Legislation will protect workers from asbestos exposure

LANSING, Mich., Oct. 31, 2023 — A six-bill package, introduced by Majority Floor Leader Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), alongside state Reps. Denise Mentzer (D-Mt. Clemens), Donavan McKinney (D-Detroit) and Curtis VanderWall (R-Ludington), passed the House today — House Bills 4185-90. These bills aim to protect the public from asbestos exposure.

“This bill package was a bipartisan effort, and we love that!” Mentzer said. “As a whole, these bills take steps to guarantee worker’s safety and health. It isn’t about rushing through a project, but it’s about getting it done right.”

Asbestos is a carcinogen that causes significant long-term health problems and can lead to fatal diseases like lung cancer, mesothelioma and cancer of the ovaries and larynx for individuals who are exposed.

This legislation was created in response to a 2017 Auditor General report of the state of Michigan’s Air Quality Division’s Asbestos Program, which found that the former Michigan Department of Environmental Quality failed to properly monitor building demolitions in which asbestos could be released. The audit also found that insufficient staffing levels prevented the department from conducting oversight to report on inspections and keep track of contractors who violated the law. As a result, local governments were allowed to hire contractors to handle asbestos abatement who had multiple violations or even criminal convictions related to worker and public safety.

“There is protocol and procedure in handling asbestos for a reason. It has a devastating effect on people’s health and safety. We should not be drastically reducing penalties for companies that put their workers and surrounding communities at risk,” Mentzer continued. “These bills strengthen Michigan’s commitment to its workers. We cannot cut corners when it comes to accountability. Doing the job right, means protocol is followed and if it isn’t, penalties are paid in full.”

Below is a snapshot of the bill package:

  • House Bill 4185: Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) Violation Penalty Reductions (Mentzer) — Prohibits MIOSHA from reducing asbestos-related violation penalties by a percentage that is greater than what federal law allows.
  • House Bill 4186: Withhold Payment from Contractors with Uncorrected Violations (McKinney) — If a company had more than five violation notices related to environmental regulations in the past year, a contracting government authority with asbestos abatement contractors can withhold payment until they receive written and photographic verification that violations were corrected.
  • House Bill 4187: Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), Air Quality Division, Asbestos Inspector Report (Aiyash) — Requires an annual report on the sufficiency of the number of inspectors.
  • House Bill 4188: Asbestos Notification Fee (Aiyash) — Institutes a reasonable fee that EGLE would charge operators and property owners who submit an asbestos notification or for EGLE to conduct an inspection of the property, at $100 per notification.
  • House Bill 4189: Contractor Disclosure (VanderWall) — Requires government entities that contract with asbestos abatement contractors/subcontractors on demolition projects to require contractors to include disclosure of any environmental violations in the past five years.
  • House Bill 4190: Background Check for Contractors with Past Violations (VanderWall) — Requires a local government or authority to perform a background check before contracting with an asbestos abatement contractor.