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Archive for September, 2010

Acting to restore BP PLC’s reputation in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, incoming Chief Executive Robert Dudley unveiled big changes designed to improve safety and announced the departure of the senior executive who oversaw drilling operations.

The Obama administration is set to release new rules for offshore oil drillers as it prepares to lift a ban on deepwater drilling.

Senate Republicans on Tuesday shot down a Democratic effort to pass legislation strengthening safety protections for the nation’s miners.

A bill to give up to $7.4 billion to workers sickened during the cleanup of World Trade Center site after the Sept. 11 attacks passed in the House on Wednesday after a passionate floor debate in which supporters said they were standing up for heroes.

A group of Georgian corporate executives want to make it easier for companies to freeze their ex-workers out of their industries. They are pushing an amendment to the state constitution to make it easier to enforce so-called “non-compete agreements.”

Arizona’s worker-safety program needs improvement but requires no specific federal intervention, according to an evaluation of fiscal 2009 agency performance released this week by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

When the Census Bureau mobilized thousands of workers to survey neighborhoods around the country, it prioritized job creation as well as outreach to historically undercounted communities. Months later, the statistics are rolling out, and so is a stream of evidence that for all the talk of a more inclusive census, the government’s hiring practices systematically discriminated against people of color.

McDonald’s denies reports it’s considering dropping health care coverage for some employees in response to a provision of the health care overhaul.

A toxicology lab in Oregon uncovered a high-end salon treatment labeled “Brazilian Blowout” that contains 10 percent formaldehyde, raising serious safety questions about extremely high levels of the potent carcinogen. The solution is used in dozens of salons nationwide that advertise the popular hair-straightening treatment.

A Bowling Green, Ohio, graphic arts company has been fined $13,600 by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration after inspections in April found safety violations involving a failure to properly lock out electrical equipment.

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For an agency so widely feared and demonized by American business, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is a relative pushover.

Both of West Virginia’s U.S. senators spoke on the Senate floor Tuesday about the need for new mine safety legislation.

U.S. offshore-drilling regulators, on the verge of making a decision on when and how to lift a deepwater drilling ban imposed after the BP PLC (BP, BP.LN) oil spill, are coming under pressure to act quickly and resume issuing new permits.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health needs to speed up its complaint process and do a better job training inspectors, among other improvements, according to federal labor officials.

A sobering assessment came out this week of the North Carolina agency responsible for ensuring that workplaces in the state are safe. The 41-page report and audit of released Monday by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational and Safety Division took N.C. Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry’s department to task on several worker safety issues.

In the nine years since 9/11, more than 238 scientific studies and medical reports in peer review journals have tried to measure the impact of the dust, smoke and ash of the collapsed World Trade Center on the health of the thousands who were exposed to the contaminated clouds.

The inspector general of the Tennessee Valley Authority is faulting the utility’s management culture and coal ash control procedures for the disastrous 2008 coal ash spill in the Emory River in East Tennessee.

How do you protect someone from something they can’t see? That’s the trick for researchers trying to ensure that workers in the growing business of nanotechnology aren’t threatened by their livelihood.

A recent episode of “Mad Men” (aired on 9/12/10) particularly intrigued me, as a psychologist and author who writes about women’s issues in contemporary society. The episode brilliantly illustrated a cultural phenomenon that I have called “the beauty paradox.”

A General Electric employee was transported to Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Somersworth, Maine, at about 2:51 a.m. Monday, Sept. 20, after he was hit by a large piece of molding equipment that “opened unexpectedly,” according to a GE spokeswoman.

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The U.S. Department of Justice will not seek to revoke BP’s criminal probation for allegedly failing to make safety upgrades at its Texas City refinery following a deadly 2005 explosion, despite pleas from victims’ families to reopen the case.

The U.S. Department of Labor is threatening to yank the state’s authority to oversee safety and health in Hawaii’s workplace, in light of “serious performance problems.”

We all know that stress can lead to problems in one’s health, both physical and mental. However in a very specific case, it has been proven that symptoms of musculoskeletal pain triple in healthcare professionals that endure in home abuse from patients or even in nursing homes.

Fatigue has played a role in airline crashes that have taken nearly 750 lives over the past four decades, and it also has figured in deadly truck and train accidents, an analysis has found.

The Obama administration is edging closer to a decision to end the moratorium on deepwater oil and gas drilling that industry and Gulf Coast lawmakers have attacked since its imposition after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The U.S. Labor Department on Tuesday issued a report that strongly criticized the enforcement of workplace safety in California and ordered the Division of Occupational Safety and Health to fix myriad problems, including a failure to sufficiently train inspectors and to respond promptly to complaints.

More and more these days, revelations of government laxity or corruption are divulged by insiders — employees who see the problems from within and report them to investigators.

The number of Connecticut workers getting sick on the job is falling, but still ranks higher than the national average, a new study shows.

A 23-year-old man received serious burns in an industrial accident Monday at a tomato packing plant, the Merced County, Calif., Sheriff’s Department reported.

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A long-delayed government epidemiological study of possible ties between diesel exhaust and lung cancer in miners may finally be published this fall — but only after a mining industry group, represented by the Washington lobbying powerhouse Patton Boggs, finishes a pre-publication review of the study’s drafts.

In addition to the 29 miners who died in West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in April, another 28 miners were killed in the U.S. during the first eight months of the year in less publicized accidents, according to a safety alert from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

At first, “passive barriers” to prevent the spread of underground coal-mine explosions sound a bit like the old practical joke where you balance a bucket of water on a partly opened door, and the first person who walks through gets drenched.

Doctors, scientists and public health experts began sketching the outlines Wednesday of a large-scale study of the health effects of the BP oil spill on cleanup workers and the public, hoping to include thousands of people in a review funded by BP.

The operator of a Bay Area gas pipeline that exploded in a lethal firestorm earlier this month has reported leaks on similar lines in populated areas at a rate more than six times that of other large pipeline systems across the country, according to a Times analysis.

Stephen Colbert, host of the satirical Colbert Report on Comedy Central, last Friday testified in character before a House Judiciary subcommittee on his experience as a temporary migrant farm worker.

Unable to meet certain national staffing standards, some area fire chiefs are sounding the alarm. Four firefighters should be on each truck per response call, no matter how large the municipality, according to the National Fire Protection Association’s standards. But budgetary constraints mean usually only two or three firefighters are on each truck, and that tests both efficiency and safety.

A Houston lawyer is threatening to seek a court order to force BP to shut down and repair a unit at its Texas City refinery that the attorney alleges is leaking flammable material.

After months of investigation following the death of a man on an oil rig near Killdeer, N.D., in April, two area companies have been issued thousands of dollars in proposed penalties.

Another employee has lost part of a finger at Bimbo Bakeries, a company with plants statewide whose record of workplace accidents was highlighted by The Times last year as an example of inaction by California health and safety officials.

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As the sagging economy triggered massive layoffs, companies have grappled with a rising number of claims that they illegally fired workers on account of age, race, gender or medical condition.

Air Force veteran Tim Wymore has three lesions on his brain, a blood disorder, a damaged esophagus and other health problems, which he believes stem from his exposure to toxins at open-air burn pits where he was stationed in Balad, Iraq.

Oil and gas drilling groups are so upset over a new federal policy requiring workers to wear flame-resistant clothing on well-drilling rigs that they may sue the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Metrorail is safer than it was before the fatal June 2009 Red Line crash, but the transit agency can’t build an effective “culture of safety” unless it convinces employees that they can report problems and close calls without fearing discipline, a top federal safety official said Thursday.

With the death toll from the Sept. 9 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif., now confirmed as seven, state utility regulators announced the creation of an independent review panel to investigate the blast.

An Illinois food distribution company is investigating the death of a warehouse employee at its facility in Ardmore, Calif.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Kinney’s Commercial Inc. in Austin, Texas, with alleged willful, serious and other-than-serious violations for exposing workers to possible excavation cave-ins. Proposed penalties total $40,750.

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Here is the text of remarks given by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to the National Mining Association Executive Board Meeting earlier today:

The BP oil spill not only affected the economy of much of the Gulf Coast, but also the health of the Gulf of Mexico. But what about the health of workers who had to clean up the mess? A new study is designed to look at just that.

Responsibility for chemical security may be shared among federal, state and local governments, as well as the private sector, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s online factsheet on that fearsomely vulnerable area of critical infrastructure. But right now they’re all epically failing us, which make us sitting ducks if there is a catastrophe.

A study of fatal plane crashes released Wednesday found that 2010 has been a deadlier year than normal in Alaska.

Faced with declining mail volume and an unsustainable business model, the USPS is asking for wage and benefit concessions for employees who enjoy better benefits than other public-sector workers.

Nearly two decades ago, I wrote about how refineries and chemical plants along the Gulf Coast avoided reporting their lost-time injuries to federal safety and health regulators.

A representative of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Division of the North Carolina Department of Labor inspected High Point’s Fire Station 4 on Wednesday, Sept. 15 to investigate a complaint of safety violations, in what is apparently an escalation of a conflict between some High Point firefighters and the administration of Fire Chief David Taylor.

On September 15, 2010, Gy Bennar, a former landscaping and maintenance worker for the public golf course at the Clinton-Sherman Industrial Airpark (“CSIA”), filed a whistleblower retaliation charge against the Southwestern Oklahoma Development Authority (“SWODA”), which manages the course, for terminating him in violation of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (“Clean Water Act”) and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

In a settlement with the state, the Michigan City, Ind., Sanitary District agreed Wednesday to pay a former employee and whistleblower $215,000.

Phoenix Fire Department officials said a man was operating a forklift at Hendrix Recycling near Ninth Street and Broadway Road when it collided with a front loader. The forklift rolled over, trapping the driver.

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Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced Tuesday that she will use an executive order to ban the so-called “gas blow” procedure — thought to have been the cause for the deadly Kleen Energy Power Plant explosion in February — in the state until new national standards are put in place.

The public was stunned to learn of the shooting of a physician by a patient’s family member at Johns Hopkins Hospital last Thursday, but what many people don’t know is that violence in hospitals has become an everyday occurrence.

New York City’s firefighters have been embroiled in racial and ethnic politics throughout their history, and the Fire Department’s latest civil rights controversy has stoked a political standoff and a hiring freeze.

During yesterday’s Board of Trustees meeting, speakers lambasted officials over comments made on Sept. 9 that appeared to blame Anthony Ruggiero and John Kelly, firefighters who died after entering a manhole, for failing to follow confined space protocol. At the press conference, the village administrator said that neither of the men were supposed to head into the manhole that day.

Two workers on Tuesday suffered burns while working at BP Plc’s (BP.L) (BP.N) 475,000 barrel per day (bpd) Texas City, Texas, refinery, a company spokesman said.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Columbia Forest Products Inc. for 15 alleged willful and serious violations of workplace safety standards following the March 22 death of a worker at the company’s mill in Presque Isle, Maine.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited McDuffie Box Company Inc. in Thomson, Ga., for alleged safety violations. Penalties total $47,550.

An oil refinery owned by a Texas company has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for lapses in safety measures at the plant, with proposed fines totaling $165,600.

OSHA is now investigating the events leading up to an explosion at a Merrill, Wis., manufacturing plant that sent two workers to the hospital.

A man doing electrical work at a Port Orange warehouse was reportedly killed when he touched a live wire.

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