The owner of Seattle Pacific Hotel has been fined $355,000 for exposing workers to asbestos hazards, the Washington state Department of Labor and Industries said Monday.

L&I says the owner knew the building contained asbestos and decided to save money by using untrained workers to remove it.

During a lobby renovation, an asbestos-abatement contractor discovered that much of the ceiling was originally constructed with cement-asbestos-board, according to L&I.

L&I said its investigation found that hotel owner Raj Nariya got an estimate from a certified asbestos removal contractor who discovered the problem. But Nariya instead allegedly hired untrained workers from a roofing contractor to remove the ceiling without telling them there was asbestos.

L&I says it found 12 intentional workplace health violations related to removal of the asbestos. Ten carried a penalty of $35,000 each, the maximum amount allowed for an employer of the hotel's size.

"It's unconscionable that anyone would knowingly expose untrained and unprotected workers to asbestos. It's an extremely hazardous material that's notorious for causing cancer and other serious health issues," said Anne Soiza, L&I's assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health in a statement.

Asbestos can cause potentially fatal diseases including lung cancer. L&I says removal and disposal of asbestos-containing building materials must be done by a certified abatement contractor.