Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Congressman: OSHA's 9/11 Response Endangered Workers. (OSHA)

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Congressman: OSHA's 9/11 Response Endangered Workers. (OSHA)

Article excerpt

In the face of mounting evidence of long-term illness among rescue and recovery workers at the former World Trade Center (WTC), the congressman representing Lower Manhattan has criticized the response of OSHA and EPA to last year's terrorist attacks.

In a June 3 letter to OSHA Administrator John Henshaw, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., requested detailed information explaining why OSHA suspended its enforcement authority at the WTC disaster site.

Henshaw's Aug. 9 reply appears not to have resolved the issue. In addition, the OSHA administrator's letter provoked new charges of EPA duplicity from Nadler's office.

Henshaw explained in general terms that "the urgency of the task" at the WTC "did not allow time to invoke OSHA's ordinary enforcement procedures to assure the safety of these workers."

OSHA officials have defended the decision not to enforce safety and health rules by noting that contested citations can take years to settle, whereas the partnership agreements used at Ground Zero led to immediate resolutions of safety issues. They also point to the low injury rate at the site as proof the emphasis on consultation and compliance assistance worked.

"I am sure there is no suggestion on your part," Henshaw wrote in his reply to Nadler, "that the decision to place an emphasis on assistance somehow added to the danger those heroic workers encountered."

That is precisely what Nadler is suggesting, according to spokesperson Eric Schmeltzer.

"The congressman's contention is that there should have been enforcement," Schmeltzer explained. …

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