Chicago Subcontractor Cited for Exposing Workers to Asbestos –

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A demolition project at a former Waukegan hospital has taken a perilous turn, with federal authorities issuing a citation to a Chicago subcontractor for exposing workers to asbestos, a known carcinogen. This alarming situation, as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), came to light in November 2023 when reports surfaced of workers in hazardous conditions during the demolition of Lakes Behavioral Health Hospital.

The investigation uncovered a series of shocking safety breaches by K.L.F. Enterprises, the Chicago-based subcontractor entrusted with the demolition work. According to the findings, K.L.F. Enterprises displayed a reckless disregard for worker safety through a series of critical lapses.

The company allegedly failed to:

  • Identify the presence of asbestos: The company allegedly did not conduct proper inspections to identify asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) before demolition began.
  • Inform workers and stakeholders: L.F. Enterprises is accused of failing to notify workers, the general contractor (Reed Illinois Construction), or the building owner about the presence of asbestos.
  • Implement safety protocols: Workers were reportedly observed working near asbestos-containing debris without proper personal protective equipment (PPE), such as respirators and protective suits.
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“K.L.F. Enterprises’ decision not to stop work immediately or ensure appropriate control measures were followed when asbestos was clearly visible exposed these employees to a highly carcinogenic material with the potential for permanent, negative long-term health outcomes,” explained Chicago North OSHA Area Director Sukhvir Kaur in Arlington Heights. “We will hold companies accountable when they fail in their duty to protect the safety and health of their employees.”

OSHA has issued K.L.F. Enterprises with 36 citations for various safety violations, proposing a total penalty of $392,002. The citations detail a range of failures, from neglecting to develop an asbestos safety plan to not properly containing and disposing of asbestos debris.

Reed Illinois Construction, the general contractor for the demolition project, has also been cited by OSHA for its failure to ensure that K.L.F. Enterprises adhered to proper safety procedures regarding asbestos.

The incident highlights the ongoing dangers faced by construction workers, particularly those involved in demolition projects. Asbestos, a fibrous, naturally occurring mineral was widely used in building materials prior to the 1980s. When inhaled, asbestos fibers can lodge themselves deep within the lungs, causing long-term health problems like asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

As the investigation continues, concerns persist about the potential health effects on workers who were exposed to asbestos during the demolition project. Asbestos-related diseases can manifest over years, even decades. Therefore, workers involved in the demolition are strongly advised to seek immediate medical evaluation to monitor their health.

The citations issued by OSHA serve as a stark reminder of the importance of workplace safety regulations. These regulations are designed to protect workers from preventable hazards like asbestos exposure. Consistent enforcement and adherence to these regulations are crucial to ensuring the safety and well-being of construction workers across the country.

Sources:

Feds say Waukegan hospital demolition workers exposed to asbestos; Chicago company cited for 36 violations

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR ALLEGES SUBCONTRACTOR KNOWINGLY EXPOSED EMPLOYEES TO ASBESTOS HAZARDS DURING FORMER WAUKEGAN HOSPITAL DEMOLITION

OSHA Cites Subcontractor for Asbestos Exposures in Hospital Demolition

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