Exposure to asbestos can cause eventual death from dangerous diseases from the exposure. Especially for this reason, it is hard to fathom that anyone would knowingly expose others to asbestos dust without their knowledge.
Accordingly, a Washington state official described just this behavior as “unconscionable” in a case arising out of renovations at a Seattle hotel.
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries or L&I issued a news release on January 22 about large fines assessed against the Seattle Pacific Hotel and its owner for “multiple egregious safety and health violations” for allegedly exposing untrained workers to asbestos in a lobby remodeling project.
The agency issued $355,000 in fines for willful violations of 12 safety and health laws, including:
- Failure to perform air sampling
- Failure to provide protective respiratory equipment
- Exposure of workers to asbestos
- Asbestos debris
The hotel owner reportedly knew that the lobby ceiling contained cement board that contained asbestos, but balked at an estimate from a certified asbestos-removal contractor, opting instead to hire untrained, uncertified and unprotected roofing workers. L&I issued an order to stop this dangerous work when it was discovered.
The hotel may appeal the citations.
This type of scenario unfortunately is not uncommon. Those in charge of renovation, demolition and remodeling projects can knowingly or negligently cause asbestos exposure because of the historical use of asbestos in building components like roofing, tiles, insulation, wallboard, siding, plaster, fireproofing materials, patching compounds and more.
While asbestos contained in solid objects is normally safe, when asbestos-containing materials or ACMs are broken or crushed in demolition, microscopic asbestos particles are released in dust and may be breathed in or ingested by anyone in the area without adequate respiratory protection equipment.