When SuperStorm Sandy rocked the East Coast, the visual images of the damage streamed to the rest of the world on television were staggering. But ultimately, no property damage compared in scale to the loss of human life suffered as a result of the storm and its aftermath. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently released a complete picture of that human tragedy in terms of fatal workplace accident rates. To date, 16 workers have died in New York and New Jersey in accidents directly related to SuperStorm Sandy.
Some of these workers died during the storm, while others perished during rescue and cleanup efforts. In each case, workers were on the job when they sustained fatal injuries. Some drowned, while others were struck by either trees or other objects. Still others fell to their deaths while completing roof work and other repairs.
Natural disaster response and relief requires the efforts of countless workers. Tragically, 16 in New York and New Jersey alone were taken as a result of SuperStorm Sandy. What state and federal regulators owe these individuals now is a complete assessment of what transpired in each accident and how future disaster relief workers can be spared the same fate.
To date, OSHA has determined that over 3,000 dangerous work condition violations have occurred in Sandy cleanup sites. Despite that overwhelming number, only 32 related citations have been written. It is not enough to simply say that OSHA is committed to worker safety. It is time to back up that promise with action, if only to honor those who perished in some of those truly dangerous working conditions in Sandy’s wake.
Source: New York Daily News, “Sandy work toll 16 in N.Y. & N.J. were killed on the job, say feds,” Vera Chinese and Greg B. Smith, Apr. 30, 2013