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Archive for October, 2010

Only 10 percent of Metro employees said they had not witnessed a safety breach in the past year, according to an unprecedented safety survey completed in July by more than 9,300 workers. Almost 30 percent said they did not know if they had.

BP declined to comment on almost all aspects of the recent reports that ProPublica and PBS FRONTLINE did on the company’s safety and culture. Yet on Monday, in his first public address since becoming BP’s CEO, Robert Dudley said that he did not believe BP had a safety problem and warned that the ProPublica and Frontline reports would be unflattering.

Massey Energy’s top safety officer and at least five other company officials have refused to answer questions from government investigators who are trying to determine the cause of the worst U.S. coal-mining disaster in 40 years.

Halliburton is back in the spotlight, and once again, in an uncomfortable way. On Thursday, a government investigation panel said that Halliburton might have played an important role in the April explosion of the Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico by supplying cement that the company knew was unstable to BP, which used it to seal the well. Halliburton has repeatedly blamed BP, the owner of the well, of failing to test the cement and making other errors that led to the accident, which killed 11 people and spewed millions of barrels of crude oil into the gulf.

Hydraulic scissor lifts, used for observing and videotaping practices, have hovered above college and NFL fields for decades. Yet a uniform set of safety standards for them doesn’t exist.

In response to the killing of a nurse at the Contra Costa County jail in Martinez, Calif., on Monday, state Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi has announced that she will sponsor legislation to strengthen workplace violence protections for medical personnel in correctional facilities.

An American study of more than 200 Chinese factory workers has found a link between plastic feedstock bisphenol A in urine and potential reproduction problems like decreased sperm count and vitality.

The recent New Mexico Court of Appeals case of May v. DCP Midstream illustrates as clearly as anything the lack of worker’s remedies for work injuries caused by their employer’s negligence. The case shows the absolute disdain for worker safety embodied by the Worker’s Compensation Act which is purportedly for the protection of workers.

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries has created a new website with information to help victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking in the workplace.

Officials at the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health say last month’s federal audit calling for better training and quicker complaint resolution missed the mark, relying on outdated information and poor communication for many of its criticisms.

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Halliburton and BP knew weeks before the fatal explosion of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico that the cement mixture they planned to use to seal the bottom of the well was unstable but still went ahead with the job, the presidential commission investigating the accident said on Thursday.

In 2002, drug maker GlaxoSmithKline PLC sent one of its quality-assurance managers, Cheryl Eckard, to Puerto Rico to help clean up a mess at one of its biggest manufacturing plants. U.S. authorities had just cited the plant for several violations, including making a contaminated ointment used to treat skin infections on children.

A GOP-led House would—spurred by its Chamber of Commerce paymasters—certainly slash enforcement funds even as OSHA’s current dedicated leadership is facing steep obstacles in achieving reform.

A Rehobeth, Ala., man faces multiple felony charges after police say he passed himself off as a potential home buyer and safety inspector as part of a theft of property scheme.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited C & F Packing Company Inc. of Lake Villa, Ill., with two alleged willful and 12 serious violations for failing to ensure lockout procedures and guarding devices were applied to machinery. Proposed fines total $140,700.

A New York businessman has pleaded guilty in federal court to failing to conduct an inspection before an asbestos removal project, exposing workers and neighbors to deadly asbestos fibers.

The death of a Notre Dame junior who fell from a tower while filming football practice is being investigated by Indiana’s workplace safety agency.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and police officials are trying to determine why an automated tram at the Bush Intercontinental Airport hit two men working along the track on Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 11:30 a.m., as reported by the Houston Chronicle.

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Our coverage of BP this week examined the company’s role in the industry, comparing it with other oil giants in terms of production, spills and worker-safety violations. One thing we had to leave out was worker fatalities. That’s because of a quirk in how OSHA, the federal agency charged with protecting workplace safety, keeps track of the information: OSHA lists deaths according to the company that employed the dead workers, not by the company responsible for their deaths.

 

New BP CEO Bob Dudley isn’t happy with me. Well, not just me—all of the reporters who dug into BP’s past safety problems and raised questions about the mistakes the company made on the road to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. And he’s also mad at the environmentalists and scientists who raised the alarm in the wake of the spill, and the American politicians who relentlessly bashed BP and even the other oil company CEOs who not so subtly threw BP in front of the bus.

Plans to fix the embattled whistleblower program within the Occupational Safety & Health Administration hit another snag as the union representing the affected employees has filed unfair labor practice charges over being frozen out of deliberations.

This week Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, called Anita Hill and left a message on her answering machine inviting her to apologize for testifying during Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings. The call brought back, with surprising immediacy, those 1991 hearings. For those too young to remember, the hearings may be little more than a paragraph in a history text. But it’s hard to overstate their importance.

U.S. airline officials said Tuesday that voluntary industry moves to step up outside audits, refine pilot training and increase data-sharing have significantly boosted safety among the nation’s commuter carriers.

A national study of physician wages conducted by UC Davis Health System has found that specialists are paid as much as 52 percent more than primary-care doctors, even though primary-care doctors see far more patients.

In June the ESPN Zone restaurant in Baltimore’s trendy Inner Harbor shopping and entertainment district closed after workers were given just a week’s notice and state regulators were given only one day notice. In a class-action lawsuit filed Monday naming ESPN Zone’s owner Disney, five workers allege this was a violation of the WARN Act, which requires at least 60 days notice—or 60 days severance pay—in the case of mass layoffs at companies with 100 or more employees.

Defense attorneys for Joshua Turnidge on Tuesday accused the state of participating in a “cover-up” to hide Oregon State Police Senior Trooper William Hakim’s alleged negligence in handling the bomb that killed him and another police officer.

Two people are recovering from burns suffered at a Bertie County, N.C., chicken processing plant Monday. The plant continues its work, but the company in charge is saying very little.

Could your desk job be fatal? Those who sit for hours at a time – even if they regularly work out at the gym – are at an increased risk for an early death, according to research reported in Men’s Health.

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Just weeks before the explosion, President Obama had announced a historic expansion of deep-water drilling in the Gulf, where BP held the majority of the drilling leases. The administration considered the environmental record of drilling companies in the Gulf to be excellent. It didn’t ask questions about BP, and it didn’t consider that the company’s long record of safety violations and environmental accidents might be important, according to Carol Browner, the White House environmental adviser.

The Interior Department is reviewing its first request to conduct deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico since it lifted the ban on such activities last week, officials said Friday.

BP PLC’s new chief executive, Bob Dudley, launched a feisty defense of his company’s response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill this year, accusing the media and some people in the oil industry of fear-mongering and a “rush to judgment” that exacerbated the crisis.

In an unusually public spat, the independent watchdogs inside a dozen federal agencies are alleging government officials have hindered sensitive investigations on topics ranging from missing federal firearms to computer security breaches. The interference, they say, is undermining the very accountability Congress intended when it enacted the Inspectors General Act more than three decades ago.

The nine largest U.S. passenger airlines posted cumulative net income (profit) of $1.45 billion for the three months ending June 30, according to Air Transport News. But how did airlines turn their fortunes around and what does it mean for passengers and airline employees, who can both arguably be described as long-suffering victims of greed in the sky?

The tragedy of John Mackey was one of a string of highly-publicized cases
that has eventually forced the NFL to end many years of intransigence on the issue, and come to grips with the debilitating brain damage resulting from the thousands of collisions players undergo throughout their careers.

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.

Public health advocates, porn industry representatives and performers past and present gathered in Oakland on Monday to discuss workplace protection law and whether a more tailored regulation specifically requiring condom use on adult film sets is necessary.

It’s a common misunderstanding is that physicians who are owners of a practice are not subject to OSHA requirements. That may have been be true for that old Marcus Welby-type solo practitioner situation, but not for most practices organized as a professional corporation.

Republican businessman Scott Rigell, who has made streamlining government regulation of businesses a centerpiece of his congressional campaign, has faced problems with federal safety regulations that resulted in thousands of dollars in fines over the past 16 years at two of his auto dealerships, according to federal records.

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  • Tesoro appeals $2.39M fine for WA refinery blast

Tesoro Corp. is appealing the $2.39 million fine issued by the state in the wake of a deadly explosion at its Anacortes oil refinery in April.
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2013235238_apwatesororefinery.html

  • Drug testing poses quandary for employers

Two decades after the Supreme Court first upheld the right to test for drugs in the workplace, Dura’s concern — that employees on certain medications posed a safety hazard — is echoing around the country. The growing reliance of Americans on powerful prescription drugs for pain, anxiety and other maladies suggests that many are reporting to work with potent drugs in their systems, and employers are grappling for ways to address that.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/25/us/25drugs.html?_r=2&hp

  • U.S. looks to British model to improve offshore drilling safety

Even as the Obama administration allows offshore oil and gas operations to resume, government officials are working on a new safety strategy modeled after a British system that has substantially reduced oil spills.
http://articles.latimes.com/2010/oct/24/nation/la-na-oil-spill-reform-20101024

  • Safety culture intensifies post-moratorium

While the explosion of the BP-leased rig is being credited with a wave of regulatory changes, the fact is that the industry faces similar and less-dramatic challenges practically each and every year.
http://www.dailycomet.com/article/20101024/ARTICLES/101029623/1214?Title=Safety-culture-intensifies-post-moratorium

  • Gun powder manufacturer fined $1.2M, issues 54 citations after deadly explosion

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued 54 workplace safety and health citations with penalties totaling $1.2 million to gun powder substitute manufacturer Black Mag LLC, following an investigation into the causes of a deadly explosion in May at the company’s worksite in Colebrook, N.H.
http://www.reliableplant.com/Read/27139/Gun-powder-manufactured-fined

  • The most dangerous part of your job could be walking through the front door

You’re much safer whizzing down the highway than walking through the entranceway at work. So says Liberty Mutual’s Workplace Safety Index.
http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-most-dangerous-part-of-your-job-could-be-walking-through-the-front-door-105695638.html

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced yesterday that nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses among private industry employers declined in 2009 to a rate of 3.6 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers, down from a total case rate of 3.9 in 2008. BLS also reported a decline in the total number of cases from 3.7 million in 2008 to 3.3 million in 2009.

One would think that the Secretary of Labor would acknowledge this greater commitment to safety demonstrated by both private sector employers AND their employees. Unfortunately, in her statement accompanying the release, Secretary Solis leaves the impression she thinks that employers are juking the stats.

Federal prison staff and inmates faced primitive and hazardous working conditions in an electronic waste recycling program that violated more than 30 job safety requirements, according to a long-awaited government report.

The industry already is supposed to use condoms on-set, according to state workplace-health officials. In fact, the state has issued about 30 citations related to the unsafe exposure to blood-borne pathogens on-set and other alleged violations since 2004 — the time of another HIV outbreak in the industry.

Democrats are warning that if Republicans capture the House—and perhaps also the Senate—in this November’s election, they would abolish cabinet departments, repeal Obamacare, and privatize social security. They might want to do these things, but they won’t be able to overcome a Senate filibuster or a presidential veto. What they will be able to do, however, is undermine the work of regulatory agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The hottest Black Friday deals tend to come in limited quantities, rewarding the shoppers that camp out in front of the store in the wee hours of the morning to be first in line. When you combine zealous bargain hunters and a short supply of discounted items, there are bound to be problems.

“I don’t like to stir the pot and cause trouble,” 31-year-old Molly Scrutton, a hairstylist in Portland, Ore., told a reporter for the Oregonian newspaper earlier this week. “But if I believe something is wrong, I’ll stand up and say so.”

Vestas Wind Systems is denying connections between U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, violations and skin allergy dermatitis that cost two employees their jobs.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Houston-based Igloo Products Corporation with 14 alleged serious, two alleged repeat and four alleged other-than-serious violations for exposing workers to multiple safety hazards. Proposed penalties total $113,500.

The producers of “Transformers 3” have assured an Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspector they will make sure the type of accident that left an extra seriously injured “never happens again,” according to documents obtained by the Tribune.

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Industry trade associations are masters of using scare tactics and misinformation about environment, health and safety regulations to recruit and retain members. The latest evidence is the Chamber of Commerce’s “This Way to Jobs” propaganda campaign, with the worn out message: regulations on workers’ safety and environmental protection hurt the economy and businesses.

“Patient Zero,” the Los Angeles porn star whose positive HIV test shut down four studios, apparently did not affect any of his or her partners. The first round of tests, at least, indicates as much.

Amid its investigation into a Coast Guard boating crash that killed an 8-year-old San Diego boy, the National Transportation Safety Board in August issued a memo underscoring the hazards of using cell phones and other wireless devices while operating a craft.

Some of the inmates working in a U.S. prison program to break up computer equipment for recycling were exposed to toxic levels of lead and cadmium, according to a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general released on Thursday.

All of a sudden, the NFL wants to look tough on concussions. This is less a matter of compassion and more an issue of self-preservation.

The owner and the manager of a San Francisco printing company where a pregnant employee was killed in a machine accident in 2008 appeared in court this morning on manslaughter charges.

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