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Region 2 News Release: 07-1679-NEW/BOS 2007-363
Wed., Nov. 28, 2007
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone: 617-565-2074

U.S. Labor Department's OSHA stresses importance of employee safeguards during recovery and cleanup operations after Manhattan steam explosion

NEW YORK -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding employers to adhere to proper employee safeguards as a result of violations found during cleanup operations after the July 18 steam explosion at East 41st Street and Lexington Avenue in midtown Manhattan.

OSHA responded to initial reports of the explosion as part of the New York City Office of Emergency Management Unified Command and began daily inspections of contractors involved in cleanup and recovery operations in the area surrounding the blast. The contractors were primarily removing and cleaning up broken glass and debris, damaged vehicles and street fixtures.

The agency conducted 29 inspections in the blast-affected area between July 18 and 25, citing 13 employers for a total of 22 violations carrying $34,425 in fines. The citations addressed alleged violations of safety standards involving lack of personal protective equipment and protection against falling objects, inadequate fall protection, electrical hazards and entry into confined spaces.

Specifically, the conditions included lack of eye and face protection and hardhats for employees, lack of fall protection for employees working six feet or higher on facades and at windows, ungrounded extension cords, lack of ground fault circuit interrupters and work in a utility manhole that had not been first monitored for the presence of toxic, flammable or oxygen-deficient atmospheres.

"While no injuries were associated with these conditions, the potential was certainly present," said Richard Mendelson, OSHA's area director in Manhattan. "Cleaning up glass and debris may not sound particularly dangerous, but there are inherent hazards that must be anticipated and addressed to prevent injuries from occurring in the first place. Safety can never be taken for granted."

Mendelson noted that detailed information about safety during emergency response operations is available on OSHA's Web site at

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit


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