CSB: Government at All Levels Should Provide OSHA Coverage for Public Workers

In written testimony submitted yesterday, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) urged "governments at all levels to take steps to protect public employees from preventable chemical accidents, including the establishment of programs incorporating mandatory OSHA standards."

CSB Chairman Carolyn W. Merritt, speaking on behalf of the five-member board at a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing, said, "It is simply inequitable to afford public employees with lesser workplace protections than workers in private industry. No worker--whether employed by the city, county, state, federal government, or the private sector--should have to suffer injury or death just to earn a living."

The hearing before the House Committee on Education and Labor Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, chaired by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (California), was entitled "Workplace Safety: Why Do Millions of Workers Remain Without OSHA Coverage?" The hearing was web cast live at http://edworkforce.house.gov.

The testimony cited the CSB's investigation of a January 2006 methanol fire and explosion at a Florida municipal wastewater treatment plant that killed two public employees and seriously injured a third. The final report and a computer-animated safety video on the explosion at the Bethune Point Wastewater Treatment Plant are available at CSB.gov, under "Completed Investigations."

The accident at the wastewater facility, which is owned and operated by the City of Daytona Beach, occurred when city employees using a cutting torch to dismantle a metal roof accidentally ignited vapors coming from the vent of a nearby methanol storage tank. Flames traveled back into the storage tank through a corroded flame arrester, causing an internal explosion, multiple piping failures, and a large fire that engulfed the workers.

The CSB report noted that no Florida state laws or regulations exist to require municipalities to implement safe work practices or communicate chemical hazards to municipal employees. For more information contact Jennifer Jones at (202) 577-8448 cell or Daniel Horowitz at (202) 441-6074 cell.

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