Nearly 180 staff members of OSHA are working around the clock, providing safety and health assistance and handing out thousands of respirators daily to rescue workers at the World Trade Center disaster site.
OSHA is also testing daily for asbestos, silica, lead and other contaminants. Test results continue to show no cause for concern in areas immediately surrounding ground zero and in public areas.
"I'm proud that OSHA staff are contributing directly to the protection of the search and rescue workers," said OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw. "Our goal is to provide as much help as we can; we are not there in an enforcement role."
OSHA took immediate steps following the Sept. 11, 2001, disaster to coordinate with other federal, state and local agencies. After initial contact with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and various New York City agencies, OSHA sent industrial hygienists and safety officers to the Financial District and some rescue locations.
The agency took its first air and bulk samples on Sept. 13. The monitoring program is continuing, according to Pat Clark, OSHA's New York Regional Administrator, and now includes air sampling directly at the debris pile.
"We have taken over 200 air and bulk samples," Clark said. "Though the levels have been consistently safe, it is important that we continue to make sure the sampling continues through the various stages of the operation."
As the rescue extends into its third week, OSHA's sampling data is being shared with all federal, state and local agencies involved in the rescue effort. Agency staff from other parts of the country are also being sent to New York to help support the effort, including fit-checking and distributing respirators and working with the New York Department of Design and Construction to monitor conditions associated with the use of heavy equipment as well as cutting and burning operations.
Among those working are the 23 members of OSHA's Manhattan Area Office who escaped when Building 6 of the World Trade Center, where they were located, was severely damaged.
As part of the overall rescue operation, OSHA also provided technical assistance and advice to officials of the Pentagon, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
OSHA CITES COLUMBUS, MISS., COMPANY FOR ALLEGED TRENCHING VIOLATIONS
Exposing employees to trenching hazards at a Fulton, Miss., job site has led to $141,000 in proposed penalties against Columbus-based Perma Corporation by OSHA. The alleged willful and serious citations for violation of safety standards resulted from a planned inspection of the Fulton worksite during which OSHA found employees installing water pipes in an unprotected trench with nearly vertical walls.
OSHA cited Perma Corporation for three alleged willful violations, with proposed penalties of $136,500, for failing to protect workers involved in trenching activities. Hazards included failing to slope or shore trench walls or provide other protection from cave-in when working in a trench over five feet deep; not providing a ladder or other safe means to enter and exit the trench, and not keeping machinery and excavated matter at least two feet from the edge of the excavation. A hydraulic excavator, operated directly over the trench, piled excavated material up to five feet high and eight feet wide at its edge.
"This employer showed intentional disregard for the safety of its workers," said Clyde Payne, OSHA's Jackson area director. "No action was taken to correct the hazards at this worksite even though officials were aware of the dangerous conditions and the company's safety manual addresses trenching safety procedures. In addition, inspections over the last five years have resulted in citations against Perma Corporation for similar violations. Failure to slope or shore trench walls or provide other protection from cave-in has resulted in workers being killed."
The remaining $4,500 proposed penalty was assessed for two alleged serious citations, one of which addressed the foreman's practice of permitting a worker to stand on and ride the hydraulic excavator. Both OSHA standards and the manufacturer's safety manual forbid this practice which exposes workers to being struck, crushed by or thrown off the equipment. The second serious citation was issued for not having someone trained in first aid at the site.
Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. Serious violations are those in which a substantial probability of death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
Perma Corporation has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
DOT ANNOUNCES PROGRESS, SETBACKS FOR HIGHWAY SAFETY IN 2000
U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced that highway fatalities involving children ages 0-15 dropped in 2000 to the lowest level since record-keeping began in 1975. Deaths in the 0-4 age group dropped 3.9 percent from 735 in 1999 to 706 in 2000 while fatalities for ages 5-15 dropped 4.6 percent from 2,207 in 1999 to 2,105 in 2000.
All told, 41,821 people died on the nation's highways in 2000, compared to 41,717 in 1999, according to the Department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) remained unchanged at the historic low level of 1.6. The number of crash-related injuries dropped 1.5 percent from 3.24 million in 1999 to 3.19 million in 2000.
While the number of highway fatalities is virtually unchanged, there were measurable declines in fatalities in some key safety areas. Pedalcyclist fatalities declined significantly, by 8.5 percent. Large truck crash fatalities declined 3 percent and pedestrian deaths decreased by 4 percent.
"America's highways are safer than ever for children, and the historic low for last year underscores the effectiveness of our highway safety efforts," Secretary Mineta said. "Unfortunately, we are still losing far too many lives to highway crashes every year, and we need to re-double our efforts."
In 2000, 40 percent of all fatalities involved alcohol, up from the historic low of 38 percent in 1999. It was the first increase in alcohol-related deaths since 1995. In 2000, 16,653 fatalities were alcohol-related, compared to 15,976 in 1999.
Alcohol impaired or intoxicated drivers or pedestrians put themselves and others at greater risk in motor vehicle crashes. Years of data show they are about 50 percent more likely to be involved in crashes resulting in a fatality or an injury.
Motorcycle deaths rose 15.3 percent from 2,483 in 1999 to 2,862 in 2000. While increases in registrations and VMT may account for some of the increase, it was, nevertheless, the third straight year with higher motorcycle fatalities following 17 years of steady declines.
Seat belts and child safety seats clearly save lives. Fifty-five percent of passenger car and light truck occupants killed in 2000 were unrestrained. Data show that a driver or passenger can cut the risk of dying in a crash almost in half by buckling up. Placing a child in an age-appropriate safety seat will reduce the infant's or youngster's risk of dying by as much as two-thirds.
"My years in the emergency department have convinced me that seat belts and car seats are what separates the patients who go home after a crash from those who do not," said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey Runge, M.D. "Using proper restraints is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself because crashes do happen, even to the most careful driver."
The 2000 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) assessment by NHTSA also found that population, total registered vehicles, and miles traveled all increased slightly in 2000 compared to 1999. The FARS assessment for 2000 also indicates that:
- Pedestrian deaths dropped from 4,939 in 1999 to 4,739 in 2000.
- Pedalcyclist fatalities fell from 754 in 1999 to 690 in 2000.
- Fatalities involving large trucks dropped from 5,380 in 1999 to 5,211 in 2000.
- Single vehicle rollover fatalities decreased for every vehicle type except one - the sport utility vehicle (SUV). SUV single vehicle rollover deaths increased 8.9 percent from 1,546 in 1999 to 1,684 in 2000.
NHTSA collects crash statistics from the 50 states and the District of Columbia to produce the annual FARS assessment. The final printed report will be available later this year.
NHTSA SEEKS PUBLIC COMMENT ON HEADLIGHT GLARE ISSUES
In response to numerous consumer complaints about nighttime glare from headlights and auxiliary lights on motor vehicles, the NHTSA issued a formal request for public comment on possible steps the agency might take to reduce glare.
"New technologies allow headlighting to be more robust than in the past. While such technologies can be beneficial for drivers, we must be certain the public is protected from high levels of glare," said Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta. "Our studies of this issue may lead to improvements in safety, which is President Bush's highest transportation priority."
Within the last two years, NHTSA has received numerous complaints about nighttime glare from three types of headlights mounted on the front of motor vehicles: "high intensity discharge" (HID) lights that appear blue, auxiliary lights such as "fog lamps," and headlights mounted high on various light trucks (sport utility vehicles, pickups and vans).
In its notice of request for comments, NHTSA has posed 46 questions to the driving public as well as manufacturers and other interested parties. These questions cover a wide array of issues related to the safety, use and performance of various headlights.
"We expect that our request for comments will elicit useful information that will lead to better lights with less glare," said Dr. Jeffrey W. Runge, the NHTSA administrator.
As expressed through complaints to NHTSA, some drivers report that the light from HID headlights seems blinding, even though the intensity of such lamps does not exceed federal standards. Some drivers say that "fog lamps" are producing troublesome glare and are often used unnecessarily on clear nights. In addition, some drivers of passenger cars find the higher-mounted headlights used on SUVs, pickup trucks and vans to be very glaring.
Those wishing to have their comments considered must provide them by Dec. 1, 2001, when the docket (NHTSA-2001-8885) will close. After that, the agency will review the comments to determine what further actions should be taken.
Comments may be submitted in writing to the Department of Transportation's Docket Management Section, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh Street S.W., Washington, DC 20590. It is requested, though not required, that two copies of the comments be provided. The docket section is open on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Members of the public who are providing comments should cite the docket number: NHTSA-2001-8885.
Click on "Help" or "Electronic Submission" to obtain instructions for filing the document electronically. The electronic docket number is 8885.
DOT ANNOUNCES $3.6 MILLION IN UNDERGROUND DAMAGE PREVENTION GRANTS
U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced that $3.6 million in grants will be awarded for 24 projects in 14 states to provide assistance in preventing damage to pipelines and other underground facilities. Excavation damage is the single greatest cause of pipeline failure with all other underground utilities being equally vulnerable.
"Enhancing safety among America's communities and protecting our natural environment are among the department's highest transportation priorities," Secretary Mineta said. "Continued strategic investments to prevent damage to pipelines, a critical part of our nation's transportation infrastructure, will not only strengthen our nation's pipeline system and help us maintain its safety, but also will yield significant dividends in terms of mobility and economic growth."
The $3.6 million in damage prevention grants will be administered by the department's Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) and will be used to help states improve their damage prevention programs by implementing best practices from the RSPA-sponsored report, "Common Ground." The grants will help reduce damages to pipelines and other underground facilities such as telephone cables, water and sewer lines, and electrical cables.
Each grant has been competitively awarded through applications from states to implement best practices in damage prevention and one-call center procedures found in the "Common Ground" report. These best practices were the result of a study involving over 160 volunteers from parties interested in preventing damage to underground facilities.
MSHA RESPONDS TO ALABAMA MINE EMERGENCY
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is closely monitoring activities and has on-site to assist in the emergency at the mine explosion that left several dead and several missing at the Jim Walter Resources, Inc.'s No. 5 Mine, near Brookwood, Tuscaloosa County, Ala.
Jim Walter Resources reported to MSHA that a roof fall had occurred at the mine followed by an ignition of methane gas, and that miners were unaccounted for. MSHA immediately placed a control order on the mine site under which MSHA must evaluate for safety and approve all actions taken during the emergency.
"MSHA officials have been at the mine all night and will remain as long as the emergency continues," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "There have been fatalities, and our hearts go out to the families of the miners who have lost their lives. Other miners are missing, and we are working with the company and the miners' representatives as they make plans to reach the missing miners while safeguarding the teams."
Monday morning, rescue teams were withdrawn from the mine after they encountered elevated levels of methane gas, which indicate danger of another potential explosion. MSHA's mobile gas analysis laboratory and communications center were expected to arrive at the mine Monday.
Once the emergency is over and the mine is made safe for investigators, MSHA will conduct a complete investigation into the accident, Lauriski said.