Safety and OSHA News

Managers didn’t provide PPE; Now they’re going to prison

A judge has sentenced five owners and managers of a Tennessee business to prison for illegal asbestos removal, including not providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers handling cancer-causing materials.

The case involves the illegal removal and disposal of asbestos-containing material at the former Liberty Fibert Plant in Hamblen County, TN. A&E Salvage bought the plant to salvage metals from the plant after it ceased operations.

The sentences:

  • Mark Sawyer, owner and operator, 5 years in prison followed by 2 years of supervised release
  • Newell Smith, manager, 37 months (3 years, 1 month) in prison and 2 years of supervised release
  • Eric Gruenberg, manager, 28 months (2 years, 4 months) in prison
  • Armida DiSanti, 6 months in prison and 6 months of home confinement, and
  • Milto DiSanti, 6 months in prison and 6 months of home confinement.

The judge also ordered all five to pay a total of more than $10.3 million in restitution, which will be returned to the EPA Superfund, which paid for cleanup of the plant site.

Expert testimony at sentencing predicted the exposures of the A&E Salvage workers to asbestos would result in the substantial likelihood that they would suffer death or serious bodily injury.

All five managers pleaded guilty to one criminal felony count of conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act’s work practice standards regarding proper stripping, bagging, removal and disposal of asbestos.

According to the charges, this was a multi-year scheme in which substantial amounts of asbestos-containing materials were removed in illegal manners, including without providing workers with the necessary PPE.

Asbestos has been determined to cause lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, a fatal disease. The EPA says there is no safe exposure level to fibrous asbestos.

“The defendants conspired to violate the Clean Air Act by hiring untrained workers to remove materials, without proper safety equipment, that contained asbestos,” said Special Agent inn Charge Maureen O’Mara of EPA’s Criminal Enforcement Program in Tennessee. “This put not only the workers’ health and safety at great risk, but that of the entire community.”

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  1. Such reckless actions and flagrant disregard for the health and
    wellbeing of workers more than deserves this type of punishment. Here in
    Australia a number of years ago, a business owner was taken to court for the
    exact same thing. He had hired transient workers (mostly foreigners on a
    working holiday) to remove asbestos sheeting without providing them any
    protective equipment or advising them that they were handling asbestos
    containing material. The guy walked away with a $15,000 slap on the wrist. I
    only wish that judges here would have the balls to hand down similar penalties.

  2. goddess1012 says:

    This is so sad. I agree, they need to be charged with criminal negligence. I am glad to see OSHA starting to cramp down on things. Maybe with harsher punishments and bigger fines, company’s will start getting the idea that safety is not just a game, and start getting serious! I mean, even without the confined space reg’s; where’s your lockout tagout?! Laziness leads to negligence leads to preventable incidents. I wish OSHA ans MSHA both would triple the crackdown. It will only take a couple before they start being taken seriously.

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