It’s been a little over a month since numerous asbestos warning signs were placed on the Stamford, Connecticut’s police headquarters doors and windows. Since then, an additional 285 claims were filed for workers’ compensation, placing the state on notice that hundreds of people have been exposed to asbestos.
According to news reports, although staff members and police officers who work at 805 Bedford St.(a 59-year-old building that serves as the Stamford police headquarters) are not saying whether they have an asbestos-related illness, the fact they’ve turned in claims to CT.’s Workers’ Compensation Compensation states that they indeed were exposed to asbestos.
In fact, a myriad of workers have been exposed to the deadly mineral for decades, unbeknownst to them, until last month when the first complaint was made after 17 asbestos hot spots were found.
First Asbestos Warnings
The first public warnings of asbestos at the police headquarters came last month after the City of Stamford was fined $2,720 for failing to screen its employees properly for asbestos. According to an Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) report, the fine came shortly after determining that the city failed to inform housekeepers and contractors about potential asbestos exposure.
Soon after, a female police officer filed a workers’ compensation claim with state, followed in suit by numerous other workers, after Stamford placed the required “asbestos warning” signs on the police headquarters.
Tobb Lobraico, the president of the police union, informed all workers that they should file their workers’ compensation claims as soon as possible. In a few short days, more than 60 claims were filed in the month of December alone.
Hundreds of Claims Filed This Month
This month, Awilda Quesada, the manager of Long Ridge Road’s Commission office, told news reporters that at least 285 claims were filed, all from police headquarters workers, including staff members and police officers. Quesada states that she has never seen so many claims at once in her 15-year career in the office.
“The officers are making the city aware they were exposed to asbestos and they want to protect themselves in the future if they are diagnosed with illnesses that are known to be caused by exposure to asbestos,” Quesada stated.
According to the claims, each”member has been exposed to asbestos-containing materials located at 805 Bedford St., which has been the Stamford police station since 1955.”
Claims Denied by Stamforan
Regardless of the sheer amount of claims, the city of Stamford continues to deny them all. However, claim denials are a loophole of sorts, a formality that allows the city to hire their own specialists in an attempt to review and contest future claims.
Police officers and workers who filed a claim have until the end of May to get tested for asbestos injuries. They are also urged to take blood exams to test for lead presence. According to City Engineer Lou Casolo, it’s always been known that there is lead in the water at the headquarters, and in turn, most workers bring in bottled water to drink. OHSA is investigating the lead claims.
New Police Headquarters Still Not Found
Officials have been looking for a better location for the headquarters, especially in light of all of the asbestos. However, finding a suitable headquarters is not simple. In addition to finding a convenient location, there must also be ample parking space and enough room for a range training area, a records room, and a jail.
So far, officials have considered two locations. The first location, however, was too far away, but the second location (which has not been made public) is still in consideration. Given that the headquarters needs to be in the city for patrol response times, location is extremely important.
Meanwhile, an HVAC renovation project at the current headquarters is halted until further notice.
More Claims Anticipated
Per Lombaico, workers are still concerned about asbestos exposure. In fact, even simply lifting the tiles on the ceiling is strictly forbidden by OHSA. Lobraico also states that there are more claims to be filed.
“We filed the claims because when they posted the danger signs they were in our faces all the time. Every time you go into the building you see the danger signs and that concerned our members,”said Lobraico. “I am just hoping that there will never be a need to file a claim relating to this asbestos problem, but our members have to protect themselves.”
Kathryn Emmett of the City Corporation Counsel say that everything is being done to ensure that workers are safe and that all OHSA guidelines are being followed.
“We have taken all precautions to prevent any exposure to asbestos that would be harmful to anyone,” said Emmett. “We understand that OSHA is satisfied that the workplace is safe for those in the building. It is our expectation and everyone’s hope that there will be no future illnesses as a result of asbestos.”
In response to denying the claims, Emmett states that it’s only taking place because they are still unaware of any worker being injured.
“We are denying the claims because there is no injury that we are aware of. If an injury does occur, we will respond appropriately. We are not denying anyone’s claim because of any lack of concern about people in the police department. We are very concerned about the health of those working there,” said Emmett.
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