According to a June 23 news release, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA – an arm of the U.S. Department of Labor – has cited three Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based companies for what the agency describes as “willful and serious” violations of federal safety and health regulations governing asbestos.
The citations go out to Louisiana Health Care Consultants LLC, Dean Building Holdings, and Bob Dean Enterprises Inc., all jointly charged for three (alleged) willful and 10 (alleged) serious violations for failing to follow OSHA’s standards for asbestos-related construction projects, according to Dallas-based OSHA regional administrator Dean McDaniel.
The three face fines of up to $112,000 for: failing to provide a trained supervisor or foreman to oversee the removal of a ceiling that contained asbestos; failing to provide the mandatory respiratory equipment to workers engaged in the project; and failing to inform workers that the site material contained asbestos.
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral widely used in floor tiles, ceiling tiles, acoustical and insulative sprays, insulation, and caulks or mastics up to 1989, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limited its use among American manufacturers to one percent by volume. Imported products are not regulated.
When it gets old or becomes broken, asbestos releases microscopic fibers that lodge in the lungs or digestive tract, causing diseases like asbestosis, lung and digestive-system cancers, and mesothelioma, a “silent killer” that does not produce definitive symptoms for up to five decades. When it is finally diagnosed, most sufferers are given little more than a year to live. Fewer than 10 percent survive five years.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration defines “willful” as the commission of an act with “intentional disregard for, or plain indifference to” mandates established by OSHA for the safe removal of asbestos.
Serious violations include: failure to monitor for asbestos particles; failure to use engineering controls (positive air-pressure devices, air filters) to minimize exposure; failure to use devices (air monitoring equipment) to determine exposures; failure to provide appropriate protective equipment, to insure its use, or to facilitate its safe cleaning and disposal; failure to appropriately manage asbestos-containing waste via wetting, appropriate containerization, and designated hazardous-waste disposal; and failure to train employees in the appropriate way to remove asbestos.
Serious violations are only issued by OSHA when there is a substantial likelihood that death, serious injury, or illness could occur as a result of exposure, and as a result of a hazard about which the employer was aware, or should have been aware, but did not inform employees.
According to OSHA, Louisiana Health Care Consultants LLC manages and maintains nursing homes. Bob Dean Enterprises is engaged in commercial and rental property management. Each company employs about 10 workers, and the OSHA citations are a result of work done on the State National Life Building in Baton Rouge, which is currently owned by Dean Building Holdings but managed by Bob Dean Enterprises.
All three firms have 15 working days (from the day they receive the citations) to respond, either by demonstrating regulatory compliance, requesting a hearing or contesting the citations.
This may or may not be the only instance in which Louisiana Health Care Consultants and Bob G. Dean Jr. have faced litigation. Case number 2:2009cv00103, filed Jan. 12 in Louisiana Eastern District Court, addresses the alleged failure of both firms to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act. Other defendants in this case include Angie Corville, Maison De’Ville Nursing Home of Harvey, L.L.C., Maison DeVille Nursing Home of Opelousas, Inc., Maison De’Ville Nursing Home, Inc. of Houma, Oak Park Health Care Center, L.L.C., Plaquemine Manor Nursing Home, Inc., Raceland Manor Nursing Home, Inc, and West Jefferson Health Care.
Sources: OSHA, Justia.com, Occupational Health and Safety Online