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The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Heath Administration (OSHA) issued a citation to First Capital Insulation, Inc. of York, PA on Monday, April 20 for failing to protect three of its workers from asbestos exposure. According to OSHA inspectors, the insulation company did not protect these individuals in accordance with regulatory standards when they removed thermal pipeline insulation at a residence on N. 2nd Street in Harrisburg.
“We found employees removing insulation containing asbestos without first wetting the materials, which reduces the danger of exposure. A little water could have made all the difference and the company knew this,” said Kevin Kilip of OSHA’s Harrisburg office.
Throughout American history, many workers, across a variety of industries, have been exposed to asbestos on the job. Some 30 million pounds of the toxic material, a known human carcinogen, are still used each year in the U.S. This exposure can lead to a variety of health problems, including cancer such as mesothelioma, which takes 10,000 American lives annually.
This asbestos-related cancer can occur when asbestos is inhaled and microscopic fibers become lodged within the outer lung tissue. This thin layer of cells protects and lubricates the chest cavity. Asbestos causes a sustained inflammation of these cells resulting in harmful scar tissues forming on the surface. This scar tissue lays the foundation for cancerous cells to develop.
The Harrisburg work site was inspected from October 2014 to April 15, 2015, which has resulted in a $490,000 fine for the improper protection discovered. Seven willful violations occurred for regularly exposing the workers to asbestos dangers. OSHA defines “willful violations” as occurrences in which an employer knowingly fails to comply with legal requirements or acts with indifference to employee safety.
Among these violations were allowing workers to remove asbestos improperly, failing to ensure employees’ respirators fit well, and failure to decontaminate employees and their clothing before they left the construction site.
Decontaminating employees and their clothing is extremely important to reduce second hand exposure. As so, workers can bring asbestos fibers home on their hair, clothing, or shoes at the end of the workday. This is even more pertinent for exposing asbestos to small children.
When it comes to thermal system insulation and surfacing in buildings before 1980, OSHA requires treatment of the materials for asbestos—unless a company can prove the materials test as asbestos-free. The unoccupied home in Harrisburg was built in 1928 and First Capital did not test the removed insulation according to OSHA.
First Capital Insulation Inc., an environmental services company, has 15 days to comply with OSHA’s requirements, but CEO Rich Yingling claims, “At this point, we disagree with the allegations. We intend to contest them.”
The full list of the delivered citations can be viewed at OSHA’s website.