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Steel Mill Fined $170,000 over Workers Being Exposed to Asbestos

According to a recent news feature from WTAE, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has levied a fine against a major American steel producer after an investigation confirmed that the company had allegedly exposed its workers to deadly asbestos fibers.

valveWhen asbestos dust is inhaled, the fibers can become trapped in a layer of tissue known as the mesothelium.  The mesothelium is made up of a special type of cells that form the layer which lines most internal organs in the body. Once the fibers become trapped in the mesothelium, they can metastasize into a deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma.

OSHA said that in this recently concluded investigation, around half a dozen workers were exposed to the deadly substance during the first week of February this year.  The reason they were exposed was because five workers were asked to remove a type of packaging material that contained asbestos and replace it with another type of packing material.  The following month, two more workers were instructed to use a torch to remove a piece of pipe and replace it with a new pipe because the existing one had rotted.  This pipe tested positive for the presence of asbestos.

As our Boston mesothelioma lawyers have seen in various cases over the years, pipes and pipe insulation, especially in a factory setting and on ships, have been a major source of asbestos contamination.  While being exposed to the asbestos fibers for as little as a week may not seem like that big a deal, there have been numerous cases where that short a period of exposure to asbestos has caused malignant pleural mesothelioma.

OSHA records indicated that this was not the first time the agency had cited the same employer for asbestos, as a similar incident happened in 2011.  The agency noted that, since this industry is one that will likely place workers in contact with asbestos, they must take steps to monitor the air and the factory for the presence of friable asbestos, and provide training to employees on being safe in the presence of asbestos.  The company must take steps to provide employees with training and equipment to safely dispose of asbestos when such a task is required, or in the alternative, the company must use licensed and certified asbestos abatement firm.

One of the reasons that these older factories are so likely to contain asbestos is because many of them were built during the height of the industrial revolution when asbestos was heavily used.  The reason asbestos was used so heavily is because of its natural ability to resist heat, fire, electricity, and caustic chemicals.  Asbestos also works very well as a binding agent in cements and epoxies commonly used in industrial environments. While the asbestos was very dangerous to the workers when it was originally installed, it is generally safe once in place until it starts to break down with time, or the factory owners need to do renovations or demolition work, as was the case here.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

US Steel fined $170,000 after investigation finds workers exposed to asbestos, August 8, 2016, By Daisy Ruth, WTAE

More Blog Entries:

Grant v. Foster Wheeler, LLC – Proof of Asbestos Defendants’ Products as Proximate Cause of Injury, July 5, 2016, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog