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YOUTH CAMP SAFETY ACT
FRIDAY, JUNE 7, 1974
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
SELECT SUBCOMMITTEE ON LABOR,
OF THE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND LABOR,
Bear Mountain, N.Y.
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 9:00 a.m., at the Bear Mountain Inn, Bear Mountain, N.Y., Hon. Dominick V. Daniels, chairman of the subcommittee, presiding.
Members present: Representatives Daniels and Peyser.
Staff members present: Daniel H. Krivet, counsel; Alexandra Kisla, clerk; Yvonne Franklin, minority legislative associate.
Mr. DANIELS. The Select Subcommittee on Labor will come to order.
Today we continue hearings on youth camp safety legislation, H.R. 1486, a bill to provide for the development and implementation of programs for youth camp safety.
Each year parents send nearly 10 million youngsters to summer camps across the country with the belief that their children will be constantly protected by trained counselors and will live in sanitary and healthful surroundings.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in too many of our summer camps and our other outdoor recreation facilities. There have been many horror stories brought to my attention as a result of hearings I have conducted in 1968, 1969, 1971, and this year, yet there are only six States that have what I consider to be comprehensive youth camp safety laws.
They are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Michigan, New York, and my own State of New Jersey. We have discovered that there is often a credibility gap between camp literature and the actual facts relating to whether or not a camp is a safe place for young
We know there are many latent dangers which to the untrained eye of parents are impossible to identify prior to the opening of camp, and visiting days during the season hardly give parents the opportunity to thoroughly investigate any possible hazards to their youngsters.
To ameliorate this situation I have introduced a H.R. 1486, which is cosponsored by my colleague from New York, Congressman Peter Peyser of the 23rd Congressional District, which provides that the Secretary of HEW shall promulgate minimum youth camp safety standards after hearings and consultation with a broad representative advisory council from the camping industry.
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My bill provides that the States shall continue to enforce their own laws providing they are as effective as the Federal ones.
This bill also provides for grants to States to assist them in enforcing their laws, and also for developing laws if they choose to do so.
It is one of the fundamental purposes of government to protect those interests of citizens who are unable to provide for themselves. In the closing days of the 91st Congress, we passed an historic Occupational and Safety Health Act. Under its provisions working conditions at youth camps for counselors and other personnel must be safe and healthful.
Therefore, while the Congress has legislated for the benefit of employees at a camp, it has failed to enact the legislation to protect the health and well-being of our youngsters in those very same facilities.
Passage of the Youth Camp Safety Act will end this tragic anomaly. Summer camps deal in what is perhaps our most precious resource, the lives of our youngsters. The call to action to safeguard our Nation's youth has remained largely unanswered to this day. We can wait no longer for action.
I am pleased at this time to call upon my colleague, the gentleman from the 23rd District who represents the Bronx and Westchester, for a brief statement if he cares to make one.
Mr. PEYSER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I do, very briefly, want to make a statement, and first of all, I want to compliment the Chairman publicly because for several years before my arrival in Congress, Congressman Daniels has been carrying this fight for camp safety and trying to successfully get it through the House. Unfortunately, we have not succeeded at this point, but we really feel confident that we have the opportunity now of getting meaningful legislation, and I guess what I briefly want to say is the importance of hearings such as this and the importance of testimony that people like yourselves will give us, because you form the background in the field knowledge of the problems that we are trying to find a correct way, through legislation, to cure.
Now, another importance is based on a situation that has developed in Washington the last couple of months. The Department of HEW has released a report called "Report on Youth Camp Safety." Now, this report was called for by the Congress a year ago when we failed to pass the bill for camp safety and instead of that had a study.
Now, the interesting thing that I have found in studying this is that this report is based on this report that we spent over $180,000 to acquire. This report is made by the Century Research Corp. Now, I have studied this report and I find little basis for the HEW report based on what is in this other report made by the Century Research Corp., because as far as I am concerned this report shows the absolute necessity for immediate camp safety legislation.
So we seem to have some real differences of opinion with HEW, which we are prepared to discuss at the proper time-the chairman has called for a meeting with HEW and with the research corporation and we will air these things publicly.
But right now it is of the utmost importance to hear what you have to say, and we do appreciate those of you who are hear this morning and we are looking forward to your testimony.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DANIELS. Our first witness will be Mrs. Ben Solomon of the Leadership Library. Will you step forward to the witness table, Mrs. Solomon?
I regret to learn that your husband is not feeling too well and I do hope that when you see him this morning he will be feeling much better.
STATEMENT OF MRS. BEN SOLOMON, LEADERSHIP LIBRARY
Mrs. SOLOMON. Thank you.
I am going to be very brief. I am speaking for Ben Solomon, former editor of Camp Life magazine and for 30 years editor of Youth Leaders Digest, author of "Leadership of Youth" and many other books. Ben Solomon has for 40 years been fighting for adequate health and safety standards, particularly here in the State of New York. His work has been leadership of youth throughout his whole career, but with special emphasis on the camping safety and the prevention of preventable accidents and fatalities.
He feels that many, many camps are not adequate for the children. He has taken Berrell's Clipping Services for many, many summers, analyzed the accidents, and tried very hard to get better standards, real standards, not just poorly written hopes and aspirations.
He feels that there are four fields where fatalities and grave accidents occur in camps which can be prevented.
The first has to do with aquatics-water safety. There are standards there that in many cases are not applied in camps. The American Red Cross standards should be applied constantly and definitely in every camp.
The Red Cross does not call them standards, but they are standards and they should be used. More important, however, is the quality of the waterfront counselors, not only their qualifications, but their dedication to their work; their own personal standards of safety for the children.
I won't go into the waterfront safety standards except for one thing. A standard is a standard, a yard is a yard, a mile is a mile, and standards must be written so that there is no mistaking them. A swimming pool, for example, should have a 10-foot unclimbable fence and an automatic locked gate which no child can climb, and that there ought not to be any lean-to or house or picnic table or tree or anything else near the fence that some young hokey can climb, and that gate should not be unlocked unless the adequate counselors, adequately trained and certified counselors, are on duty. The second field where standards are greatly needed is that of transportation, particularly on the side of day camps where the transportation is many, many times that of a residence camp, but in all cases the standards that are now available which apply in the main to school buses, should be applied to camps.
There was a horrible example last summer of where 40-odd youngsters in an open flatbed truck driven by a 17-year-old on one of the freeways near Los Angeles spilled out with terrible fatalities -turned over and the children were spilled out.
The third field where standards must be applied is trips out of camp. Here, again, there have been very, very horrible accidents, as many of you well know. There must be standards written which apply to these trips, especially if they involve water-swimming or canoeing in strange waters.
I don't need to give you examples of those things, but one comes to mind that you may not know about. A touring camp, a traveling camp out in the high Canadian Rockies, a well-meaning counselor allowed a group of younger teenage boys up to 15 to climb a high mountain, a timberline mountain and above in tee shirts and shorts. I think seven lost their lives on that trip.
Trips out of camp, waterfront transportation, those three classifications that I have talked about all come back to the camp director. He must be the one who is ultimately in charge, and I do hope that your standards will be written clearly, adequately and on a Federal level for these three phases of high fatalities, and that the camp directors will be the ones who will be recognized as being finally in charge.
The fourth group of hazard areas and Mr. Solomon made these notes before he became terribly ill and he could not complete itare the miscellaneous ones. This maybe is only 10 percent and this is one that possibly you know well in camps, fire, lightning, and other things.
Now, lightning is an act of God, yes, but a young 14-year-old junior counselor who took a group of youngsters under a large tree in an open field when a storm came up last summer should have been advised or trained that that was not the procedure, and two or three fatalities resulted from that accident.
I forgot to mention, coming back over these four points, that Mr. Solomon feels that 40 percent of the fatalities are in that first classification. The waterfront is the greatest hazard, or the aquatic side of the camp program.
About 30 percent for transportation. He has analyzed these clippings for years and found that about 30 percent of the hazards and fatalities, preventable fatalities, are in transportation.
About 20 percent are in trips out of camp, including the hazards of water, canoeing and swimming in unknown waters, and about 10 percent for the miscellaneous.
In conclusion, I have read that bill very, very carefully, Mr. Daniels. Mr. Solomon could not read it, but I have read it. I am a professional in my own right. I feel that the bill is adequately written. I have only one or two minor questions which needed clarification, and I feel that this bill must be passed on a Federal basis. I understand that Century Research from a newspaper clipping I had that that report was only recommended for States. I think that this bill must be on a Federal basis if we are to reach all camps in all States.
Finally, I would like to congratulate New York State. I have just learned today that New York State has remarkably good and adequate safety camp laws, which my husband tried to get started 35 years ago up in Albany in the State legislature.
I am very glad to hear that, and I hope that New York State, its laws and regulations and standards might be a pilot for all other States, and I wish you very, very great success in your work, Mr. Daniels.
Mr. DANIELS. Mrs. Solomon, thank you very much for your statement. We appreciate having your views, and also want to compliment your husband for the interest he has taken in this field. I have been trying to carry on this fight for the last 6 or 7 years. Mrs. SOLOMON. I know, and he appreciates it.
Mr. DANIELS. We have not met with too much success. Three years ago in 1971, we almost passed a bill. It was shy, if my memory serves me correctly, by about 16 votes for passage. A substitute bill, however, was adopted, requesting that a further study be made by Health, Education, and Welfare, and we received a report which Congressman Peyser alluded to in his comments, a report which I deem, and I think I can speak for all the members of our subcommittee, feels is totally inadequate.
It involved an appropriation of $300,000 by Congress and I think it was a waste of the taxpayers' money.
We appreciate the views that you have expressed here, and I also want to congratulate the legislators in the State of New York for having adopted a constructive health safety program in the early part of this year.
I might point out, however, that after legislation was passed approving this study, that I undertook as chairman of this committee to send the Governors of all 50 States in the Union a copy of the legislation that we have under consideration here today, and as a result of that, six States have adopted legislation, including the State of New York. However, there are 44 more States in the Union which should adopt legislation, and I might point out that 26 States have practically no laws dealing with this subject matter whatsoever. Therefore, I think the U.S. Government should take the leadership in this field, and while it does not want to preempt the field, it does have a responsibility to provide the leadership, and the legislation under consideration also gives grants to the States that if they adopt legislation which is equally as good as the Federal standards that will be promulgated, that they can receive a grant to the extent of 80 percent of the expense.
Thank you, very much.
Mrs. SOLOMON. Thank you.
Mr. DANIELS. Will you wait just a moment? My colleague, Mr. Peyser, might have a few questions.
Mrs. SOLOMON. I will try to answer questions if I can.
Mr. PEYSER. Thank you very much. First of all, I do appreciate your testimony and what you have had to say, and interestingly enough, it certainly backs up completely the information in this report. I just glanced now at this swimming section.