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Hiring Day-Workers Off Craigslist

When you need to remediate asbestos, it’s not the time to go looking for a bargain on Craigslist. A painting contractor in Pierce County, Washington, made that mistake last summer when he was hired to remove a popcorn ceiling. The job got botched spectacularly, leading to asbestos dust going everywhere. Now he’s facing a $135,500 fine and the workers are at risk for Mesothelioma.

17 April, 2024

When you need a toxic, federally-regulated substance removed from the job site, you may not want to hire subcontractors on Craigslist.

A painting contractor in Pierce County, Washington, was recently fined $135,500 after failing spectacularly on an asbestos-removal job last year.

The painting company was hired to remediate a popcorn ceiling containing asbestos, according to the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.

Unfortunately for all involved, the owner of the company turned to Craigslist to find workers to remove the dangerous fiber.

In short order, the homeowners noticed something was amiss.

First off, the workers didn’t shut off the furnace or seal off the work site with a plastic curtain, a standard operating procedure when asbestos is involved.

As a result, asbestos dust coated the homeowners’ furniture, carpet, and other household items.

Additionally, the workers wore N95 masks, which aren’t sufficient to protect against asbestos. The proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)  for the job would have been a filtering face piece mask or a full face mask with replaceable filters.

By not wearing proper PPE, the workers are now at risk of developing scarring of lung tissue that can disable or kill them.

Have you seen the commercials on TV about Mesothelioma? This is the target audience.

The homeowners fired the crew after five days on the job. Adding insult to injury, when they left the workers left a trail of asbestos dust leading out the front door.

The homeowners complained to the state agency, which started an investigation. When interviewed, the owner of the painting company couldn’t provide the workers’ full names, nor any evidence they were properly trained to deal with asbestos.

“This contractor failed to follow rules designed to protect his customers and his workers from a deadly hazard,” Craig Blackwood, assistant director of the labor department’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said in a press release. “What’s worse, he knowingly put [the workers] at risk by failing to even tell them about the risks they were facing or train them on how to safely do this work. This was a failure across the board.”

The painting company was cited for 28 violations, including four that are defined as being an intentional disregard to a hazard or rule, and 19 invoked when a worker could die or be seriously harmed. The painting company owner disagreed with the finding and referred all questions to his lawyer, who noted that they are appealing the decision.

The moral of the story? Craigslist is a great place to find used couches, classic cars, or home appliances.

It is not where you should go to find qualified asbestos-removal professionals.

If you need help with asbestos, contact your state or local health department for a list of licensed asbestos removal contractors in your area. Check to make sure they have an Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) certification.

Your customers’ lungs will thank you for it.

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Does your company own at least one AED/Automated External Defibrillator?


Did you attend any in-person paint industry events in 2023?


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