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Worker safety called into question post-Sandy

Earlier this month, we wrote about the current worker death toll associated with Hurricane Sandy and the cleanup efforts that are occurring in its wake. Unfortunately, workers are being injured and contracting occupational illness at Sandy cleanup sites in addition to experiencing fatalities. A recent media investigation into work-related injuries associated with Sandy cleanup reveals some disturbing trends.

First, workers are being exposed to toxic substances that are causing them injury and plaguing them with illness. In addition, unsafe sites are leading to injury from exposed wires, falls, unstable structures and other hazards. Certainly, any major disaster cleanup effort is going to involve some risk. But the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has standards in place to make sure that cleanup workers are kept as safe as possible. The New York Daily News investigation reveals that too many employers are failing to honor these standards in good faith.

To date, more than 3,100 jobsite safety violations have been logged by OSHA in New York and New Jersey alone. The recent investigation indicates that many employers who have been warned to comply with serious federal safety regulations have dismissed the warnings and continued to expose their workers to potentially fatal conditions.

Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast. Countless families and business owners will likely never fully recover emotionally from the losses they have suffered as a result. However, many workers will never recover fully physically from the injuries they are sustaining at unsafe cleanup sites. This issue needs to get addressed both urgently and adequately for the benefit of all affected workers.

Source: New York Daily News, “Safety rules often ignored in post-Hurricane Sandy cleanup, many workers put at risk,” Erica Pearson and Greg B. Smith, Apr. 28, 2013

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