Citations State Kehrer Willfully Exposed Mexican Guest Laborers To
Asbestos Without Protective Equipment
By Alex Haglund
An Albers businessman whose company did work at the former Okawville Grade School has been fined nearly $2-million by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), after he reportedly brought Mexican laborers into the country and forced them to work at removing asbestos in the building without any protective gear.
The fines and findings were leveled at Joseph Kehrer, Kehrer Brothers Construction, in the amount of $1,792,000 and D7 Roofing, an affiliated company, in the amount of $147,000, for exposing eight workers to asbestos in violation of federal health standards, and came to the U.S. To work for Kehrer under a guest-worker visa program.
“This really is quite significant,” said Scott Allen with Department of Labor Office of Public Affairs. “We don’t often get too many that are this high in penalty. You’re talking about only a handful of them.”
Allen said that minor violations carried fines in the neighborhood of $500 to $1,000, while serious violations carried fines of as much as $7,000. In this cases, Allen described the violations as “willful and egregious” and said fines were in the range of $70,000 per violation.
“It’s just plain disregard for the safety and health of the workers,” Allen continued. “It’s not like the company doesn’t know better. They understand the regulations, they just choose to ignore them.”
For this particular case, OSHA has made its ruling and the company was given 15 days to respond. An administrative law judge would rule on it after that. Allen said that more complaints against Kehrer could result in more action by OSHA. Further action on this case, criminal or civil, would come from other agencies.
“We have referred them to a couple of other agencies, the EPA,” Allen said, “and we are taking a look at referring them to the Department of Justice.”
While a complaint is what initiated the case against Kehrer, “he even went as far as threatening the workers if they talked to OSHA.”
“This man brought these folks in, he housed them, he provided transportation, they were at his mercy,” said Allen. “He put them into harms way by not providing protective equipment to them.”