Archive for August, 2010

As the Deepwater Horizon disaster unfolds in the Gulf of Mexico, public health practitioners are having a sinking déjà vu feeling. Once again, environmental disaster has struck, and tens of thousands of emergency responders—some professionals, but many more volunteers—have swung into action, potentially risking their health as they work to clean up the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is preparing for more than 150,000 Vietnam War veterans to apply for benefits in the next 18 months thanks to new regulations making it easier to compensate for health problems caused by exposure to the Vietnam-era defoliant Agent Orange.

Post Office officials say the National Guard has completed an assessment of the air quality at Greenwood, S.C.’s main branch Post Office. Federal Postal Inspectors and the National Guard’s 43rd Combat Support Unit’s Hazmat Team spent most of the day on Monday at the building working to determine the cause of a mysterious odor that postal workers say has plagued the building for nearly three weeks making several postal workers ill.

A Nashville server has filed a complaint with the state claiming that a new law allowing guns in bars creates an unsafe workplace.

A 49-year-old Geneseo, Ill., man who became trapped in a grain bin Friday died of asphyxiation before rescue workers could reach him, Henry County Coroner David Johnson said Monday.

Federal safety officials have fined a Mason County alloy plant $44,000 for alleged safety violations found after a May explosion injured four of the facility’s workers.

A pilot was killed at the Beverly, Mass., Airport Aug. 27 when a moving propeller struck him.

One employee died and another was seriously injured when a forklift collapsed as the men were working on an auto at Beji Dismantling.

Two courses to help employers understand and comply with new Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations will be offered at Gateway Community and Technical College in Florence, Ky., this fall.


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More than eight of ten workers — 85 percent — rank workplace safety first in importance among labor standards, even ahead of family and maternity leave, minimum wage, paid sick days, overtime pay and the right to join a union, according to a new study from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

An oil spill cleanup contractor from Texas has been busing in possibly hundreds of undocumented workers to Battle Creek to work on the cleanup of the Calhoun County oil spill — and having them work nearly 100 hours a week in unsafe conditions, an investigation by Michigan Messenger has found.

The Obama administration this week issued a stern warning to the mining industry: Alerting underground workers of imminent safety inspections is illegal — and will come with repercussions.

People with mental illness who are subjected to the use of physical restraints typically find the experience deeply traumatic and humiliating. David Proffitt, CEO of The Acadia Hospital, said on Thursday that for many patients, it feels similar to being raped.

Mushrooming Marcellus Shale gas well development in Pennsylvania is releasing hazardous chemicals into the air and water, but more study is needed to assess the human health risks they pose, according to Conrad Dan Volz, director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Healthy Environments and Communities.

A Chicago jury has awarded a record $30.4 million to a worker who contracted a serious lung disease following exposure to diacetyl, a chemical ingredient of popcorn butter flavoring.

It was bad enough that SeaWorld put the drowned trainer Dawn Brancheau in mortal danger by having her interact unprotected with a dangerous killer whale, but the way the amusement park continues to handle the situation is disgusting. As people come forward with information or make allegations against them, SeaWorld retaliates with personal attacks.

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) already facing a $420,000 worker endangerment fine for faulty electrical work at a Vermont mail distribution center has now been slapped with a $350,000 fine for similar violations in New Hampshire.

A Rice County, Minn., farmer working to dislodge corn in a grain bin was trapped for about two hours Thursday morning before rescue workers freed him, authorities said.

Roderick Butler, 45, claims his employers would not call 911 when he thought he was having a heart attack because they believed they would be saddled with Butler’s ambulance bill.

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In recent years, one of the most discomforting work force trends was that Hispanics suffered a considerably higher fatality rate from workplace injuries than did workers overall. In its annual census of fatal workplace injuries for 2006, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the fatality rate for Hispanics was 30 percent higher than for the overall work force.

The unemployment rate in North Carolina and around the country may be flirting with double digits, but that isn’t preventing the U.S. Department of Labor from tight enforcement of employment laws.

The BP oil spill is finally contained, with industry and government officials even making the dubious claim that three quarters of the oil is gone. But as speakers at a Poynter Institute training in New Orleans this week discussed, the health risks for thousands of workers cleaning up the spill are still a serious issue shrouded in misinformation and confusion.

A recent Webinar on OSHA violations proved to be quite informative. The headline said it all: “OSHA’s Top 10 Most Cited Violations by Dealers.”

Two Pantex workers were monitored as a precaution after they spilled radioactively contaminated water on their clothes during flood cleanup operations, but follow-up sample results were below detectable limits, Pantex officials said Thursday.

The deadly crash was caused by a contract engineer employed by Connex who ran a red light while text-messaging on a cellphone, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

It took workers at Millard Refrigerated Services 15 minutes to close a valve and stop the leak of a dangerous ammonia gas. It took 20 minutes for the company to call 911.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered the Utah Transit Authority to reinstate a whistle-blower employee and pay more than $130,000 in back wages, interest, damages and attorney’s fees.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited M&G Equipment Group Ltd., doing business as M Construction in Alamo, Texas, with two alleged willful and six alleged serious violations following the death of an employee who was working in a trench installing a storm drainage system.

A man was killed Friday morning when he was pinned between two cargo trucks while working at a FedEx shipping site in west Phoenix.

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Several Connecticut construction industry officials gathered in an informal meeting last week to review data collected regarding the Kleen Energy Power Plant explosion. Together, the officials recommended that the U.S. Occupational and Safety Administration give serious consideration to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s recommendations in order to truly prevent similar future accidents.

Whistleblower Linda Simons, a previous Director of Health and Safety for SeaWorld Orlando, said that a drill had been carried out just weeks before the tragedy…with reportedly disastrous results. She stated that upon review of the results of the exercise that SeaWorld staff had either not responded, or they responded incorrectly. When the incident occurred with Tilikum and Ms. Brancheau just weeks after the failed exercise… staff were placed at greater risk when they were permitted to jump into the medical pool to try to free Ms. Brancheau from Tilikum’s jaws and thrashing body.

Worker deaths fell in 2009, with a significant drop in forestry-related deaths leading the way, according to a preliminary federal report on workplace safety. And while forestry and logging regularly make the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ list for most-dangerous jobs, the industry saw fatal injuries fall by 50 percent last year.

Apparently, the germs of the sneezer in Seat 24C are not the only contagions you can pick up in the cabin: No one is immune to air rage. Bad behavior in the skies could become an epidemic, in fact. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the total incidents of bad passenger behavior increased more than sixfold between 2007 and 2009.

Ray Beatty is looking for former Fernald workers. Beatty, coordinator of a program that offers free health exams for men and women who used to work at the old uranium foundry in Crosby Township, Ohio, is trying to get the word out about an early lung cancer detection program available to them.

An advocacy group that has been campaigning for more government protections for porn performers plans to file a complaint Thursday against mega-producer Larry Flynt Publications, publisher of Hustler.

Deborah Blum’s new history of forensic medicine, The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, will appeal to true crime buffs and labor historians alike.

Federal officials investigating a 2007 fire that killed five workers at a hydroelectric plant said Wednesday that Xcel Energy Inc. and its contractor failed to adequately plan for hazardous work that included taking flammable solvents inside a 4,300-foot tunnel.

Two Los Angeles brothers, joint owners of four car washes, were each sentenced to a year in jail for violations of California overtime laws and various other crimes.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued citations to Calumet Shreveport Lubricants & Waxes LLC in Shreveport, La., for 22 alleged serious violations and two alleged repeat violations of federal health and safety regulations. Penalties total $173,000.

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The husband of the SeaWorld Orlando trainer who was drowned by one of the park’s killer whales has hired a Chicago law firm that specializes in wrongful-death litigation. It is the first public sign of a fissure between the Brancheau family and Orlando-based SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.

In a year when California faces a $19 billion budget deficit, how do politicians in Sacramento propose to solve it? By pushing cities, counties, and the state into deeper financial peril in order to reward their benefactors.

Home care workers–the folks who provide essential care and services to more than 13 million seniors and people with disabilities every day–are legally excluded from federal minimum wage and overtime protections.

The U.S. Department of Labor intends to fine the U.S. Postal Service Bulk Mail Center in Kansas City, Kan., for “numerous serious and repeat safety violations.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched an investigation into the fatal bear mauling of Brent Kandra at the North Marks Road home where Sam Mazzola kept numerous exotic animals.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Quality Engineered Steels LLC, doing business as West Virginia Cold Drawn, for a multitude of workplace safety and health violations including noise and respiratory hazards at its Point Pleasant, W.Va., facility. Proposed penalties total $69,250.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) opened an investigation on Tuesday into whether there were violations of federal workplace safety standards at the Sysco warehouse in Norton, Mass., after a loading dock worker there was crushed on Sunday night.

Five people were hospitalized in intensive care Tuesday as federal investigators sought the cause of an ammonia leak a day earlier in a plant that freezes chickens.

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A report points out that many of DeCoster’s workers are undocumented immigrants forced to live in filthy, rat-infested housing, as well as breathe dangerous fumes. DeCoster paid fines for violating federal child labor laws and forcing workers to handle chicken carcasses with their bare hands.

There were clues leading up to three major energy disasters this year. The BP Deepwater Horizon spill, Massey Energy’s coalmine explosion in Virginia and Enbridge’s pipeline spill in Michigan all happened on top of stacks of safety violations the companies had lodged against them.

The nation’s top offshore energy regulator said Monday that the federal government’s ban on deep-water drilling could be lifted for certain kinds of rigs before it expires on Nov. 30.

U.S. federal regulators blasted SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment yesterday for allowing animal trainers to work with killer whales without adequate protection, concluding a six-month investigation into the violent drowning of a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando.

Federal mine-safety officials this weekend launched an experimental program designed to reduce the backlog of contested mine-safety violations — a backlog federal officials say has hampered their efforts to protect the nation’s miners.

Months after Arizona politicians passed S.B. 1070, the controversial and now delayed immigration law, the right wingers are going on the attack against not just hispanic workers, but all workers.

The report from Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH), this state’s workplace safety enforcement agency, cites the Department of Juvenile Services for five serious safety violations in the aftermath of Ms. Hannah Wheeling’s murder at the hand of one of her students (“Employees broke safety protocol the day teacher was killed,” Aug. 21). Yet the recommendations to DJS might as well be stamped “Keep Up Business as Usual”.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board released a preview of a safety video Tuesday, detailing its findings from the the Oct. 7, 2007, fire at Xcel Energy’s Cabin Creek hydroelectric plant near Georgetown, Colo., that left five works dead and another three injured.

The Acadia Hospital is the subject of a federal investigation into high rates of injuries among its employees amid allegations that policy changes, understaffing and inadequate training have led to unsafe working conditions at the Bangor, Maine, psychiatric hospital.

A Miami shooting range was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for knowingly neglecting to protect employees who clean gun ranges from serious overexposure to lead.

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Federal workplace safety officials on Monday fined SeaWorld $75,000 following an investigation into the death of a trainer at the company’s Orlando park six months ago.

Sea World did not do enough to keep its employees safe from killer whale Tilikum, with officials telling trainers that anyone who got into a pool with him “would come out as a corpse,” the park’s former head of safety is alleging. Linda Simons, who was fired from her job at Sea World in the wake of the investigation into trainer Dawn Brancheau’s death, is now speaking out on what she calls questionable or even dangerous safety practices at the Florida park that could result in another tragedy.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced this week that the agency has fined the U.S. Postal Service $225,000 for safety violations at its Dayton, OH processing center and $350,000 for safety violations at its Portsmouth, NH processing and distribution center, bringing the total fines to 2.4 million dollars since April 2010.

The military must make sure supervisors have access to soldiers’ personnel records and be aware of signs of potential workplace violence, the Defense Department said on Friday in its final report on the Fort Hood shootings.

1. The Employee Free Choice Act

2. Labor Dept. rules for employers justifying worker classifcation

3. New OHSA plan forcing employers to track injuries

4. Federal agencies to union-only labor agreements

There are rotten apples in every industry. Or perhaps I should say rotten eggs.

Connecticut employers have a legal responsibility to maintain a safe workplace environment for employees and labor attorneys and security experts agree companies need to do more to meet that obligation.

The Communications Workers of America, the largest union in the telecommunications industry, spent $225,000 in the second quarter to lobby the federal government on worker safety and other issues, according to a disclosure report.

State workplace safety investigators are mulling possible citations against the North Charleston, S.C., Fire Department for its handling of a July house fire that left three firefighters injured.

There didn’t appear to be any safety equipment in place to protect a Radford, Va., man killed when a trench wall collapsed on him, the city’s fire chief said Monday.

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