Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

A Cautionary Tale: Abiding by OSHA Mandates

Posted by Rachael Ballard Filed under: Compliance, Human Resources, Operations, OSHA, Workers' Comp

OSHA creates mandates for staff training, facility inspections, and safety tasks for good reason and should thus be taken seriously. If districts do not address and meet these mandates, staff and students could get hurt, which exposes the district to greater liability and possible litigation.

A school custodian from Dearborn Heights, MI, pursued legal action against her school district because of the improper management of and exposure to asbestos. In June 2012, Theresa Ely’s supervisor tasked her and three other custodians with dry-sanding a high school’s floor tiles with an industrial sander. Ely says the district knew the tiles contained asbestos, but told them to complete the task anyway and then tried to cover up the custodians’ exposure using a fraudulent report.

Ely reported the exposure to state and federal agencies, but the district reprimanded her and sent her censure letters. During OSHA’s investigation, it found the district also withheld Ely pay, denied her a raise and reduced her workload. OSHA also found that the district’s motivation for keeping the issue at bay was because it wanted to avoid loss of student enrollment.

This past June, four years after the incident, OSHAE investigation supported Ely’s claims and ordered the district to pay her $8,139 in lost wages and $185,000 for emotional stress, medical bills and “loss of reputation and humility in her community.”

This situation could have been avoided if the district was more in-tune with the safety considerations for its facilities and had taken the time to handle asbestos-based products appropriately. To read more about this and view the entire OSHA investigation report, click here.

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