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Landmark state bill banning deadly floor sealer signed into law
Boston, MA – July 6, 2010 – On Friday, July 2, Governor Patrick signed into law a landmark bill banning the commercial use and sale of a highly flammable wood floor finishing product linked to tragic home fires that left three floor finishers dead and dozens of families without homes across the Commonwealth.
Filed at the urging of an industry-labor-community Task Force, the legislation targets lacquer sealer – a floor finishing product that can burst into flames at the slightest trigger.
“This groundbreaking law will save lives and end floor finishing fires that have caused so much pain and destruction,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of MassCOSH (the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health) who convened the Task Force. “We owe a great deal of thanks to the Governor and Legislature for recognizing these grave dangers and taking action to protect workers and residents.”
In 2004, two Vietnamese floor sanders were killed and two of their co-workers burned in a fire that ripped through a Somerville home. Less than a year later, a floor refinishing contractor – also Vietnamese – lost his life in a fatal fire in Hull. Both fires are widely believed to have been caused by the highly flammable lacquer sealer used in floor refinishing.
The Floor Finishing Safety Task Force investigated these deaths and dozens of other fires that had destroyed homes in the state and found that this particular product was extremely dangerous and unnecessary.
The floor finishing industry in Massachusetts is largely concentrated in the Vietnamese community. Viet AID, a community based organization that has been a leader in the Task Force, has been working with MassCOSH and other groups to raise awareness about the dangers of using lacquer sealer.
“The floor finishing industry provides critical self-employment opportunities for many Vietnamese immigrant and refugee adults,” said Long Nguyen, interim executive director of Viet AID. “Unfortunately, the lack of regulation forces many to work in an unsafe environment. This law provides an opportunity for the Coalition to help hard-working hardwood floor businesses to protect themselves and their workers as well as to improve their business bottom line.”
Responding swiftly to the Task Force’s recommendations, Representative Martin Walsh and Senator Patricia Jehlen jointly filed the bill. They quickly gained the support of from the chairs of the Joint Committee of Public Safety and Homeland Security Senator James Timilty and Representative Michael Costello.
Senator Patricia Jehlen quickly became an advocate for floor finishing safety after the fire that took place in her legislative district. “This law will save lives,” said Senator Jehlen. “I am pleased that my colleagues in the House and Senate joined me in passing this bill, and I thank the Governor for signing it into law.”
“I would like to commend MassCOSH on an extraordinary job in getting this important legislation passed and signed by Governor Patrick,” said Representative Walsh regarding the new law. “This legislation will keep the flooring industry safe for Massachusetts while keeping small business in business.”
The official bill language and a comprehensive floor finishing fact sheet can be found below