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American Airlines cited again by OSHA
By Anna Marie Kukec | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/5/2007 12:20 AM

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American Airlines said Tuesday it has started corrective action -- including asbestos abatement -- after being fined nearly a half-million dollars for two sets of alleged violations at its Chicago hub.

The nation's largest legacy airline said it has cooperated with an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding citations on July 25 that totaled $231,000 and another set on Aug. 20 for about $227,500.

"American has already begun the asbestos abatement in the hangars," American spokesman John Hotard said.

"We have also corrected the storage of combustible and flammable products and are addressing the problem of lead-based paint chipping in the hangar. We have closed the paint booth and made it off limits to employees."

No employees or passengers have been injured. The fines came after a scheduled inspection, officials said.

OSHA confirmed its officials have been meeting with American's executives to resolve the issues.

American is contesting the July 25 safety-related violations and has not filed a response yet to the Aug. 20 health-related violations, said Angie Loftus, assistant area director in Des Plaines.

"The company still has until Sept. 14 to file a response (on the second set of fines) and we have a meeting scheduled for next week," Loftus said.

OSHA officials inspected the airline's ramp services, cargo building, automotive shops, ticket and gate services, tower, two hangars and baggage room at O'Hare International Airport.

Citations have included a lack of warning signs or labels on previously identified asbestos-containing materials, which could exposure employees to that hazardous substance; hearing conservation; confined space entry; respirator issues and failing to inform employees of the presence of hazardous chemicals and labeling many of those chemicals; and failing to maintain Hepatitis B declination forms.

Since 2004, OSHA has inspected American Airlines 66 times at locations nationwide, with 37 inspections resulting in citations. Its O'Hare hub has been inspected 10 times since 2000, with five inspections resulting in citations, OSHA documents said.