Federal Safety Agency Blasts Brooklyn Public Library for Asbestos Exposure

By MIKE LEE

Justice has been served in a case of a Local 1482 Brooklyn Library Guild member exposed to asbestos at work.

The incident occurred in November 2015, when the member — a custodian at the Eastern Parkway branch of the Brooklyn Library in Crown Heights — was cleaning up debris left by an outside contractor. The custodian was not informed the debris contained asbestos.

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Local 1482 President Eileen Muller

As reported in the September 2016 issue of Public Employee Press, the union’s Safety and Health Dept. assisted the custodian. After an extensive inspection, the union filed a complaint with the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), charging that management exposed workers to asbestos fibers and failed to test the employees for exposure and inform them of the hazardous situation at the library.

The agency issued its report on May 10, 2016, finding the workers at the library were
“exposed to the hazard of asbestos fibers” did not brief library employees about their potential exposure.

The Brooklyn Public library appealed the decision.

This angered Local 1482 President Eileen Muller, who pointed out that the library had similar problems in the past and had fought a similar OSHA decision in 2007.

Medical monitoring

At the time, Muller said, “They are trying to wriggle out of this. But the bottom line is they are putting our members at risk — and that is where I have a problem.”

In February, Muller, and the Brooklyn Public Library signed a stipulation issued by OSHA. In the agreement, the library agreed to provide medical monitoring for the member, taking full responsibility of the coverage.

The stipulation also orders the library to hire a qualified health and safety professional to develop an asbestos control plan for Brooklyn’s Central Library.

Brooklyn Public Library is also required to develop similar plans at library branches before any demolition or renovation work begins.

Finally, the library agreed that contractors must be licensed to handle asbestos abatement and that a system of notifying library employees that such work is being done.

“I think this decision will help keep our members in a safe situation,” Muller said.

“But our concerns are for the future. The library just began the same type of renovation that was done at Eastern Parkway. We will be on the lookout for any potential problems,” she said.

Muller expressed appreciation to the DC 37 Safety and Health Dept. for following through to achieve stronger protections for workers.

This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Public Employee Press.

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