Safety advocate: 9/11 workers could have been protected (3/18)
“These exposures were largely unnecessary and avoidable,” NYCOSH Executive Director Joel Shufro said Friday. “If city, state and government officials had enforced longstanding OSHA and EPA laws during the many months of work at ground zero, thousands of workers might have been spared the serious respiratory and other illnesses that have since devastated their lives.”
The existing regulatory framework of environmental and occupational safety and health laws is supposed to prevent avoidable exposures. But the regulatory framework failed for several reasons, Shufro said.
“The City of New York, both as the controlling entity at Ground Zero and as an employer of thousands of workers at Ground Zero, simply did not comply with applicable protective regulations for workers at the site.”
According to NYCOSH, applicable protective OSHA and EPA regulations were not enforced by federal or state agencies, either. “The sad fact is that politics won out over sound public health principles,” Shufro said.
Shufro stated that there are significant gaps in the regulatory framework that must also be addressed. As just one example, there are no protective legal limits for exposure to dioxin. EPA dioxin measurements blocks from the WTC were the highest ever recorded. He said that while disaster preparedness and response has improved somewhat since 9/11 and Katrina, much more remains to be done.
In addition, Shufro noted that “the populations that have suffered adverse health impact from WTC-derived exposures are much broader than those covered by the proposed court settlement. For this reason, it’s essential that the pending federal James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act be passed in order to ensure long term access to medical care for those with persistent or late-emerging medical conditions, which the city’s proposed settlement does not.”
The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health is a non-profit organization dedicated for 30 years to ensuring safe and healthy workplaces. Since 9/11/2001,NYCOSH has worked closely with unions, employers, community and tenant organizations, faith-based groups, and government agencies on WTC environmental and occupational health issues.