The Detroit Free Press reports Michigan lawmakers are proposing changes to workplace safety regulations to hold contractors participating in demolition and asbestos removal more accountable for workers exposure to the cancer-causing substance.
Detroit has been experiencing a high number of demolitions as Mayor Mike Duggan's effort to tear down 40,000 blighted buildings that are in part due to the city's economic downturn in past years.
State Rep. Stephanie Chang said the proposed changes in state law would help protect neighborhood residents and construction workers from the health hazards of mishandled asbestos, according to the report.
The proposed legislation would:
- Allow the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to collect a fee to pay for more asbestos inspectors
- Require public agencies to do background checks of abatement contractors; contractors with criminal convictions or safety violations would be barred from being hired.
- Require contractors bidding on public abatement contracts to provide record of any state or federal environmental or health violations in the past five years
- Give public agencies the right to withhold payments to contractors who have more than five environmental violations in the last year until the contractor proves the company has corrected the situation.
- Require DEQ to file an annual report on asbestos inspectors
The proposed legislation is in response to the Detroit Free Press investigation that uncovered widespread cases of unlicensed abatement contractors, untrained workers, lack of personal protection equipment for workers, and the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) lack of oversight of asbestos abatement contractors. In the newspaper's analysis of 4,000 violations over seven years, it was found that 96 percent of those violations resulted in penalties of $1,000 or less. During that same period in 2016, employers were issued zero penalties in two-thirds of violations in which safety issues were involved.
The legislation, House Bill 5607, was introduced by by Representative Stephanie Chang this week.