Archive for January, 2011

Big oil company executives are developing an industry-led, deep-water drilling safety body that could launch within weeks.

Just days before the Deepwater Horizon exploded, the onshore BP PLC manager in charge of the drilling rig warned his supervisor that last-minute procedural changes were creating “chaos” on the rig.

Massey Energy Co. on Friday rejected nearly every part of the federal government’s theory on what caused the deadly explosion at its Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia last spring, killing 29 men.

The strained muscles that affect millions of American workers, from white-collar professionals who spend hours at their computers to poultry workers who process chickens, are proving to be painful as well to the Obama administration.

When President Barack Obama announced a review of U.S. regulations, he said one important goal was to reduce “the burden regulations may place on small business.” But the basis for the widely repeated notion that small firms face undue regulatory obstacles appears flimsy, some researchers say.

State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) introduced legislation Thursday that would prevent California employers from discriminating against medical marijuana patients.

Well, this should spark some controversy: What do minimum wages, price controls, and restrictions on international trade in goods, labor, and capital have in common? They are often presented as ways to help poor people, but they all work to their detriment rather than their benefit.

The Defense Department this month unveiled the T2 Virtual PTSD Experience, a project developed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord that lets users explore the causes and symptoms of combat trauma. It’s intended to help soldiers and their loved ones learn about post-traumatic stress in an anonymous setting.

The Brooklyn tortilla factory where a Guatemalan worker died on Monday after he fell into an industrial dough mixer has been shut down by the state because it has been without workers’ compensation insurance for nearly a year, state officials said Friday.

A survey by Right Management and LinkedIn reveals that workers are less likely than ever to take lunch breaks. But experts warn that this trend might be dangerous.


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For many, no single word evokes as much pain. Challenger. A quarter-century later, images of the exploding space shuttle still signify all that can go wrong with technology and the sharpest minds.

Despite a high-profile, intensified inspections program, authorities say safety violations still abound in the nation’s mines. The Mine Safety and Health Administration said that during its December “impact” inspections, officials issued 288 citations at 17 mines. That was up from 250 citations at 22 mines in November.

You know that West Virginia coal mine that’s the star of Spike TV’s new reality series “Coal,” from the same guy who brings you Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch”? Federal inspectors have cited the Canadian coal company that they say owns the mine for 19 health and safety violations during the nearly three months the TV crew was filming there.

In a recent speech, OSHA administrator David Michaels acknowledged that his agency is under attack as part of the debate on the role of government.

Some of the same business groups President Barack Obama is courting with his regulatory review and support for a corporate-tax overhaul said Thursday they would fight his renomination of former union lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board.

They may not burst into workplaces wielding guns and dogs, but the effects are no less devastating. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) is increasing immigration controls that have a serious impact on immigrants in the workplace using a different—and quieter—tactic.

When Derrick Burts, an adult film actor in California, tested positive for HIV in October, the state’s porn industry came to an abrupt halt. At first, it was just two studios—Vivid Entertainment and Wicked Pictures—that put the brakes on their productions. But before long, a total of five studios had shut down, each one hoping to curtail a potential HIV outbreak. Though the incident ended up yielding no new infections among active porn industry workers, it was nonetheless reminiscent of similar HIV scares within the industry (one of which, in 2004, resulted in the infection of three actors).

Talk to Virginia State Police, and part of the reason this week devolved into absolute gridlock has to do with everybody hitting the road at one time. With the federal government getting out only two hours early, the roadways were already jammed with traffic as heavy snow started to fall around 4:00 p.m.

The U.S. Department of Labor says companies in Louisiana and South Carolina are settling a lawsuit alleging they illegally fired a crane operator in Texas for making safety and health complaints.

West Virginia mining jobs, once predominantly union and well-paying, have become much fewer, much lower-paying and much more likely to be non-union. Non-union mines have notably worse safety records.

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The co-chairs of the presidential panel that investigated last year’s devastating Gulf of Mexico oil spill are urging lawmakers not to drag their feet in dealing with the hazards of offshore drilling.

Separate bills pertaining to mine safety and limiting the authority of the federal Environmental Protection Agency have been introduced in Congress by members of West Virginia’s delegation.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board believes either metal shavings or dust were the source of an explosion that killed three men in a West Virginia factory, but the investigator in charge said Wednesday his team has yet to determine which form ignited or how.

The National Transportation Safety Board appears likely to come down hard on Pacific Gas & Electric in its final report on the pipeline explosion and fire in September that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno, Calif.

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling that medical residents are employees — not students — raises questions beyond whether they should be paying into Social Security and Medicare.

Leadership at Robins Air Force base says they’re working with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to correct dozens of safety violations the Air Logistics Center expects to be cited for. The citations range from insufficient injury-prevention and -reporting to overexposure to cancer-causing agents including lead, cadmium and chromium.

State safety officials think they have significantly improved the way they hold employers accountable for on-the-job accidents, according to a Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration letter sent Tuesday to federal officials, who faulted a state investigation of a stagehand’s death. The 20-year-old part-time stagehand was killed in 2009 by a fall in a showroom at MGM Grand.

The Acadia Hospital employee whose beating last summer at the hands of an out-of-control patient helped trigger a federal investigation is hopeful that working conditions will get better at the 100-bed psychiatric hospital.

A Metro worker was injured when a piece of track equipment bucked as it broke, snapping the worker’s ankle and slowing down trains.

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A watchdog group is accusing the Obama administration of putting public relations ahead of scientific integrity in its communications about the Gulf oil spill.

OSHA has announced that it has temporarily withdrawn from review by the Office of Management and Budget its proposal to restore a column for work-related musculoskeletal disorders on employer injury and illness logs. The agency has taken this action to seek greater input from small businesses on the impact of the proposal and will do so through outreach in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy.

We are mystified by today’s announcement that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is suspending its proposed rule to restore a tracking mechanism for work-related musculoskeletal disorders on employer injury and illness logs.

The US House of Representatives Tuesday fulfilled a Republican pledge to cut federal spending by passing a bill that would to return the government’s budget to the fiscal 2008 level. The bill, which would roll back non-security discretionary spending to levels before the massive economic stimulus measure was enacted, could curtail efforts to improve oversight of offshore drilling operations, sought in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon accident, by denying the funding that the White House has sought for added inspectors.

Today, Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Peter King (R-NY)– the House sponsors of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act– sent a letter to Dr. John Howard, Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), requesting a public meeting in New York City to answer questions about how the new law will be implemented.

After saying in December they would wait for a state report to determine if there were any lessons to be learned in the death of a police recruit, city leaders now plan a full review. The recruit died Dec. 18 after a series of blows to his head earlier in the month during defensive training. The Police Department initially mentioned only a collision with another recruit as a possible cause of his injuries, but public records showed that Kohn had been punched in the head in drills by instructors before and after the collision.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Drive Power Inc. of Newnan, Ga., $79.350 for alleged multiple health and safety violations.

The report on a months-long federal investigation at The Acadia Hospital was released on Tuesday and cited the hospital for failing to provide a safe workplace for employees. The investigation by the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration also faulted the hospital for inadequately documenting work-related injuries and imposed a total fine of $11,700.

A company that employed a worker who died in an accident on the University of Iowa campus Monday was cited for safety violations in 2009 that regulators said put employees’ lives in danger during another project near UI, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

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More than two years after an explosion that killed two workers at the Bayer CropScience plant in Institute, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board released its findings. Federal agencies, particularly the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, that should provide such oversight lack the staff to adequately enforce their own regulations.

Legally required water systems at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia were not functioning properly before the April 5 explosion that killed 29 mineworkers, according to multiple sources familiar with the disaster investigation. Some mine safety experts believe that these safety systems might have helped prevent the explosion if they had been working as designed.

The US Department of the Interior on Monday said it is accepting nominations for a 13-person committee that will advise the agency on offshore drilling technology, oil spill containment and cleanup, and other issues.

With officials from the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission lending an air of urgency, the board that oversees athletic equipment safety finished its annual meeting Saturday vowing to pursue several updates to football helmet standards.

Imagine if you fell off a ladder on the job and broke an elbow, and on the way to the clinic the boss tells you not to say you were hurt at work. He’ll pay the medical bills, he promises. But soon after your surgery, the boss fires you and sticks you with the medical bills. Hard to imagine? Well, it’s the kind of thing that happens among low-wage immigrant workers in Dane County, says a new report by the Workers’ Rights Center in Madison.

Tesoro Corp. is appealing the $2.39 million fine issued by Washington state to an independent board, after the state Department of Labor and Industries affirmed the penalties and violations last month.

Workplace regulators are seeking fines totaling $1.35 million from the operators of two grain elevators in Illinois where three employees suffocated in on-the-job accidents last summer. One of the two workers killed in July at Haasbach LLC’s elevator in Mount Carroll, Ill., was only 14 years old — four years below the minimum age for performing hazardous jobs under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

A federal agency is fining a New Hampshire paper company for intentional safety violations in the death of a 34-year-old worker who was pulled through a paper rolling machine.

Houston-based Greenstar, San Antonio’s recycling processor, claims in a civil lawsuit that it was defrauded by two employees in a scheme involving the disposal of recycling-waste materials.

New York City police and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) are investigating the death of a young worker at a tortilla factory in Brooklyn who fell into a commercial mixer.

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A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday that a man who was fired after his fiancee filed a complaint against their mutual employer may sue for illegal retaliation.

There is no doubt that Richard Volpe is sick, and no doubt that the former police detective spent 9/11 breathing in clouds of soot at the World Trade Center. Yet that is no guarantee that the ex-cop, or many others like him, will qualify for a substantial share of the $2.78 billion Congress has set to compensate people who fell ill after being exposed to ground zero toxins.

Pressed by depression, burnout and anxiety over past medical mistakes, 1 of 16 surgeons said they considered suicide over a 12-month period.

The state of offshore drilling in Alaska’s Arctic can be summed up in one word: uncertain.

Responsibility is key if you’re one of the largest coal companies in America. Which is why Massey Energy does not deserve to be one of them.

CDC Heads Up hosts the first Live Chat on Twitter about concussion in sports with a panel of professional athletes and experts, Thursday, Jan. 27.

Part of the Bannister Federal Complex is contaminated by beryllium that was used to make parts for nuclear bombs, according to a report obtained by The Kansas City Star. But federal officials aren’t saying what that means.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, commonly known as OSHA, is looking into what caused Wednesday’s accident at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove in which two workers were injured after a piece of equipment weighing at least 3,000 pounds came crashing down on them.

One worker died Friday morning after trying to help two unconscious colleagues overcome by ethanol fumes as they cleaned blood plasma from a container at an Atwater Village pharmaceutical company.

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AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the White House’s planned government-wide review of regulations could end up being a “distraction” for agencies already dealing with scarce resources. “To the extent that analysis draws them away from enforcing the regulations and protecting the health and safety of workers, we think it’s a distraction,” Trumka said. “We think we would have rather not seen it.”

The construction trade association Associated Building Contractors (ABC) was one of 150 business groups that received a letter from Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) in December, asking for their ideas about federal regulations “that have negatively impacted job growth.” ABC responded with a list heavy on opposition to labor protections, such as requirements for prevailing wage and labor-management agreements on federal construction projects.

Oregon Senate Republicans want a two-year suspension of all state agency rulemaking because they say excessive government regulation is keeping businesses from creating jobs. The moratorium would include environmental rules and regulations governing business practices. For example, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division is considering rules that would increase penalties for employers cited for serious violations.

Federal authorities say that a fatal 2008 accident at a Bayer CropScience chemical plant in West Virginia could have been prevented by stricter safety auditing, and have recommended a series of steps to avert future disasters. The explosion killed two workers and injured another eight when a 4,000-gallon tank known as a residue treater exploded and, leaving a trail of flames behind it, slammed into a pesticide manufacturing unit.

Two company officials charged in the death of a pregnant teenager who collapsed of heat stroke after working in a sweltering California vineyard have agreed to a plea deal that will likely spare them a trial appearance and a lengthy jail sentence.

Lead Enterprises, a Miami-based recycling and lead manufacturing company, was hit with 32 safety and health violations, and faces more than $300,000 in fines for knowingly neglecting to protect employees from lead exposure, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

A truck driver was killed Wednesday afternoon at a natural gas drilling site when his vehicle overturned, authorities said Thursday. According to Fort Worth police, the truck driver was backing an 18-wheeler hauling water into the pad site when the ground around it gave way, causing the vehicle to overturn.

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