Too Little Too Late

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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Lorice Enterprises, LLC of Albany, NY for violating health and safety standards while removing asbestos containing roofing material. The asbestos remediation company faces a total of $83,300 in fines.

In a January 22, 2013 press release, Kimberly Castillon, OSHA’s area director in Albany stated “Lorice Enterprises did not conduct an initial exposure assessment to determine exposure for the workers removing asbestos-containing roofing material. Additionally, the employer did not utilize wet methods to ensure that asbestos did not become air borne and failed to ensure head and eye protection for these workers.” OSHA found Lorice Enterprises committed a willful violation, meaning a violation committed with intentional disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

“One of the best means of preventing serious workplace hazards is to establish an effective safety and health management system through which management and employees work together to actively identify, analyze and eliminate work-related hazards” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. Notwithstanding, OSHA’s recent action in New York, tragically for the men and women we represent, it is a case of too little and too late.

People always ask, “If asbestos has been banned for so long, how can anyone still be getting sick from it?” The truth is asbestos use has never been fully banned in the United States. The importation and use of asbestos has been banned in 52 other nations however, including the entire European Union. Some studies suggest that the annual world production of asbestos is still close to 2 million tons annually.

The EPA attempted to universally ban the use of asbestos in 1989. Court challenges led to the overturning of the EPA’s action, leaving only some of the uses banned, while clearing the way for the continued use of asbestos in some products. Asbestos cannot be used in the production of paper products, flooring felts for linoleum sheeting, wallboard patching products such as spackle and joint compounds or in gas fireplaces. Products in which asbestos can still be used include automotive brake pads, gaskets and automatic transmission parts as well as some construction materials.

Most U.S. companies have now found other materials to use in the place of asbestos in their products voluntarily for fear of future litigation. Asbestos products can still be sold in the U.S. but rarely are, and are largely limited to auto and aircraft brakes and gaskets and these products are primarily imported into the U.S. Because the Courts and Congress have failed to ban the use of asbestos entirely, the potential health hazard from asbestos containing products remains a reality.

The bottom line: Many workers and their family members were exposed to asbestos in their workplace and home without their knowledge. Asbestos was used in many everyday industrial and household products. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with lung cancer or Mesothelioma, please contact us immediately as we may be able to assist in obtaining compensation from those responsible. We can also represent those with asbestos exposure who have been diagnosed with colon cancer, throat cancer, and stomach cancer. Please bear in mind that family members of workers heavily exposed to asbestos face an increased risk of developing asbestos-related disease.

In addition, if you were previously screened for asbestos by another law firm and did or did not recover compensation for asbestos related disease, you may be entitled to compensation. If you have not had a check-up in the last year, please call your doctor because early detection is key to successful treatment of asbestos related disease. If you have suffered from one or more pleural effusions (fluid on your lung) in the last year or two or have been told you have a mass in or on your lungs, we would urge you to see a lung specialist as soon as possible.

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