Two Seattle-area employers have been cited by the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) for violations that exposed workers to dangerous levels of asbestos while demolishing an apartment building. Asbestos is known to cause cancer and other life-threatening illnesses and conditions.
In the course of its investigation into the Seattle project, L&I identified 19 willful and serious safety and health violations. As a consequence, the two businesses have been fined a combined total of $379,100.
It was determined that Partners Construction Inc., of Federal Way, committed a total of 14 willful and serious violations, resulting in $291,950 of fines. Asbestos Construction Management Inc., of Bonney Lake, was cited with 5 willful and serious violations, amounting to $87,150 in fines.
According to L&I investigators, not only were the demolition workers directly exposed to asbestos, but the companies also left asbestos debris on site and committed other violations during demolition of a Fremont neighborhood apartment building. That three-story, five-unit apartment building had its original “popcorn” ceilings from the 1950s, a white substance that contains asbestos fibers. In addition, the units contained asbestos sheet vinyl flooring.
Medical studies have shown asbestos materials to be extremely hazardous, sometimes leading to asbestosis, (a disease that is often fatal), as well as lung cancer and mesothelioma. The process of removing asbestos-containing materials from a building should be done by a contractor certified in “abatement” who carefully follows health and safety regulations that protect workers, residents and the public from being exposed to asbestos. Contractor are also required to ensure the full and proper removal/disposal of any and all asbestos materials.
Partners Construction Inc. was indeed a certified asbestos abatement contractor, and was brought in by the building owner to rid the apartment building of asbestos prior to its demolition. After just a few weeks, Partners gave a certified letter of completion to the building owner indicating that all asbestos had been safely removed. Yet when L&I inspectors responded to a worker complaint, they determined that the removal work had not in fact been done, and nearly 5,400 square feet of popcorn ceiling had been left behind, along with asbestos sheet vinyl flooring.
Partners returned to the site to complete the abatement work, yet owing to a prior history of willful violations, L&I was already in the process of revoking Partners’ asbestos abatement certification. In May, Partners was official decertified, causing the company to go out of business.
Then a new company, Asbestos Construction Management Inc (ACM) (which is owned and operated by a family member of the Partners owner) stepped in to finish the job while using the same workers and asbestos supervisor as Partners – and sharing the same contaminated equipment.
L&I inspectors found that ACM committed several of the same violations that Partners had just months earlier. L&I then moved to decertify ACM as well.
The company has 15 business days to appeal the citation.
Penalty fines paid for the citation are put toward the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, which helps injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.
For a copy of the citations, please contact Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.