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Lawmaker Wants Three in Asbestos Case Fired

From Associated Press

The chairman of the Assembly labor committee said Tuesday that state industrial safety program directors who allowed non-registered contractors to illegally remove asbestos from school and state buildings should be fired.

Assemblyman Richard Floyd (D-Hawthorne) accused officials who oversee the California Occupational Safety and Health Act of giving false testimony about asbestos-removal jobs at a legislative hearing last week.

Floyd called Cal/OSHA chief Robert Stranberg, Deputy Chief Frank Ciofalo and Industrial Relations Department Director Ron T. Rinaldi the “three stooges” of a governor who is trying to dismantle the worker-safety program.

“They got to go,” he said at a news conference. “And when they go, maybe then the governor can put it in the hands of somebody who could do the job the people put us here to do.”

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Gov. George Deukmejian dismantled most of the Cal/OSHA program earlier this year by vetoing the agency’s $7-million budget and removing its jurisdiction over worker safety in private workplaces.

There was no immediate reaction Tuesday from the governor’s office. Rinaldi denied Floyd’s allegations and said the state agency, in cooperation with federal OSHA, is doing its job of ensuring safe removal of asbestos.

“Certainly we’re interested in protecting workers and anyone who might be exposed to this kind of thing,” Rinaldi said. “I think our record speaks to that.”

A Dec. 21 hearing by Floyd’s Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment revealed that only six of 546 contractors certified to work with asbestos had registered with Cal/OSHA as required by law. This led the state Department of General Services to halt asbestos-removal jobs in 61 state buildings until contractors can show they are registered.

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To be registered, contractors must prove that their workers are properly trained and use protective respiratory equipment and that costs of workers’ asbestos medical exams are covered by the employer or a union. Failure to comply is a misdemeanor.

Letters Planned

Floyd alleged Ciofalo falsely testified, with the approval of Stranberg and Rinaldi, before the Assembly committee that Cal/OSHA would also mail letters to notify 1,500 contractors that they must be registered before taking asbestos jobs.

“As of today, not a letter has gone out,” Floyd said.

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Rinaldi said letters are in the process of being mailed.

“I have no reason to believe that any of my people have lied,” he said.


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