Renovation Boom Presents New Wave of Danger for Massachusetts Workers
Massachusetts is experiencing a renovation boom, which has led to nearly 25,000 asbestos removal projects across the state and a new wave of danger for workers. Although safety requirements are in place to protect workers, not all companies comply. Regulators have found more than 300 asbestos safety violations resulting in fines in Massachusetts in the five years ending in June 2016. The majority of the violations were found on job sites.
“Workers are routinely confronting asbestos woven decades ago into ceilings and floor tiles, blown into walls, or wrapped around boilers and heating pipes as insulation or fire retardant,” says WBUR, Boston’s NPR News Station. “Registered asbestos removal projects in Massachusetts hit an all-time high in 2015 of 23,756, up more than 50 percent in five years.” In 2016, the figure was closer to 25,000.
One outspoken worker reported that, upon discovering what he thought was asbestos in an office he was demolishing, a supervisor told him to not worry about it and keep working. He did, but he also took a sample of the suspicious materials. Tests revealed that the sample contained asbestos at levels requiring workers to wear specialized breathing masks to filter out cancer-causing asbestos dust. The worker says that he was not trained to remove asbestos and “wore only a paper mask — protection not designed to keep out dust fibers hundreds of times finer than a strand of hair.”
Sadly, occupational health researcher Cora Roelofs found that some employer’s budget-in fines as the price of doing business, so they don’t seem to be much of a deterrent.
Asbestos-related fines issued by the Department of Labor Standards (DLS) max out at $2,500 per first violation or $5,000 for repeat offenses. While Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) fines can be issued at $25,000 a day per violation, they are often reduced or suspended.
Workers across Massachusetts have filed numerous complaints claiming they were not given adequate asbestos protection at job sites. Many have even claimed that they were “always put to work where there’s lead and asbestos."
The worker who discovered asbestos at the office job site told WBUR that he was worried, mostly for his family, because of the dust that may linger on him after work. “It’s contamination I’m bringing home,” he said.
If you have been exposed to asbestos, see your doctor right away. Your doctor can create a monitoring plan that could help detect asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma sooner. Early detection offers the best treatment options and outcomes.
Daley, Beth, Martha Bebinger, and Colby Burdick. "Concerns About Cancer-Causing Asbestos Rise Amid Mass. Renovation Boom." WBUR.org. WBUR, 19 Dec. 2016. Web. 23 Feb. 2018.