EPA may have violated OSHA asbestos rules: OIG

January 4, 2012

Washington – The Environmental Protection Agency may have endangered workers and the public by authorizing unapproved methods to demolish buildings containing asbestos, according to the agency’s Office of Inspector General.

A Dec. 14 report (.pdf file) found that “methods that are less restrictive” than the Asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants have been used or are in consideration at multiple sites containing asbestos, and violate EPA’s own regulations. In addition, the report stated that video footage and photographs show government and contract workers not wearing personal protective equipment – a possible violation of OSHA standards.

Tests indicate that asbestos escaped the work areas, so unprotected workers in adjacent areas – as well as the public – may have been exposed, the report said. OIG told EPA to notify workers and the public of potential exposure and direct offices to follow Asbestos NESHAP and OSHA requirements.

In a response (.pdf file) to the report, EPA said it was already investigating the allegations and would take steps to protect the health of anyone who was exposed.