Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Employees expected to pay for own safety?

A staffing contractor that does business in Pennsylvania and three other states is under fire for not providing equipment that would protect temporary workers from asbestos exposure. The contract employees who make $11 to $14 per hour were expected to provide their own protective equipment such as gloves, goggles and respirators or have the cost of such items deducted from their paychecks.

OSHA requires the employer to provide such equipment. It probably must seem absurd in any case that contract employees would be expected to pick up these charges when it is the employer that is asking them to assume the risk of working with asbestos.

With all of the potential risk concerning the handling and use of asbestos, employers cannot afford to place the costs upon employees when it comes to safety. Asbestos exposure can lead to many serious and long lasting diseases. Many such diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis can be permanent and lethal. No employee should be expected to assume such risks.

When employers tried to take shortcuts on safety, workers and their lawyers have the right to hold them liable for any injuries that can result. Employers do need to keep in mind that compensating victims for asbestos related injuries may require hundreds of thousands of dollars for medical expenses and lost wages for 20 or 30-years.

Federal legislation is in place to hold employers liable that do not adequately protect employees from asbestos exposure. This shows that even legislators understand the dangers involved for workers handling asbestos.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Health complaint filed against asbestos removal company," by Yvonne Wenger, March 16, 2012

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