American Society of Safety Engineers Urge Florida to Enact Workplace Safety Protection For Public Workers
Tallahassee, FL (March 13, 2007) — American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) professional member and chemist Edwin Granberry, Jr., of Florida, commended the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) for bringing attention to the state’s lack of occupational safety and health protection for public sector employees and the deadly results that can occur in the release today of their ‘Investigation Report of the Methanol Tank Explosion and Fire at the Bethune Point Wastewater Treatment Plant’.
“We support CSB’s recommendations to the governor and legislature,” Granberry said. “A committee should be established to determine the best approach for the governor and the legislature to work together to determine how best to protect our public sector workers now.”
ASSE supports the CSB recommendation that legislation be enacted requiring state agencies and each political subdivision, such as counties and municipalities, of Florida to implement policies, practices, procedures, including chemical hazards, covering the workplace safety and health of Florida public employees that are at least as effective as OSHA
“We urge Florida state officials to provide the same level of workplace safety protection that other U.S. workers have under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act,” Granberry said. “Florida state and municipal workers do not have the same protection that other workers do. The people who protect us, who make sure our streets and roads are safe, who make prisons work, post-disaster workers, all of them deserve the same workplace safety and health protections that private sector workers have. Yet, these protections were removed in 2000.”
At the Bethune Point Wastewater Treatment Plant in Daytona Beach, FL, on January 11, 2006, two employees died and one was severely burned after a worker using a cutting torch accidentally ignited vapors coming from the methanol storage tank vent, the CSB reported. An explosion inside the tank followed, causing the attached piping to fail and release about 3,000 gallons of methanol, which burned.
The plant is operated by the City of Daytona Beach.
“It is a tragedy that it took the deaths of two Florida public servants to bring attention to this issue, but ASSE commends the CSB for its thorough work in investigating this explosion and bringing attention to the fact that the lack of occupational safety and health coverage for public sector employees contributed significantly to these deaths,” Granberry said.
Granberry noted the plant went through several changes that affected workplace safety in a negative way once the workplace safety coverage was eliminated. Those changes included reducing safety and health safeguards, dramatically reducing safety meetings and training – a key component to workplace safety, and not identifying and addressing workplace hazards.
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ASSE, 3/13/07, FL Explosion, page 2
“This is not just a Florida issue, but in the U.S. it is estimated that 8.5 million state and local government employees are not protected by OSHA safety and health rules and regulations,” Granberry said. “This is a major issue of concern to ASSE and its more than 30,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members. All workers should be protected.”
Granberry has 48 years of experience in the chemical process/explosive safety operations field from manufacturing nitroglycerin and high energy rocket propellants, processing orange concentrate and cattle feed, and serving as launch safety officer for the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo manned space launches at the U.S. Air Force Guided Missiles Range at Cape Canaveral. He has served the state of Florida in many capacities including gubernatorial appointments to the Toxic Substances Advisory Council and the State Emergency Response Commission.
“I have learned in my long career that employees are better protected when there is a standard that employers know they must meet,” Granberry said.
Founded in 1911, ASSE is the oldest and largest professional safety society and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. It’s more than 30,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor and education. For more information please go to www.asse.org and to www.csb.gov for the full report.