Archive for October, 2011

Lying to mine disaster investigators leads to conviction of ex-security chief
The former security chief at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch mine — the site of an April, 2010 explosion that killed 29 men — has been convicted of lying to investigators who were probing the disaster. It took federal jurors in Beckley, W. Va., about six hours to find the Massey Energy security official, Hughie Elbert Stover, guilty on a false statements charge as well as on a charge of obstruction stemming from his effort to destroy of thousands of security-related documents.

Some justice at Upper Big Branch
The safety director at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, where 29 miners were killed last year, has been convicted of lying to federal investigators and ordering the destruction of records on hazardous conditions. The verdict should add needed momentum to federal and state investigations into the mine’s owner at the time, Massey Energy. At the heart of Hughie Stover’s conviction was his insistence that Massey had no policy of tipping off underground foremen when federal regulators arrived for surprise inspections. Mine guards testified that they were told to ignore federal law and signal below when inspectors came looking for life-threatening conditions.

Long Island Railroad workers scam $1 billion in disability benefits
This week, eleven people have been accused of defrauding the Long Island Railroad pension fund to the tune of $1 billion. I guess Long Island Rail Road workers don’t have the most dangerous job in the world after all. You could be forgiven for thinking that they do, though. After all, LIRR workers applied for occupational disability benefits at 12 times the rate of workers from other commuter railroads.

Trade groups say reporting rule for injuries, amputations is a job-killer
Trade groups are urging the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to abandon a proposed regulation that would require employers to report workplace injuries within eight hours and amputations within 24. While OSHA and employee unions say the rule will help make the workplace safer, the National Association of Manufacturers and other employer associations say the requirement would be a nuisance and a job-killer.

Is child labor behind your bananas, coffee, or toys?
Bananas in Ecuador, Nicaragua, Belize, and the Philippines; broccoli in Guatemala; carpets in India, Nepal, and Pakistan; cocoa in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Cameroon; coffee in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Kenya, Mexico, and Panama; cotton in Egypt, Brazil, China, Uzbekistan, and Turkey; electronics and toys in China, clothing in China, India, Malaysia, Thailand, and Argentina; rice in Brazil, India, and the Philippines; melons, onions, and tomatoes in Mexico What these products – along with diamonds, gold, sugarcane, shoes, rare earth and strategic metals – have in common is that they’re among the 130 different products made by child and forced labor in 71 countries listed in reports released earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB).

OSHA: Contractor in fatal accident had history of safety lapses
The contractor installing a roof on the new Chelsea Piers sports complex on the city’s East Side had a record of increasingly serious safety lapses prior to Tuesday’s accident, in which a worker plummeted more than 50 feet to his death. Javier Salinas, 36, of Danbury, was working without a harness during what police characterized as gusty wind conditions shortly before 1 p.m. when he fell to the hard surface below.

Stock up on worker-friendly treats this Halloween
The nation’s oldest consumer and worker advocacy organization is calling on parents stocking up on Halloween treats this weekend to make worker-friendly purchases. The National Consumers League, the Washington, DC-based consumer and worker’s rights organization, has announced an effort to fill trick-or-treaters’ bags with union-made candy.


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New study confirms overwhelming support for LGBT workplace protections
Results from the 2010 Out & Equal Workplace Survey show this week that 78 percent of heterosexual adults agree that employees should be evaluated for their job performance, not their sexual orientation. In addition, 62 percent support providing equal benefits for all employees’ partners or spouses.

Paid sick days: restaurant lobby fights new laws for workers
Voters in Denver, Colo., will head to the polls next week to decide whether or not the city’s employers should be required to give workers paid sick days. Among the first of its kind in the country, the contentious ballot initiative has attracted plenty of attention from restaurant owners outside of Colorado — and plenty of money, too.

Defense contractor disputes findings on cancer-causing chemical
National defense contractor Kellogg, Brown & Root disputes some of the findings in a government report that faulted it for failing to properly safeguard Americans from exposure to a cancer-causing chemical. The report, by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General, blamed KBR and U.S. military officials for failing to comply with and enforce workplace safety standards as Americans – including 122 members of the West Virginia National Guard – were exposed to a cancer-causing chemical in Iraq in 2003.

Hilton Reservations Worldwide employees to receive more than $715,000 in minimum, overtime back wages following US Labor Department investigation
Hilton Reservations Worldwide LLC, doing business as Hilton Reservations and Customer Care in Carrollton, has agreed to pay $715,507 in minimum and overtime back wages to 2,645 current and former customer service employees following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division that found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Cal/OSHA: Brothers’ deaths were totally preventable
Appearing before the Kern County Board of Supervisors Tuesday at its request, California Division of Occupational Safety and Health Chief Ellen Widess gave an update on an investigation into the death of two brothers killed at Community Recycling & Resource Recovery Inc. in Lamont. She said the deaths should never have happened.

Worker accuses Brightpoint of religious discrimination
An Indiana woman is filing an EEOC complaint against her employer after she said she was discriminated against for wearing the Islamic headscarf. Mary Cabrera recently converted to Islam and began wearing the Islamic headscarf to work at Brightpoint’s distribution center in Plainfield. She said staff asked her to take it off, because it was not a part of her uniform, but she refused.

OSHA proposes fines after Maine sewer tank deaths
Federal workplace safety officials are proposing nearly $17,000 in penalties after the death of two men working in a sewage tank. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the employer for four safety violations, including failure to ventilate the area where the men were working and failing to test the air quality before and during the work. OSHA also said there was no system in place for an emergency rescue for the employees of Stevens Electric & Pump Service, a Monmouth company that was doing work at a Kennebunkport motel, the Lodge at Turbats Creek.

Hilo tour company suspends zip line tours after last month’s fatal accident
A Hilo-based eco-tourism company says it has suspended booking zip line tours until the cause of a fatal accident is fully understood. Ted Callaway of Lahaina and a co-worker were in the process of testing a zip line north of Hilo last month when a tower collapsed and Callaway plunged 200 feet to his death. His co-worker Curtis Wright, of Miamisburg, Ohio, was critically injured.

3 fired in death of Monroe corrections officer
Three state prison officers have been fired and four others, including two lieutenants, have been disciplined for mistakes made before and after a corrections officer was killed at the Monroe Reformatory in January. Two of the fired officers lied to police and Department of Corrections (DOC) investigators, and a third was terminated for being away from his post outside the prison chapel, where officer Jayme Biendl worked alone, according to the DOC.

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Child labor law changes proposed for farms
U.S. Department of Labor wants to revise child labor laws to put stricter safety requirements on young workers employed in agriculture and related fields. The department is accepting public comments until Nov. 1. Proposed changes in federal safety rules would significantly restrict the type of farm work young people under the age of 16 can do and which farms they can work on. The U.S. Department of Labor is proposing these updates to bring parity between current rules for young workers in agricultural jobs and the more stringent rules that apply to those employed in nonagricultural workplaces.

Child labor change under fire in farm country
Just as harvest was kicking into high gear at the end of August, the Labor Department issued the first new child labor regulations in 40 years, proposing barring children under the age of 16 from performing dangerous jobs, such as driving tractors, handling pesticides and branding cattle. The proposed changes created a legal exemption for farm families, allowing children to work on the farms owned by their parents.

New data shows nursing home workers suffer more injuries than construction, factory and mine workers
According to the latest survey by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of work-related injuries and illnesses, the injury-incident rate in 2010 for workers employed in nursing homes was 8.6 per 100 full-time employees (FTEs), more than twice the rate for all private sector workers. When people think of dangerous jobs, I’m sure many think of coal miners or construction workers—not nursing aides at nursing homes.

Union: W.Va. mine disaster was ‘industrial homicide’
The United Mine Workers union (UMWA) is out with its own report this morning about last year’s Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster in West Virginia in which 29 workers died. Not surprisingly, UMWA blasts non-union Massey Energy, which owned the mine at the time, and was criticized severely in earlier reports from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and a team of independent investigators.

Aviation Museum’s aircraft restoration effort halted after safety violations
Navy officials suspended operations at the National Naval Aviation Museum’s aircraft restoration hangar last week due to uncorrected worker safety violations. The restoration facility, which is located in an aircraft hangar behind the museum, was locked and work was halted Wednesday due to uncorrected safety issues discovered during a June 2010 “industrial hygiene inspection” conducted by Naval Hospital Pensacola, Navy officials said.

Upscale grocery store chain Wegmans hit with federal workplace safety citations at NY bakery
Upscale grocery store chain Wegmans has been hit with federal workplace safety citations carrying potential fines of nearly $200,000. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Tuesday accused Wegmans Food Markets Inc. of repeated violations at its corporate bakery and distribution center in Rochester, N.Y.

OSHA cites hazards at Grenada, Miss., plant, proposes more than $113K in penalties
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited a Grenada, Miss., company for 26 safety violations and has proposed penalties of $113,400. OSHA officials say in a news release that the penalties against Grenada Stamping and Assembly Inc., doing business as Ice Industries Grenada, come from an April inspection following a work-related amputation at the plant.

Man charged with cabbie murder was escapee from D.C. youth home
The 20-year-old District man accused of killing a taxi driver over the weekend had escaped from the custody of the city’s troubled Department of Youth and Rehabilitation Services, and evidence from the crime was found at the home of his aunt — who is a counselor for the agency — according to sources and court documents. Rashad Terrell Slye was charged Sunday with first-degree murder in the slaying of Prince George’s County cab driver Domingo Ezirike. The 40-year-old was found fatally shot in his cab by D.C. police detectives working a safety compliance checkpoint two blocks away in Northeast Washington.

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OSHA is another agency gone rogue
On Sept. 8, OSHA issued a directive to its investigators regarding how to inspect — and cite — employers for instances of workplace violence. If you’re wondering where to look up the federal law or regulation that tells employers how to avoid a citation for workplace violence, don’t bother. OSHA has issued this directive under the assumption that a vague clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act gives OSHA the power to cite employers for something as specific and unpredictable as workplace violence. Known as the “General Duty Clause,” this provision requires employers to keep their workplaces “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm” to employees.

Amazon defends its safety record at Breinigsville
Amazon.com continues to respond to accusations that it has poor working conditions at its Breinigsville warehouse. In a message posted on its website Sunday, Oct. 23, Amazon states that its fulfillment centers are safer for employees than auto plants, general warehouses and department stores.

Zombie safety tips for working teens
Zombies are everywhere this season, including online games aimed at teaching teens about being safe at work. Slippery floors, hot cooking equipment, heavy lifting, loud noises, and working alone are some of the dangers teens face as they experience a first job or seasonal employment. If not aware of the risk and properly trained and protected, these dangers can lead to serious injuries or fatalities for teen workers. They could become zombies. That’s where the American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) Don’t be a Zombie at Work online game can help.

Corpus Christi Grain Co. stands knee-deep in $258,900 in OSHA fines
When a Corpus Christi Grain Co. employee was engulfed by grain, he was able to escape with his life. The company, however, now faces $258,900 in proposed OSHA fines for not providing PPE, performing lockout/tagout procedures or having a competent person present with rescue equipment when workers entered grain storage bins.

OSHA issues ‘serious violation’ against Coastal Shoring for worker’s death in April
The federal Labor Department has issued a “serious violation” and fine against Metairie house-lifting company Coastal Shoring, six months after a brick home the company was lifting in eastern New Orleans collapsed and crushed a worker to death. The 1,800-square-foot slab home at 8001 Mercier St. fell on Alexander Cardona Figueroa, 33, of Metairie, on April 18.

Mansfield woman says she was fired for her tattoos
Abby Carper, now 31, has tattoos scattered along her left arm, shoulder, neck and other parts of her body. She cares for her grandmother and others as a home health aide — that is, she did until recently, when she was fired. The Mansfield, Ohio, resident said she was wrongfully terminated not for the color of her skin, but for the ink that’s on it.

MegaBus driver charged with repeat DUI while on duty
The Chicago driver of a MegaBus due for Iowa City and Des Moines was pulled over and arrested for drunken driving Friday night. Carl Smiley, 52, of Chicago, was pulled over by an Iowa State trooper on Interstate 80 near Iowa City and was arrested on suspicion of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated after smelling of alcohol, admitting to drinking and failing a sobriety test, the AP reports.

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Government says work injuries declined in 2010, continuing trend
American workers got hurt on the job at a lower rate last year, continuing a long-running trend. That finding comes from a new U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report. It showed declines in both the private and public sectors, but the level of reported injuries remained far higher on the government side of the work force, particularly local government.

Ind. workplace injury rates stagnant with employment drop
Indiana’s workplace injury and illness rate remained the same in 2010 compared to 2009, although the Hoosier state had about 89,800 fewer workers last year. Workplaces reported 4.3 injuries and illnesses per 100 workers, according to data the Indiana Department of Labor released Thursday.

California workers take Walmart’s warehouses to court
Juan Chavez and Everardo Carrillo are among thousands of immigrants who work unloading semi-trailer trucks in California’s “Inland Empire,” a vast sprawl of warehouses where goods arriving in container ships from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are staged for distribution to Walmart and other stores around the country. Until last year, workers earned $12 to $17 an hour at warehouses run by Schneider Logistics, a Wisconsin-based company that was the target of a class-action lawsuit filed by the group Warehouse Workers for Justice in Chicago earlier this year. On Monday, the California group Warehouse Workers United filed its own class action lawsuit charging Schneider and other logistics companies with labor law violations related to common tactics in the industry.

Why sick leave is important for LGBT families
Here are some basic facts: 44 million workers in the United States can’t take a single paid sick day when they are ill. Millions more lack paid sick time to care for an ill child or family member. Workers without paid sick days face an impossible choice when illness strikes – ignore their health needs and the health of their family, or lose a much-needed paycheck and risk losing their jobs. For LGBT workers and their families, the choice can be even more daunting.

Eliminating the hazards of texting and other distractions while driving on the job
Distracted driving has become an epidemic in the United States. In 2009, distracted drivers contributed to more than 5,400 traffic fatalities, accounting for 16 percent of all traffic fatalities that year. In response, last October the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in partnership with the Department of Transportation (DOT), launched an initiative to combat this deadly practice. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of worker fatalities year after year.

Death of city worker highlights need for protections for public workers
On Oct. 18, 58-year-old Bobby DeCristofaro was repairing a traffic light for the city of Quincy when he fell to his death after his bucket truck was struck by a tractor-trailer truck. DeCristofaro had worked for the city for 25 years. Unlike private employers, public employers are not covered under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act. Massachusetts remains one of only five states whose public employees are not covered by the act.

OSHA adds 25 employers to Severe Violators list, 163 employers named in total
Tucked away on federal OSHA’s website is a list of 163 employers with the dishonorable label “severe violator.” The designation comes from an enforcement program launched in April 2010 to identify “recalcitrant employers who endanger workers by demonstrating indifference to their responsibilities under the law.” The label is not easy to get.

A partnership job-seekers will like
At the Department of Labor, we’re proud that we’ve assembled the largest collection of job search, job placement and job training tools anywhere in the United States. But our resources are only as good as the ways we deliver them to the American people. That’s why I have 132 million reasons to be excited today about announcing our new Social Jobs Partnership with Facebook. Today, my department is proud to work with this iconic American company to connect people with jobs.

$147,840 in fines issued to steel firm for unsafe crane operations
OSHA has cited Steel Structures of Ohio for 17 safety and health violations, including one willful safety violation for unsafe crane operations at its Akron location. Proposed fines total $147,840. The willful safety violation was cited for failing to remove a crane from service that required necessary repairs before resuming crane operations.

OSHA blasts W.Va. welding firm for 25 safety violations
OSHA has cited Mollett Welding and Mine Service Inc. after an inspection at its welding and machine shop facility in Stollings, W.Va., revealed 25 violations of safety and health standards. Proposed penalties total $59,400.

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Care for mental health patients drove VA costs
With troops returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the cost of medical care for veterans is expected to skyrocket in coming years. A study released Wednesday suggests that a huge chunk of those costs could be devoted to treating the invisible wounds of war.

Proposed regulations could mean big changes for farm youth labor
An update of federal labor regulations governing youth employment could mean significant changes in the types of work young people can do on the farm, according to the leader of Ohio State University Extension’s Agricultural Safety and Health program.

Coal mining industry insisted on new dust sampling technology, now they don’t want MSHA to use it
It’s too late for Ronald Martin of Dema, Kentucky. “I’m in last stage of black lung,” he wrote in shaky script, “please help the miners so they won’t suffer like I suffer. I can’t breathe but a little.” Mr. Martin sent his note to the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to comment on the agency’s proposed rule to reduce workers’ exposure to respirable coal mine dust—the dust that damaged his lungs so severely. Other coal miners also sent their comments to MSHA, urging the agency to put a more protective regulation in place as soon as possible to prevent younger miners from developing black lung disease.

US Labor Department’s MSHA warns mining industry about dangers of cold weather
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration has launched its annual “Winter Alert” campaign to call attention to the dangers caused by cold weather. Statistics show that coal-mine explosions occur most often during the colder months, October through March.

Homebuilders decry new safety regulations
St. Louis-area homebuilders are pressing their case that new rules to prevent workers from falling from roofs could add thousands of dollars to new home prices and threaten contractors struggling in a hard-pressed industry. Their complaints are drawing attention in Congress, which has been examining regulations from the administration of President Barack Obama with an eagle eye.

Video games not to blame for youth unemployment, says Federal Reserve economist
The Great Recession has pushed the share of high school kids with jobs to its lowest level ever, thanks in part to competition from older workers, but not because of video games. A new Federal Reserve analysis finds that while kids are spending more time on college prep and summer classes, a more important culprit for rising youth joblessness is increasing competition from grownups taking the low-wage jobs that teenagers typically do.

Boom in concussion testing fueled by fear of head injuries
Amid increased awareness of the long-term damage that head-knocking sports collisions can inflict, many student-athletes are taking computer-based tests to examine their memory, reaction time and attention skills. The exams are used to help determine whether athletes have suffered concussions, and if they have recovered. The Washington Post reports that an estimated 2 million U.S. athletes, students as well as others, have been evaluated by the best-known exam, ImPACT, which stands for Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing.

OSHA proposes $169,260 fine for Minden company
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited America’s Fiberglass Animals of Minden for eight repeat and seven serious violations of safety and health standards found during an inspection at the company’s manufacturing plant conducted as a follow-up after the company moved operations from Hastings. Two failure-to-abate notices also were issued because the company had not corrected employee respiratory hazards cited at the Hastings location. Proposed fines total $169,260.

OSHA fines Polar Service Center of Lockwood
A Lockwood business that repairs and services tank trailers has been fined $151,000 for 14 violations of federal health and safety standards. On Oct. 7, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Polar Service Center with one willful violation for failing to use protective guards on portable grinders and 13 other serious violations.

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Senate passes pipeline bill after hold dropped
A bill to toughen federal safety regulation of oil and gas pipelines has passed the Senate after a Republican senator opposed to government regulation dropped his opposition to the measure. The bill was approved late Monday only a few hours after Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky abruptly announced he was ending his opposition. He said in a statement that he was doing so because the bill’s sponsors had agreed to incorporate an amendment regarding safety testing of older pipelines.

New law ups the ante significantly for California employers who are caught misclassifying employees as independent contractors
One common strategy used by companies to cut labor costs is to classify as much of its work force as “independent contractors” as possible. A company does not have to pay payroll taxes for independent contractors nor does it have to worry about pesky labor code requirements pertaining to minimum wages, overtime, meal and rest breaks, or expense reimbursement requirements. Additionally, a company does not have to cover independent contractors under workers’ compensation insurance, and is not liable for payments under unemployment insurance, disability insurance, or social security.

An act of support for patients and families
By now you are certainly aware that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The hopeful pink symbolism is everywhere, from the illumination of the Empire State Building to the pink laces in professional athletes’ footwear. But what you may not know is that the US Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division offers its own support for the cause — by administering and enforcing the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

Mine workers struggle for safety underground, justice in the streets
As thousands take to the streets to protest global corporate domination, the power struggles just below the earth’s surface remain outside the media spotlight. But over the past few weeks, turmoil in the mining industry has also spoken to the divide between the corporate elite and the impoverished multitudes–a faultline running through communities mired in poverty but rich in resources.

Eva Longoria on producing new documentary, ‘The Harvest/La Cosecha’
More than 400,000 children in the United States are torn away from their schools and homes to work as migrant workers with their families. The documentary, “The Harvest/La Cosecha: The Children Who Feed America”, produced by long time actress and activist, Eva Longoria, and Shine Global, the Academy-Award nominated producers of War/Dance, provides an “intimate glimpse into the lives of these children who struggle to dream while working 12 – 14 hours a day, 7 days a week to feed America.”

More reporters should hear directly from restaurant workers and Sick Rick, a giant germ
At a news conference last week that deserved to get more media attention, the Campaign for a Healthy Denver unveiled “Sick Rick,” the mascot for their effort to pass Initiative 300, which would guarantee paid sick days for all Denver workers. At the same event, the campaign presented workers, identified as food service employees, who told stories about how they’ve been ill, gone to work, and possibly passed on disease to restaurant customers.

US Labor Dept. cites DeMoulas for alleged violations of workplace safety standards
The US Department of Labor has cited DeMoulas Supermarkets Inc., which runs the Market Basket grocery chain, for 30 alleged “willful, repeat and serious violations” of workplace safety standards at its stores in Rindge and Concord, N.H. The Tewksbury company, which has supermarkets in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, faces a total of $589,200 in proposed fines for “recurring fall and laceration hazards and also for improperly responding to a worker’s serious injury,” according to a press release issued today by the Labor Department’s Occupation, Safety, and Health Administration.

Union blocks stage collapse search warrant
A stagehands’ union is contesting a search warrant issued to Indiana officials investigating a deadly stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair, officials said. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 30 is contesting the warrant for training and employment records involving stagehand Nathan Byrd, who was killed in the Aug. 13 collapse.

OSHA seeks $148,000 fines against Akron company
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is seeking to fine Akron-based Steel Structures of Ohio nearly $148,000 after finding what it said were 17 safety and health violations. OSHA said it found “one willful safety violation” for not removing a crane from service that was missing several bolts and required repairs.

The 19 jobs where you’re most likely to kill yourself
Sometimes the pressure gets to you. High-skill and high-stakes occupations have elevated suicide rates, according to data compiled with help from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

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