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Charges of improper and unsafe handling of asbestos at a home being renovated in Seattle have resulted in $789,200 fines for two business owners and their companies, the Washington Department of Labor & Industries announced Wednesday.
The businesses and owners — James Thorpe, of Seattle-based 3917 Densmore LLC, registered by Northlake Capital & Development LLC, and Chris Walters — have each been cited for 11 willful and serious violations in four separate investigations, according to a statement.
L&I opened the inspection following a complaint from a neighbor living near the residential renovation project on Densmore Road in Lynnwood, Washington, according to the statement. Several workers were improperly removing exterior asbestos tiles from the home over a weekend. When a neighbor confronted him, Mr. Walters said he was the homeowner and promised to remove the asbestos correctly. However, two neighbors took videos that showed the workers committing several violations, according to the statement.
An investigation by L&I revealed that Mr. Walters was part of a complex corporate partnership created to renovate and flip the residence, according to the statement.
The home was initially purchased by Seattle company Northlake Capital & Development, owned by Mr. Thorpe. Northlake is a real estate property company that primarily focuses on buying old homes, renovating them and selling for a profit. After the purchase, Mr. Thorpe created 3917 Densmore LLC and established Mr. Walters, a Northlake employee, as the sole member of the new corporation, claiming that Mr. Walters was the homeowner, and that he intended to live in the home, according to the statement.
During parts of the investigation, Mr. Walters and Mr. Thorpe shifted responsibility from LLC to LLC and from person to person. Eventually, L&I cited both men and the companies they oversee for the same violations. The fines vary, primarily due to the number of workers each entity was responsible for. Mr. Thorpe and Northlake each received $214,100 in fines, and Mr. Walters and 3917 Densmore each received $180,500 in fines, according to the statement.
The violations included using uncertified workers to remove asbestos, not using a certified asbestos supervisor and not obtaining an asbestos good faith survey prior to beginning work. They were also cited for not using water and not keeping the shingles intact during removal (the workers were breaking the tiles with hammers), for lacking proper personal protective equipment for workers, for not monitoring the air during removal and for not having a written accident prevention program, according to the statement.
"These two men endangered their workers and people who live nearby this project, including children," Anne Soiza, L&I’s assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said in the statement. "On top of that, they tried to avoid responsibility by creating a legal web of confusion over who was responsible. I hope this sends a strong message that we take worker safety and public health very seriously."
A report by Swiss Re Ltd. said that emerging risks for insurers include increasing use of asbestos across the world, 3D organ printing and lack of sleep, The Royal Gazette reported. The report said that reinsurers are looking at new products to resolve protection gaps and the use of drones for analytics.