Heather Isringhausen Gvillo Dec. 3, 2014, 9:13am

SEATTLE (Legal Newsline) – Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries fined two construction agencies a total of $379,100 for knowingly exposing their workers to asbestos and illegally removing the toxic material.

Partners Construction Inc. was cited for 14 separate “willful and serious” safety and health violations and was fined $291,950.

Asbestos Construction Management Inc. was cited for five “willful and serious” safety and health violations and was fined $87,150.

An investigation performed by the Department of Labor & Industries found that the two employers were exposing workers to asbestos during the demolition of a Seattle apartment building. They also illegally left asbestos debris on site, the investigation claims.

The apartment building was originally constructed with asbestos-containing popcorn ceiling and asbestos sheet vinyl flooring.

“Removal of asbestos-containing building materials must be done by a certified abatement contractor who follows safety and health rules to protect workers and the public from exposure to asbestos,” the Department of Labor & Industries stated in a release. “The contractor must also ensure proper removal and disposal of the asbestos materials.”

Partners Construction was hired by the owner of the apartment building to remove the asbestos before the building could be demolished.

After several weeks of work, Partners provided the building’s owner with a letter of completion indicating that all of the asbestos had been removed.

However, Department of Labor & Industries inspectors responded to a worker’s complaint and found that the removal work was incomplete. In fact, they alleged that roughly 5,400 square feet of asbestos-containing popcorn ceiling remained throughout the building, as well as some asbestos sheet vinyl flooring.

Partners Construction returned to finish the work that was supposedly already completed, but the Department of Labor & Industries was already in the process of revoking the company’s certification to perform asbestos abatement work.

Partners Construction was later decertified and went out of business.

As a result, Asbestos Construction Management, which is owned by a family member of the Partners Construction owner, took over the task and used essentially the same workers and certified asbestos supervisor as Partners. It also shared the same equipment as its predecessor.

A subsequent inspection found that Asbestos Construction Management performed many of the same violations as Partners Construction. As a result, the Department of Labor & Industries has initiated decertification for Asbestos Construction Management as well.

According to the release, the Department of Labor & Industries will place the penalty fines in the Workers’ Compensation supplemental pension fund.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Heather Isringhausen Gvillo at asbestos@legalnewsline.com

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