Archive for May, 2010

The hospitalization of seven Lafourche Parish fishermen who took sick while on oil-cleaning assignments in Breton Sound has resulted in calls for respirators for those engaged in the cleanup work.

Local, state and federal officials, along with independent experts, have been monitoring for any signs that the oil or chemicals being used to try to clean it up are making workers or residents sick.

An unprecedented number of people will be exposed to health hazards resulting from the oil spill along the Gulf Coast.

One of just two major makers of emergency air packs for U.S. coal mines has stopped selling the devices because they often don’t automatically start and the industry fears it will lead to a shortage, officials said.

A top federal regulator accused the entertainment industry Thursday of a lax commitment to worker safety, singling out deaths at Walt Disney World and SeaWorld Orlando among other recent examples.

They are the highly trained, generally well-paid employees in the vanguard of American innovation: people who work in biotechnology labs. But the cutting edge can be a risky place to work.

Some Americans are angered by increasing government intrusion in their lives. Would we therefore be better off if we got rid of “job-killing OSHA”?

The California Supreme Court is expected to render a decision in the Brinker v. Superior Court case later this year that will answer critical legal questions about the meal and rest break rights of hourly workers in California.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined the South Dakota Wheat Growers Association of Aberdeen, S.D., more than $1.6 million following the Dec. 22, 2009, death of a worker at the company’s McLaughlin, S.D., grain handling operation.

A news release from Robins Air Force Base says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Building 169 in its 402nd Maintenance Wing for 13 violations.


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The U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday ordered all ships participating in the BP oil spill cleanup in Breton Sound, La., to cease operations after crewmembers on three boats reported health problems.

BP’s oil spill is quickly turning into a regional health issue. Unfortunately, the feds have been slow on the uptake.

It’s hard to imagine how an oil spill could be worse than a cataclysm that put 80 percent of New Orleans under water, but when you consider the long-term economic, environmental, and public-health impact of a toxic spill that nobody really knows how to clean up, the comparison starts to make sense.

This weight and obesity discrimination scenario surfaced this week in the U.S. retail industry when a former Hooters Restaurant waitress in Michigan filed a lawsuit alleging that she was the victim of weight discrimination when she told by her boss to get lighter or get lost.

A couple of weeks ago, as the Gulf of Mexico disaster was continuing to unfold, we wrote about how the federal agency that is supposed to regulate offshore oil wells had let the industry police itself for the most part.

Can work be good for you? An increasing number of employers recognize that promoting their employees’ health has great benefits for them, including decreased absenteeism and lower employee health care costs.

Tampa labor attorney Steve Bernstein, a managing partner of Fisher & Phillips, gets at least one call a month from clients questioning how to address prescription drugs in their drug-free workplace policies.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has announced an initiative to study the health risks encountered by firefighters, specifically the various cancers thought to stem from exposure to hazardous chemicals encountered at the fire scene, including asbestos.

At least five people required medical attention after the release of acid fumes from a yogurt plant in Fort Worth, Texas.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited NDK Crystals Inc. in Belvedere, Ill., with fines of $510,000 for alleged egregious willful and serious violations of federal workplace safety standards following an explosion at the company’s crystal manufacturing building that took the life of a truck driver parked at a nearby service station.

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As if more evidence was needed that unregulated corporate behavior hurts working families and destroys our environment, now comes news that BP compared its workers to the ‘Three Little Pigs’ in calculating the dollar value of their lives.

Some fishermen hired by BP to mop up the gulf spill report nausea and breathing troubles after contact with oil and dispersant.

Many unemployed workers in South Florida hope to gain work from the Gulf oil spill, but beyond beach cleanup, training for hazardous oil-spill cleanup work is difficult to find.

Massey Energy Co. encouraged workers to conceal safety violations from U.S. inspectors, the families of the 29 people killed last month in an underground explosion at a company coal mine told lawmakers.

If an employee is injured on the job, is the employee’s exclusive remedy a workers’ compensation claim? What if an employer is reckless? The Ohio Supreme Court recently looked at a pair of cases to resolve these questions.

The Chinese workers who build Apple products keep killing themselves, so their employer has asked them to sign a pledge they won’t commit suicide. The actual document is after the jump.

A new study by British researchers has found that a dangerous bacterium can travel through the air, posing a new problem for medical personnel fighting hospital-acquired infections.

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced this week that it has ordered Bertolini Trucking to pay the drivers $250,000 after an investigation revealed the drivers were fired for refusing to haul a trailer with a welded leaf spring.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating an explosion at Bob’s Auto Salvage that severely burned a worker who died two months later at a burn center in Augusta, Ga.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Monday revoked Erie Coke’s permit, ordering the company to cease operations within 72 hours for violating state environmental law.

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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has announced in a notice of proposed rulemaking published in today’s Federal Register its plans to require improved worker protection from tripping, slipping and falling hazards on walking and working surfaces.

The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) recently announced that it will change dramatically how it regulates employers’ compliance with certain federal laws. Within the next year, it will issue regulations requiring employers to take affirmative steps to ensure compliance with federal wage-and-hour, safety, and anti-discrimination laws.

An investigation finds the feds have warned hundreds of local companies about high workplace injury rates — some companies where workers are hurt at 10 times the national average — and you might be surprised to learn which industry got the most letters warning of possible inspections.

While some reports are clueless regarding the risks to workers – a USA Today article by Elizabeth Weise quotes a Tulane University toxicologist who says, “Oil spills are ecological events, not human health events” – others are quite clear about the potential hazards.

Over the weekend, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar threatened BP with a government take-over of cleanup operations in the gulf: “If we find they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, we’ll push them out of the way appropriately.” That’s not what the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Thad W. Allen, said.

Just over a month ago I wrote urging criminal prosecution of Massey Energy executives for the deaths of coal miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine. Since then more evidence of criminal wrongdoing has been shown and federal prosecutors and the FBI are investigating the corporation and its executives. In addition, citizen pressure urging prosecution is growing and financial problems for the corporation are showing.

Airline passengers who get frustrated and kick a wall, throw a suitcase or make a pithy comment to a screener could find themselves in a little-known Homeland Security database. The Transportation Security Administration says it is keeping records of people who make its screeners feel threatened as part of an effort to prevent workplace violence.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the release Monday morning of acid fumes at the Dannon Co. yogurt plant in Fort Worth, Texas, officials confirmed Tuesday.

A 60-year-old Sequoyah County man is dead after officials say he was sucked into a machine at the U.S. Lime plant in Marble City, Ark. The Sheriff says the man was making repairs to a rolling vacuum machine when it became activated and pulled the man inside the machine.

A Louisville, Ky., solid waste management employee who struck and killed another employee last week has a history of reprimands and disciplinary action in her personnel file, including a monthlong demotion in 2007 because of accidents.

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BP, Massey Energy and Tesoro all have hauled out plaques celebrating safety achievements to deflect allegations of corporate recklessness in the aftermath of explosions in April that killed 47 of their workers.

It is difficult enough forecasting the oil price. But modeling potential disaster is in another league altogether.

With thousands of people engaged in oil spill cleanup throughout the state, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration wants workers to know the risks and workers’ rights involved in such work.

Imagine being sent to get a second medical opinion about your fatal lung disease from the same doctor you went to the first time. Then imagine having the differences of opinion between multiple doctors about your fatal condition resolved by someone who is not a doctor.

Over the past three decades, more than 680 Kansans have been killed on the job. Nearly one in 10 died while working at a grain elevator.

Police said a cleaning man was taken to a hospital after being sucked into a machine at a sausage-making company in Danvers, Mass.

A bullet narrowly missed a Port Authority bus driver Sunday afternoon when it struck the windshield of a 6B Spring Hill bus at an angle in Pittsburgh’s Northview Heights housing complex and passed through the front door.

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If the recommendations of the just published President’s Cancer Panel report, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now, become of a comprehensive national policy agenda, the United States will have a remarkable new cancer prevention strategy – one that includes aggressive efforts to reduce and eliminate chemical exposures that can lead to and cause cancer, including those in the workplace.

The country’s 130,000 miners are not strangers to dangerous working conditions, faulty equipment and air filled with coal dust and other hazardous inhalants. While the accident at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, W.Va., that recently killed 25 miners received international attention, thousands of miners are dying more quietly.

By official count, the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill now involves 27,400 civilian and military personnel, 11,000 volunteers, more than 1040 boats, dozens of aircraft, and multiple offshore drilling units.

OSHA says once these bad actor employers are identified, it will conduct inspections at other worksites controlled by the same employer where similar hazards may be present. A good idea, right? It depends on whether you agree with OSHA’s narrow definition of a “severe violator.”

As the initial waves of the newly passed healthcare reform law begin to ripple out, safety committee members should consider how the changes could affect environment of care and occupational health concerns.

As the first “named plaintiff” in Dukes v. Wal-Mart, the ordained Baptist minister also is the face of the largest gender bias class action lawsuit in U.S. history – one that could cost the world’s largest private employer billions.

Lady Gaga recently made an unexpected appearance at the Westin Saint Francis hotel in San Francisco—in the form of a flash mob singing a pro-worker version of lyrics to her “Bad Romance.” Replete with tuba, trombone, snare drum and a couple dozen dancing activists, the group materialized in the hotel’s lobby to denounce the chain’s poor treatment of its employees and urge people to “Boycott, boycott,” this “bad, bad hotel.”

About 15 hours after Massey CEO Don Blankenship told Congress that worker safety is the company’s top priority, another Massey miner died in West Virginia, The Associated Press reports.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed $201,500 in penalties for the 29 health and safety citations it issued against Elyria, Ohio, Foundry earlier this week.

Car washes across California were hit with $771,050 in fines after a two-day crackdown by investigators from the state labor commissioner’s office. A total of 247 inspections produced 129 citations against 96 businesses, according to the Department of Industrial Relations.

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BP, the company in charge of the rig that exploded last month in the Gulf of Mexico, hasn’t publicly divulged the results of tests on the extent of workers’ exposure to evaporating oil or from the burning of crude over the gulf, even though researchers say that data is crucial in determining whether the conditions are safe.

BP’s first successful attempt to capture some of the oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico has been overshadowed — once again — by reports of safety lapses in its other operations. What’s so striking, and quite frankly scary, is that these safety concerns and violations aren’t isolated, insignificant incidents.

A Democratic senator is demanding answers from drilling giant Transocean about the forms that rescued workers from the Deepwater Horizon rig were given to sign stating that they were not injured and they were not witnesses to what happened.

The Gulf of Mexico oil leak has reinvigorated a nationwide debate about the risks and rewards of offshore drilling. But for the crew and surviving families of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the calculations of risk and reward are much more intimate.

Last month’s explosion of an offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico has prompted scrutiny of the U.S. Coast Guard’s ability to carry out even its limited role in preventing disaster on rigs.

In the past six weeks, I have made a number of trips to West Virginia to meet with the families of the 29 men who died at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine. Although there is nothing I can do to eliminate their pain and suffering, I can, as the nation’s top cop on the workplace beat, make sure that we learn the truth about what happened on April 5, and bring those responsible to justice.

For all the talk about alternative energy sources — wind, solar, you name it — the U.S. and the rest of the world still depend on coal. A lot.

In a Missouri food warehouse, 150 workers load and unload trucks, lift boxes, drive fork trucks, and move endless pallets. Each month that no one reports an injury, all workers receive prizes, such as $50 gift certificates. If someone reports an injury, no prizes are given that month.

Kansas workplaces are getting safer according to the 2009 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, which shows a nearly 10 percent decrease in non fatal accidents in private industries in the state from 2007 to 2008.

The Federal Agency Targeting Inspection Program is a nationwide program emphasizing workplace safety and health for federal workers and contractors supervised by federal personnel.

The president of a Charlottesville-based civil liberties group is pushing for a federal investigation into a report of aggressive behavior by a U.S. Census Bureau worker during a visit to an Albemarle County home.

In April alone, Washington pushed for multiple kinds of regulation and legislation aimed at improving safety and environmental records of US industry. Yet — when drafting laws to radically change incentives, overhauling how our industry heads are paid — Congress fails to identify either of these metrics as justification for pay.

A mother whose son died in an on-the-job accident at a Las Vegas hotel is calling for the district attorney or the state attorney general to be called into safety violation cases to conduct possible criminal prosecutions.

Federal health and safety officials are proposing more than $130,000 in fines against a Kia auto supplier in LaGrange, Ga.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined VT Halter Marine Inc. $1,322,000 for a November 2009 explosion and fire that killed two workers and injured two more, the U.S. Department of Labor agency announced.

The Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Feely Elevator for seven violations following the Feb. 4, 2010 accident which led to manager Mark Malecha being partially buried by corn.

Two Jeffboat workers in Kentucky have been killed on the job in less than a week. The latest happened Thursday night when a painter fell from a ladder and landed on a cargo tank.

A man who fell at least 30 feet to his death at Qualcomm Stadium last October was drunk when the incident happened, San Diego city officials said.

A federal advisory panel listened to pleas Wednesday from Western New Yorkers who had family members die of cancer after working in facilities that handled nuclear materials.

More questions than answers surfaced on Friday as OSHA continued its investigation into why a man was crushed to death while moving a 4,500-pound safe inside a bank.

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