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Other states could learn from Mass. action to prevent hazards for floor workers

I was saddened to read about the Vermont floor worker who suffered severe burns when the solvent he was using on a laundromat floor burst into flames, reportedly heated by a nearby dryer (“Worker hurt in dryer-sparked blaze,” New England in brief, June 9). A few years ago such tragedies were all too common in Massachusetts. In 2004, two floor sanders were killed and two others severely burned when their chemicals ignited in a Somerville home. Less than a year later, another finisher was killed in a similar fire in Hull. Dozens of similar home fires were attributed to a highly combustible floor sealant, lacquer sealer.

Determined to stop the fires, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, Viet AID, and the department of work environment at UMass Lowell brought together floor-finishing workers, contractors, and suppliers and state fire prevention and occupational safety experts. We learned that fast-drying sealants were unnecessary and highly dangerous, and safer products were readily available.

In 2010 under the leadership of then-Representative Martin Walsh, Senator Pat Jehlen, Representative Garrett Bradley, and Governor Patrick, Massachusetts banned lacquer sealer, creating a level playing field for all businesses. Hopefully other states can learn from these tragedies and Massachusetts’ success, and act before another worker suffers.


Marcy Goldstein-Gelb
Executive director
Massachusetts Coalition for

Occupational Safety and Health