Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Syosset School Closure Creates Discussion


Last week, most people on Long Island heard about Syosset School District closing school because asbestos planks (?) were discovered in the dumpster.  This occurred after a routine mainteance operation in the boiler room.  We have had an excellant discussion at the New York State Asbestos Group at Linked In (join the discussion at http://www.linkedin.com/groups?home=&gid=2432277&trk=anet_ug_hm).  We have discussed several issues with the articles discussing what happened.  First many of us are trying to figure out what is an asbestos plank?  We have some speculations but we still have not figured it out.  Why didn't anyone know that the asbestos (planks?) were in the boiler room.  Schools are required under the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) regulations to perform triennial inspections of their facilities for asbestos containing building materials (ACBM) and every 6 months a periodic surveillance of the ACBM is required to ensure it is not disturbed.  Obviously, something went wrong.  In addition, some of the articles talk about medical testing of the workers to determine if they were exposed.  Well in our discussion we know of no such test.  The tests can be used as a baseline.  However, asbestos diseases can take at least 10 years to develop.  It is possible that an intense exposure could cause pleural plaques sooner, possibly as soon as a year, but this does not mean a disease will develop.  We thank Mr. Jack Springston, Mr. Donald Weekes, and Mr. Jim Morey for their comments on Linked In for helping flesh out this posting.
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

2010 PACNY Environmental Conference

On February 25-26, 2010, the Professional Abatement Contractors of New York (PACNY) held their 14th annual Environmental Conference at the Turning Stone Casino and Resort in Verona, New York. This year it was not only an honor for me to attend the meeting but to also participate as part of the industry roundtable on the last day of the event. If you attended the conference this year you would have found that PACNY was able to get representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), United States Department of Justice, and as usual Mr. Chris Alonge, of the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL).
This year probably the biggest impact of the conference was the weather not cooperating with the conference, as the area was hit by a snowstorm during the conference and Long Island was hit with a snowstorm on Friday, the last day of the conference. This hurt the attendance at the conference including one of the speakers presenting and causing several vendors to be missing in action. It was a shame because those of us who attended had a great time and were provided with a lot of information. Vendors attending included: Grayling Industries; DiVal Safety; Aramsco; Fiberlock Technologies; Foster Specialty Construction Brands, and United Rentals to name a few. Dival Safety's booth was showcasing "Green Stuff Absorbent" an environmentally friendly product used to absorb chemical spills. The product can absorb over 325 liquids and chemicals allowing for a broaden HazMat response (visit http://www.divalsafety.com/ for more information).
All the presentations were held in the Tuscarora Room. My favorite presentation was by Mr. Kevin Cannan, President of AAC Contracting Inc, also a former President of PACNY. Mr. Cannan's presentation was a discussion of the industry and a look back and a look forward. I enjoyed it so much I forgot to take notes. Well done Mr. Cannan!
The other presentations included:
  • The return of Mr. Craig A. Benedict, Assistant U. S. Attorney, and Mr. Justus J. Derx, Special Agent of the EPA, both discussing recent cases and their current focus in the industry. Both mentioned that their success has led to increased responsibility into new Districts. The major points of their presentation were:
    • They view their work in the abatement industry as fighting a spiral down effect. Preventing the degradation of the quality of work in the abatement industry due to contractors/consultants not following the regulations.
    • They have now done over 100 individual prosecutions and have not lost one.
    • They are now focusing on air sample technicians and project monitors as aiders and abettors of violations of the Clean Air Act rule and making them culpable under standard.
    • They are also focusing on the culpability of owners/general contractors on ensuring the legitimacy of the asbestos contractor/consultant.
    • Other issues in the industry they discussed include:
      • insurance fraud and the use of foreign workforces that are not on your payroll.
      • contractors using foreign workforces not on their payroll.
      • reminded asbestos companies should have policies on workers moonlighting and using their equipment and inventory.
  • Ms. Kimberly Castillon, Assistant Area Director of OSHA, updated the attendees on current remediation industry enforcement actions, she discussed:
    • Enforcement has become OSHA's number one priority.
    • OSHA expects to perform 750-800 more inspections per year utilizing 130 new compliance safety and health officers. that have been hired nationwide.
    • New/revised regulations that are in the pike include Hazard Communication, Silica, Cranes and Derricks, confined space entry for construction and combustible dust.
    • The OSHA Region 2 statistics include 5,600 inspections in 2009. 26% of those inspections were in compliance. 13,000 violations were issued averaging 3 violations/inspection. 81% of violations issued were serious violations. The average penalty per serious violation was $1,024.
    • Typical remediation industry violations - respiratory protection, recordkeeping, hazardous waste and emergency response, and asbestos.
  • Mr. Andrew McClellan, President, Environmental Education Associates, spoke on the impending EPA Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting Regulation going into effect on April 22, 2010. The major points included:
    • Lead abatement is not covered by this rule.
    • The rule includes kindergartens and childcare centers.
    • If the amount of material impacted is under six (6) square feet interior or twenty (20) square feet exterior, it is considered a minor repair or maintenance and is not covered by the rule.
    • Each project requires records be created and filed that must be maintained for three (3) years (recordkeeping requirement).
  • Mr. Sean Hickey, Senior Vice President, Rose & Kiernan discussed the Insurance Market. His major points were:
    • The insurance market is currently a buyers market.
    • Commercial rate changes are averaging -5% with general liability dropping 6% and workmen's compensation dropping 3.7%.
    • There is more competition in the Environmental insurance industry. In 2009 there were 15 carriers, now there are 30.
  • Mr. Chris Alonge's presentation was exactly the same as the one presented to Metro-AIHA meeting in November (see our entry at http://futureenv.blogspot.com/2009_11_01_archive.html for the specifics). Mr. Alonge presented a revised schedule for the proposed new Industrial Code Rule 56. Submission to GORR by April 2010. Publish proposed revisions in May 2010 in NYS register. Finalized revisions take effect August 2010. Though I suspect that may be overly ambitious. We will see.
All in all the conference was very informative and well worth the trip. Turning Stone Casino was an excellent venue for the event, even though the weather did not cooperate this year. We attended the Pro Boxing Fight Night, the main event being a Super Middleweight fight between Brian Vera versus Isaac Rodrigues. It was my first live boxing match and the main event was a slugfest. The overall experience was outstanding and enjoyable. It was a pleasure to get together with old friends, and make some new ones. Thank you to the PACNY organization for honoring me by including me on the industry roundtable at the end. PACNY did a great job on the conference as usual, they deserve much credit and accolades for their hard work. We look forward to next year’s conference and hope to see you there next year.
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

CDC NIOSH Science Blog: Mad as a Hatter: Mercury and Other Occupational Hazards at the Movies

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CDC NIOSH Science Blog: Mad as a Hatter: Mercury and Other Occupational Hazards at the Movies
I recently saw the movie at the Deer Park IMAX theather in 3D, with my family. It was a visually stunning movie and the storyline was excellant and very different from the one most of us are familar with. The CDC NIOSH science blog discusses the occupational issues that led to the term Mad as a hatter hence leading to Johnny Depp's character in the movie. What was the occupational safety and health issue? Well most people probably know by now that it was mercury exposure or mercury poisoning.  Hatters used mercury to change fur into felt.  Since these areas were poorly ventilated the exposure levels must have been tremendous.
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Monday, March 15, 2010

Crane Failure Case Heading to Court

Its amazing that the OSHA investigation found no violations.  However, the Manhattan DA found enough evidence to bring manslaughter charges against J. Lomma, T. Varganyi, JF Lomma Inc, and NY Crane.  Key quote from the article was "Equipment owners may be held personally liable—even if safety regulators in their official investigation are unable to find code violations."  Will the threat of criminal charges actually start CEOs thinking about safety first.
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