Minnesota University Faces Asbestos Fines

Minnesota’s Winona State University is facing a hefty fine for “seven serious workplace safety violations” related to asbestos removal from dormitories and other buildings on campus earlier this year.

According to an article in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, a complaint from the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration states that the university repaired or replaced insulation without taking the necessary precautions to protect workers from asbestos exposure.

According to an OSHA spokesperson, Winona State has contested the allegations and talks are currently underway between OSHA and the university.

Cristeen Custer, assistant vice president of marketing and communications at Winona State, said: “We take it seriously, and we do believe that we’ll come to a very positive result with our discussions with OSHA.”

When asked whether students may have been exposed to asbestos during any of the repair work, Custer said: “Obviously student safety is of critical importance to us and we would never jeopardize or take liberties with student or worker health. If there was a concern we would have alerted students.”

The following violations were listed on the OSHA complaint:

• Asbestos work was not properly supervised in Lourdes Hall and Richards Hall, dormitories where plumbing work in a women’s bathroom and a water softener replacement occurred last February and May.

• Air was not monitored when asbestos was removed from piping, “resulting in employee exposure to unknown concentrations of asbestos fibers.”

• Workers did not use filtration or collection systems to clean asbestos-contaminated air.

• Workers were not wearing required protective clothing during asbestos removal.

• There were no signs warning workers about asbestos-containing materials at entrances to mechanical rooms, tunnels and other places on campus;

• Although employees have been repairing and removing asbestos for more than 10 years, the university has no monitoring records regarding exposure from any of that work from September 1995 through September 2005.

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