Irv Rosenthal, 87, noted safety expert

Posted: February 14, 2013

BEING compared to Socrates might seem a tough role to live up to. But in at least one learned opinion, Isadore "Irv" Rosenthal fit the description.

"No one who interacted with Irv could walk away without being reminded of Socrates," said Gerald V. Poje, who served with Irv on the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. "He had the same desire to find someone wiser than himself, and the skills to probe deeply and well, instructing all willing to learn."

Irv Rosenthal, who devoted his life in both commercial and public-service positions to helping make workplaces and the products of American industry safer for the public, died of pneumonia Sunday. He was 87 and lived in Newtown, Bucks County.

He worked for Rohm and Haas for 38 years, the last 13 as director of safety, health, environmental affairs and product integrity.

In that position, he was involved in the company's program to control hazards and risks in both the products it sold and in its facilities around the world.

After retiring in 1990, he joined the Wharton Risk Management and Decisions Processes Center, at the University of Pennsylvania, as a senior research fellow. His research included the management of risks of industrial accidents.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton named Irv a member of the National Chemical Safety and Hazards Investigation Board. He served to 2003.

"Those of us who knew and worked with him here recall his total commitment to the work of the agency in preventing accidents and saving lives," said Rafael Moure-Eraso, current U.S. Chemical Safety Board chairman.

In 2005, Irv served on the Independent Safety Review Panel, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker III, to investigate the BP Texas City refinery accident that killed 15 workers. He was one of the United Steel Workers' representatives on the panel.

"A lot of my union colleagues were skeptical about a 'company guy,' " said Michael J. Wright, union director of health, safety and environment, "but he proved to be just as pro-union and pro-worker as they were, and even more aggressive when it came to confronting BP or any other malefactor."

Among Irv's other activities were his memberships on the Philadelphia Solid Waste Advisory Committee and the Philadelphia Emergency Response Committee.

Irv Rosenthal was a native of New York City. He was educated at Purdue University, New York University and received a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Penn State.

He served in the Army in World War II in the China-Burma-India theater as a high-speed-telegraph operator.

He was married three times, to the late Corrine, Janice and Judith Rosenthal. He is survived by two daughters, Cindy and Leslie Rosenthal; two sons, Richard and Seth; a sister, Betty Roland; a brother, Julius Peschansky; stepchildren Alison, James, John, Robert and Joseph Nathan, and Fred, Elliot, Eric and Mark Kanter; and four grandchildren.

Services: 1 p.m. Thursday at Goldsteins' Rosenberg's Raphael Sacks Suburban North, 310 Second Street Pike, Southampton. Burial will be in King David Memorial Park. Contributions may be made to Friends of Farmworkers Inc., 42 S. 15th St., Suite 605, Philadelphia 19102.

comments powered by Disqus