Archive for March, 2011

In the year since the worst U.S. mining disaster in four decades, the federal mine-safety agency has been engaged in the most extensive enforcement blitz in its history, imposing large fines and shutting down troubled operations. Inspectors for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration have been descending on mines at odd hours, seizing phones so miners underground can’t be alerted and finding, in some cases, accidents waiting to happen.

Despite escalating safety concerns prior to the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, federal regulators never hit the Massey Energy operation with one of their toughest tools: fines of up to $220,000 each for “flagrant” safety violations, officials confirmed this week.

To address the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan and subsequent crises at the nuclear power plants, this webinar will educate physicians and other health care professionals on medical and public health implications of radiation events from scenarios of individual patient exposure to a population-based exposure.

A former manager at one of California’s two nuclear power stations sued the facility’s operators on Wednesday, claiming he was fired in retaliation for reporting safety concerns at the plant.

Honeywell International pleaded guilty in federal court March 11 to knowingly storing hazardous waste without a permit at its southern Illinois facility, a felony. Toxic uranium byproducts were held in 55-gallon metal drums. Workers said the radioactive, corrosive slurry started eating through the walls of the drums within months. The violations occurred at Honeywell’s uranium conversion plant in Metropolis, Illinois, where the corporation locked out 228 Steelworkers last June. Union members say they blew the whistle repeatedly, alerting regulators to the hazards years before any action was taken.

The patient database of the private health clinic that conducts STD tests for California’s porn industry has been breached, exposing test results and personal details about thousands of current and former porn performers, some of which have been published on a Wikileaks-style website.

California workplace safety officials have fined Larry Flynt’s Hustler Video and another porn producer for not using condoms on set to protect sex performers from exposure to disease.

Timing their pitch to coincide with today’s opening day of the new baseball season, public health officials from 15 cities have called on Major League Baseball and the players’ union to rid the game of smokeless tobacco products.

The situation at the Evergreen Oil refinery, where an explosion Tuesday morning caused a two-alarm fire and injured one employee, has stabilized, and Cal-Osha officials are at the scene to investigate, authorities said.

The gunman shoved Mia Ramos into the restroom of a Blockbuster in McLean. If she did what he said, Ramos recalled the masked man telling her, he would be her “friend for the night.” Then he tied her hands behind her back, turned off the lights and locked her inside.

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The Supreme Court appeared closely divided on Tuesday during arguments over the theory put forth by the plaintiffs in an enormous sex discrimination class-action suit against Wal-Mart.

A Bloomberg News report that the U.S. Justice Department is considering manslaughter charges in its investigation of BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico played prominently enough Tuesday to drive BP’s share price down.

There are about 9 million workplaces in the U.S., employing 130.3 million workers. More than 85%, or 111.5 million, are employed in private industry. OSHA’s injury/illness recordkeeping rule applies to about 1.36 million worksites, or 18 percent of all U.S. private sector workplaces. OSHA does not require employers with 10 or fewer employees, or those involved in many retail, financial, and service industries to follow these recordkeeping requirements.

Tonight Spike TV and executive producer Thom Beers (Emmy Award-winning “Deadliest Catch,” “Ice Road Truckers,” “Black Gold” “Ax Men”) shines his light on the dirtiest and one of the most dangerous energy hunts with a new series called “Coal.” The Spike series follows CEO Mike Crowder and his Cobalt Coal Corporation over a three-month period between November 2010 and January 2011.

Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels, who heads OSHA, recently acted to counter the idea that the agency’s regulations kill jobs. In an opinion piece in the March 11 Wall Street Journal, Michaels responded to a previous Journal article by James Gattuso of the Heritage Foundation. Gattuso had described Michaels’ notion that regulation can spur technology and economic growth as “nonsense on stilts.”

An inspector with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is charged in Kansas with lying about performing inspections at work sites.

Federal authorities announced Tuesday 17 alleged serious workplace safety violations against Volvo Aero Connecticut at the same time that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was touring the Newington airplane-parts maker.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued Jefferson’s Tyson Foods 10 safety citations for failing to comply with general industry occupational safety regulations. The company faces penalties totaling $45,000 as a result of an OSHA inspection conducted in October of 2010.

He’s been isolated from the crowds at SeaWorld Orlando for over a year, but now, Tilikum has made his big return. Thirteen months after killing a trainer at the theme park, Tilikum took part in SeaWorld’s signature killer whale show, “Believe,” Wednesday morning.

Officials on Long Island are investigating the death of a recycling plant worker who was crushed in heavy machinery. Police say 44-year-old Augustin Colon, of Westbury, was under a debris sorting conveyor belt at Emjay Environmental Recycling in Brentwood when he apparently got his arm lodged in the belt and became trapped in a piece of machinery.

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Federal prosecutors are considering whether to pursue manslaughter charges against BP Plc (BP/) managers for decisions made before the Gulf of Mexico oil well explosion last year that killed 11 workers and caused the biggest offshore spill in U.S. history, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The Maryland House of Delegates passed legislation, on Saturday, that would ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in employment, housing and credit.

Two Reuters journalists were released by Syrian authorities on Monday, two days after they were detained in Damascus.

A freelance journalist who worked for Reuters was among at least 20 people killed on Tuesday when gunmen attacked a local government building in Tikrit, the hometown of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

How can so many good appointees, who unionists agree understand the issues, apparently display so little power during two years in office? Funding indicates priority and OSHA’s annual budget of $580 million is about how much the Department of Commerce spent on one year of the transition to digital TV.

The 100th anniversary of the tragic Triangle Waist Company fire has passed but workplace hazards that result in death, injury and disease continue. The National Committee on Occupational Safety and Health released this report detailing the worst industrial disasters since Triangle and an agenda for much-needed reforms today.

A brand-new report by the National Employment Law Project shows that people with criminal backgrounds, even those who’ve paid their dues to the state, are unfairly shut out of employment opportunities and denied the second chance they need to overcome their past.

Studies have estimated that about 20 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered a mild traumatic brain injury while deployed. Of those, anywhere between 5 percent to nearly 50 percent may suffer both PTSD and lingering problems from traumatic brain injuries. It is an epidemic so new that doctors aren’t even sure what to call it, let alone how best to diagnose and treat it.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has announced a settlement with Modern Oil Company, the operator of the Kwick Stop convenience store in Shawnee, Oklahoma. The lawsuit alleged that after OSHA investigated a workplace safety complaint a store in Shawnee, Oklahoma, management grilled the three employees of that store until it determined who called OSHA. Management then fired the identified whistleblower. The employee was a cashier at the convenience store who complained first to management, and then to OSHA about how the tall stacks of liquor bottles posed a hazard.

An administrative law judge on Friday upheld a $7,000 fine against Wal-Mart Stores that the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration had imposed after a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death at a Long Island store on Black Friday 2008. Covette Rooney, the chief administrative law judge of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, upheld the fine in concluding that unruly crowds the day after Thanksgiving were a recognized hazard and that there were feasible means to control that hazard.

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Like the retail behemoth at its center, everything about the Supreme Court extravaganza known as Wal-Mart v. Dukes is super-sized. The number of women who could be included in the sex discrimination class-action suit is measured in millions. The amount of damages for which the nation’s largest private employer could be liable is estimated in billions. If the Supreme Court agrees the case can move forward, it would be the largest employment discrimination class-action suit in U.S. history.

As radiation levels at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant reached a new high Sunday, workers contended with dark, steamy conditions in their efforts to repair the facility’s cooling system and stave off a full-blown nuclear meltdown. Leaked water sampled from one unit Sunday had 100,000 times the radioactivity of normal background levels, although the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the plant, first calculated an even higher, erroneous, figure it didn’t correct for hours.

Ceremonies and events honoring the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire that killed 146 garment workers—most of them young women—and spurred the first nationwide call for workplace safety, continue Monday morning with a special online forum that will examine the connection between a voice at work and job safety.

Governor Chris Gregoire Thursday encouraged legislators to act on executive request legislation that would give the Department of Corrections the funding needed to implement a series of safety enhancements recommended by the National Institute of Corrections.

The forensic report on the Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer (BOP) was released to the public on March 23, 2011. The next step in the investigation will be to try and reconcile it with the report of the Chief Counsel of the Oil Spill Commission . There are two major public policy issues: worker safety and spill prevention; we don’t want either dead workers or oil spills.

Massey Energy Co. has been hit with more than 80 citations for safety violations uncovered in the latest round of special inspections by federal regulators.

One week from today will mark the first anniversary of the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster where 29 men lost their lives from an enormous and powerful explosion. Those left behind–the parents, spouses, children and friends—have lives that are changed forever. Ken Ward and Gary Harki of the Charleston (WV) Gazette share a touching story of Ms. Bobbie Pauley, a rare female coal miner who worked at the Upper Big Branch mine. It’s a must read story.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, filed a petition March 24 asking OSHA to enact a regulation prohibiting direct physical contact between employees and elephants in any type of business where elephants are in captivity — zoos, circuses, etc.

A coalition of four state employee unions called Safety Now! plans to protest a conference of state officials gathering in Napa today starting at 11 a.m. to discuss workplace safety issues in California’s mental health system. The Safety Now! coalition says in a press release issued Friday that it’s tired of the Department of Mental Health “wasting time and money on meetings and immediately implement a list of basic measures to quell the violence against employees and patients” at Napa State Hospital.

President Obama held a White House conference this month to discuss ways to prevent bullying in school. But bullying is a problem not just among young people. Thirty-five percent of Americans in a survey said they had been bullied at some time at work.

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Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Waist Company tragedy. On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out at the New York City garment factory. Even after 146 workers died, many of them young women who jumped to their deaths in an attempt to escape the engulfing flames, industry bristled at the thought of implementing commonsense fire safety precautions. Today, an assault on regulations that protect our health and safety, ensure a living wage and protect us from dangerous products is currently under way in Washington.

The event leading to the creation of many workplace safety regulations is nearing its 100th anniversary, yet many of the same industry concerns voiced then echo today.

Reform victories mean that fires are a much smaller risk at the workplace today, but the fight for safer working conditions continues on other fronts…

Nearly a year after the BP oil spill, people living along the Gulf of Mexico are still feeling the effect of the disaster, the largest oil catastrophe in history. My biggest concern is for the workers who were offshore doing cleanup. Studies of past oil spills have shown chronic respiratory problems after the Exxon Valdez, and markers of DNA damage after a spill off the coast of Spain. It will be important to look for signs of chronic bronchitis and markers of DNA damage that could precipitate cancer or birth defects.

The blowout preventer that should have stopped the BP oil spill failed largely because of a faulty design and a trapped piece of pipe, an official probe found Wednesday, appearing to shift some blame for the blowout from the oil giant and toward those who built and maintained the 300-ton safety device.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s ( EEOC ) final regulations to implement the ADA Amendments Act ( ADAAA ) are now available for public view on the Federal Register website at http://www.ofr.gov . The regulations will be published Friday.

Federal officials have sanctioned the Nebraska Department of Labor over concerns about the way the state manages roughly $72 million in federal money, but state officials said Friday that no programs would be affected.

U.S. workplaces are getting safer, according to national Department of Labor statistics for the past two decades. But immigrant workers in the most dangerous occupations have not shared in the increased safety, according to statistics and a recent report by seven worker centers nationwide.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has ordered a second air traffic controller to be on duty overnight at Reagan National Airport, after the lone controller was unavailable early Wednesday as two passenger planes were trying to land.

Two Japanese workers on the crew battling the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have been hospitalized after being exposed to high levels of radiation while laying cable at the complex’s No. 3 reactor.

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OSHA apparently hasn’t persuaded skeptical members of Congress or business groups that its plan to restore a column to the 300 Log to record work-related musculoskeletal disorders is just an innocent recordkeeping improvement. Not giving up, the agency on March 23 announced it will hold three teleconferences so small-business representatives can provide feedback about the proposed column.

Ruling Tuesday on a pair of cases that had drawn the strong interest of the business community, the Supreme Court made it easier for stockholders and employees to sue companies. In Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., the justices said that an oral complaint against an employer was enough to protect a worker against retaliatory action, such as firing.

While reducing work hours for resident physicians doesn’t seem to have interfered negatively with medical training — the shortened shifts also haven’t done anything to improve patient safety, a new study found.

A third tour bus crash in a 10-day period in the Northeast has intensified concerns about the safety of the discount transportation services.

Metro trains have been involved in a troubling series of low-speed collisions in rail yards in the past four months as train operators have broken rules on speed and safe-driving practices, according to Metro’s safety oversight agency.

This is the account of the four New York Times journalists captured in Libya: As the four of us headed toward the eastern gate of Ajdabiya, the front line of a desperate rebel stand against the advancing forces of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, a car pulled up alongside.

The criminal investigation into last April’s deadly coal mine explosion in West Virginia has produced a second set of charges. But, like the first, the new two-count criminal “information” just filed by the U.S. Attorney in Charleston, W. Va., does not directly involve the April 5 blast at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is citing an Anheuser-Busch InBev can plant subsidiary in suburban St. Louis for several violations after two accidents in which employees suffered amputations.

Yet another performer in the trouble-plagued Broadway musical “Spider-man Turn Off the Dark” has been sidelined by an injury suffered on stage, a spokesman for the show said on Tuesday.

Mike Daisey wants to change the world. The monologuist is back at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company with his latest impassioned, comic-tragic screed, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” through April 17. His new piece, which was first workshopped at Woolly last July, is about labor conditions at computer technology companies, specifically Apple.

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A clearer account of the four journalists’ capture and detention has come to light now that they have been released. The four had been covering fighting near Ajdabiya last Tuesday when they decided that the battle had grown too dangerous for them to continue safely. Their driver, however, inadvertently drove into a checkpoint manned by forces loyal to Colonel Qaddafi. By the time they knew they were in trouble, it was too late.

An American fighter jet crashed overnight in Libya after experiencing apparent mechanical problems, ejecting two crew members who were able to land safely and have returned to U.S. hands, officials said Tuesday.

U.S. regulators Monday announced an initiative, primarily aimed at targeting private pilots, to reduce general-aviation accidents 10% by 2018.

This Friday, March 25th, marks the 100th anniversary of the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire, which claimed 146 lives, mostly immigrant women, almost half still in their teens. It’s a fine time to ask: How much have we really progressed since then? Please watch the new short film I’ve made with support from the National Consumers League.

For Women’s History Month this year, thousands of people around the country are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Fire. The fire was an historic turning point for the country. The movement for social justice took on new urgency. Workplace safety legislation became a reality, the union movement gained momentum, and eventually women won the right to vote. March is a time to celebrate the progress that women have made since the Triangle Fire, but there is also reason to pause and consider the fight that continues.

The Chamber of Commerce, as part of a national and state campaign to overturn government regulations, recently released a report claiming that state employment policies hinder job growth. A recent Economic Policy Institute analysis has shown that the Chamber’s study is poorly constructed and grossly misleading. In fact, the recent EPI analysis showed that the Chamber’s methodology actually better supports the conclusion that strictly enforced legislation against wage cheating or unjust dismissal and in favor of improved paid family leave and advance notice of mass layoffs is desirable because it leads to higher state per capita income.

Monique Harper, 41, had a beautiful smile that family and friends will never forget. “Monique was the most hilarious and free-spirited person you will ever meet,” said one of her sisters. “She was a mother that loved her children, family and friends.” Monique Harper’s contagious smile and free spirit are now only memories. She was one of the 26 U.S. workers killed in 2010 after being engulfed in grain at storage facilities that hold billions of bushels of harvested corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, and rice.

The Labor Department says it has notified the Federal Aviation Administration that its Lakefront Airport air traffic control tower in New Orleans is exposing workers to possible fire hazards.

For 90 minutes, authorities say, Brittany Norwood sat in her victim’s parked car, concocting a plan to cover up the horrendous crime scene she had just created in the yoga apparel store where they worked. Her colleague, Jayna Murray, lay dead, bludgeoned and stabbed inside Bethesda’s Lululemon Athletica shop, prosecutors said. Something was tied around Murray’s neck. There was blood everywhere.

A typical Monday at the Smithsonian National Zoo took a nearly dangerous turn for a snake handler when she had venom spat into her eye.

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