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Feds on Power Play at Islanders' Home

Friday, October 5, 2012

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New York Islanders fans who are demanding a new home for their team just got some new, asbestos-laced ammunition from federal health and safety regulators.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued 16 serious citations and $88,000 in fines against SMG @ Nassau Coliseum LLC, doing business as SMG, which manages the day-to-day operations of the aging Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island.

 The Coliseum hazards were reported in work areas that are not accessible to the general public.

 iMatthew / Wikimedia Commons

The Coliseum hazards were reported in work areas that are not accessible to the general public.

The allegations of asbestos, electrical, chemical and other hazards relate to work areas not accessible to the general public, according to OSHA.

Based in Conshohocken, PA, SMG is an international facility management firm whose portfolio includes hundreds of convention, exhibition and convention centers; stadiums and arenas; performing arts venues; and recreational and equestrian centers.

Company Responds

The Islanders have played in the Coliseum since the franchise was founded in 1972. The team’s lease runs until 2015, and it is reportedly unlikely to renew. Nassau County voters have rejected a new stadium, and many observers think the team may be headed for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

In a statement, SMG cast its vote for a new team venue and said it would contest the current OSHA case.
 
“Nassau County, as owner of the Coliseum, is responsible for asbestos remediation, maintenance and capital improvements,” the statement said. “SMG is committed to full compliance with occupational safety regulations and has always worked with the County to help make sure that the Coliseum remains safe for workers and patrons.
 
“While SMG is gratified that OSHA did not find any willful violations, we will be contesting the citation. We join with those who have advocated for a long-term plan to address the inherent difficulties that the 40-year-old facility faces.
 
“The citizens of Nassau County and the Islanders deserve a Nassau Coliseum that would stand at the pinnacle of facilities in the County and serve as a long-term home for the New York Islanders. Until that happens, we are pleased to report that the County has remediated the asbestos issues identified by OSHA, and it's been confirmed that the air in the Coliseum is safe.”

Asbestos Hazards

OSHA’s Long Island Area Office opened an inspection at the Coliseum in response to an employee complaint.

Investigators found that maintenance workers and electricians were exposed to asbestos or materials potentially containing asbestos while working in the Coliseum’s ice plant, catwalks, a loading dock, and other work locations. Regulators said SMG “did not take adequate steps to address the hazards.”

Specifically, OSHA alleges, SMG did not:

• Identify the presence, location and quantity of materials containing or potentially containing asbestos;

• Use engineering controls and work practices to reduce exposure levels;

• Ensure that all Class III asbestos work (repair and maintenance operations that are likely to disturb Asbestos Containing Materials, including Thermal System Insulation) was conducted in regulated areas;

• Ensure proper respirator use;

• Post warning signs; or

• Provide asbestos awareness training for workers.

“Inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to lung disease and cancer,” said Anthony Ciuffo, OSHA’s Long Island area director. “That’s why it is imperative that this employer take effective action to identify and minimize asbestos hazards and ensure that workers are protected against exposure.”

Breathing asbestos fibers can cause a buildup of scar-like tissue in the lungs called asbestosis, which can result in a loss of lung function that often progresses to disability or death. Asbestos also causes lung cancer and other diseases such as mesothelioma. OSHA offers detailed information on asbestos hazards and safeguards.

Training, Exit, Machinery Hazards

OSHA also reported a wide variety of other serious violations. Serious violations reflect “substantial probability” of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The other serious violations include:

• Inadequately lighted exit routes;

• Inoperable emergency lighting;

• Lights not guarded against damage;

• Defective forklifts;

• Unsecured liquefied petroleum gas containers;

• Failure to provide workers with bloodborne pathogen and chemical hazard communication training;

• Lockout/Tagout lapses on electrical circuits and machinery; and

• Unguarded open-sided floors.

“A key means of preventing hazards such as these is for employers to establish and maintain effective illness and injury prevention programs in which they work with their employees to proactively identify and eliminate hazards,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York.

SMG has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply or contest the case.

   

Tagged categories: Asbestos; Convention Centers; Facility Managers; Hazards; Health and safety; OSHA; Regulations; Stadiums/Sports Facilities

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