The risks of asbestos exposure have been known for decades now. The widespread understanding that this material can be hazardous is so far-reaching that the federal government and the courts expect employers to take the precautions necessary to protect workers from exposure.
Unfortunately, however, many employers continue to fail to meet safety requirements. In December 2016, federal inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, discovered that a Wisconsin medical clinic knowingly exposed maintenance inspectors to asbestos. These allegations are bringing national attention, once again, to the impact that asbestos can have on an individual's health as well as the environment, and they are shedding light on the importance of providing workers with a safe space for performing their jobs on a daily basis.
Important facts to note about the OSHA allegations against the medical clinic
- The medical clinic identified the asbestos material in their facility in 2008, according to WorkersCompensation.com. However, in 2016, maintenance workers were still being exposed to the materials without knowledge of its existence and without being provided the proper protective gear.
- In December 2016, OSHA cited the clinic with 11 safety and health violations, as well as one willful health violation. Altogether, the employer faces more than $260,000 in penalties associated with these charges alone.
- The investigators from OSHA reported that the maintenance workers were exposed to asbestos in a variety of settings, including the building's crawl spaces and during the removal or disturbance of ceiling tiles.
What is asbestos and why is it so dangerous?
Asbestos is a hazardous material that was commonly used in the construction of household materials, such as ceramic tiles and ceiling tiles. Exposure occurs when these items are broken or begin to disintegrate, and the microscopic glass asbestos fibers are released into the air. Exposure to asbestos can result in serious respiratory diseases, including mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer that is often fatal. In addition, asbestos material can cling to clothing and shoes, and can be transferred to other areas in the worker's home. The exposed employee is not the only one at risk, as there have been documented cases of spouses contracting mesothelioma from breathing the dust on the workers' clothing.
What Georgia workers need to know about workers' compensation law
In addition to dealing with the OSHA allegations, employers are also liable for facing a variety of workers' compensation claims against them. Georgia workers should know that they are covered by the workers' compensation law from their first day of employment. They can file a claim if they have been diagnosed with a medical condition resulting from exposure. Workers who are seeking to file a workers' compensation claim should contact a lawyer as soon as possible in order to maximize their compensation and get the results they need.
Whether you are working in an office environment or you are a contractor who has been exposed to hazardous materials on a daily basis, it is important that you feel comfortable and confident in your professional space. You deserve to be protected from known hazardous materials, and your employer should be making all efforts necessary to keep you safe at work. If you feel that you have been injured as a result of negligence or you are suffering health-related complications, it's time to contact a legal team that can get you the compensation you need and deserve. For more information, call our qualified attorneys now in order to set up a consultation appointment.