N.Y. Contractor Faces OSHA Fines

January 3, 2006

An Akron, N.Y., heating contractor’s alleged failure to protect employees against asbestos hazards has resulted in a total of $90,500 in fines from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

NOCO Energy Corp. was cited for 18 serious violations of OSHA standards governing work with, or around, asbestos and the proper selection and use of respirators. The citations and fines resulted from an OSHA inspection of a worksite at Huxley Drive in Cheektowaga, N.Y, which reportedly found employees had dismantled and removed a furnace contaminated with asbestos-containing materials (ACM) without adequate respiratory and asbestos protection.

“Worker inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious lung diseases, including asbestosis,” said Art Dube, OSHA’s Buffalo area director. “Asbestos-containing material is often present in older furnaces and venting. Any contractor performing this type of work must first monitor the work area to determine the presence and level of asbestos, then implement any required safeguards.”

OSHA’s inspection reportedly revealed that the company had not: monitored asbestos levels to determine which protections were needed; established a regulated work area; supplied personal protective clothing; ventilated the work area; established a decontamination area; used HEPA vacuums and wet methods to remove the ACM; properly disposed of the ACM; and trained employees in work with ACM. In addition, the work was not overseen by a competent person, one with both the knowledge to identify asbestos hazards and the authority to correct them.

The company also failed to ensure proper selection and use of respirators by workers. When respirators were used, NOCO did not perform fit-testing or required medical evaluations to determine if workers could wear respirators; did not train employees in respirator use, and failed to implement a respiratory protection program.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply with them, request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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