Three companies have been cited by federal officials after subcontractors in November began demolishing a former hospital, located at 2615 Washington Street in Waukegan, without following proper protocol for removing asbestos from the building, resulting in workers and others being exposed to the harmful material. | Photo Submitted to Lake and McHenry County Scanner

A federal investigation has found three dozen violations were committed in the demolition of a former hospital in Waukegan, resulting in “serious dangers” of asbestos.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced Wednesday that it has cited K.L.F. Enterprises, a Chicago demolition subcontractor, for 36 safety and health violations.

OSHA said that K.L.F. Enterprises knew it was exposing its employees and others to the serious dangers of asbestos during the demolition of the former Lake Behavioral Hospital.

The building was home to Vista Medical Center West before it was bought by Lake Behavioral Hospital. Prior to that, the hospital was known as St. Therese Medical Center.

Investigators opened a complaint inspection in November after they observed K.L.F. employees not wearing protective equipment amid piles of debris and steel I-beams during the structural demolition of the eight-story hospital.

Three companies have been cited by federal officials after subcontractors in November began demolishing a former hospital, located at 2615 Washington Street in Waukegan, without following proper protocol for removing asbestos from the building, resulting in workers and others being exposed to the harmful material. | Photo Submitted to Lake and McHenry County Scanner

OSHA determined that K.L.F. continued demolition activities — disturbing and removing asbestos used to fireproof the building’s interior — despite allegedly recognizing the debris piles outside were likely asbestos-laden.

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The company did not stop work or require employees to take appropriate precautions and use established control measures to protect themselves from the long-recognized hazard, OSHA said.

K.L.F. Enterprises is a family-owned business offering demolition and excavation services for residential, commercial, industrial and municipal clients in the Chicagoland area.

The company, which was created in 2000, has locations in Chicago and Oak Forest.

“K.L.F. Enterprises’ decision not to stop work immediately or ensure appropriate control measures were followed when asbestos was clearly visible exposed these employees to a highly carcinogenic material with the potential for permanent, negative long-term health outcomes,” Chicago North OSHA Area Director Sukhvir Kaur said.

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

Three companies have been cited by federal officials after subcontractors in November began demolishing a former hospital, located at 2615 Washington Street in Waukegan, without following proper protocol for removing asbestos from the building, resulting in workers and others being exposed to the harmful material. | Photo Submitted to Lake and McHenry County Scanner

Investigators discovered the company possessed a 2019 building survey that “clearly identified” the extensive use of asbestos to fireproof the structural beams but did not inform their employees of the hazards.

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Investigators later determined the building’s insulation and fireproofing materials contained up to 15% chrysotile asbestos and K.L.F. had also failed to notify the site’s general contractor, Reed Illinois Construction in Chicago, and the building’s owner, V Covington LLC of Waukegan, of the discovery of asbestos at the site during demolition work, OSHA said.

K.L.F. Enterprises received citations for lack of compliance with OSHA’s asbestos regulations, including a willful violation for failing to notify employees and other contractors of material containing asbestos, as well as violations related to the company’s alleged failures to require employees to wear protective equipment.

The agency also cited the company for failure to train employees to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions, provide medical surveillance of employees for asbestos, silica and lead exposures; and for other alleged deficiencies in how K.L.F. handled asbestos, silica and lead materials and waste at the site.

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The company was also cited for allegedly exposing employees to safety hazards by not providing adequate fall protection around floor openings.

OSHA in total assessed K.L.F. with $392,002 in proposed penalties.

Three companies have been cited by federal officials after subcontractors in November began demolishing a former hospital, located at 2615 Washington Street in Waukegan, without following proper protocol for removing asbestos from the building, resulting in workers and others being exposed to the harmful material. | Photo Submitted to Lake and McHenry County Scanner

OSHA also cited Reed Illinois Construction for not ensuring its subcontractor, K.L.F. Enterprises, met federal safety and health standards for asbestos and for allegedly failing to inspect the site frequently for safety hazards.

OSHA has assessed the general contractor with $32,262 in proposed penalties.

A serious violation was issued to V Covington LLC with a proposed $16,131 penalty for the owner’s alleged failure to ensure K.L.F. Enterprises and another subcontractor, Alliance Environmental Control Inc., complied with the federal asbestos standard.

Alliance Environmental Control Inc. of Lansing received a serious citation for allegedly creating asbestos hazards by not removing asbestos, including the fireproofing insulation, and they face a proposed OSHA penalty of $6,452.

A recent attempt for comment from a City of Waukegan spokesperson on the matter went unanswered.