Ten years have passed since the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, and we remember the first responders who heroically sacrificed their lives to save victims of the attacks and the thousands of workers who contributed to the rescue and recuperation efforts at Ground Zero.
Many of these workers still bear the impact of that tragic day, as the environmental hazards present on and around “the pile” caused serious health problems for those exposed. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, signed into law in 2011, will redress some of the damage caused by the improper handling of the contaminated debris at Ground Zero, but even today, many workers who were made sick at the site have to fight in order to receive fair compensation. We are now acutely aware of the importance emergency preparedness planning is to workplace safety. Evacuation procedures must be in place and understood by all employees; potential environmental hazards must be identified and abatement strategies established; and necessary equipment must be readily available, with training provided in their use.
Of the many lessons to be learned from the tragic events of 9/11, one is certainly that the time to ensure the safe functioning of the workplace during an emergency is before the emergency arrives.