California agency fines county over asbestos exposure

A California workplace safety agency is fining a local government for failing to take appropriate safety measures after a hazardous substance was released into the workplace. The local government is appealing the fine.

The California Division of the Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA) fined Sacramento County $2,810 after some county offices were contaminated with carcinogenic asbestos following an August 2012 water leak that caused a ceiling to collapse. County employees and the public may have been exposed to the asbestos since the building’s central air system continued to run after the materials dropped down. Cal-OSHA said the county should have trained employees in procedures to be followed when potentially toxic materials are released and also should have reported the incident. The agency plans to meet with affected employees and county officials soon to discuss the incident. County officials are appealing the safety violations and fine and have denied that asbestos was present in the ceiling materials.

Asbestos, frequently found in older buildings, is now considered hazardous because it increases the risk of cancer and respiratory ailments in people who have been exposed to the substance. Risks depend on the length and amount of the exposure, but health officials note even small amounts can present health risks.

Illnesses caused by unsafe workplace conditions such as toxic exposure may be covered under California’sworkers’ compensation laws just as accidents may be. A worker who has been exposed to toxic chemicals may wish to speak with an attorney who has experience in workers’ compensation matters. The attorney may be able to determine whether the client is eligible to file a claim for benefits under the law.

Source: Sacramento Bee, “Cal-OSHA fines Sacramento county for asbestos incident”, Brad Branan, September 28, 2013

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