I currently work as an industrial hygienist and occupational health policy consultant for the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW). I have held this position in the UAW's Health and Safety Department for almost ten years. In this capacity, I conduct workplace health and safety inspections and evaluate industrial hygiene data from various UAW-represented facilities all over the country. Requests for these inspections are usually made by workers who are experiencing illnesses and health symptoms from possible exposures to various chemical and/or environmental hazards on their Jobs. Working with the union local and its company's health and safety staff, I attempt to identify the source of employee exposures, review the appropriate industrial hygiene data if available, and make recommendations on the steps that need to be taken to control or reduce employee exposures, thereby reducing employee risks, health symptoms and complaints
Another aspect of my job involves educating employees and employers regarding the health hazards associated with their jobs and many of the industrial processes Training is generally conducted through many of our jointly funded labor-management health and safety programs. In addition, I edit a health and safety newsletter, which is distributed annually and internationally to subscribers.
I am very excited about the possibility of becoming a member of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. The boards mission of investigating chemical accidents to independently identify the causes and make recommendations on how to improve chemical operations is basically a continuation of my current job responsibilities at the UAW. However, the impact and scope of the board is much broader. My hope is that the board's presence will add a new dimension to how chemical accidents are investigated and how recommendations are made to prevent such accidents from occurring in the future.
I would like to share with you a recent incident that occurred at one of our UAW represented facilities On February 2, 1998, an explosion occurred at York International in York, Pennsylvania. One worker was killed and 15 workers and five rescuers were injured. The tank, one of four that were clustered together, was not in use at the time of the explosion. When it ruptured, the tank ripped holes in two of the other tanks, causing more explosions and sent the fourth tank soaring into the air. Part of one tank blasted through the wall of a building.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the accident occurred at 11:35 p.m. As bad as the accident was, it would have been a lot worse had it happened during the day. Most of the employees at this facility work on the day shift. Neighboring workplaces would have been up and running and people would have been walking or driving on nearby streets. The exact cause of this accident has still not yet been determined.
Although I was not directly involved with investigating this particular incident, another member from the UAW Health and Safety staff was involved I have, however, been involved with investigating other UAW fatalities. Mr. Chairman and the committee, I want you to know that losing even one life to a chemical accident or any other job hazard can be devastating to family members, coworkers, and the community at large. Identifying the root cause of such accidents is not always easy. That is why prevention is important and a key component of the board's mission, performing a vital function never before addressed in the federal government.
I envision the board continuing to act as an independent agency in developing recommendations for preventing chemical accidents from the investigations that it conducts. I also believe the agency can, for the first time, produce a comprehensive accounting of the actual number of chemical incidents occurring in the United States today, so that safety efforts may be focused where the greatest problems exist. I also envision the board as partnering with government, labor, industry, and the community at large in identifying ways for preventing future incidents from occurring. As a non- regulatory agency, it is essential that the board establishes and keeps open lines of communication with all of the aforementioned organizations
Filling the void that currently exists between government agencies, industry' labor and the community is a tremendous challenge for the board. The board's role, however, in ensuring that commercial and industrial chemical processes are as safe as possible provides workers and the surrounding community with a sense of security and confidence that the government cares and is responsive to their needs for a healthy and safe environment
Again, thank-you for the opportunity to appear today before this committee. I would be pleased to address any questions.