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April 07, 2014
OSHA fines real estate developer $2.3 million for asbestos and lead violations. Are your workers exposed to similar hazards?

A New York real estate development and management company is facing $2.3 million in proposed fines for exposing employees and contractors to asbestos and lead hazards. OSHA’s Albany area office conducted an inspection in response to a complaint. Inspectors found that employees and contractors were exposed to asbestos and lead while performing renovation and cleanup activities.

According to OSHA, the development company failed to take basic safety precations and did not inform employees or contractors about the presence of asbestos and lead, despite knowing both hazards were present. As a result, OSHA issued 45 willful citations; about half of them were for per-instance exposure.

Take steps to protect your employees from lead and asbestos

As an employer, it’s your duty to train employees about the hazards of asbestos and lead and the need for safeguards. OSHA also requires that you monitor exposure, provide appropriate respiratory protection, and alert workers to the hazards.

Compliance quick check—asbestos

  • Asbestos fibers are released into the air during activities that disturb asbestos-containing materials.
  • Asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma and lung cancer, asbestosis (lung tissue scarring) and chronic lung disease.
  • The permissible exposure limit (PEL) for asbestos is 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air (f/cc) as an eight-hour, time-weighted average (TWA). Employee exposure is also limited to no more than 1 f/cc averaged over 30 minutes.
  • 29 CFR 1926.1101 covers construction, renovation, and demolition of structures contain asbestos.
  • The asbestos standard for general industry can be found at 29 CFR 1910.1001 and covers activities including brake and clutch repair, custodial work, and the manufacture of asbestos-containing products.

Compliance quick check—lead

Lead is a common hazard at many construction sites. Exposure comes from inhaling fumes and dust. Lead can be ingested when hands are contaminated by lead dust, and it can travel home on workers’ clothes, skin, hair, tool, and in vehicles.

  • Workers should use proper PPE, including gloves, clothing, and approved respirators.
  • Employers and supervisors should be alert to lead exposure symptoms, including severe abdominal pain, headache, and loss of motor coordination.
  • When possible, provide lead-free materials and chemicals.
  • OSHA recommends using wet cleaning methods to decrease dust.
  • Employers must ensure that workers are not exposed to more than 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air (ug/m3) of lead averaged over an 8-hour period.
  • If employees are exposed to an 8-hour TWA of 30 ug/m3 (the action level), employers must test lead levels every 6 months until two consecutive tests reveal lead levels below the action level and inform employees of these tests.
  • The OSHA standard for lead in construction is at 29 CFR 1926.62. For general industry, the standard is at 29 CFR 1910.1025.

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