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North Carolina fire department fined for 17 OSHA violations

North Carolina Labor Department officials leveled a large fine against a fire department for failing to ensure the safety of work and training sites. The department was issued a total of 17 citations for exposing personnel to potential workplace accidents that could lead to serious illness or injury.

A complaint was lodged against the fire department shortly after it burned a vacant home for a training exercise this past fall. After they completed their training, they tore the house down. The department failed to properly handle ceiling tiles containing asbestos that were in the vacant home. Additionally, the department's station had multiple electrical hazards. In the end, the department was fined $14,450 for 12 serious and five non-serious violations. State labor officials are giving the department 15 days to pay the fines or appeal the findings.

Employers must take asbestos exposure very seriously. The long-term effects of asbestos exposure are devastating. Those who have made contact with asbestos are at a serious risk to develop mesothelioma, a virulent and painful form of lung cancer. Anyone who is exposed to asbestos should take the occurrence very seriously, no matter how prolonged the exposure was.

Firefighters regularly expose themselves to risks on the job. This is was made clear by a recent post that detailed a North Carolina firefighter's encounter with heat exhaustion as a result of his efforts to contain a fire at an old textile mill. However, it is a slightly different situation when the fire department itself failed to do something about the asbestos and electrical issues.

An institution, such as a fire department, that stresses the need for individuals to use safety has exposed its own employees to unsafe conditions. It's especially disappointing that the department could have taken steps to minimize the safety hazards, but did not do so. If firefighters are not adequately guarded against the dangers of work-related illness or injury, it becomes more difficult for them to protect the rest of us.

Source: WITN-TV, "Fire Department Given $14,450 In OSHA Fines," Feb. 1, 2012

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