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October 23, 2001

L&I safety and health specialists to assist at World Trade Center site

TUMWATER - Seven workplace safety and health specialists from the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) will travel to New York City next weekend to assist state and federal authorities there with recovery and cleanup operations at the World Trade Center site.

For one week, the seven state employees - industrial hygienists and safety and health specialists from L&I's WISHA (Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act) Services Division - will be providing technical assistance specifically related to respiratory protection for workers at Ground Zero.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the New York Department of Labor asked occupational safety and health agencies across the nation for volunteer experts to bolster the ranks of beleaguered workers who have been on site since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"They put out a call for help and Washington said 'Yes,'" said Steve Cant, L&I's Program Manager for Federal-State Operations. Cant said that once the word got out, 50 WISHA safety and health specialists quickly volunteered offering their services.

"It is amazing how many people are interested and willing to do whatever they can to help," he said.

The team will fly out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Oct. 28, returning Nov. 3. While in New York, they will be housed in a hotel near the site, and be assigned to various shifts. The non-stop recovery and cleanup work is proceeding in three shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The WISHA inspectors and industrial hygienists will bring their own personal protective equipment, including respirators, safety shoes, hardhats, eye and ear protection, and other gear. Cant said they will be providing safety checks and technical assistance to ensure that government workers and contract workers are properly fit-tested for effective respiratory protection, as well as sampling for asbestos and other toxic materials that pose hazards to workers.

Cant said OSHA officials in New York have been close to the rescue, recovery and cleanup operations since day one. Almost too close. OSHA's New York City offices were located in Building 6 of the WTC complex. He said that OSHA employees escaped the attacks and resulting building collapses, but Building 6 was eventually demolished as part of the cleanup operation.

Cant, who has spoken with several professional acquaintances who have worked at the site, also said WISHA's volunteers can expect to return with a different perspective on the tragedy.

"Everyone who I've spoken with who has been there said they came back from the experience a different person," he said.

The L&I team consists of:

  • Christian M. Bannick, Industrial Hygienist, Mount Vernon
  • Margaret Cunningham, Industrial Hygienist, Vancouver
  • Jerry D. Heggerston, Safety and Health Specialist, Yakima
  • James A. Monahan, Safety and Health Specialist, Bellevue
  • Robert T Parker, Industrial Hygienist, Everett
  • Janine A. Rees, Industrial Hygienist, Seattle
  • Stephen D. Sergi, Safety and Health Specialist, Belfair

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For media information, contact: 
Bill Ripple, L&I, 360-902-5407, ripp235@lni.wa.gov

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