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Responding to disaster can be a dangerous task

September 01, 2002 |

Despite working at what was described as the most dangerous construction site in the U.S., only 35 of the 1,500 plus workers at Ground Zero sustained injuries during rescue and recovery. None were life-threatening.

With its work at both Ground Zero and the Pentagon, New York-based contractor AMEC gained new insight into providing the safest possible working conditions in what was essentially a war zone. Three of the company's employees were injured at Ground Zero, a broken foot being the worst injury sustained. As of mid-August, the company had recorded only three lost-time injuries at the Pentagon, the most severe being a broken hand.

In AMEC's case, safety was achieved by instituting health and safety measures at the onset of the jobs and then administering them throughout the projects, says Paul Pettit, vice president with AMEC's Earth & Environmental division.

While working at disaster recovery sites, unanticipated events and outcomes should be expected, says Leo DiRubbo, AMEC general superintendent. But amazing things can happen when workers collectively view their efforts as a duty instead of a job, he says. "The cleanup effort at Ground Zero is a great example," says DiRubbo. "In less than nine months, 1.6 million tons of debris — the equivalent of the amount of steel contained in 20 Golden Gate Bridges — was removed from Ground Zero. That's amazing, but considering the teamwork and the common focus of everyone at the site, it's not at all surprising."

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