A Wingdale, N.Y.-based real estate development and management company faces more than $2.3 million in fines for knowingly exposing employees and contractors to asbestos and lead hazards, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration.
Olivet Management L.L.C. was cited for 45 willful violations of federal workplace health and safety regulations following a five-month inspection of working conditions at the former Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center in Dover Plains, N.Y., which the company purchased in 2013 and had been in the process of renovating prior to a stop-work order issued in January by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
According to OHSA investigators, Olivet Management knowingly failed to notify any of the 13 contractors — as well as its own employees — working at the site about the presence of asbestos-contaminated debris, floor tiles and insulation, as well as the presence of lead paint throughout the shuttered hospital.
Consequently, workers were not provided any training on the dangers of asbestos and lead exposure, nor were they provided with respiratory protection and decontamination equipment as required under federal law, OHSA officials said in a statement released on Wednesday.
“Olivet knew that asbestos and lead were present at this site, yet the company chose to ignore its responsibility to protect its own workers and contractors,” U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said in the agency's statement. “The intolerable choice this company made put not only workers, but also their families, in danger.”
Inhalation or ingestion of asbestos has been linked to several types of potentially fatal diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma and gastrointestinal cancer. Prolonged exposure to lead-based paint can seriously damage the nervous system, kidneys, blood-forming organs and reproductive system.
In a statement released Tuesday, Olivet Management neither confirmed nor refuted the allegations contained in OSHA's citations.
“We will be taking a close look at the extensive citations and penalties that OSHA has issued in the hope of working with the agency to resolve them,” the company's statement said. “We have the same goals as OSHA — to insure that once construction and renovation work is commenced, all workers will be fully protected against any unsafe and unhealthful working conditions.”
Olivet Management's alleged violations carry a maximum penalty of $2,359,000 in federal fines. Because the alleged infractions were committed willfully, the company has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which requires targeted follow-up inspections at any or all of the company's worksites.
Copies of OSHA's citations against Olivet Management are available here.