Lawsuit Said Company Knowingly Exposed Worker to Asbestos

A lawsuit filed this month alleges that the Empire District Electric Company’s Riverton Power Station knowingly exposed employees at its power plant to asbestos, as well as other hazardous materials.

The power plant in Riverton, Kansas was built using asbestos, as were many in its day. But recently, an employee, Les Rider, alleged that asbestos wiring and insulation were exposed around pipes and ducts throughout the plant. Over time, it began to peel and flake, disintegrating into the air that employees breathe. These workers were exposed to “dangerous concentrations of asbestos fibers.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, exposure to asbestos in the air may increase the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma. And according to Missouri law, it is stated that a company who exposes employees to it, are entitled to money for medical monitoring.

Rider, a resident of Diamond who has worked for Empire since December 2006, was transferred to the Riverton plant in 2011 and began working there as an operator after previously being employed by the company as an energy trader, according to the lawsuit. He transferred out of the plant the same year and currently works in the Company’s call center.

The lawsuit filed September 13th in Jasper County Circuit Court on behalf of Empire employee Les Rider “and all others similarly situated,” seeks class-action status that has yet to be granted by the court.

A judge subsequently issued an injunction sought by the plaintiff’s attorneys to prevent the company from destroying any evidence that could support the lawsuit’s claims.

Rider alleges that he and other employees were asked to dispose of various scrap materials during the plant’s recent conversion from coal-fired power to natural gas. The lawsuit alleges that the plant manager let it be known that he wanted these materials to “disappear” so that plant oversight staff would not find them. The document claims that the plant manager also wished to maintain “plausible deniability” if they were found.

Rider was instructed to unwind asbestos-insulated wire from spools to permit disposal of the wire and the spools in separate trash bins. He and other employees were not provided adequate training of safety equipment for handling this material and consequently were exposed to asbestos fibers, the lawsuit states.

In addition, electrical items containing PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) were part of the scrap material employees were asked to test by drilling without proper safety equipment, the lawsuit claims. Employees were also asked to clean coal-fired boilers caked with coal ash, without being provided protective gear. As a result, the document reads, “hazardous contaminants infiltrated Empire’s employees, their personal effects, clothing, and the food and water they ingested.”

The lawsuit does not specify any injuries or illnesses associated by Rider or other employees but claims negligence on the part of the company, as well as premises liability and seeks compensatory damages “in the form of the costs associated with establishing a medical monitoring program for class members.”

A spokeswoman for Empire said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

For more information, contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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