This report, TOXIC EXPOSURE, is the culmination of a yearlong undercover investigation into the practices of the asbestos abatement industry in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area. Ernest Ojito, a college student, worked undercover for a year as an employee of half a dozen contractors that provide asbestos abatement services. What he found was an industry that routinely violates the law and poisons its employees, and a regulatory regime that utterly fails to protect these workers at the most basic level.
During Ojitoʼs year as an asbestos worker, his employersʼ unsafe and illegal practices repeatedly put his life at risk. These practices include the following:
Workers Are Regularly Exposed to Airborne Asbestos. On multiple jobs, the illegal
practices of employers placed Ojito in workplaces where clouds of airborne asbestos floated
throughout the jobsite.
Gross Safety Violations Are a Regular Occurrence. In the asbestos abatement industry,
contractors are indifferent to workersʼ wellbeing. On one jobsite, contractors forced workers to
cut into walls with live wiring inside, while refusing even to take the simple, sensible step of
turning off the electricity first, all to save a few dollars.
Contractors Ignore Licensing and Training Requirements. Asbestos contractors such
sent Ojito to asbestos and lead abatement jobs before he was licensed (which is illegal), and
instructed him to work with asbestos and lead without any prior training (which is illegal), and
without the legally required safety measures.
Illegal Lead Pollution. Contractors such as Asbestos Specialists, Inc., instructed Ojito to
dispose of lead paint by pouring it down the drain (which is illegal).
Graduation Factories Churn Out Unprepared Workers. Private training centers do not
actually train asbestos workers. Rather, training centers, such as Global Environmental
Solutions, Inc. (Fairfax, VA) and Princeton Industrial Training Institute (Bethesda and
Baltimore, MD), simply give the workers the answers to the exam (which also is illegal) so they
will pass the test.
Employers Fleece Workers Through Petty Graft. To add insult to injury, the companies
subject workers to petty graft, such as requiring workers to pay a fee to managers in order to
receive a paycheck or by routinely shorting them by an hour or two week after week.
Ojitoʼs experience is not unusual. During his year undercover, Ojito enlisted nearly a dozen of his co-workers to come forward about the horrific conditions in the industry. Like Ojito, these workers routinely work in environments where deadly, airborne asbestos has poisoned the breathable air due to the employersʼ indifference to public health, employee welfare, and the law.
This report is a compilation of testimonials by workers in the asbestos abatement industry. These testimonials demonstrate that a significant portion of the asbestos abatement industry operates completely outside the law. The stories presented here show that workers are routinely dispatched to jobsites without licenses and without training. On the job site, many companies operate with open disregard for the safety standards that are designed to protect workers from inhaling asbestos and protect the public from exposure to asbestos fibers.
Although asbestos workers already are poorly compensated, the testimonials tell how companies routinely cheat workers by shorting their hours, failing to pay legally required wages, failing to pay overtime, charging fees in order to receive paychecks, or charging the workers for the cost of safety equipment or licenses necessary to perform the work. The testimonials also challenge the integrity of the asbestos abatement training programs in Virginia and Maryland, which are necessary for workers to obtain required licenses. Training centers operate with little regard for actual education.
Instead, workers report that the training centers provided the answers to examinations to ensure they passed, regardless of whether they actually learned how to abate asbestos safely. Together, these stories vividly depict an industry in need of serious reform.
NEWS COVERAGE LINKS:
Asbestos Report Finds Poor Conditions for Workers
Asbestos Exposure (CNS Maryland)
Grave Problematic en Sector De La Construccion
Baltimore-Washington Asbestos Contractors Flout Safety Standards, Union Report Says
NIST Contractor Accused of Putting Worker Health at Risk
Hispanic Workers in Asbestos Industry Face Language Hurdles, Disease Dangers
Asbestos Abatement Toxic in Mid-Atlantic Region