An Illinois construction company brought non-English speaking workers to the U.S. and knowingly exposed them to asbestos, according to OSHA. Now two companies face almost $2 million in fines.
OSHA says Kehrer Brothers Construction willfully exposed at least eight workers to asbestos by telling them to remove materials during renovation of a former school. The company faces $1.792 million in penalties. A Kehrer-affiliated company, D7 Roofing, which employed some of the workers, was also fined $147,000.
- 8 egregious (per-instance) violations for not providing employees with the appropriate respirators ($560,000 total @ $70,000 each)
- 8 egregious (per-instance) violations for not providing proper training about asbestos removal ($560,000 total @ $70,000 each)
- failure to have a respiratory protection program (willful, $70,000)
- failure to monitor employees’ asbestos exposure (willful, $70,000), and
- failure to use appropriate work methods for asbestos removal (willful, $70,000).
OSHA issued two willful and one serious citation to D7 for failure to:
- provide basic personal protective equipment such as hard hats, eyewear and protective clothing
- create a decontamination area for employees to remove work clothing before leaving the work site, and
- use appropriate work methods to minimize asbestos exposure, such as removing tiles intact and using wet methods to keep asbestos fibers from becoming airborne.
Kehrer Bros. is now in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
Many of the workers came to the U.S. to work for Kehrer under the provisions of the H2B visa program that allows companies to hire foreign workers temporarily.
“Kehrer also threatened to fire his employees if they spoke with our investigators,” said OSHA chief David Michaels. “This is outrageous, illegal behavior.”
OSHA referred the case to the EPA and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Kehrer Bros. has been inspected 11 times by OSHA since 2007.
The companies have 15 business days from receipt of their citations to accept the findings, ask for informal talks with OSHA or contest the penalties to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.