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Fire/emergency medical services | Occupational illnesses

Response workers need more protection from the 'next 9/11,' NYCOSH says

January 2, 2014

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New York – The nation is not prepared to protect emergency response workers’ safety and health should another 9/11-scale disaster occur, according to a report from the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.

Released Dec. 30, the report summarizes findings from a 2011 national conference and concludes that although improvements have been made in protecting emergency response workers since the 2001 attacks and subsequent natural and man-made disasters, further steps must be taken to prevent or reduce “avoidable health impacts.”

Several challenges and short-comings exist in the preparation and response to major disasters, according to the report, which offered recommendations for improvement, including:

  • Drive disaster response by public health principles and not political imperatives.
  • Increase reliance on the Hierarchy of Controls of hazards.
  • Improve respiratory protection through training, enforcement and equipment redesign.
  • Create updated and more proactive exposure limits.

In a foreword to the report, NIOSH Director John Howard said the recommendations are “pertinent to issues that are vital for us to consider,” and called for improvements to emergency preparedness and response as a means to honor the service of workers who died responding to the 9/11 attacks.