$2.3M fine for knowingly exposing workers to asbestos

Man in Mask

Fines added up quickly for this real estate development and management company when OSHA decided to use per-instance citations for each employee exposed to asbestos and lead. Total fine: $2,359,000.

The fines involve the former Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center in Dover Plains, NY, which has been vacant since 1994. Olivet Management LLC purchased the property, including 503 acres and several buildings, in August 2013.

In response to a complaint, OSHA inspected the property on Oct. 23, 2013. The inspection found Olivet employees and 13 contractors were exposed to asbestos and lead while renovating and cleaning up the property.

The work was directed and overseen by Olivet supervisors, and included removing:

  • asbestos- and lead-contaminated debris
  • asbestos-containing floor tiles and insulation, and
  • lead-containing paint from walls, windows, door frames and other surfaces.

OSHA found Olivet knowingly failed to take basic safety precautions. The company didn’t:

  • inform their own employees nor the contractors about the presence of asbestos and lead
  • train employees about the hazards of asbestos and lead, and the required safeguards to take
  • monitor workers’ exposure levels
  • provide appropriate respiratory protection
  • post notices, warning signs and labels to alert workers and contractors about the asbestos and lead, and
  • provide clean changing and decontamination areas for workers, many of whom wore their contaminated clothing home, potentially exposing family members and others.

Olivet was cited for 45 willful violations: 24 were instance-by-instance violations for exposure of workers to asbestos and lead.

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez called Olivet’s action intolerable. “The company chose to ignore its responsibility to protect its own workers and contractors,” Perez said.

Olivet issued a statement, saying it’s been working and cooperating with OSHA to “ensure that our employees work in a safe and healthful workplace.” The company says it’s reviewing the citations and will address them in a timely manner. It has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to respond.

In January 2014, EPA ordered Olivet to stop all work that could disturb asbestos at the facility. EPA’s on investigation continues. Olivet could face additional fines from EPA.

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