Nearly 180 staff members of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have been working around the clock, providing safety and health assistance to rescue workers at the World Trade Center disaster site as well as handing out thousands of respirators every day. OSHA is also conducting daily tests for asbestos, silica, lead, and other contaminants. So far, test results continue to show no cause for concern in areas immediately surrounding ground zero and in public areas.
'm proud that OSHA staff are contributing directly to the protection of the search and rescue workers," said OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw. "Our goal is to provide as much help as we can; we are not there in an enforcement role."
OSHA took immediate steps following the Sept. 11, 2001, disaster to coordinate with other federal, state, and local agencies. After initial contact with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and various New York City agencies, OSHA sent industrial hygienists and safety officers to the Financial District and other rescue locations. The agency took its first air and bulk samples on September 13. According to Pat Clark, OSHA's New York Regional Administrator, the monitoring program will continue and now includes air sampling directly at the debris pile.
"We have taken over 200 air and bulk samples," Clark said. "Though the levels have been consistently safe, it is important that we continue to make sure the sampling continues through the various stages of the operation."
As the rescue extended into its third week, OSHA continues to share its sampling data with all federal, state, and local agencies involved in the rescue effort. Agency staff from other parts of the country are also being sent to New York to help support the effort, including fit-checking and distributing respirators and working with the New York Department of Design and Construction to monitor conditions associated with the use of heavy equipment as well as cutting and burning operations.
Among those working are the 23 members of OSHA's Manhattan Area Office who escaped from WTC Building 6, which was severely damaged. As part of the overall rescue operation, OSHA also provided technical assistance and advice to officials of the Pentagon, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.