According to the complaint filed by a worker’s advocacy group, employees of the firm were required to buy their own safety equipment, including gloves, goggles and respirators. These employees earned between $11 and $14 per hour, and would have the cost of the equipment removed from their check if they didn’t pay for the equipment up front. According to OSHA regulations, an employer is supposed to provide their employees with adequate protection against serious work-related illnesses. In this case, employees were forced to pay hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets each year.
What’s worse is that management cut corners with safety at job sites. In some cases, employees were asked to wash or reuse old filters in their respirators. The biggest risk associated with asbestos exposure is contracting mesothelioma, a particularly virulent type of lung cancer. And in another case, an employee included in the complaint recalls a time when non-working chemical safety showers were installed in order to pass a safety inspection.
This case demonstrates that some OSHA violations are not as obvious as others. Safety equipment was used at job sites, but the company did not give it to their employees. Such violations can put individuals with financial difficulties in a tough position between the desire to work and need to spend hundreds on equipment that should be provided for them.
Asbestos exposure is a risk that is never worth taking. Employees working in such a high-risk industry should be afforded every protection available. There are means by which employees can be safeguarded against inhaling the disease-inducing substance, yet there are still companies that would cut corners at the risk of their employees becoming gravely ill.
Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Health complaint filed against asbestos removal company,” Yvonne Wenger, March 16, 2012