The Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center will have to pay a significant fine after a U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspector discovered a lack of appropriate asbestos removal and disposal during a December 2007 remodeling project. The inspection, which was ordered after a medical center employee made a complaint, turned up an array of possible health risks.
“There was a breakdown of essential precautions before, during and after this work,” claimed Arthur Dube, the Buffalo-area OSHA Director.
The inspection report states that employees did not wear proper safety equipment, including protective clothing and breathing apparatuses. In addition, employees did not properly dispose of the asbestos-containing materials during the renovation process. There were also no air quality tests conducted before, during or after the remodel was completed.
The OSHA’s report indicated that Niagara Falls Med Center officials did comply with inspectors and began working to remedy the situation immediately. The center has 15 days to pay a hefty $110,000 fine.
“The medical center’s failure to supply and ensure these basic and required safeguards placed these employees at risk of debilitating disease,” said Dube.
Exposure to asbestos has been linked to the eventual development of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that attacks the pleural lining of the lungs. Mesothelioma can lie dormant in the body for up to fifty years, and mesothelioma victims will generally survive for an average of two years upon diagnosis. There is no known cure.
Concerns over the lack of air quality tests remain, as workers have no way of knowing if they were exposed to high levels of asbestos while working at the medical center.