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GAO recommends better OSHA disaster planning


WASHINGTON--Better planning would help the Occupational Safety and Health Administration protect workers responding to disasters such as 2005's Hurricane Katrina, according to a report issued by the Government Accountability Office on Wednesday.

The report recommended that the departments of Labor and Homeland Security should direct the heads of both OSHA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to work together to accomplish such goals as deciding the types and magnitude of disasters in which OSHA will be involved.

The report noted that no one, including OSHA, was responsible for collecting information on how many response and recovery workers were involved in the Hurricane Katrina response. Ten federal agencies provided estimates on the number of federal workers involved, and six of those agencies provided estimates on the number of contractors involved, but OSHA's efforts to collect information on injuries and illnesses were delayed, according to the report.

As a result, GAO recommended that OSHA should create a way to collect data on disaster-related injuries and illness suffered by workers responding to disasters and use the information to identify safety and health hazards.

The full report--"Disaster Preparedness: Better Planning Would Improve OSHA's Efforts to Protect Workers' Safety and Health in Disasters"--is available at