According to the AFL-CIO blog, an OSHA rule created to protect workers from asbestos hazards has been upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals. In 2003 a contractor in Houston, Texas hired 11 immigrant workers to perform an asbestos abatement job. The contractor, Eric Ho, did not train the workers or give them appropriate protection, such as respirators. A city inspector ordered the job stopped because of the asbestos violations, but the contractor made the workers perform the job behind locked gates, after hours; putting the workers at great risk.
OSHA issued 22 separate violations to the contractor. Eleven violations for not providing each worker with a respirator and eleven for not training the workers on how to properly work around asbestos. A Bush Administration Commission overturned most of the citations, saying the contractor could only be cited once for the training violation and once for the respirator violation, consequently reducing the number of fines facing the contractor from 22 to 2.
OSHA subsequently re-worded the rules to clear up the issue, stating that separate citations can be issued for each worker who is not properly trained and separate citations can be issued for each worker who is not given a respirator. The National Association of Home Builders sued the government, claiming OSHA did not have the authority to rewrite the rule.
In National Association of Home Builders C. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that OSHA was operating within its authority when it made the rule. The dangers of working with asbestos have been known for many years. It can cause cancers including lung cancer and mesothelioma, as well as asbestosis. The ruling of the court, that the employer can be fined for each worker it doesn’t protect, gives OSHA a hammer to combat employers who don’t protect their workers appropriately.