Renovations at a former New York psychiatric center exposed workers to lead and asbestos hazards, leading to a huge OSHA settlement for this real estate development company.
Dover Greens, formerly known as Olivet Management, was acting as its own general contractor while renovating the abandoned Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center. The plan is to turn the old mental hospital in Dover, NY, into a college.
OSHA visited the work site in 2013 and discovered Dover workers and employees of 13 contractors were scraping lead paint off walls and sweeping up asbestos debris without using safe removal methods, such as wetting and vacuuming. None of the workers were wearing respirators, either. The Department of Labor called the renovation a “worksite of horrors” on its blog.
OSHA stopped the work and eventually cited Dover for 24 willful safety violations. Without the safety measures, the agency claims Dover put workers at risk of long-term neurological and respiratory problems caused by unsafe lead and asbestos exposure.
Dover was fined $2.3 million. However, the settlement requires the company to pay $700,000 in fines over a 10-year period. The remaining penalty of $1.66 million is being held in abeyance and becomes payable if Dover violates the terms of the settlement agreement.
“The terms of the settlement are stringent and comprehensive,” said Jeffrey Rogoff, the regional solicitor of labor in New York, in an OSHA press release. “They seek to ensure that the company provides the project’s employees with safe and healthful working conditions at all times. We are prepared to take appropriate action to escalate penalties should it fail to live up to its commitments.”
The settlement requires Dover to:
- Select and retain a general contractor experienced in a renovation project of this magnitude and familiar with lead and asbestos hazards on a construction site.
- Retain a qualified safety-consulting firm to monitor the project, and have a safety consultant on site while the work if being done.
- Ensure all contractors and subcontractors are trained, that onsite supervisors and foremen have completed the OSHA 30-hour course, and that they implement a site-specific health and safety program.
- Ensure contractors whose employees come in contact with lead or asbestos have documented training and experience in adhering to OSHA lead and asbestos standards.
- Not oppose workers’ compensation claims from employees for illnesses related to lead and asbestos exposure.
- Provide workers with notice in English, Spanish and Korean of their rights to bring claims under the state workers’ compensation program.