NFPA 1600, Emergency Preparedness Standard, is Available Free Online

May 06, 2004

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) recommended to the 9-11 Commission that a National Fire Protection Association standard, NFPA 1600 Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs, be recognized as the national preparedness standard.

In addition, it identifies methodologies for exercising those plans and provides a listing of resource organizations within the fields of disaster recovery, emergency management and business continuity planning.

The recommendation, presented by ANSI President and CEO Dr. Mark W. Hurwitz, on behalf of ANSI's Homeland Security Standards Panel at a reception in Falls Church, Va., will be considered by the Commission as it readies its final report to the President and Congress, expected sometime this summer.

"NFPA is pleased that the Homeland Security Standards Panel of ANSI is making this recommendation to the Commission," said James M. Shannon, president and CEO of NFPA. "We know that 1600 will provide much guidance to businesses and jurisdictions that seek to protect and assist their employees and residents should a disaster occur."

The 9-11 Commission, also known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, is an independent, bipartisan panel, created by Congress in late 2002, and is charged with preparing a full account of the circumstances surrounding the 9-11 terrorist attacks, including recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.

All NFPA codes and standards are developed through a consensus process accredited by ANSI, a private, nonprofit organization that administers and coordinates the U.S. voluntary standardization and conformity assessment system. The 300 NFPA technical committees responsible for developing and updating all codes and standards include 6,000 volunteers, representing enforcing authorities, installation and maintenance, labor, research and testing, insurance, special experts, consumers and other users.

CSB Debuts Spanish Language Section on Agency Website

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) today introduced a new section on its website which contains Spanish-language versions of selected CSB news releases and investigation digests. The initiative follows from the Board’s strategic plan, which commits to seeking the broadest possible implementation of CSB recommendations and related prevention measures.

The new Spanish section can be accessed using the web site navigation bar by clicking on “En Español.” Over the coming months, the CSB plans to make additional Board documents available in Spanish on this site.

CSB Chairman Carolyn W. Merritt said, “A number of Hispanic workers and communities in the U.S. have been harmed by chemical accidents. In some cases, language barriers among workers have prevented adequate communication about chemical hazards. The CSB will be doing its part to help communicate potentially life-saving safety information to the Hispanic community.”

Board member Rixio Medina added: “Estoy estusiasmado que estamos progresando en la traducción de los productos de la CSB al Español y que esten disponibles en nuestro sitio en el Internet. Esperamos que la información de la CSB en Español sea de utilidad para los trabajadores y el público, y que asista en la prevención de accidentes químicos y en salvar vidas.” [I am excited that we are making progress in the translation of CSB's products into Spanish and that they are available on our website. We hope the CSB information in Spanish is useful to workers and the public and helps prevent chemical accidents and save lives.]

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency’s board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in safety management systems. Typically, the investigations involve extensive witness interviews, examination of physical evidence, and chemical and forensic testing.

New Research Outlines Public Health Consequences of World Trade Center Disaster

Longitudinal studies of firefighters, rescue workers and other personnel who responded to the collapse of the World Trade Center following the September 11, 2001 attacks have confirmed the presence of a positive relationship between the intensity and duration of their exposures to airborne pollutants and the severity of their pulmonary symptoms.

Results of the study, conducted by a consortium of researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Columbia University, New York University, Johns Hopkins University, The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, show exposure-related increases in new-onset cough, wheeze, shortness of breath, and bronchial hyperreactivity more than 2.5 years after the disaster.

In addition, follow-up of pregnant women who were inside or near the WTC buildings on September 11 found a two-fold increase in the incidence of small for gestational age (SGA) infants. The study results will appear in the May issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, the monthly peer-reviewed journal of the NIEHS.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, one of the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and grants from The New York Community Trust and United Way of New York City. Additional support was provided by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Our results indicate that the environmental exposures following the WTC disaster were associated with profound adverse effects on respiratory health," said Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, chair of the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine and director of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at Mount Sinai, and principal author of the study.

"The collapse of the towers generated thousands of tons of particulate matter comprised of cement dust, glass fibers, asbestos, lead, aromatic hydrocarbons, and organochlorine compounds, many of which significantly increased the subjects' susceptibility to bronchial spasms and asthma," said Landrigan. "These respiratory effects were most pronounced in subjects who were in or around the WTC buildings during the first 12 hours of the disaster."

Previous studies have documented the acute traumatic consequences of the September 11 attacks, most notably the occurrence of 2,726 deaths, including 343 firefighters and 60 police officers. Early clinical assessments noted a high prevalence of respiratory symptoms, including persistent cough, in firefighters and rescue workers exposed to the WTC dust.

The present study was designed to yield a comprehensive assessment of the health impacts of the chemical contaminants on first responders, construction workers and volunteers who worked initially in rescue and recovery, and then for several months clearing rubble and debris, and on residents who lived in the surrounding area.

For their exposure assessment, the researchers focused on five primary classes of contaminants taken from samples of settled dust following the collapse of the twin towers. These included airborne particles, dioxin and other related compounds, asbestos, which was used for fire insulation in the construction of the North Tower, aromatic hydrocarbons such as benzopyrene and benzoperylene, and lead and other trace elements.

Analysis of the data revealed that firefighters were among the most heavily exposed populations. Of the 10,116 firefighters who were evaluated, 332 displayed persistent cough accompanied by other respiratory symptoms so severe as to require at least 4 weeks leave of absence. "The prevalence of this 'World Trade Center' cough was directly related to the intensity of the exposure," said Landrigan.

Among firefighters without the cough, many were diagnosed with bronchial hyperreactivity, a chronic condition which triggers bronchial spasms in response to ambient air pollutants such as cigarette smoke and automobile exhaust. This condition was observed in 23 percent of those with a high level of smoke exposure, and in 8 percent of those with moderate exposure. "We believe the high alkalinity of the dust was a major contributing factor to the high incidence of bronchial hyperreactivity," said Landrigan.

Among ironworkers involved in clean-up and recovery, many of whom spent several months in and around the disaster site, almost one-third experienced a chronic cough that began shortly after employment at the site, 24 percent reported new onset of phlegm production, and more than 17 percent reported new onset of wheeze. About half of all workers reported at least one new symptom since they had begun working at the site.

Preliminary data from clinical evaluation of residents living within a 1.6-kilometer radius of the WTC site indicate that previously healthy subjects had a greater increase in cough, wheeze and shortness of breath than did residents living a greater distance from the site.

The primary health effect observed in pregnant women who were inside the towers or within 10 blocks of the WTC at the time of the disaster was a two-fold increase in the incidence of small for gestational age infants as compared to pregnant women from a demographically similar population not known to have been in Manhattan at the time.

"We had hypothesized that long-term exposure to air pollutants generated by the collapse of the towers might be associated with an increased risk of small for gestational age births," said Dr. Trudy Berkowitz, an epidemiologist with Mount Sinai. "Based on the results of subsequent studies, we have ruled out the potential role of post traumatic stress disorder in these adverse pregnancy outcomes."

Researchers are also concerned about long-term health consequences of asbestos exposure in the wake of the disaster. Asbestos, principally chrysotile, was used in the construction of the North Tower during the early 1970's. While some of this asbestos had been removed over the preceding 30 years, hundreds of tons remained on September 11 and were blasted free.

Ambient air samples showed that asbestos levels in the WTC area were initially elevated following the September 11 attacks, but fell to within federal standards after the first few days. "More research is needed to determine whether long-term exposure to asbestos fibers might lead to an increased risk of lung mesothelioma, a rare cancer that has been linked to asbestos exposure," said Landrigan. "Previous studies have shown the short chrysotile fibers found in the WTC dust to be the predominant fiber in lung mesothelioma tissue."

FMCSA Requires Minimum Safety Performance History For Hiring Commercial Truck and Bus Drivers

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a final rule to help motor carriers hire truck and bus drivers with the best possible safety records. The rule requires employers to review candidates’ professional driving safety records and former employers to make that information available to prospective employers.

“Carriers must be able to obtain the information they need to hire and place the safest possible drivers behind the wheel,” stated FMCSA Administrator Annette M. Sandberg. “Truck and bus drivers are among this country’s safest drivers, and we want to do everything possible to keep it that way.”

This final rule enables prospective employers to obtain and use more complete driver safety performance information. By using this information, employers will be able to better assess the potential safety risks of prospective new driver-employees.

Prospective employers are required to advise driver applicants that they have the right to review, request correction, or refute what a previous employer provided in the driver’s safety history. The rule also limits the liability of those required to provide and use driver safety performance information.

The rule requires previous employers to respond within 30 days to questions by prospective employers investigating an applicant. Previous employers will be required to go back three years to confirm employment and provide other information about employees such as crash involvement, alcohol and controlled substance violations, rehabilitation efforts, and reversion to illegal alcohol or controlled substances if rehabilitation was unsuccessful.

Complaints about failures to comply with this rule will be investigated by FMCSA. Carriers failing to comply will be cited, and may be subject to civil penalties. The rule, required under the Hazardous Materials (HazMat) Transportation Authorization Act and the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), was effective April 29, 2004. It applies to all motor carrier employers regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) whose employees apply to work for a motor carrier in interstate commerce.


OSHA Fines Downstate Illinois Power Plant Following Fatality Investigation

OSHA has announced proposed fines totaling $58,500 at the AMEREN-CIPS Cofeen Power Plant in Cofeen, Ill., following the investigation into the death of a commercial diver at the facility in October 2003.

In citations accompanying the proposed penalties, OSHA alleged multiple violations of confined space entry and energy control procedures of federal workplace safety standards. The worker, an employee of Lindahl Marine Contractors, Romeoville, Ill., was performing maintenance for the power plant on the intake circulating water systems at the time of his death.

The investigation was conducted by OSHA's Peoria area office. The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

OSHA Accepting Comments on Site-Specific Targeting Program

OSHA is seeking public comment until July 6, 2004 on its Site-Specific Targeting (SST) inspection program to determine more accurately how the program is accomplishing its goal of targeting the nation's most hazardous workplaces for inspection.

The SST program, first implemented in 1999, uses data from the OSHA Data Initiative survey to focus the Agency's resources on outreach, consultations, technical assistance and target workplaces that have reported high injury and illness rates. Establishments selected under the SST program receive both a comprehensive safety and a comprehensive health inspection.

OSHA is requesting suggestions that can help improve the SST program, as well as information on how the program is perceived by workers and employers. Specifically, the Agency is seeking comments on the following questions:

  • Are the LWDII/DART rate and the DAFWII case rate appropriate measurement tools for the SST?
  • Should OSHA consider other measures for injuries and illnesses at individual establishments? If yes, what measures should be considered?
  • Should OSHA be looking at injury and illness data over multiple years rather than in a single year?
  • Should an establishment's priority for inspection take into account whether the establishment is in an industry with a high rate or a low rate of citations?
  • Should the SST include additional focuses such as specific industries, or past citation history?
  • Are there particular areas/hazards OSHA should be focusing its enforcement efforts on?

Written comments on OSHA's SST inspection program must be submitted in duplicate to the Docket Officer, Docket C-08, Room N2625, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC, (202) 693-2350. Comments limited to 10 pages or fewer may also be transmitted by fax to (202) 693-2350. Comments of 10 pages or fewer may be faxed to the Docket Office at (202) 693-1648, provided that the original and one copy are sent to the Docket Office immediately thereafter.