42 Years - A Professional Law Corporation - Helping Asbestos Victims Since 1974


Protecting Yourself From On-the-Job Asbestos Exposure

asbestos exposureNot that long ago, the only thing protecting workers from asbestos exposure was the conscience of their employer. But since 1970, things have changed for the better. At least on paper.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for administering and enforcing the federal OSH Act of 1970. OSHA regulations set out uniform national standards for workplace safety and health practices throughout the country. There are standards for hazard assessments, employee safety and health and other employee rights.

OSHA standards are rules that describe steps that employers must take to protect their employees from hazards like asbestos exposure. There are OSHA standards for construction work, agriculture, maritime operations, and general industry standards which apply to most worksites. These standards limit the amount of hazardous chemicals workers can be exposed to, require the use of certain safe practices and equipment, and require employers to monitor hazards.

It’s an employer’s duty to train employees about the hazards of asbestos and the need for safeguards. OSHA also requires that employers monitor asbestos exposure, provide respiratory protection, and alert workers to its hazards.

Because asbestos fibers can be released into the air during activities that disturb asbestos-containing materials and because asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma and other lung diseases, there are strict compliance standards regulating asbestos.

The permissible exposure limit (PEL) for asbestos is 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air (f/cc) as an eight-hour, time-weighted average (TWA). Employee exposure is also limited to no more than 1 f/cc averaged over 30 minutes.

Detailed asbestos compliance standards for general industry can be found on OSHA’s website regarding activities such as brake and clutch repair, custodial work, and the manufacture of asbestos-containing products. They also cover construction, renovation, and demolition of structures containing asbestos.

If you are being exposed to asbestos at your worksite, you can file a complaint online; download the form and mail or fax it to the nearest OSHA office; or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). Written complaints signed by a worker or their representative and submitted to a local OSHA office are more likely to result in an on-site OSHA inspection.

You have the right to tell OSHA not to let your employer know who filed the complaint. It is illegal for an employer to fire, demote, transfer or discriminate in any way against a worker for filing a complaint or using other OSHA rights.

If you think you are being subjected to asbestos exposure, contact OSHA. If you develop mesothelioma, Kazan Law is here for you. But we would prefer that you never need our services. Be well.

Court Reinforces Right to Sue at State Level for Workers Exposed to Workplace Toxins

OSHAOccupational safety means just that.  It means safety on the job from life-threatening hazards like asbestos exposure and other workplace toxins. So today I have good news for all of us who care about justice and occupational safety for America’s work force!

Last week, a federal court unanimously issued a ruling strengthening protections for Americans injured by hazardous substances, including asbestos exposure, on the job.

Specifically, the federal appeals court rejected a lawsuit filed by the American Tort Reform Association that challenged an important section of wording in OSHA’s revised hazard communication standard.  OSHA is the Occupational and Safety Hazard Administration, a division of the Department of Labor.

Both state and federal laws outline how companies are required to label harmful substances – including asbestos – in the workplace. Federal law usually trumps state law, but victims injured due to inadequate hazard labeling are still allowed to sue their employer for damages under state law.  The American Tort Reform Association, an industry-funded group, tried to overturn that and was unsuccessful.

I learned of this favorable ruling from Leah Nicholls, the Kazan-Budd attorney at Public Justice, a Washington D.C.-based public interest law firm.  I am proud to say that Kazan Law co-funds Leah Nicholls at Public Justice so she can work on difficult cases to protect people and the environment against powerful interests.

“The court’s opinion is great news for all of us who want to hold employers liable for injuries to employees,” Leah said.

“OSHA endorses the ability of employees injured because of inadequate labeling of hazardous substances to sue under state law to get damages for their injuries and, importantly, to prevent the same injuries from happening to other employees,” she added. “The fact that the D.C. Circuit held that OSHA’s endorsement stands will help persuade other courts that the existence of federal regulations does not prevent people from suing under state laws.”

The US Supreme Court has issued several rulings in recent years scaling back Americans’ ability to sue corporations for damages. The high court is also the most business-friendly since World War II, according to the New York Times business section. In that context especially, Leah said, “This is a heartening decision.”  I concur.

Caught in the Act: OSHA Cites Seven Contractors over Asbestos Violations

contractor on ladderThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued citations to seven contractors after they allegedly exposed their employees to asbestos on a construction site, according to a release from the federal agency.

The contractors, including three based in Miami and four based in San Antonio, were cited with 45 serious violations and one other-than-serious violation at a worksite in San Antonio. The proposed penalties from OSHA totaled $148,000, according to the release.

OSHA said the violations stemmed from work that took place at the Reserve at Pecan Valley apartment complex. In March, inspectors with the agency conducted a health and safety inspection at the site and reportedly found that workers were not wearing the proper protective equipment or clothing while renovating apartments.

The specific violations listed by OSHA included failing to ensure that employees work in regulated areas, failing to perform proper air monitoring for asbestos, and failing to adequately train employees to work with asbestos, the release noted.

Dangers of asbestos highlighted by OSHA action

The significant fines levied against the seven contractors emphasizes the critical nature of protecting employees from asbestos exposure. In the release, OSHA’s regional administrator in Dallas noted that following the agency’s standards when it comes to working with asbestos is essential for ensuring employee safety.

“Asbestos is an extremely hazardous material that can potentially cause lifelong, irreversible health conditions,” said John Hermanson, OSHA’s regional administrator in Dallas. “It is imperative that OSHA’s safety and health standards be followed to avoid accidents, injuries and illnesses.”

Hermanson’s comments are in line with scientific evidence that has continued to pile up in recent years. According to the World Health Organization, asbestos-related diseases such as lung cancer, malignant mesothelioma and asbestosis are responsible for the deaths of approximately 107,000 people around the world each year.

As a result, a number of countries have taken steps to heavily restrict or ban the mining, use and exportation of asbestos. In Brazil, the Supreme Court is currently holding hearings regarding the ban of asbestos. In Canada, the Quebec government is facing serious scrutiny from medical experts and advocacy groups over its decision to provide the Jeffrey asbestos mine with a significant loan that would revitalize its operations.

Get a Free Case Evaluation