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California school district may look to an employer defense

When a large group of employees is accidentally exposed to a dangerous chemical, an employer defense may be established to help prevent detrimental financial damage. A total of three California schools were recently closed after asbestos fibers and dust were said to have been found inside some of the buildings. The decision came after a heated discussion and vote among the school board that addressed the potential closing of 11 schools that had been under construction during the summer months. The school district may consider an employer defense in the event that the faculty and other workers fall ill.

Professionals discovered after school was back in session that asbestos dust may be present as a result of the renovations. A district representative contacted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with concerns regarding the exposure, which prompted an investigation. The toxic compound was suspected to be underneath tiles on the ceilings of some of the classrooms, which had been drilled through and disturbed.

Officials are investigating to see if contractors continued to demolish the asbestos materials after the school year resumed, which may have placed students and faculty at risk for direct inhalation. The school district will begin testing in the 11 schools to analyze the level of any exposure that may exist. One of the schools where the fibers were discovered will be wiped clean before ventilation is turned back on and the school can reopen.

Inhaling asbestos that has been released into the air in the form of dust can increase a person's risk for developing certain types of lung cancer and diseases. Illnesses inflicted from the compound can be expensive for patients. Should faculty and other workers at the California district find they were in fact exposed to asbestos, an employer defense may be sought with respect to any workers' compensation claims in response to protect the district and its officials.

Source: hbindependent.com, "3 Ocean View schools shut for rest of week after cancer-causing asbestos found", Hannah Fry, Oct. 8, 2014

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