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August 01, 2013
Automaker cited by OSHA for asbestos violations

OSHA has regulated workplace exposure to asbestos since 1972, but some employers continue to run afoul of the agency’s rules. OSHA cited an auto manufacturing plant in Buffalo, New York, for eight serious violations of OSHA’s asbestos and respiratory protection standards.

Read on to learn if you may be making some of the same mistakes.

In one violation, a pipefitter working on a steam line was exposed to asbestos-containing material in the insulation. In another case, OSHA found that workers exposed to material containing asbestos were not wearing respiratory protection. In addition, the work was not being done in a properly demarcated area to minimize the number of workers in the space. OSHA also cited the company for not limiting access to the area to authorized individuals and not properly monitoring airborne asbestos concentrations.

Are you in compliance with asbestos regulations?

Asbestos is the name of a group of naturally occurring minerals used in building materials and other products to resist heat and corrosion. Exposure to asbestos may increase the risk of asbestosis, other nonmalignant lung and pleural disorders, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other cancers. Smokers who are also exposed to asbestos have a greatly increased risk of lung cancer.

Three OSHA standards protect workers from exposure to asbestos in the workplace:

  • 29 CFR 1910.1001 applies to asbestos exposure in general industry, such as during brake and clutch repair, custodial work, and manufacture of asbestos-containing products.
  • 29 CFR 1915.1001 covers asbestos exposure during work in shipyards.
  • 29 CFR 1926.1101 addresses construction work, including alteration, repair, renovation, and demolition of structures that contain asbestos.

OSHA officials say the key to preventing asbestos exposures (and avoiding citations) is an injury and illness prevention program. It should include training, engineering controls, safe work practices, use of respirators and other personal protective equipment (PPE), hygiene and housekeeping procedures, medical surveillance, and engineering.

The facility described above is facing more than $40,000 in proposed fines for the alleged violations of OSHA standards. Whether your workplace is a global corporation or a small business, OSHA can cite and fine you if you are exposing workers to potentially deadly asbestos.

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