Firm fined for exposing staff to asbestos criminally probed

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration proceedings against a construction company fined for allegedly importing Mexican workers to remove asbestos are on hold as federal officials look into possible criminal activity by the firm.

OSHA last year fined Joseph Kehrer and Albers-based Kehrer Brothers Construction company $1.8 million for having the workers remove asbestos from a former school in Okawville without safety gear. Breathing asbestos fibers can increase the risk of cancer. The company is contesting the allegations.

The Belleville News-Democrat reports ( Department of Labor spokeswoman Rhonda Burke says federal prosecutors are conducting an investigation “into possibly pursuing criminal charges against the employer.”

Kehrer’s attorney, Clyde Kuehn, confirmed federal prosecutors, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are conducting an investigation. He says such probes aren’t uncommon in such cases.