Lynnwood asbestos removal company fined $800K for repeatedly exposing workers and homeowners

U.S. Navy photo by Jimmy Johnson

A Lynnwood asbestos removal contractor, Seattle Asbestos of Washington, is facing fines exceeding $790,000 for knowingly and repeatedly exposing employees and homeowners to extremely hazardous conditions. Authorities say this is the fifth time Seattle Asbestos of Washington has been caught leaving asbestos-containing material behind or otherwise violating essential asbestos safety measures. 

The Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) inspected two Seattle Asbestos of Washington job sites at Western Washington homes and found dozens of violations that created a risk of exposure for workers and homeowners. Asbestos is extremely hazardous and can cause potentially fatal diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. For that reason, only a certified abatement contractor who follows specific asbestos-related safety and health rules may remove and dispose of asbestos-containing building materials.

In one Mountlake Terrace home, inspectors found plastic barriers meant to seal off an area from airborne asbestos particles that had holes in them large enough to put a camera through to take pictures.

At a second home in Ferndale, inspectors saw employees leaving the regulated work area without any protective clothing or respirators, and without using the onsite showers required at asbestos removal jobs. They also left behind a large amount of crumbling asbestos insulation all over the basement after they left the site.

At both locations, L&I found violations of basic asbestos-removal regulations including:

  • Equipment to clean harmful particles from the air was not working properly.
  • A dishwasher, water heater and wood stove were not covered with plastic to seal them from particles.
  • Multiple respirators for workers were left inside containment areas, exposing them to contamination.
  • A large pile of drywall sitting on the living room carpet was not bagged nor saturated with water to keep down the dust.
  • There were no plastic drop cloths placed anywhere in the work area.

Between the two inspections, the agency found more than 35 willful health and safety violations and issued fines of more than $790,000. Violations are considered “willful” when the company knew or should have known the requirements, but still failed to meet them. In both cases, L&I ordered the company to stop work until the problems were corrected.

The company filed an appeal in the first case, but did not appeal the second.

“These are certified asbestos supervisors, working for a certified asbestos abatement contractor, who know the rules but have demonstrated time and again they will not prioritize the safety or the health of workers or customers,” said Craig Blackwood, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

L&I has started the process to revoke the company’s certification to do asbestos work in Washington. Additionally, the two asbestos supervisors involved in these cases could also lose their ability to do this work, for this or any other asbestos-removal company.

L&I encourages homeowners to protect themselves by reviewing L&I’s certified contractors list before hiring an asbestos removal company.

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