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Asbestos removal contractor cited for workers without proper respiratory protection and training

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An asbestos removal contractor is facing $56K in fines after government safety inspectors found workers exposed to asbestos and fall hazards during asbestos remediation at a Buffalo, NY worksite.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Aria Contracting Corp., of Orchard Park, NY, for eight alleged serious violations of workplace safety standards at 2925 Main St. in Buffalo where the company was performing asbestos abatement on a former warehouse. OSHA proposed fines totaling $56,000.

During a visit to the site last year, personnel from OSHA's Buffalo Area Office found Aria Contracting employees removing asbestos and asbestos-containing materials from the building while wearing ripped and torn protective suits and without respiratory protection.

“Inhalation of asbestos fibers by workers may lead to lung disease and other disorders,” said Arthur Dube, OSHA's area director in Buffalo. “That is why it is essential effective protective measures, including proper protective gear and adequate and effective employee training, be in place and in use whenever necessary.”

Asbestos is a mineral fiber too small to see with the human eye. Inhalation of asbestos causes these tiny fibers to lodge in the lungs forever and can lead to health conditions such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, pleural plaque and pleural effusion. It may take 15-30 years after asbestos exposure for these asbestos related health conditions to develop.

When workers disturb asbestos during asbestos abatement operations, these light fibers become airborne. Without the required respiratory protection, workers are at risk of asbestos fibers entering their lungs. Without proper protective clothing and observance of decontamination procedures, workers can carry asbestos home on their body and clothes where their family may be at risk of asbestos exposure to the fibers.

Because asbestos is dangerous to public and worker health, there are specific safety standards to address asbestos hazards in the construction industry.

According to an OSHA release, Aria Contracting also failed to:

  • Adequately train employees about the hazards of asbestos,
  • Conduct an initial exposure monitoring to accurately determine the airborne concentrations of asbestos to which workers were exposed,
  • Place barriers over all openings around the asbestos remediation area,
  • And, have a competent person ensure safety regulations were followed on the site.

Aria Contracting also received a citation for a worker exposed to a 30-foot fall hazard while climbing from the elevated basket of a scissor lift through an opening onto the third story.

According to an OSHA release, the company also did not make all required records available to OSHA for review.

“A key means of preventing hazards such as these if for employers to establish and maintain effective health and safety programs in which they work with their employees to proactively identify and eliminate hazards before those can affect workers,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.

The Buffalo News reports that the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority awarded a no-bid contract to Aria Contracting last month for asbestos abatement and demolition of two high rise apartment buildings in the Kensington Heights complex that have been vacant more than 30 years. An attorney for the Housing Authority said the company did not inform the BMHA of the allegations prior to the contract.

Aria Contracting has fifteen days to comply, seek a meeting with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings. The company’s attorney said they have scheduled a meeting with OSHA to resolve the citations and would contest the charges if needed.

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