State safety and health inspectors in Oregon have fined a Utah-based contractor and McKenzie-Williamette Medical Center in Springfield, Oregon for improper handling of asbestos during renovations that happened in 2012.
The Eugene Register-Guard quotes a spokesperson from the hospital as saying that the potential exposure “was in an area of the hospital undergoing a heat and air conditioning upgrade by licensed contractors, and, at the time of construction, was not an active patient care area.”
Asbestos was found in sealant and tape used in the hospital’s HVAC system duct work in the second floor drop ceiling above an operating room. The asbestos was disturbed during renovation work carried out by Layton Construction Company, Inc. Two subcontractors, FM Sheet Metal and JK Guckenberger Electrical, as well as two others, Twin Rivers Plumbing Inc and Labor Ready, were also fined, according to the newspaper article.
The hospital released a statement to calm any fears about asbestos exposure: “We have received no notification fo any injury. Additional asbestos identification and management training has been done with all contractors and employees who may come in contact with such materials.”
Twin Rivers puts the blame for negligence on Layton Construction. A spokesperson for Twin Rivers noted that they “believed what Layton told them”, which included a report that no asbestos was present in the area where they were working. “We were pretty innocent in the whole thing,” added Sandee Gerber, Twin Rivers co-owner.
Seven violations led to a total of $26,960 in fines for McKenzie Willamette. Violations include failure to inform custodians, housekeepers, operating staff, and other employees about the presence of the deadly mineral, failure to maintain records of studies that had detected asbestos on the site.
Layton was fined for five violations, a total of $25,200. Violations included failure to inform subcontractors about asbestos and failure to inform subcontractors of asbestos in the basement within 24 hours of its discovery.
Asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma cancer, asbestosis, and other potentially fatal diseases. Asbestos was commonly used in a number of construction applications in the U.S. until the EPA passed laws regulating use of the mineral in the 1970s.