I wish to express my sincere condolences to the family, colleagues, and constituents of Senator Frank Lautenberg, who passed away today. Senator Lautenberg was a great leader and an ardent supporter of workplace safety and environmental protection. Among his many, many legacies was working since the 1980’s to establish, fund, and sustain the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. He is widely considered to be the father of the agency.
It was due to the Senator’s commitment to the safety of workers and the surrounding community that the CSB received its first funding following a violent, reactive chemical explosion that occurred in 1995 in Lodi, New Jersey, fatally injuring five workers. The accident happened only a few miles from the Paterson neighborhoods where Senator Lautenberg was born in 1924 and grew up. Chemical safety was never far from Senator Lautenberg’s mind, and in May 2002 while he was briefly out of the Senate, he returned to Paterson City Hall to speak at a CSB public meeting on reactive chemical hazards. As he said then:
“I was born just a few blocks from here, and I was able to witness, painfully and directly, what happens when working people are exposed to a dangerous environment …. And this city is a proud city. But what it needs to know, like the other industrial cities in this country, that when they go to work, that the only thing that they have to be concerned about is making the product, and getting out at the end of the day, and enjoying themselves, and enjoying their families. And so the work you are doing is, frankly, essential.”
I had the honor of meeting the Senator during my nomination process in 2010 and was moved by his fervent commitment to worker and community safety, and on the need to take the actions needed to prevent these terrible chemical accidents. Throughout my tenure as chairperson, he has been strongly supportive of the CSB’s work, and maintained an active interest in the board’s activities. The American people have lost a dedicated public servant and an enduring hero.
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency’s board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.
The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website, www.csb.gov.