John L. Henshaw
Second Annual New England
Homeland Security Conference
New London, Connecticut
May 27, 2004
OSHA's Role at WTC
- Thank you, Marthe and Ruth. I'm delighted to be in New London as OSHA and the Coast Guard join together to present this second New England Homeland Security Conference.
- Two and a half years ago, the landscape in America changed forever when terrorists struck on a quiet September morning. Life in many ways has returned to normal. But in some ways, it never will.
- President Bush has promised that we will stay on the offensive in our effort to find and stop terrorists, both abroad and in this country. At the same time, the President has acknowledged that we'll face the terrorist threat for years to come.
- That means we need to be prepared to protect our citizens and be ready to respond to emergencies should they occur. To do that we must be able to safeguard those on the front lines-our first responders, our first receivers and those who clean up after disaster strikes.
Current Emergency Response Efforts
- Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, said "Every little thing counts in a crisis." We know it's the sum of the little things that equals the big things. Sweating the small stuff pays off.
- I am convinced that paying attention to the small things was key to the success of the disaster recovery effort at the World Trade Center. As you know, OSHA worked primarily behind the scenes-24/7 for 10 months. We provided guidance and technical assistance on safety and health issues for workers involved in recovery and clean-up at the World Trade Center disaster site.
- We've been saying for some time that OSHA is more than just a regulatory agency. Our role at the World Trade Center and our subsequent involvement in national emergency preparedness activities demonstrate that. We have technical expertise and experience-and we are ready to share them.
- At the World Trade Center disaster site, we did small things-but we did them over and over and over. And our efforts added up. The numbers alone testify to the magnitude of what we did. We had 1,000 staff who worked 15,000 shifts around the clock over 10 months:
- Taking 6,500 air samples
- Conducting 24,000 evaluations of worker exposures
- Identifying more than 9,000 hazards
- Distributing more than 131,000 respirators, 11,000 hard hats, 13,000 safety glasses and goggles and more than 21,000 pairs of protective gloves.
- Of course, the most important thing is not just the numbers, but the results. And those are impressive as well-not a single life lost and only 57 lost-time injuries in more than 3.7 million hours worked.
- Since the World Trade Center tragedy, OSHA has also helped address worker safety and health issues connected with the anthrax attacks as well as flooding after Hurricane Isabel and many other smaller emergencies as well.
- We've learned a number of lessons through these difficult situations. We know that employers want OSHA guidance on protecting workers. We know we need alternative communication and transportation channels. We need systems to get monitoring equipment and PPE, beyond local supplies, to the disaster site quickly.
- Perhaps one of the most important lessons we've learned is that people can-and some will-rush to help out without regard to their own safety and health. Some will even perceive our efforts to protect them as unwelcome interference. But insufficiently protecting responders and recovery workers can have consequences long after the incident is over.
- As a result of OSHA's work in high profile disasters, I think more people are more aware than ever before that worker safety is a critical component of any our domestic emergency preparedness and response efforts. And OSHA's role in homeland security has expanded.
OSHA's Internal Preparedness
- Our nation's approach to homeland security has been evolving rapidly since 9/11. Almost 15 months ago, the Department of Homeland Security was created. Over the past year, President Bush has issued a number (9) of presidential directives involving domestic emergency planning. In line with these directives, the Department of Homeland Security has developed the National Incident Management System-or NIMS.
- NIMS directs all federal agencies to follow the Incident Command System when emergencies occur. Further, to be eligible for preparedness grant programs, states and localities will have to use this system also, beginning in 2005. So very soon, we'll all be operating on the same system, regardless of the size of the emergency.
- OSHA has played several roles in this process. First, as DHS has developed the National Incident Management System, we've helped them define the role of the safety officer.
- Second, to oversee NIMS, DHS has created a National Integration Center. OSHA will be part of the NIC. We will continue to champion the importance of safety officers as an integral part of disaster readiness and response.
- We are also supporting DHS as it develops the new National Response Plan. This plan applies to virtually all disasters-floods, hurricanes, wildfires-as well as terrorist events. And it includes all phases-prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
- Our role has been drafting a Worker Health and Safety Support Annex to the National Response Plan. The goal is to assure that worker safety-for responders, receivers and recovery workers-is managed during every phase of the emergency when the NRP is activated.
- Part of this effort is coordinating NOW with other agencies-both nationally and locally. We want to know those we'll be working with in an emergency. We want to understand their roles-and we want them to understand OSHA's role-and value-in offering guidance and technical assistance on worker safety and health.
- We're taking part in national exercises, both to test our own capabilities, and also to integrate with other responding agencies. Last year, we participated in the Congressionally mandated national emergency exercise, Topoff II, which simulated a dirty bomb in Seattle and pneumonic plague in Chicago. Next May, we'll be ready to work with you when Topoff III takes place in Connecticut and New Jersey.
- OSHA's regional offices have been working with state agencies and local planning organizations to provide assistance as well. For example, our New England Region staff have been meeting with Local Emergency Planning Committees, hospitals, and regional counterparts in FEMA, EPA and other agencies.
What OSHA Can Offer You
- When an emergency occurs, we want to be sure we're prepared to deal with it. That means we need to make certain that OSHA's own employees have the training and skills they need to assist others.
- To increase our own readiness, OSHA has developed a National Emergency Management Plan. Also, as part of the national plan, each of our 10 regional offices, like our Boston Region, has developed a Regional Emergency Management Plan. These plans give us the structure-the policies and procedures that direct how we will respond to emergencies.
- We've established an Executive Steering Committee to oversee the national plan, advance our level of preparedness and increase our capabilities. One of the first things we're doing, for example, is training our field staff in the Incident Command System. We're also offering new courses that focus on issues specific to weapons of mass destruction and on OSHA's role in providing technical assistance at large scale emergencies.
- In addition, OSHA is creating Specialized Response Teams. These are teams of seven to eleven experts that we can deploy rapidly when an emergency occurs. They will be equipped and trained to provide technical assistance to support the response to emergencies. Each team will focus on a different issue: toxic chemicals, biological agents, ionizing radiation or structural collapse hazards.
Now What You Can Do
- In addition to our internal readiness preparations, we're working on a number of projects to assist American employers with their emergency preparedness and response needs.
- We learned from the World Trade Center disaster that disaster site workers need special training. I'm talking about those who provide skilled support-workers who handle utilities, deal with demolition, take care of debris removal or operate heavy equipment.
- Everyone who's working on a disaster site-whether it's a natural disaster or a terrorist attack-needs to understand the differences between disaster sites and regular construction or demolition worksites. They need to know what personal protective equipment is necessary and why. And they need to be able to inspect, don and doff air-purifying respirators.
- To provide this instruction, OSHA has worked with other agencies and training centers to develop a Disaster Site Worker Training Program. We hope to announce this very soon.
- When workers complete this program, they will receive special cards-similar to the cards workers now receive when they complete OSHA 10-hour or 30-hour construction or general industry outreach training. These "Authorized Disaster Site Worker" cards will signify that the individual has received the training that OSHA considers necessary to provided needed support in emergency response and recovery efforts.
- Another area we're working on is guidance for first receivers. Hospital emergency department personnel may be exposed to hazardous substances when victims from mass casualties arrive for treatment. When we met with the Federal Emergency Management Agency last December, we learned that healthcare providers have many questions on this issue.
- What PPE should Emergency Rooms have on hand and be trained to use? What hazardous chemical training do they need? How should they prepare to decontaminate victims and protect themselves and others at the facility?
- To assist healthcare providers, OSHA assembled a team of medical and industrial hygiene experts who visited hospitals, reviewed the current literature and listened to stakeholders. The team developed draft guidance for first receivers that is now in final review. We hope to have it on our website within a few months.
- Other tools are already available to you now on the OSHA website-an electronic health and safety plan, evacuation planning guides and guidance on escape respirators. You can find all of these at www.osha.gov on the Emergency Preparedness and Response Page under Safety and Health Topics.
- You will also find electronic software-an e-Tool-on the Incident Command System designed to provide basic information to help you understand the management of disaster sites.
- OSHA also offers an e-Tool on self-contained breathing apparatus as well as 20 Emergency Preparedness Safety and Health Guides. The guides cover basic safety and health issues involved in response and recovery from both natural and man-made disasters including earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and chemical and biological WMD agents.
- Each of you is here because homeland security affects your work and your community. You're here to become better prepared to address your responsibilities-both on the job and as a citizen.
- Several months ago, President Bush told Department of Homeland Security employees, "There's no such thing as perfect security in a vast and free country." We know we cannot prevent every possible disaster. But we can learn from those we have experienced-the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the Anthrax attacks, the Okahoma City bombing. And we can be ready to respond in the future.
- All worksites need to prepare to respond to an event. Every business needs a plan-whether it's a strategy to shelter in place or an evacuation plan, or both, depending on the emergency. Companies need to train their employees. They need to drill on evacuation or sheltering in place.
- Managers and supervisors need to know what to do when disaster strikes. All OSHA managers have received training on the Incident Command System. I would suggest this training-which you can take online through FEMA-is appropriate for all managers who are likely to be involved in emergency response.
- As you prepare for emergencies, be sure you address the safety and health of responders. The key to safety during the emergency is preparation before the emergency.
- Begin building a safety and health network. Start here and now at this conference. Remember all emergency response is local. When disaster strikes, it may take time before outside help arrives. The success of the response can depend on the first few hours. Begin building-or continue strengthening-your local network now.
- Over the past two and a half years, we've had a reality shift. We have a new normal that includes the very real risk of terrorist strikes. But we also have new strategies for dealing with potential crises.
- President Kennedy once pointed out that "When written in Chinese, the word crisis is compounded of two characters-one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity."
- As we contemplate new dangers in the 21st Century, we must take every opportunity to prepare ourselves to respond to meet the challenge of these emergencies. I'm glad you're here for the second New England Homeland Security Conference to do just that.