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Federal authorities say demolition workers at Waukegan Hospital were exposed to asbestos

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A Chicago company failed to take adequate precautions around asbestos during demolition of a hospital in Waukegan, the U.S. Department of Labor said Wednesday.

The agency said it reported 36 violations to KLF Enterprises following an investigation that began last year.

The company knowingly exposed its workers to asbestos during demolition work at Lakes Behavioral Health, the labor department said.

The department said it launched an investigation in November after observing that company employees were not wearing protective gear while working near piles of rubble that contained asbestos.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigators said the company continued work at the site despite recognizing the presence of asbestos and failed to take appropriate measures to protect workers from the known carcinogen.

“KLF Enterprises’ decision not to immediately stop work or ensure that appropriate control measures are followed when asbestos is clearly visible exposes these employees to a highly carcinogenic material with the potential for permanent, long-term negative health consequences,” Sukhvir said , area manager for Chicago North OSHA, Kaur said.

“We will hold companies accountable when they fail in their duty to protect the safety and health of their employees,” Kaur said.

The agency said KLF had construction plans that showed the hospital's extensive use of asbestos for fire protection. However, the company failed to notify workers, the general contractor or the building's owner, the labor department said.

OSHA said it cited the owner and general contractor for failing to ensure KLF complied with federal standards for asbestos abatement.