After recently learning University of Connecticut employees were exposed to asbestos a few months ago, three state agencies have begun investigations.
The state Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Labor and Department of Public Health are each looking into the incident to determine if UConn violated any regulations. The school could face fines for any violations.
The incident occurred during a renovation project in UConn President Michael Hogan’s office at Gulley Hall, which began in late August.
The state Department of Labor is investigating whether any Occupational Safety and Health Administration laws were broken.
DEP spokesman Dennis Schain, meanwhile, said the DEP is investigating how UConn handled any asbestos once employees removed the materials from the building.
Any issues or violations occurring inside the building would fall under the scope of the DPH or labor department, Schain added.
The departments sent compliance officers to the UConn campus once they learned of the incident. UConn spokesman Michael Kirk said the university is working with all three agencies.
“The university is cooperating with [state officials],” Kirk said. He added UConn “takes safety on campus seriously.”
Schain said the DEP and other agencies will need to examine all aspects of the incident, including how much material was removed and the risk associated with exposure.
On Oct. 1, employees replacing flooring notified UConn’s office of Environmental Health and Safety about two materials they found under the flooring.
The safety office had the two substances, one a paper-like material and the other a black mastic – a glue-like substance – tested for asbestos.
Results showed the paper as negative for asbestos but the mastic was positive.
Kirk said Thursday six employees associated with the project subsequently underwent medical evaluations, but people walking past Gulley Hall during this time should not be concerned.
UConn had conducted three inspections before the $475,000 project to look for asbestos, but all those studies were done before plans called for the removal of the floor, so the black mastic was never found, the safety office said in a report.
Employees conducting the project, however, were unaware of some of the examinations and the fact none of the three studies checked under the floor, according to the report.
The report said the school did not have adequate engineering and work practice controls, as well as personal protective equipment.
The report also noted materials were thrown out a second-floor window and into a Dumpster at ground, level without installing a chute or wetting and bagging the materials first, and employees removed tools from the site.
Kirk noted Thursday UConn has since begun implementing recommendations from the safety office, including establishing or appointing a person to review plans and inspections and a system to make inspections more available.
Posted March 6, 2010 – as edited by HTNP.com Editor Brenda Sullivan