From the blog

An Iowa School was Fined for Exposing Workers to Asbestos

Published: March 15, 2024

An Iowa school district could be fined thousands of dollars for having employees work inside an asbestos-contaminated building. State records were recently released showing that the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the school district $70,000. The school district was also fined another $6,000 by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. This happened at a middle and high school complex in August 2022 near Coggon, Iowa, 30 miles north of Cedar Rapids. A worker found asbestos tile when having new carpeting installed and instead of having the asbestos removed, the school district did nothing. A worker used a floor buffer to remove old glue from the floor. Another worker noted the action of buffing the floor could send asbestos fibers into the air. Afterwards, someone alerted the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Tests were able to confirm that the floor contained asbestos. The asbestos was in several rooms of the building. There was a potential for employees to be exposed to asbestos fibers in the air when performing daily tasks according to Iowa OSHA documents.

After the exposure, 10 workers signed a waiver of liability to continue working. It said that the person understood that the the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is recommending that people do not work in the area due to air being contaminated with asbestos fibers and the person is choosing to disregard the recommendation and continue working. At least 10 workers did not sign waivers and were not aware of the asbestos contamination. Around 20 school employees may have been exposed to asbestos. One day after the contamination, investigators from the Department of Natural Resources evacuated and locked the building. The school district had to pay to fully remove the asbestos and two weeks later, classes resumed.

According to OSHA records, both companies that performed the renovation work at the school were also fined. They were initially fined $99,000 but appealed and ended up paying $10,000 each. One was also fined $6,000 and the other was also fined $3,000. The school district also has to comply with asbestos rules in the future. The school district never had to admit fault and denied it had any responsibility or obligations relating to the renovation project.

Asbestos has been a major problem for schools for years. Around 50 percent of schools in the United States built between 1950 and 1969 contain asbestos. It was popular for its heat and fire-resistant properties. It was later fazed out in the 1980s. Recently, three educators from Philadelphia filed a lawsuit against the School District of Philadelphia over the right to protest asbestos in classrooms. They held a protest after asbestos was found in 11 Philadelphia schools. Only six area schools in Philadelphia were forced to close temporarily because of asbestos. Asbestos is the main cause of mesothelioma, but it can also cause lung cancer, asbestosis, and other related diseases. The fibers can become trapped in the lungs or mesothelium and can cause scarring, inflammation, and respiratory issues later in life. It can take anywhere from 20 to 60 years for symptoms to develop after exposure.

Jared Strong, “Iowa school district allowed employees to work amid asbestos contamination” Iowa Capital Dispatch (February 19, 2024). [Link]
Contact Us
Have you received a diagnosis? *