Hospital Fined for Exposing Construction Workers and Staff to Hazardous Asbestos

August 10, 2011

Although asbestos is most commonly found in industrial settings like manufacturing plants, our asbestos attorneys know that the toxic mineral can also be found in some unexpected places. As the New York Daily News is reporting, a New York City hospital was recently fined nearly $50,000 for exposing construction workers, staff, and patients to life-threatening asbestos during a renovation project. This disturbing example of workplace asbestos exposure put hundreds of people at risk for an asbestos-related illness such as mesothelioma or asbestosis.

An inspection by the United State's Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration revealed 14 health and safety violations relating to asbestos at Brooklyn's Interfaith Medical Center. The most serious charges include not telling construction workers that they were handling dangerous asbestos during a remodeling and demolition project. All of the renovations took place on the hospital's inpatient behavioral health floor from 2007 through 2010, a critical period of time in which the crews were routinely exposed to a serious health risk.

According to the report, asbestos-containing floor tiles and pipe insulation were not properly labeled, and no material data safety sheets were provided. The hospital also failed to keep accurate safety records and did not provide any type of asbestos training prior to the demolition work. OSHA inspectors also found that the hazardous asbestos materials were dumped in hospital dumpsters along with the construction debris, putting anyone in close proximity at risk for an asbestos-related illness.

This serious asbestos violation went ignored by the hospital for years. Appropriate safety measures, such as providing adequate asbestos training, could have helped protect the health and safety of employees and patients. Instead, they were exposed to a potentially deadly risk.

Our mesothelioma lawyers understand the dangers of asbestos during renovation work, which releases the toxic material into the air and onto workers clothing and skin. Asbestos dust can lead to life-threatening diseases like mesothelioma, an incurable and aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the lungs. Statistics show that nearly 3,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, and many of them were exposed to asbestos on jobs where they inhaled asbestos or were exposed to hazardous asbestos dust. Asbestosis exposure can also lead to lung cancer and asbestosis, a deadly respiratory disease.

Unfortunately, New York hospital staffers and patients were exposed to toxic asbestos and may not realize they are suffering from a deadly disease until it is too late for medical treatment to be effective. It can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years for mesothelioma symptoms to begin, and once a mesothelioma diagnosis is made, life expectancy is limited to a period of about two years.

The hospital's negligent failure to protect employees from hazardous asbestos exposure during renovation work is inexcusable. Asbestos is a well-known carcinogen that causes cancer and the risk of asbestos exposure is heightened during renovation work that stirs up the hazardous particles. Still, the hospital failed to warn crews of the presence of asbestos-containing material and failed to properly train staff. Workplace asbestos exposure can result in serious injury or death and adequate safety steps need to be taken to protect the welfare of employees, especially when renovations are performed.