Sears, Roebuck and Co. will pay a civil penalty of $55,000 to the State of Massachusetts for a violation of its Clean Air Act and Consumer Portection Act following the improper removal of asbestos from a customer’s home. The story in the Wicked Local Pembroke reports Sears contractors improperly removed asbestos when replacing a boiler in October 2004.
The news agency reports that the complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court notes that Sears assured its customer that it could remove an existing boiler, which contained asbestos insulation, and replace it with a new one, safely and cost-effectively. The complaint says Sears assured the customer the workers would be properly licensed and trained.
However, the workers who arrived to complete the work – a plumber and second subcontractor – were not licensed or trained to handle asbestos. The complaint notes that the workers removed the existing boiler wearing no protective gear, did not seal the area, and dropped the boiler, breaking it open and releasing asbestos into the air when the insulation crumbled. The workers cleaned up the spilled asbestos insulation material with their bare hands, and disposed of it in regular black trashbags, the Wicked Local reports.
Asbestos dust was released into the air in the customers’ basement and first-floor area, exposing them to carcinogens. Asbestos is linked to the development of asbestos related diseases including mesothelioma and asbestosis.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), contractors need to determine whether asbestos is present pior to conducting any renovation or demolition activity. Companies doing work on a project that possibly contains asbestos are required to hire a Division of Occupational Safety (DOS) certified asbestos abatement contractor.
If asbestos is present, there are MassDEP requirements for anyone handling asbestos, including special supplies and equipment, specific work practices including setting up a containment area, air filtration equipment, packaging and labeling of waste. If the area is contaminated by improper handling of asbestos, MassDEP says, cleanup procedures specific to the job are required.
Contractors should check with their state office of Environmental Protection or Occupational Safety before beginning any project that may involve asbestos, as regulations may vary from state to state.
According to the Massachusetts complaint, Sears subcontractors never notified their Department of Environmental Protection or filed an Asbestos Notification Form when removing the boiler.
The Wicked Local reports part of the settlement will require Sears to develop and implement a customized asbestos training program for salespeople and managers, and to provide enhanced supervision on all jobs where asbestos may be present.