OSHA study finds Hurricane Sandy cleanup hazards within federal limits
Workers conducting cleanup efforts in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy have been exposed to numerous contaminates, but amounts detected during ongoing testing are below federal safety limits, according to a study by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.
OSHA said in its report Wednesday that the initial results did not find hazardous amounts of chemicals or harmful conditions at its more than 100 test sites, but said that does not mean that conditions are fully safe for workers.
“These initial results should not be taken by employers as an ‘all clear’ signal regarding potential exposure to health hazards,” Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York, said in a news release. “It is important that each employer continually ensure that workers are not overexposed. Employers can accomplish this by performing site assessments to determine potential hazards and institute effective measures to protect workers against exposure to toxic substances such as asbestos, lead and mold.”
The majority of the test sites were in New York. Results found that workers were exposed to silica and asbestos but that levels were within federal limits. Test sites in New Jersey, including in Atlantic City, Brigantine, Long Beach Island and at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority landfill in Egg Harbor Township, showed workers were exposed to dust and carbon monoxide from improperly placed generators. However, none of the levels detected was above federal standards, OSHA said.
Test results at debris piles in Beach Haven and in Brigantine did not show any dust particles in the air, but dust particles were detected at excavation and sand-sifting sites on Long Beach Island, the report said.
OSHA has held more than 4,400 briefings and field interventions, affecting nearly 61,000 workers and employers doing recovery work in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy, the agency said. Among the work OSHA is doing is identifying hazardous conditions and removing workers as well as informing cleanup workers and employers about how to do their jobs in contaminated environments while protecting their health.
The agency also said it will continue to monitor working conditions and will release additional test results at www.osha.gov/sandy
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