Construction workers in North Albany, NY, who’ve been busy converting an old liquor warehouse to apartments and retail stores, have been negligently exposed to asbestos thanks to the actions of the building’s owner, who failed to let them know that the toxic material was present inside the old structure.
Now, OSHA is fining the company and its owner, who has already been the subject of an ongoing investigation by the State Labor Department due to other infractions.
According to an article in the Albany Times-Union, developer Bill Barber of Abar Construction has been cited for 26 different safety violations at the site, which is costing approximately $6 million to renovate.
Apparently, however, Barber decided to cut some corners when it came to asbestos safety and protecting his employees. Eleven of the infractions involved alleged exposure of construction workers to asbestos materials.
Specifically, workers were not informed by the company that the debris left inside the long-vacant structure contained asbestos hazards. The workers shoveled and swept the trash without wearing any masks or other protective clothing, OSHA claims.
Furthermore, bags full of the debris were not labeled as toxic waste nor were they disposed of in a proper manner.
Barber has renovated or is in the process of renovating several other buildings within North Albany’s Warehouse District and enforcing federal asbestos safety rules seems to be a problem for him.
His many infractions have caused him to be investigated in depth by state authorities, who fear that the ignoring of asbestos rules may be a regular practice for Mr. Barber.
Unsuspecting construction workers often find themselves in such situations, especially in the case of those who do demolition or clean-up work. Company owners often hire individuals without construction knowledge, such as immigrants or even the homeless, all of whom are looking to make money however possible.
They are placed in precarious situations such as this and are uneducated as to the dangers of asbestos or, if they are aware of asbestos hazards, say nothing for fear of losing their job.
The result is a boss who receives little more than a slap on the hand and a bunch of workers who now face the possibility of someday developing an asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma cancer.
It could take decades before these employees know whether or not the asbestos has made them sick, so they must live with that fear from this point on.
Often, the best thing these individuals can do is to seek legal advice from an attorney to learn about their options for receiving compensation for items such as regular medical testing to detect asbestos-caused health issues.