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OSHA Alliance Publication Recognizes ASSE and Members for Sandy Help

Posted in on Fri, Apr 5, 2013

The following article appeared in the March 2013 issue of the Alliance Quarterly Review, a publication of OSHA’s Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs.  While ASSE and the ASSE Foundation helped, the bulk of the credit goes to members of ASSE’s New York City Chapter, who made this effort happen through fundraising and on-the-ground leadership described in the article.

Donations and PPE are still needed.  Support ASSE members and workers helping clean up in the impact area by going to  http://www.asse.org/en/index.php/govt_affairs/asse-issues-call-for-help-for-hurricane-sandy-clean-up-workers-in-need-of-ppe-2/ and finding out how you can still give them a hand.

ASSE Helps Protect Hurricane Sandy Workers

By Earl W. Hicks

As Hurricane Sandy morphed into a super storm, it left a wake of devastation that would require a massive clean-up effort containing its own dangers for workers. OSHA and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Alliance collaborated to ensure recovery workers were prepared to safely conduct clean-up operations.

In response to an alert from OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels that recovery workers and volunteers were in need of basic safety equipment, the ASSE, known for its dedication to worker safety and health, responded in a generous way and reached out to its membership and encouraged them to donate personal protective equipment (PPE) and other safety gear for recovery worker use. ASSE collaborated with OSHA to ensure that hurricane recovery workers would have PPE that would help protect them from injuries and illness from the many hazards they faced in the clean-up operations.

OSHA’s experience in responding to storm emergencies revealed that often the most vulnerable workers—those who have little or no command of the English language– perform the clean-up and rebuilding effort. OSHA teams deployed to regions recovering from the storm and met with employers and workers to ensure they were not only aware of specific safety requirements but also knew about their rights to safe working conditions and were told how to contact OSHA if they had problems.

As OSHA conducted outreach with recovery workers, ASSE’s regional offices’ canvassing of safety professionals and companies for personal protective equipment donations was coming to fruition. Cases upon cases and pallet loads of donated equipment were sent by contributors across the United States.

OSHA’s affiliation with many of the immigrant and day laborer groups in the area—especially the National Day Laborer Organizing Network–enabled OSHA to identify safety equipment needed by the recovery workers as they performed difficult and potentially hazardous work.

OSHA assembled PPE supplies provided by ASSE members at Hunter College in Manhattan where the school’s industrial hygiene and public health students and alumni distributed packages of boots, goggles, reflective vests, ear plugs, respirators, and Tyvek suits to non-profit community- and faith-based day laborer organizations such as Wind of the Spirit in New Jersey; New Immigrant Community Empowerment in Jackson Heights, New York; the Viscardi Center on Long Island, New York; the United Community Center in New Rochelle, New York; Centro del Inmigrante of Staten Island, New York; Project Hospitality, Hispanic Resource Center, Mamaroneck, New York; and Sister Margaret Smyth in Riverhead, New York.

The collaborative efforts of government, private industry, non-profit organizations, and academia ensured that vulnerable workers had PPE to safely conduct clean-up operations. “It is so rewarding to speak with the PPE donors who want to help the workers helping devastated homeowners and businesses here in the Metropolitan New York and New Jersey areas to recover from the storm’s ravages,” said Cathie Mannion, Assistant Regional Administrator for Technical Support in OSHA’s Region II. “We know that hazard avoidance is the best way to be safe.

Because the hazard isn’t always apparent, it’s better for the workers to be prepared with proper equipment before encountering hazards like chemicals, mold, and other safety hazards.”

In addition to the equipment coordination effort, the ASSE Foundation served as a repository of financial contributions to the “Sandy PPE Fund” given to ASSE’s New York City Chapter for the purchase of PPE that Chapter members distributed to workers. To help the overall effort financially, the New York City Chapter held a fundraiser November 29. The Chapter itself raised $5,000 in contributions and ASSE matching funds. ASSE continues its Hurricane Sandy recovery fund raising efforts.

This opportunity to work with OSHA to help recovery workers be safe as they helped communities restore their homes and businesses impacted by Hurricane Sandy is a testament to the empathy of ASSE members. As safety, health, and environmental professionals, they understand the potential dangers to workers repairing infrastructure elements while helping people put their lives back together,” said Rick Pollock, CSP and ASSE President. “I’m proud to be able to thank ASSE’s members for this remarkable response.”

Once the clean-up effort was begun, OSHA conducted daily briefings, safety and health field interventions, and other outreach activities to identify and remove workers from hazards and to provide Hurricane Sandy clean-up workers and employers with safety and health information. As of January 15, OSHA had conducted over 4,700 briefings and interventions, reaching nearly 62,000 workers and employers performing recovery work in Sandy-affected areas.

Additional guidance, fact sheets, and other resources can be found on the Hurricane Sandy Web pages maintained by OSHA and by the National Institute for Environmental Safety and Health.

Earl W. Hicks is a Program Analyst in the Office of Outreach Services and Alliances.

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