When old buildings are being renovated, employees should be sure that they won't be exposed to any harmful substances. Many old facilities contain asbestos, and workers who are in those buildings when they are undergoing renovation need to be aware of the risks in order to avoid workplace illness. If a company is in a hurry to get the renovations completed for some reason, it's possible that corners could be cut and proper safety standards are not observed.
Recently, a New York real estate development company was inspected by officials from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration due to employers and contractors being exposed to asbestos and lead. The company is facing a staggering $2.3 million in fines due to 45 violations that OSHA says it uncovered.
The company was working on a former psychiatric center, and was readying the building to show to possible investors. There were apparently many hazardous materials contained in the old building, including floor tiles and insulation containing asbestos; paint containing lead that was on walls, door frames and other locations; and debris that was contaminated with lead and asbestos.
While this is not unusual in and of itself, OSHA says that the company failed to prepare the workers for the job they were assigned to do. They allegedly didn't notify them or post signs that asbestos and lead were present, and didn't give them training about how to handle the substances -- or give them proper respiratory gear to avoid unnecessary exposure.
The company says it intends to work with OSHA to resolve the allegations. It wasn't immediately clear if any workers reported any illnesses from working at the site; however, exposure to these materials may not lead to symptoms for many years in the future.
Source: Occupational Health & Safety, "OSHA Alleges 45 Willful Violations by NY Real Estate Developer, Issues $2.3M in Fines," April 2, 2014