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OSHA issues fines for companies violating workers' rights

Companies nationwide, including those in Colorado, are allowed to hire workers from foreign countries on a temporary basis. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently issued two affiliated companies in another state and its owner with penalties of $1,792,000. This followed a conclusion that foreign workers were exploited and exposed to life-threatening asbestos hazards while their workers' rights were being violated. OSHA also put one of the two companies in its program for severe violators.

According to OSHA inspectors, employees were not informed of the health risks involved in the renovation of an old school. It was determined that the company owner and supervisors were fully aware of the dangers posed by asbestos. Nevertheless, the workers -- mostly Spanish speaking individuals -- were not warned. Employees were not provided with training in appropriate methods to work with asbestos, nor were they issued respirators to protect them.

When cutting and sanding asbestos, dangerous fibers are released into the air. Unprotected workers unknowingly inhale the fibers that adhere to the lung and stomach linings. This can lead to a lung disease and cancer called mesothelioma, both of which are fatal in most cases. Furthermore, asbestos fibers can attach to a worker's clothing and carried home where they can be transferred to other surfaces, such as carpets. This poses a secondary risk to family members.

Colorado workers who are suffering the consequences of asbestos exposure from work will likely face ongoing medical expenses, and they are entitled to pursue compensation. Fortunately, the workers' compensation system provides financial assistance in the form of benefits to cover medical treatment. Furthermore, lost wages are typically compensated, and vocational rehabilitation may be provided. Some employees choose to retain the services of an experienced workers' compensation attorney to protect their workers' rights.

Source: ehstoday.com, "Companies, Manager Face $2 Million OSHA Fine for Exposing Workers to Asbestos", Sandy Smith, Aug. 12, 2015

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