted employee access, IEPA said.
In December, IEPA asked the state Attorney General’s Office to proceed with an enforcement action against AMD for the improper removal, handling and disposal of asbestos-containing material. Later, the company entered into an order to implement a program to remediate the asbestos contamination, officials said.
According to the OSHA citations, unsupervised employees were removing chrysotile (white) asbestos-laden insulation from pipes and other systems without personal protection, containment or dropcloths. The task included sawing through, dry-sweeping, pulverizing and transporting asbestos materials.
No competent person had evaluated the project before employees began work; employees working in the area were not told of the exposure; and no signs or labels notified employees of the presence of asbestos-containing materials, OSHA said.
OSHA issued 15 willful citations, with proposed penalties of $945,000, alleging failure to provide training, protective clothing or protective equipment to the employees who removed the materials.
AMD was also fined $252,000 for four willful violations alleging failure to:
- Identify or inform workers of the location and quantity of asbestos;
- Monitor airborne concentrations of asbestos;
- Use high-efficiency particulate air vacuums and wet methods to control the dust; and
- Promptly and properly dispose of asbestos-contaminated waste.
A willful violation reflects intentional disregard for the law or indifference to employee safety and health.
OSHA also issued eight serious citations, with proposed fines of $50,400, alleging failure to:
- Implement a respirator protection program;
- Use engineering controls and work practices for Class I asbestos work;
- Conduct asbestos work in regulated areas; and
- Provide hygiene facilities for workers removing the dangerous material.
A serious violation reflects substantial probability of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
No Warning, No Respirators
AMD Industries, which previously had no OSHA record, has also been added to OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
Images: AMD Industries Inc.
|The company, founded in 1922, has been added to OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. It had no prior record with OSHA.|
“Asbestos exposure can be deadly,” said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “AMD Industries knew it was assigning workers to asbestos removal work and failed to take the most basic safety precautions. This employer did not provide protective respirators or even warn the workers of the risk to their health from removing the material.”
OSHA’s penalties apply only to AMD’s main building; the agency did not inspect the scrapyard, a spokesman said.
However, he added: “The case is not technically complete until everything is abated and fines are paid. We could not confirm if there would be any follow-up inspections, but since they have been put on the Severe Violators Program, the company can expect to receive more visits from OSHA. That goes for any of the properties that the company owns.”