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Archive for June, 2010

Showing a disregard for the safety of workers can get you in trouble in this country. But unfortunately, not enough trouble.

Early on June 5, 2008, a piece of steel tubing ruptured on BP PLC’s vast Atlantis oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

You’d think that more than 20 years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, scientists would know what, if any, long-term health dangers face the thousands of workers needed to clean up the Gulf of Mexico spill. You’d be wrong.

Record levels of potentially harmful chemicals have been detected by UC Irvine researchers in the air around the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) on Tuesday said newly proposed mine safety reforms — floated earlier in the day by some key Democrats — aren’t focused enough on the problems they’re intended to fix.

By law, people who work outside in the heat must be provided with shade, water and heat illness training. But critics have said the existing rules are too vague.

OSHA’s Severe Violators Enforcement Program (SVEP) directive went into effect June 18th. The program targets employers who willfully and repeatedly endangering workers by exposing them to serious hazards in the workplace.

A VA hospital in St. Louis may have exposed more than 1,800 veterans to diseases including HIV and hepatitis.

Porn actors and actresses Tuesday protested the possible strengthening of rules requiring condom use in adult movies at a California occupational health and safety hearing in downtown Los Angeles.

Last week, Pennsylvania roofing contractor Christopher Franc was sentenced to three years’ probation and six months’ house arrest for willful safety violations that resulted in the death of a worker, 29-year-old Carl Beck, who plunged 40 feet to his death while working on a steep roof last August. Investigators found that Franc had failed to provide any fall-protection equipment to his workers.

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Amazingly, BP “continues to pretend that – just like an oil spill of this magnitude could never happen – there also could not possibly be a worker health concern.”

For the second time in a week, Massey Energy Co. has taken legal action against federal regulators who are investigating the April explosion that killed 29 miners at one of the company’s West Virginia mines.

Democrats in Congress are drafting legislation that would make it easier to shut mines with repeated safety violations, such as the Massey Energy Co. coal mine where 29 men died in an April explosion.

Members of the federal agency investigating the Feb. 7 Kleen Energy power plant explosion are recommending the prohibition of the use of natural gas during “gas blows.”

For years, federal aviation officials have known that cockpit window heaters in some Boeing planes catch fire, but they have yet to require airlines to resolve the problem, the Associated Press reports.

SeaWorld has reached out to the federal agency investigating the February death of a killer-whale trainer at SeaWorld Orlando about the possibility of negotiating a settlement even before the safety probe is complete, according to a source familiar with the inquiry.

A state advisory panel exploring whether condoms should be mandatory in adult film production will meet Tuesday to discuss whether changes should be made to worker safety laws.

Two former adult film actresses are suing the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation. They allege the Sherman Oaks-based foundation that tests adult film performers for sexually transmitted diseases violated their privacy by releasing their health information online.

A man who uses medical marijuana to treat symptoms of an inoperable brain tumor and cancer claims in a lawsuit filed Tuesday he was wrongfully fired from a Walmart store in Battle Creek, Mich., after testing positive for the drug.

OSHA cited the United States Postal Service with three alleged willful violations at the processing center. It issued $210,000 in fines for “severe and ongoing” electrical and protective equipment hazards following an OSHA inspection prompted by employee complaints.

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In years past, on-the-job, environmental-related accidents rarely led to criminal charges, but that is changing.

The federal government should consider barring oil giant BP from drilling on federal land or holding onto its existing leases, says a recently retired federal attorney who spent years dogging BP’s operations in Alaska.

Key House Democrats on Friday pressed the Interior Department to work with the administration’s workplace safety experts — not just the oil industry — as it crafts rules to protect workers offshore.

In both cases, natural gas accumulated during the pipe-cleaning procedure, known as a “gas blow,” and ignited. Workplace safety groups say using air or nitrogen to purge pipes would be safer.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an investigation into the U.S. Census Bureau office in Grand Junction, which earlier this year was inundated by fumes from a marijuana-growing operation in the same building.

Sponsored by state Sen. Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn) and Lancman, the legislation will increase penalties for assaulting taxi drivers and require each taxi cab to post a sign reading, “Warning: Assaulting a taxi driver is punishable by up to twenty-five years in prison.”

In the span of barely a week, a second Kentucky coal miner has been killed in an underground mining operation. The death of Bobby Smith in a James River Coal Company mine near Hazard on April 24 brings to 39 the number of coal miners killed so far this year.

OSHA has cited Schneider Electric, doing business as Square D, for alleged workplace safety violations following the electrocution fatality of a worker at the company’s facility in El Paso, Texas.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the U.S. Postal Service for alleged willful and repeat violations of safety standards following an inspection at the Southern Maine Processing and Distribution Center in Scarborough, Maine. The Postal Service faces a total of $430,000 in fines, chiefly for exposing workers to electrical hazards.

OSHA has cited Sneed Shipbuilding Inc. for alleged serious, repeat, and other-than-serious violations for exposing employees to electrical and other safety hazards at the company’s 35-acre facility in Channelview, Texas. Proposed penalties total $59,300.

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In the weeks leading up to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, worker safety standards for offshore oil rigs were voluntary and developed in consultation with the oil industry but not safety experts, a senior Interior official told Congress Wednesday.

In the wake of the BP oil spill, efforts have been afoot on the part of the Obama administration to ban drilling off the U.S. coast outright, ostensibly to stop future disasters like that which continues to unfold in the Gulf.

A massive federal investigation is trying to figure out what went wrong at the Deepwater Horizon rig. Now members of a public-private safety program say the explosion that brought on the Gulf crisis might have been prevented with another layer of safety inspections.

This week’s bombshell from the Labor Department Office of Inspector General raises lots of questions, among them why the folks at the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration didn’t previously reveal a major change to the way they implemented the Pattern of Violations program.

When a child is sick, the last thing a parent should be worried about is her next paycheck. Yet that’s the perverse dilemma that besets millions of workers in an economy that’s radically out of sync with the rhythms of modern family life.

The Austin City Council took new steps to protect construction workers. Last year seven people died at construction sites — prompting the council to pass tougher regulations.

More and more Americans are freelancing today, as traditional 9-5 jobs seem to disappear faster than ice melting in the hot summer sun. Freelance (or contract) workers find themselves completely unprotected by current labor laws, which were designed for 9-5 workers.

OSHA has ordered U.S. Bank in Seattle to reinstate a former bank manager, who was fired in retaliation for filing an internal report alleging securities and bank fraud by company employees, finding that the bank fired the employee in violation of the whistleblower protection provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

A federal judge indicated Thursday he is not yet persuaded to suppress the release of a federal investigative report from the 2007 deadly Cabin Creek Hydro Plant accident but delayed ruling on whether the public should eventually be able to see it.

The owner of a Pittsburgh-area construction firm will spend three years on probation, including six months’ house arrest, for willingly violating federal workplace safety rules that contributed to a worker’s death in August.

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The Obama administration is drafting new offshore worker-safety rules using input from the oil industry but not its own workplace safety experts, a senior Interior Department official told House lawmakers Wednesday.

A review by the Department of Labor has found that federal mine safety regulators may have improperly excluded more than 10 coal mines with a recent history of safety and health violations from inspections.

BP PLC has applied 272,000 gallons of dispersants to the surface of the Gulf of Mexico in the four weeks since U.S. EPA directed the company to stop using the chemicals, except “in rare cases” when other approaches to fighting the ongoing oil leak proved unworkable, according to government records.

Rep. Diana DeGette and the natural gas industry are actively negotiating a plan to require public disclosure of the sometimes toxic chemicals that drillers use to flush gas out of the ground, according to sources on both sides of the talks.

The Florida Department of Health has begun an investigation of ‘sanitary nuisance’ health complaints filed with the Department by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) over the lack of use of condoms in films produced by Florida’s fast growing adult film industry.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein yesterday approved a settlement to compensate 10,000 workers who claim illnesses from rescue, recovery and debris removal after the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack.

An Austin, Texas, public transit agency spent more than $61,000 in legal fees fighting a $500 Occupational Health and Safety Administration fine, observers say.

Emergency crews dug out a construction worker who was trapped in a trench after it collapsed this afternoon, authorities said.

Less than 90 minutes into opening day of the Sonoma-Marin, Calif., Fair Wednesday, a carnival worker’s leg was severed when he walked into the path of a moving roller coaster filled with young children.

Two employees of NSTAR were injured this afternoon as the result of some type of explosion at the utility’s Charlestown facility, according to Boston police.

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Federal safety investigators would probably shut down the World Cup soccer playoffs if they were being held in the U.S. The noise levels saturating the stadium in Pretoria far exceed the legal limits for sound, and scientists warn that deafness may result.

Following criticism and questions about its illness data, Deepwater Horizon Unified Command—a response center involving BP, Transocean, Halliburton, the Coast Guard and multiple federal agencies—appears to have tweaked its recording of worker illnesses in the Gulf.

The worker-safety standards in place for offshore oil rigs before the Deepwater Horizon blast two months ago were voluntary and developed in consultation with the oil industry, a senior official at the retooled Minerals Management Service (MMS) told lawmakers today.

Today the House EdLabor Committee, chaired by Rep. George Miller, is hosting a hearing called “Worker Health and Safety from the Oil Rig to Shoreline.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration “will use not just our normal inspection system, but regulation by shaming” against notorious job safety and health violators, its administrator says.

A Department of Labor program set up to protect workers who blow the whistle on their employers may not be providing very much protection at all.

It’s illegal to demote or fire an employee for reporting hazardous conditions at work. But in California, safeguards for whistleblowers are little more than words on paper, advocates for workers say.

Silver Eagle Refinery this week received a $1 million fine from state safety regulators, a fine five times greater than the combined total of all the fines for safety violations assessed against all of Utah’s oil refineries over the last decade.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched an investigation into the death of a contractor killed during a live fire drill at Fort Bragg, officials said today.

A Port Authority worker has been suspended and accused of going on a rampage inside his workplace with a baseball bat.

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Job-related injury and death are more prevalent among Hispanic workers than for any other demographic in the U.S. workforce.

Until yesterday’s Supreme Court decision, consumers and employees had the right to go to court and ask a judge to find an arbitration agreement unconscionable or unfair, and therefore unenforceable.

Nausea, vomiting, nosebleeds, headaches, and chest pain: these are just some of the identical symptoms reported by people working around BP’s oil in the Gulf Coast.

There are “large gaps” in data now being gathered on the health of the 34,000 workers cleaning up the largest oil spill in U.S. history, and growing concern that BP Plc will fail to publicize problems if they do arise.

OSHA isn’t new, but its permanent presence in Nevada is. The opening of a Las Vegas office in May is this year’s biggest change in enforcement of the state’s employment law, according to two local attorneys.

OSHA has ordered the Iowa Interstate Railroad, headquartered in Cedar Rapids, to make amends for censuring a train conductor who was disciplined in reprisal for reporting a workplace injury.

Nestled between Newark and Jersey City, just seven miles from the heart of Manhattan, lies one of the country’s biggest chemical weapons, according to a new report.

OSHA has cited Ford’s Woodlawn, N.Y., Stamping Plant with an alleged willful violation of safety standards for not repairing or removing unsafe overhead cranes from service. OSHA says the investigation began with a complaint from workers at the plant.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Creekstone Farms Premium Beef LLC of Arkansas City, Kan., for allegedly exposing workers to a potential catastrophic release of ammonia at its meat processing facility. Proposed violations total $130,000.

Nicholas Burdette, 22, was found dead inside the mall Sunday, but police are awaiting autopsy results to determine if his death is related to a leak of R-22 refrigerant.

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