Seven painting and renovation subcontractors and general contractors face hefty federal fines for exposing workers to asbestos and other hazards while remodeling an apartment complex in San Antonio.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed $148,000 in fines against three Miami-based contractors and four San Antonio, TX, subcontractors for 45 serious violations and one “other-than-serious” violation.
|Seven contractors face large fines for exposing workers to asbestos health hazards at the Reserves at Pecan Valley apartment complex in San Antonio.|
A serious violation reflects “substantial probability” of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
The Texas subcontractors, who received the bulk of the citations and fines, were Alex Vega d/b/a Alco Painting & Remodeling; Clemente Covarrubias d/b/a Knock It Out; Luis Lozada d/b/a Luis Lozada Remodeling; and Frank Gonzales.
The Florida contractors are Newport Property Ventures LLC, Newport Property Construction LLC, and Jamesboys Inc.
The citations followed a March inspection at the Reserves at Pecan Valley jobsite that stemmed from a referral by the Texas Department of State Health Services, according to OSHA.
During the inspection, the Labor Department found workers remodeling a number of apartments without using protective clothing or respiratory equipment to protect them from exposure to asbestos.
Most of the violations alleged failing to:
• Abate asbestos hazards;
• Ensure that employees work in regulated areas;
• Perform air monitoring for asbestos exposure;
• Use required engineering controls to prevent exposure;
• Require the use of proper respiratory and personal protective equipment;
• Train workers on the hazards of working with asbestos; and
• Ensure that an asbestos assessment was performed by a qualified person.
Painting Contractor Fined
Alex Vega d/b/a Alco Painting & Remodeling was issued 11 “serious” citations, carrying $28,200 in penalties.
The company did not abate the source of the asbestos contamination at the jobsite or conduct work within regulated areas, according to OSHA.
OSHA said the company was working in buildings 29, 30, and 31, which had deteriorated ceilings that contained asbestos, exposing employees to inhalation of airborne asbestos fibers.
OSHA also said an employee was also exposed to an electrical hazard at the site when he was using a Titan 440i paint sprayer cord with no strain relief. Moreover, the sprayer was plugged into an extension cord with frayed or exposed wiring, OSHA said.
The company could not be reached for comment.
Spraying without Eye Protection
Another subcontractor, Clemente Covarrubias d/b/a Knock It Out, received citations for nine alleged violations, carrying $22,200 in fines.
OSHA said an employee lacked eye protection as he spray-painted an apartment interior with a paint mixed with a moldicide.
The company was also issued serious citations for work performed in buildings 33, 35 and 36, where ceilings contained asbestos, OSHA said.
Covarrubias told the San Antonio Express-News he “didn’t do any work dealing with asbestos” and plans to contest the citations and penalties.
Other Subs Fined
In addition, Luis Lozada d/b/a Luis Lozada Remodeling was issued citations for eight serious violations, carrying $20,400 in fines.
Lozada’s citations stemmed from work on buildings 5, 6, 8, 9, and a day-care building that had asbestos-containing ceilings and linoleum flooring, OSHA said.
Lozada was hired by Vega but was not made aware of the presence of asbestos, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
Gonzalez was issued citations for four serious violations carrying $9,600 in fines, for work performed at building 38, which contained a damaged asbestos ceiling, OSHA said.
Miami Contractors’ Violations
Newport Property Ventures was issued citations carrying proposed fines of $36,100 for eight serious violations and one “other than serious” violation.
Newport Property Construction is facing $12,600 in proposed fines for two serious violations.
Jamesboys was issued citations carrying $18,900 in proposed fines for three serious violations.
“Asbestos is an extremely hazardous material that can potentially cause lifelong, irreversible health conditions,” said John Hermanson, OSHA’s regional administrator in Dallas. “It is imperative that OSHA’s safety and health standards be followed to avoid accidents, injuries and illnesses.”
For detailed information on asbestos hazards and safeguards, see http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/index.html and http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/construction.html.
OSHA says the companies can comply, request an informal conference, or contest the case within 15 business days from the receipt of the citations.
The companies are still within the 15-day window, OSHA said.