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Chemical Safety Board chairman: Florida public employees need state OSHA protection (1/27)

Citing a fatal explosion in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 2006, U.S. Chemical Safety Board Chairman John Bresland today issued a new video safety message urging the state to move forward promptly with recommendations to extend OSHA coverage to all its public workers.

“In 26 states, public employees are not covered by OSHA workplace safety standards. Without those protections and responsibilities, public employees face an undue risk of being killed, injured, or sickened on the job,” Bresland said. In 2007 the CSB recommended that Florida require all state agencies, counties, and cities to follow OSHA standards.

The CSB recommendation followed an investigation into a 2006 explosion and fire at a city-operated wastewater treatment plant in Daytona Beach, Florida. In response to the CSB's recommendation, the Florida legislature convened a 15-member task force to review the issue. In a final report last month, the task force concurred with the CSB and affirmed that the state should require OSHA compliance for all public employees.

“I commend the task force for its work, and I encourage Governor Crist and the Florida legislature to promptly enact its recommendations,” Bresland stated in the safety message.

The accident, which occurred during maintenance work, involved a crew of city workers using a crane and welding torch. Workers attempted to remove a damaged metal roof above a storage tank containing 3,000 gallons of highly flammable methanol. Sparks from the welding torch ignited vapor from the tank, causing a fire and explosion. Two workers were fatally burned and another was gravely injured. The CSB concluded that adhering to the OSHA hot work and hazard communication standards could have prevented the accident.

“The accident in Florida should serve as a cautionary tale to the 25 other states that are in the same situation,” Bresland said. “Our public employees are simply too vital an asset to risk their being killed, injured, or disabled in preventable workplace accidents.”

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