Despite heavy regulations and stiff fines, it is remarkable that some employers still fail to protect employees from asbestos exposure.
That was the takeaway from a recent fine issued to the owners of the aptly named Grede foundry in Berlin, Wisconsin.
Incident occurred six years ago
In 2012, the company had workers remove an industrial oven that contained asbestos insulation without providing workers with asbestos gear or informing the workers they were dealing with asbestos.
This led to tragic, unnecessary and dangerous exposure for 11 workers. Asbestos fibers, when inhaled, lodge in the lungs and cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and other serious and terminal illnesses.
Criminal charges and potential fines in the millions
The result of a lengthy investigation, the company in January agreed to a maximum fine of $200,000. In addition, they must pay for medical supervision of the 11 employees totaling $340,000. This does not include liability should any of the workers develop mesothelioma, lung cancer or other asbestos-related illness.
The company also faced millions in penalties for improper disposal of asbestos. They agreed to plead guilty to criminal negligence for violating the Clean Air Act; however, the supervisors had their individual criminal charges dismissed as part of the deal.
Federal prosecutors had previously accused the supervisors of covering up the investigation, including lying to federal investigators, which is itself a crime.
The plant closed in 2015, laying off over 100 workers.