United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Labo.

OSHA reform : coverage and enforcement : hearing before the Subcommittee on Labor of the Committee on Labor and Human Resources, United States Senate, One Hundred Third Congress, first session, on examining the scope of coverage and enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of online

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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. Senate. Committee on LaboOSHA reform : coverage and enforcement : hearing before the Subcommittee on Labor of the Committee on Labor and Human Resources, United States Senate, One Hundred Third Congress, first session, on examining the scope of coverage and enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of → online text (page 5 of 17)
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showed he cared.

The controlled bum was on 15,400 acres of National Forest out-
side of Santa Fe, NM, plus Jemez and Zia Reservation land. The
controlled bum is intentionally set to bum away old growth to
make way for new growth and to avoid natural wild fires. I under-
stand that this was the largest controlled burn ever attempted by
the Forest Service. My brotner, Frankie, myself, and other Jemez
Pueblo members were hired by the Forest Service to work this

In the morning of April 22, 1993, the bum was going well. Afler
lunch, the Forest Service started rushing the fire. I think they were
doing that to save money so they would not have to pay us for an-
other day. They started to drop incendiary devices called "ping-


pong balls," and began torching from helicopters. This made the
fire too big and caused a lot of smoke buildup. We could not see
more than 2 or 3 feet in front of us. In order to communicate with
our squad, we had to yell back and forth to each other. I went to
see Frankie, and he told me that his whole squad was scared and
thought the fire was getting too intense, and there was too much
smoke. No one could breathe very well, and the heat was so intense
that people were saying they did not think they could make it. We
did not have the proper equipment such as respirators, brush jack-
ets, boots and working fire shelters. The Forest Service did not pro-
vide these to us, and on a salary of $7,000 per year, we could not
afford to buy this equipment. It is a hard job with no personal pro-
tective equipment.

The fire then started to bum where it was not supposed to. We
call this "jumping the line." My squad began running down the hill
to get away from the uncontrolled smoke and fire. I was told that
when the fire went out of control, it grazed right over some of the
firefighters' heads. We had to run because the flames were almost
on our backs, and embers were dropping all around us. Some peo-
ple had to use their fire shelters, but they quickly found out that
they were old and torn and would not protect them from the fire.
Then for a second, the wind shifted the smoke, I turned and looked
up where I knew Frankie was. Then I saw a ball of fire sweeping
over the side of the hill, and I started calling for Frankie over the
radio, but could not contact him. I was scared and hoped that they
all got into working fire shelters. I was later told that some people
heard a scream and thought they heard Frankie yell for help at the
same time I was trying to contact him.

When we all got together at the bottom of the hill, we did a roll
call, and three people were missing. One of them was my brother
Frankie. I wanted to go back and look for him, but I was stopped.
I did not want to believe he might be dead. I just kept thinking
that he was hurt and could not get back down the hill. After about
3 hours, the Forest Service officials returned and told me that they
had found a body and wanted me to identify it to see if it was my
brother. The body was so badly burned they could not tell if it was

Frankie's legs and clothing were gone, and his arms were all
curled up. I was only able to identify him by his belt buckle and
knife. I started to cry when I thought of Frankie's family and how
I was going to tell them. I and others were injured by smoke inha-
lation, and some had burns and cuts. It took several months to re-
cover. I still wake up at night and think about identifying my
brother's body and how his family is going to survive. I do not
know of any benefits that the family will receive, and Frankie's
wife Brenda is very distraught. I could never find another brother
like Frankie. This did not have to happen.

This tragedy happened because the Forest Service was trying to
save money at the expense of its workers' health and safety. They
did not have enough workers on the job and were pushing us too
hard, because they did not want to pay us for another day. They
did not think about the crews up there; they should have evacuated
us when the fire first got out of control.

77-070 0-94-2


I understand that OSHA issued 13 notices of serious violations
against the Forest Service. I heard that some of them were failure
to evacuate us, failure to provide personal protective equipment
such as boots and respirators, failure to train us properly as fire-
fighters and failure to notify us of changes in the burn plan.

Senator Metzenbaum. Clemente, would you be good enough to
skip the next paragraph and go down to the last paragraph, please,
because there is a roll call, and that means I have to leave, and
I want to hear the other witnesses if I can.

Mr. Toledo. OK

I am testifying before you because things have to change. We do
not want to fight fires, but we have to make a living. We want to
do our jobs safely; we do not want to lose another life because of
poor training and no equipment.

The loss of my brother's life is why health and safety reform
must take place in the Federal Government. Please honor my
brother's life and memory by not allowing others to die for no rea-
sons, and please change the law to punish those who break it.

Thank you.

Senator Metzenbaum. Thank you very much, Clemente. It was
a very powerful statement, and we all feel for you in losing your
brother. I know how difficult it had to be for you to read that state-
ment, but I want you to know that it is important and means much
to us as we consider this legislation as to why the Forest Service
ought to be covered by the safety and health laws, and we will try
our best to memorialize your brother by passing this legislation.

I thgmk you very much.

Donald Hale, of West Point, a shop steward. Mr. Hale, I am
going to ask you to take about 4 minutes, because I must leave in
here in about 10 minutes, or I miss the vote.

Mr. Hale. Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask that my full state-
ment be entered into the record.

Senator Metzenbaum. Your entire statement will be in the
record, Mr. Hale.

Mr. Hale. I have also brought along written statements from two
other employees, Corrado Lutz, the chief steward, and Philip Hopp,
the former safety and health representative, which corroborate my
testimony and shed further light on the situation at West Point. I
would like to ask that these statements be included as well.

Senator Metzenbaum. They will be included in the record.

Mr. Hale. You will have to bear with me, sir. I am going to try
to ad lib this a little bit to speed up the process.

Senator Metzenbaum. Thank you, sir. I appreciate that.

Mr. Hale. Upon my first day of work at West Point, I was
shocked at the appalling and archaic working conditions through-
out my shop, in many of the different areas where we have to go
as mechanics to work. In my shop, there are no exhaust fans to re-
move smoke that is created when soldering, brazing and welding
is done. There are no fans to remove grinding dust and paint or
chemical fumes. There were no emergencv eye wash or shower sta-
tions to be used in case of an accident wnich could result from the
handling of hazardous materials.


The environment and conditions of the workplace are such that
serious and life-threatening accidents and illnesses are just waiting
to happen.

Many problems are directly related to a supply system that is
understocked, slow, and antiquated. Oftentimes, we as mechanics
must eliminate broken safety devices on machinery and commercial
appliances in order to keep things running. We are continuously
told by management to "do whatever it takes" to get the equipment
operational. If a safety switch on a particular door is broken, many
times we are told to "jump out" the safety device so that will be
ready to complete their next meal for the cadets.

As mechanics at West Point, we cannot comply with OSHA safe-
ty regulations because mandated safety equipment and specialized
training is often unavailable. We must work on equipment with
voltages ranging from 120 to 440 volts. Many times, this work is
done while standing in puddles of water, on metal scaffolding, or
aluminum step ladders with no personal protective equipment
available to prevent electrical shock. There is never a safety watch
person to pull you away from an energized electrical circuit.

In 1990, a Federal employee, while working on an underground
power cable with no precautionary safety procedures received a
shock of 2,000 volts. He was hospitalized with severe bums and
was fortunate not to have been killed.

Asbestos exposure is another major concern for employees at
West Point. About 1 month after I began working at the Academy,
I questioned the identity of some white, fibrous debris hanging off
the pipes in my work area. I was told that other mechanics had
also questioned what the material was, and they were told by the
asbestos abatement supervisor that it was not asbestos and not a
health hazard. One year later, a private contractor replacing the
same section of piping demanded the material in question be test-
ed. The results of the test were positive; the material was indeed

The contractor immediately refused to do further work in the
area until the asbestos was removed. We as Federal employees
were required to stay in that area even during the removal process.

[The prepared statements of Messrs. Hale, Lutz, and Hopp fol-

Prepared Statement of Donald P. Hale

Mr. Chairman and subcommittee members, my name is Donald P. Hale. I began
working at West Point on June 15, 1992. My employment was a result of a transfer
to West Point through the Government's Priority Placement Program following a
Reduction-In-Force at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, NH. It was ac-
tually like a dream come true. As a senior in high school I had applied to West
Point to attend college. I received a Congressional nomination but never a appoint-
ment of admittance from the Academy. I looked forward to the opportunity to serve
the West Point community as a member of the civilian work force with great pride
ad enthusiasm.

Upon my first day of work, I was shocked at the appalling and archaic working
conoitions. In my shop there is no outside ventilation system to supply us with fresh
air, not even a window we could open. There are no exhaust fans to remove smoke
created by soldering, brasing and welding; or to remove grinding dust and oaint or
chemical fumes. There were no emergency eye-wash or shower stations to be used
in the event of an accident resulting Horn the handling of hazardous chemicals. It
was obvious that there was no concern for safety ad no preventive measures taken
to ensure safe and healthful working conditions. The environment and conditions of


the workplace are such that serious or life-threatening accidents ad illnesses are
just waiting to happen.

Many safety problems are directly related to a supply system that is
understocked, slow and antiquated. Often times, we as mechanics, must eliminate
broken safety devices on machinery and commercial appliances in order to keep
things running. This is a direct violation of OSHA regulations. It takes anywhere
from three months to over a year to receive parts ordered from supply. We are con-
tinuously told by management to "do whatever it takes" to get the equipment oper-
ational. For example, commercial dishwashers are equipped with door safety switch-
es. When the dishwasher is running, if a door is ojpened, the dishwasher will shut-
off, thus preventing a person from getting scalded from hot water and steam. If one
of these switches break, we are told to 5"™? ><- o"^." which means we eliminate it
from the electrical circuit by wiring around it. This fools the machine into thinking
that the safety switch is still working properly as the machine will continue to oper-
ate even if the door is opened! ^„„. , . ,-1
Mechanics at West Point cannot comply with OSHA regulations regarding work
done on electrical equipment because mandated safety ecjuipment and specialized
training is unavailable. We work on equipment serviced with voltages ranging from
120v to 440v. May times this work is performed while standing in puddles of water,
on metal scaffolding or aluminum step ladders with no personal protective equip-
ment available to prevent electrical shock. There is never a safety watch person pro-
vided to pull a worker away from an energized electrical circuit,in the event of an
accident, or to administer CPR if ventricular fibrillation occurs. In 1990, while work-
ing on underground power cables with no precautionary safety procedures taken, a
federal employee at West Point received an electrical shock with 20()0v. He was hos-
pitalized with severe bums and was fortunate not to have been killed. Even aft«r
being cited in 1988 by OSHA for electrical violations, most have still not been cor-
rected. In the dishwashing pantries ad kitchens of many buildings (i.e. Cadet Mess
Hall, Hotel Thayer, Officers Club, Keller Hospital), Ground Fault Circuit Intercep-
tors (GFCI), which are used to prevent electrical catastrophes, have not been in-
stalled. Exposed electrical wiring, junction boxes with either no covers or non- wa-
tertight covers, broken doors for circuit breaker boxes and unidentified circuit
breakers, are hazards we must deal with everyday. There is no law requiring man-
agement to address ad correct these potentially life-threatening situations.

Asbestos exposure is an enormous and major concern for employees who must
work in and around contaminated areas. West Point officials continually try to
"sweep the problem under the rug." About one month aft^r I began working at the
Academy, I questioned the identity of some white, fibrous debris hanging off the
pipes in my work area. Grievously, I was told, other mechanics had also questioned
what the material was. They were told by the Asbestos Abatement Supervisor that
it was not asbestos and, therefore not a health hazard. One year later (June 1993),
a private contractor replacing sections of a piping system demanded the material
in question be tested. The results of the test were positive, the material which was
contaminating our work and lunch break area, for who knows how long, was indeed
asbestos! The contractor refused to work on the pipes until the asbestos was re-
moved. We continued to work in the room even during the removal process. When
asbestos is removed often it is done haphazardly ad without the proper containment
procedures outlined by OSHA for asbestos removal. Many times the removal is done
by people who can neither speak nor understand English. Thus, they cannot answer
questions someone might ask about their qualifications ad certification to remove
asbestos. There have been two deaths directly attributed to asbestos exposure at
West Point. How many more people must die before West Point is forced to comply
with OSHA standards?

Ventilation systems in man)' buildings are outdated, non-functional or non-exist-
ent. This past summer, during the prolonged heat wave, employees were subjected
to extremely hazardous heat conditions. Two employees passed out from overexpo-
sure to heat in the Cadet Mess Hall. Bakers worked in temperatures ranging from
130F - 150F. (Outside, precautions were taken to safeguard cadets from heat hazards
during their training. They were put on a 20-minute work — 40-minute rest schedule.
No such consideration was given to federal employees working in similarly hazard-
ous conditions. .„ , r

In the early part of 1993, the West Point Safety Office was notified of a upcoming
OSHA inspection. Supervisors began scurrying around, having employees fix safety
ad health hazards in order to "put on a clean face" for the inspection. Miraculously,
there were now enough time, money and parts available to correct certain defi-
ciencies. Most of the violations corrected were violations cited against West Point
during the 1988 OSHA Inspection! Other corrections we made were in areas where
the Safety Office knew they would allow the new inspection to take place. On March


3, 1993 an OSHA inspection team arrived at West Point. They were not allowed to
conduct a "carte blanche" inspection. The teams were allowed access only to areas
which were predetermined by West Point officials. The Safety office gave OSHA a
list of shops where "Lost Time Accidents" had occurred. OSHA was allowed into
their shops but many times were not allowed to inspect the 8p)ecific work sites
where the accidents actually happened. When the inspectors tried to go into other
areas they were either denied access (doors and gates were purposely locked), or
kicked out of entire buildings.

Because of their persistence, OSHA was told to leave West Point altogether. The
Commanding Officer actually had the OSHA inspection teams "kicked oir the post.
Eventually.OSHA was allowed back onto West Point to complete its inspection with
the stipulation that they adhere to predetermined guidelines and controls for the
remainder of their inspection. They were not allowed into areas known to contain
any asbestos hazards; nor were they allowed into mechanical or electrical control
rooms which had blatant safety violations. They were not allowed to in8f>ect cock-
roach infested equipment in kitchens, the bakery or in dishwashing pantries. They
were not allowed to reinspect areas cited for violations in 1988. They were not al-
lowed to inspect the ventilation system of the Cadet Mess Hall which is known to
have friable asbestos around the air supply fans. This is the same system which
supplies air to employees, cadets, military leaders, foreign dignitaries, members of
Congress ad even tne President of the United States when in the Mess Hall.

Because of the requirements placed on OSHA by West Point officials ad the in-
ability of OSHA to ensure the abatement of violations, we employees are left with
extremely hazardous and unhealthy working conditions, legislation must be passed
to force the correction of these deplorable conditions. How can an agency, estab-
lished by the Federal Government maintain health and safety regulations in the pri-
vate workplace be unable to do the same for the civilian workforce of the Federal
Government? If it looks and sounds like hypocrisy than it must be hypocritical.

Prepared Statement of Cortado Lutz

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, my name is Cortado Lutz and
I am the Chief Steward for the America Federation of Government Employees
(AFGE) Local Union 2367. I am a 48-year-old materials handler (WG 6907-5) at the
United States Military Academy (USMA), West Point, New York. I have about 9
years of federal service including teaching (A) special education at the Indian Res-
ervation in Philadelphia, Mississippi; and (B) at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.
I taught aircraft maintenance (GS 7210-09). In addition to this time, I spent 4Vi
years in the Navy on patrol boats in Vietnam.

My education consists of a BA. in history and secondary education from C.W.
Post College. Afterwards, I obtained an M.S. in history with a minor in special edu-
cation from the University of Southern Mississippi (M.S. 36 Hours). It was in Mis-
sissippi that I met my wife, who is a major in the Nurse Corps for the Air Force;
presently, she is a nurse recruiter for this area. We adopted a child in Paraguay
(1986) and also have a SVz year old.

Around the middle of February 1993, USMA's safety office informed us that
OSHA was coming to West Point soon. OSHA arrived on March 25,1993, and we
had a meeting, with all parties (Management under Col. Massey, Garrison Com-
mander (G.C.) then; John Tomich, OSHA's regional director); and myself, represent-
ing labor. Little did OSHA and AFGE realize that this would be the last and only
cordial meeting with management.

Later in the afternoon, I met with G.C. (Col. Massey) and the industrial hygienist.
With me was Margo Conklin, AFGE Local President. OSHA and AFGE were at-
tempting to find out where we were going to start inspecting. The C.C. couldn't see
why OSHA was there. He stated that there was nothing wrong with endangering
civilians, since the military is used to taking risks (this occurred at Taylor Hall).

Then we waited some more. After a while, Captain Phalen arrived and started
humiliating OSHA. He stated that he had the ofiicer-in-charge (O.I.C.), Cadet Meas,
waiting along with his main supervisors. Phalen stated they had more important
things to do and their time was precious. OSHA asked to see some areas. Then the
bomb fell. OSHA was kicked off post. USMA refused to allow OSHA to go where
they wanted. The G.C. stated he was following Department of Army (DA.) (in DC)
instructions and thus D.A. (in DC) needed to resolve issues.

On April 13, 1993, OSHA returned, but had to follow USMA's rules:

A) only go where and when USMA permits,

B) O.I.CT and supervisors had to be with OSHA inspectors,


C) only if OSHA had formal complaints (in writing) could they go other places.
But even then, OSHA would be allowed only when West Point gave them a appoint-

At first, USMA objected to Union officials accompanying OSHA, but we went by
29 CFR 1960. USMA had to allow us. But we faced problems. At the Hospital, the
Hospital Commander refused to allow OSHA to investigate. He claimed the Hospital
was not part of USMA (Meddac is out of San Antonio). Only if Meddac authorized
him, would he allow OSHA to inspect. After about one week, he allowed OSHA, but
objected to the union representative.

When OSHA wanted to inspect the chemistry lab, USMA refused. They stated it
too was not USMA but United States Corps of Cadets (USCC) and, thus, military.
We told them that our bargaining unit members have to clean it up. G.C. and
Phalen didn't care. It wasn't until a formal written complaint on this and other
places (signed by me) appeared that the lab was inspected, but only when the Colo-
nel in charge 'could find time.

OSHA and the Union were forced to waste many hours waiting for permission to
go from one place to another. In some cases, OSHA and AFGE spent whole days
in and about the safety office waiting for permission to inspect from the G.C.'s office.
Obviously, wasting time didn't bother USMA too much. This is ridiculous. OSHA is
on a tight budget and has much to do. West Point should reimburse OSHA for all
the time USMA wasted.

Government agencies don't care much about safety. They know OSHA can't do
anything but write citations with no meaning. In the private sector, OSHA's inspec-
tion brings fear, at USMA it's a joke. They consider OSHA as wasting their time.
OSHA was permitted to go where the violations were basic. Asbestos areas were off
limits as were other dangerous areas.

I work in the basement of Washington Hall. This building is busy with asbestos
removal. Across from me, within the past month, contractors removed asbestos
(OSHA couldn't see this area) without safeguards. USMA spent $168,(X)0 on this
contract only to find the asbestos level was 14 times above normal. USMA's engi-
neers went in and hosed the area down. Thus, the asbestos went out the drain sys-
tem. OSHA stated this was now an EPA problem.

When I complained to OSHA (during inspection) about asbestos removal in an-
other part of the Washington Hall basement, OSHA could do nothing because con-
tractors were doing the job. I complained about hazards outside the building, but
to no avail, again because of the contractors.

West Point does everything possible to prevent safety. K one is injured, super-
visors are instructed (if possible) not to file accident reports. Supervisors (high level)
are protected from hazards, as are the Super and G.C. They do not appear to care
about workers like us.

Though OSHA is feared outside. West Point continuously laughed at OSHA.
There is no fear. What can OSHA do? John Tomich, the regional director of OSHA,
stated that the little the OSHA was able to see, USMA would have been fined $1.3
million. Here USMA told OSHA where to go and what to do and USMA hid its guilt
by denying OSHA permission to have a freehand and go wherever/whenever OSHA
wanted. West Point still has many violations not taken care of because OSHA can't
do anything.

OSHA should be able to fine federal facilities. The fines could be used to:

1) pay overtime for OSHA

2) hire more inspectors

3) instill fear — a disincentive to flaunt safety regulations.

F^ventive measures, such as OSHA regulations, are cheaper in the long run than
paying for someone's negligence. I know about this because I have a permanent in-
jury <nie to an accident at work. In addition to allowing OSHA to collect fines from

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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. Senate. Committee on LaboOSHA reform : coverage and enforcement : hearing before the Subcommittee on Labor of the Committee on Labor and Human Resources, United States Senate, One Hundred Third Congress, first session, on examining the scope of coverage and enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of → online text (page 5 of 17)