John McCaslin

The following memo, distributed this week by the Energy Department's acting assistant secretary for environmental management (EM) to fellow department officials, is titled "Tell Me What You Think of This Idea":

"Ladders are accidents waiting to happen. It's only a matter of time before we see another ladder accident. In order to make EM an accident-free work environment, I am considering banning ladders from EM. Here is my rationale:

- In just the last year, 10 people have fallen off ladders.

- A 3- to 4-foot fall can be fatal.

- There is no way to adequately control ladders, even after you lock them up, people still find a way to get to them.

- There are other more safer ways to elevate people (lifts, scaffolding, etc.), even if it takes a little more time.

- We need to get out in front of this issue; I will not accept another 10 falls.

"This is my proposal:

- Issue a EM policy that bans ladders from all EM sites, effective Dec. 1, 2004. This will give sites three months to plan and prepare to change their mode of operation.

- During this time, sites will be required to develop a ladder-control policy that requires some sort of senior management control over use of all ladders until they are no longer in use.

- Sites will be required to make a declaration that they are ladder-free.

- We would use the month of December to conduct a site walk through to verify this.

- Effective Jan. 1, 2005, EM will be declared a ladder-free work environment."


It's August, the dog days of summer, Congress is in its customary recess, so why are so many senators and congressmen convening on Capitol Hill?

It so happens that more than 80 congressional committees and subcommittees have convened to investigate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and its aftermath - each of the panels discussing what measures should be taken to prevent further such atrocities.

Some, however, are quick to criticize the number of hearings on Capitol Hill, charging that too many cooks are in the kitchen. How can one fight a war on terrorism, they ask, when all the generals are busy testifying before Congress?

A former congressman provided an honest answer this week during testimony before a House homeland security hearing. Former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, Indiana Democrat, is now the vice chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, and he conceded to lawmakers:

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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