Union protests asbestos removal company

John Joyce
  • Heating & Frost Insulators and Allied Workers union members staged a protest at a York insulation company Wednesday.
  • OSHA imposed $490,000 in penalties against First Capital Insulation Inc. for safety violations.
  • First Capital's CEO said the matter has been settled, but the protesters want the company to "do their work right."

Residents in the area of Hudson and North Sherman streets were awakened Wednesday morning to the sound of a drum beating across the street as a handful of union members gathered with a giant inflatable rat.

The five Heat & Frost Insulators and Allied Workers union members said they came from Harrisburg, Washington, D.C., and Wilmington, Delaware, to call the community's attention to First Capital Insulation Inc — an asbestos removal contractor located at 300 Hudson St. in York City — having been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of Environment for safety violations.

The protesters offered pamphlets listing the penalties levied against First Capital dating back to 1996.

"We're here to make people aware of unsafe practices," Local 23 member Scott Myers said.

Thomas Smith, right, Local 23 union vice president and organizer, and Edwin Recinos, of Local 24 in Washington, D.C., protest outside First Capital Insulation Inc. on Wednesday.

Citations: According to a news release issued in April 2015, First Capital was fined $490,000 for accumulated safety infractions found at a residential work site in Harrisburg. The seven items listed in the citation issued by OSHA on April 20, 2015, state the employer failed to provide the proper testing, monitoring and adherence to standards required during asbestos removal operations.

In some cases, the respirator equipment used by workers removing asbestos from pipes in the abandoned residence was not properly fit tested or the employer "passed" the fit tests despite the fact the workers had facial hair, which prevents the respirator from forming a proper seal.

In other cases the workers did not properly wet or bag the asbestos during the removal process, and a decontamination area was not established, all of which are out of compliance with OSHA standards, according to the report.

A records search verified several EPA and OSHA penalties have been levied against First Capital — including $9,914 in 2004, which arose as First Capital was removing asbestos from the York City School District's former administration building on South Lindberg Avenue in York — and $490,000 in penalties in 2015.

Thomas Smith, union vice president and organizer for Local 23 in Harrisburg, said none of First Capital's current employees are union members, but at least one past employee is now with the union and that is how he and his fellow protesters became involved.

Protest: York City Police were called to the area of the protest about 9 a.m. but said the complaint was about the drum noise, not about the protesters being there. The officers just asked that the men "tone the drums down," Smith said.

EDITORIAL: York City protest a missed opportunity

Smith said the group passed out about 35 fliers and had some interest from the residents in the neighborhood. He and the union will return in a week or two to drum up more attention for the issue.

Heating & Frost Insulators and Allied Workers union members hand out fliers Wednesday outside First Capital Insulation Inc. The union members say they are protesting the insulation and asbestos removal company's past OSHA and EPA safety violations that endanger workers.

"We'd like them to do their work right," he said. "Stop getting violations."

Smith said no one from inside the company came out to address the protest, but he said First Capital erected its own sign in response to the protesters' banner.

He said the sign read: "Union Scumbags."

Company: First Capital CEO Rich Yingling said the company had no comment regarding the protest going on outside its offices.

"It's not worth commenting on," he said repeatedly. "We're not going to comment for the paper on this."

Yingling did say the $490,000 in OSHA penalties levied against his company have been settled, but he would not specify if the matter was resolved by paying the complete fine or otherwise bringing the company into compliance to minimize the financial penalty.

"I am not at liberty to disclose those details," he said.

OSHA officials, via email, said First Capital contested the penalties assigned in April 2015, and after lengthy litigation, a settlement was reached in the amount of $275,000. The settlement became final on July 8, and the first payment is due July 31.

Anyone alleging new hazards at work sites is asked to contact OSHA's Harrisburg office to file a complaint by calling 717-782-3902, or 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

— Reach John Joyce at jjoyce2@yorkdispatch.comor on Twitter at @JohnJoyceYD.