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Minnesota employers’ obligations regarding asbestos exposure

A landmark case in Virginia could pave the way for other states to examine asbestos liability. The Supreme Court was asked to examine whether an employer owed a duty to warn a family member of asbestos exposure when the employer failed to prevent asbestos fibers from being brought home.

The case in Virginia involved a woman who regularly washed her father’s asbestos covered work clothes from a shipyard for years. 44 years later, she developed pleural mesothelioma.

Although there was no statutory obligation, the Supreme Court of Virginia held that there was a common law duty to warn family members when the employer failed to institute adequate safety policies to prevent asbestos from being transported home.

What can employers do to protect family members from asbestos exposure?

Employers have an obligation to do everything they can to prevent asbestos from being transported home.

Safety measures may include:

  • Providing coveralls that an employee can wear
  • Provide a locker room for employees
  • Provide a space to shower for employees
  • Provide a laundry service for work clothes
  • Comply with all state laws and regulations regarding asbestos

What direction does Minnesota’s give for employers who may deal with asbestos?

Minnesota has several statues, rules and regulations governing the handling and abatement of asbestos. The Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Minnesota Department of Labor developed A Workplace Accident and Injury Reduction (AWAIR) program to provide direction for employers that details the obligations for building owners and employers:

  1. Employers must identify the steps required to complete a project
  2. Evaluate whether an employee may be exposed to asbestos or any other hazard at each step
  3. Develop a plan to either eliminate or minimize the risk of exposure to employees, including providing direction on work practices to protect employees, such as how to avoid disturbing asbestos during work
  4. Wherever possible, asbestos should be abated.

There is no safe use for asbestos. Even minor exposure could cause a person to develop mesothelioma or other deadly cancers many years after the exposure occurred. Anyone who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma should consult with an attorney with extensive experience handling asbestos exposure matters to learn about their options.

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