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February 18, 2020

CWA Case Study: Working Around Asbestos
Posted On: Sep 14, 2012

The second case, initiated in December, 2011 and resolved in June, 2012, involved 23 Verizon telecommunications technicians/Local 2201 (Richmond, Virginia), 2222 (Annandale, Virginia), and 2275 (Woodbridge, Virginia) members who were assigned to pull/install telecommunications cable from existing manholes to new manholes as part of a major highway construction project. (The actual work was performed during the July- December, 2011 time-frame). Although Verizon management personnel had full knowledge that deteriorated asbestos-containing products were located within the work area, they failed to provide both this information to the technicians and take the OSHA-required protective/preventive actions necessary to ensure the technicians were not exposed to airborne/friable asbestos.

After learning of this situation, under the direction of CWA Local 2222 President Don Lewis, Jesse Davis, the local’s occupational safety and health chair, began to conduct an investigation regarding the company’s potential violations of the existing CWA/Verizon contract and the OSHA Asbestos Standard as well as member asbestos exposure. First, in concert with his local president, Jesse contacted the Local 2201 and 2275 presidents, the appropriate District 2-13 Staff, as well as the Union’s Occupational Safety and Health Department to discuss the potential for member asbestos exposure, the company’s actions, and suggest specific Union action. Then, after bringing the Union’s concerns to the company’s attention and receiving a response “there was no real hazard to the employees,” Local 2222 filed a grievance against Verizon.

Given the company’s inadequate response, a complaint was filed with the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleging the company had violated the OSHA Asbestos Standard and potentially-exposed CWA members/Verizon telecommunications technicians to asbestos-containing materials. After conducting a thorough investigation, in June, 2012, the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Verizon for three “Serious” violations of the OSHA Construction Industry Asbestos Standard and fined the company $6,300. (An additional violation was withdrawn after Verizon abated the identified hazard).

In addition, given involved members were working in the asbestos-contaminated areas for a significant period of time, CWA requested Verizon provide them with asbestos medical surveillance exams. The company has agreed to provide these medical exams. Also, Local 2222 indicated it will continue working to ensure Verizon is in compliance with the OSHA Asbestos Standard and provide affected technicians with safe and healthful working conditions.

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