Work on construction and demolition sites can release harmful asbestos fibers.

The US Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited two Chicago construction companies for exposing workers to asbestos hazards on the job.

They have proposed more than $280,000 total in fines for willful and serious violations.

The two companies worked on a 90-year-old 80,000 square-foot building, which had asbestos-containing floor tiles and pipe insulation.

The companies allegedly failed to conduct an asbestos assessment and did not advise workers doing the demolition work that they were handling asbestos-containing materials and did not make sure they were adequately protected.

“Failing to conduct an asbestos assessment and require workers to wear personal protective equipment when working with material potentially contaminated by asbestos shows a blatant disregard for their health and safety,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Michael Connors in Chicago in a public news release.

“Safe and healthful working conditions should be paramount on every job site, and OSHA is committed to protecting workers, especially when employers fail to do so.”

Usually, when companies know that a demolition site is contaminated with asbestos, they need to:

  • First have an assessment done and comply with asbestos standards
  • Conduct air and exposure monitoring
  • Follow specific engineering controls and practices
  • Remove asbestos-containing tile intact
  • Allow dry sweeping of dust and residue
  • Provide hygiene facilities for workers handling the asbestos-containing materials
  • Make sure workers wear adequate personal protective clothing

Many older buildings feature materials with asbestos that can become a health hazard if workers are exposed to airborne fibers during demolition or renovations.

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Be extra cautious when dealing with asbestos

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The air cleaners can also be equipped with an activated carbon filter to remove a wide range of odors, gases and chemicals that may affect the workers’ health and well-being.

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