Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries has cited a Puyallup asbestos abatement company for several willful violations and fined the firm more than $400,000. The action deals with two abatement projects the company undertook last year at the former Lynnwood High School and a building in Olympia used by the state Department of Transportation (DOT).
At the Lynnwood site, Spenser Abatement Services Inc. was cited for 11 willful violations and three serious violations, with a fine of $256,900. At the DOT building, the company was cited for eight willful and three serious violations, and fined $180,400.
A serious violation involves cases where there is a substantial probability of serious injury or death. A willful violation involves instances with the same probability of serious injury or death and the employer knowingly violates a rule or is plainly indifferent to correcting it.
Asbestos can lead to asbestosis, a potentially fatal lung disease, as well as mesothelioma and lung cancer. The L&I said its inspection of the Lynnwood site found significant problems with the company’s work removing materials, such as pipe insulation and vinyl tiles, that are known to contain asbestos.
A number of safety measures are required for the safe removal of asbestos-containing materials. L&I inspections determined that Spenser Abatement ignored basic safety measures, exposing workers to unsafe levels of asbestos. The heavy dust at the Lynnwood site drove one Spenser employee to seek medical care for breathing difficulties.
“We do not issue willful violations lightly, but this was an employer who knew the laws, knew how to protect his workers, and deliberately chose not to do so,” said Michael Silverstein, assistant director of L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “Worker safety should never be placed at risk just to improve a company’s bottom line.”
Spenser Abatement is one of more than 100 registered certified abatement contractors in Washington state. The company was hired to prepare the former Lynnwood High School for demolition. In August, L&I began an inspection of the site and found significant problems, including:
- Open removal of dry asbestos with no containment.
- Piles of bags containing chunks of dry asbestos materials.
- A lack of available water to wet asbestos-containing materials.
- No decontamination area for workers to shower or change their clothes.
L&I inspectors found similar violations at the DOT worksite in Olympia. Together, the fines from both citations total $437,300. The company has 15 days to appeal.
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