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Contractors face fines for asbestos exposure

Libraries are a central part of many communities in South Carolina. Whether offering free job training, internet access or simply books to check out, libraries provide valuable services in relatively safe settings. However, one out-of-state library ended up being less safe than some visitors might have realized, and contractors are now on the hook for possible asbestos exposure.

The Hale Library at Kansas State University was plagued by a serious fire in 2018. Smoke and water caused extensive damage to the library's collection of more than 1.5 million books. The fire also damaged the library building itself. The university brought in two different contractors to perform essential repairs and rehabilitation to the building. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, both contractors failed to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards for working in buildings with asbestos. 

A representative from the local OSHA office released a statement citing that asbestos is well understood to cause serious illnesses like mesothelioma and lung cancer. Despite these dangers, one of the contractors was cited for 23 different serious health violations. These violations included exposing its employees to asbestos, not providing respiratory protection and not training its workers on safe asbestos handling. It was fined $193,596, while the other contractor was fined $39,780.

Fines are intended to hold negligent employers, companies and manufacturers responsible for their actions. However, fines for asbestos exposure do not provide any type of relief for victims of that exposure. Instead, victims in South Carolina who have developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure might find it more useful to pursue a civil lawsuit against the responsible parties.

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