Archive for November, 2011

House approves workers’ comp reforms
The House on Tuesday passed a bipartisan bill that would overhaul federal workers’ compensation programs for the first time in almost 40 years and make it easier to catch cheats. HR 2465, the Federal Workers’ Compensation Modernization and Improvement Act, would give the Labor Department more power to identify employees who illegally work elsewhere while receiving federal workers’ compensation.

Perry warns uncooperative federal workers: I’ll ‘reassign them to some really God-awful place’
Many Republican presidential candidates have argued the federal government is bloated and its employees are lacking. Texas Gov. Rick Perry gave a glimpse of how that attitude would play out if he became president on Tuesday evening, suggesting to a town hall crowd in New Hampshire that he would retaliate against career civil service employees if they disagreed with him. Perry stressed that he expects federal workers to follow his vision. If they don’t, he joked, he would punish them.

Honoring Gabriel Zimmerman at U.S. Capitol
A Capitol Hill staffer, who lost his life in a shooting spree nearly one year ago, will forever be remembered in Washington. The House plans on renaming a room in the Capitol Visitor Center after Gabe Zimmerman. He was with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords when a gunman opened fire in Tucson in January. Gabe Zimmerman was the first Congressional staffer murdered in the line of duty.

19 plaintiffs leave Capitol Police suit
Nineteen plaintiffs have withdrawn from a decade-old discrimination lawsuit against the Capitol Police, leaving 285 individuals left for the fight. First filed as an Office of Compliance grievance in 2001 with now-retired Capitol Police Lt. Sharon Blackmon-Malloy as the lead plaintiff, the complaint argued that more than 200 black officers were denied promotions, retaliated against, unfairly disciplined or fired because of their race.

AHF: 64,000 signatures send porn initiative to a vote in Los Angeles
On the eve of World AIDS Day and a month prior to submission deadline for signatures to qualify a citywide ballot initiative on measure to tie the issuance of adult film permits by the City of Los Angeles to condom use in adult films, condom advocates to announce sufficient signatures to qualify measure. Advocates from FAIR (For Adult Industry Responsibility), a campaign to shepherd the ballot initiative, needed at least 41,138 qualifying signatures (15% of all votes cast in the last mayoral election) by Dec. 23rd to place the measure on the June 2012 ballot.

OSHA publishes interim whistleblowers rules
OSHA has published interim final rules that revise regulations governing whistleblower complaints filed under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. OSHA administers whistleblower provisions for several federal agencies. The rules are available for review online at http://s.dol.gov/JN. OSHA is requesting public comment, which must be received by January 3, 2012.

Seasonal workers: Avoid wage theft this holiday season
As unemployment continues to hover around nine percent, many Americans will be on the lookout for seasonal work this year. But before starting any new job, workers need to familiarize themselves with the potential pitfalls of seasonal or temporary employment to avoid becoming a victim of wage theft.

Lessons learned from Walmart trampling
The trampling death of a Valley Stream Walmart employee in November 2008 garnered national attention and prompted action by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Three years later, several retailers say they are focused on employee and customer safety. Retail giants have started implementing detailed policies for crowd management for Black Friday sales and the remainder of the holiday season. Store officials say they have learned from the tragedy and want to prevent anything like it from happening again.

CDC recruiting employers for healthy worksite program
CDC announced a series of four webinars will be presented to acquaint employers nationwide with the National Healthy Worksite Program, an initiative to establish and then evaluate comprehensive programs to improve the health of workers and their families. The agency plans to recruit as many as 100 small, medium-sized, and large employers in seven locations to participate by implementing various programs.

A hard turn: better health on the highway
On the road for weeks on end, with the sorts of diets that make nutritionists apoplectic, the nation’s truckers are in pretty bad shape. Now, beset by rising insurance costs and desperate to ensure their drivers pass government health tests, trucking companies and industry groups are working hard to persuade road warriors to change their habits.

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Long overdue: winning back pay and benefits for workers
Workers deserve to keep the wages and benefits they earn. That may sound like an obvious statement, but to some employers, it’s not clear at all. In recent years, the U.S. Labor Department has collected hundreds of millions of dollars in back wages and benefits for hundreds of thousands of workers whose employers tried to deny them what they had rightfully earned. Now the department has recovered nearly $8 million worth of earnings and benefits to more than 2,000 employees whose employer failed to make payroll for their last two and half weeks of employment.

MSHA not catching ‘scofflaw violators,’ report says
Investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General have found that federal regulators are not identifying “scofflaw violators” who don’t pay mine safety and health fines, allowing those mine operators to avoid debt-collection lawsuits or other enforcement actions. The department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration “does not have an accurate view” of the amount of delinquent fines it is owed or when the violations that drew those fines were committed, according to the Inspector General’s report.

OSHA – responsible for worker safety – rarely visits Coos
Under federal law the Occupational Health and Safety Administration is responsible for making sure workers are protected on the job. But the federal agency rarely scrutinizes the North Country in New Hampshire. As NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports, it’s raising questions about how well workers are protected on the job.

Flawed test used to evaluate soldiers’ brain injuries
Tens of thousands of soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer concussions and other difficult-to-detect traumatic brain injuries, often the result of bombings by insurgents. To identify troops needing care for these injuries, Congress in 2007 passed a measure requiring the military to test soldiers’ brain function before they deploy and when they return. But an investigation by the news organizations ProPublica and NPR has found that the computerized cognitive test being used by the military, and the way it is being administered, are badly flawed. What’s more, the test — known as Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metric, or ANAM — was chosen hurriedly, without proof that it is effective.

Heading a football ‘could lead to brain damage’
Frequent “heading” of soccer balls by avid amateur players may cause brain damage leading to subtle but serious declines in thinking and coordination skills, a new study suggests.

San Diego lifeguard wins gender discrimination lawsuit
Alison Terry is one of the best swimmers to come out of San Diego, setting numerous high school records and competing in the Olympic Trials. But after more than a decade working summers as a lifeguard in San Diego, she couldn’t get hired for a full-time year-round lifeguarding job. On Nov. 18 a jury unanimously awarded Terry, 37, a $100,000 judgment in a gender discrimination lawsuit against the city of San Diego, finding there was intentional discrimination that led to a situation where only six women and 88 men held year-round managerial lifeguard positions with salary and benefits.

Housekeepers charge Hyatt fired them for taking down their own photos
Passing through the halls one day in September, Martha Reyes stopped to see why a group of her Hyatt co-workers stood laughing in front of a bulletin board. Looking closer, she saw photos of her head, and those of other housekeeping employees, pasted onto bodies in swimsuits. Martha’s sister Lorena was also included in the beach-themed display, which Hyatt management had posted over the weekend as part of Housekeeping Appreciation Week. Martha Reyes took down her picture and her sister’s. A month later, alleging they spent too long on their lunch break, the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara fired both of them. The sisters charge that the non-union hotel was retaliating against them over the bulletin board.

Ohio fabrication plant fined $90,760 for altering injury, illness logs
OSHA has cited Odom Industries in Milford, Ohio, for 38 safety and health violations, including three willful violations for allegedly amending the company’s OSHA 300 injury and illness logs by removing all recordable injuries. OSHA initiated an inspection of the fabrication plant after receiving a complaint alleging that injured workers, who were unable to perform their normal jobs, were moved to other jobs to avoid recordable injuries on the OSHA 300 logs.

TOSHA proposes $80K fine for May fire
Hoeganaes faces another $80,000 in fines from the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 23 serious violations found following an investigation of the May 27 incident at the company’s Gallatin facility. The fire, caused by an explosion of hydrogen gas from a leaking pipe underneath the floor, killed three workers and injured two others. The new penalties mean the company faces a total of close to $123,000 in fines from the combined three incidents in 2011.

For business, golden days; for workers, the dross
IN the eight decades before the recent recession, there was never a period when as much as 9 percent of American gross domestic product went to companies in the form of after-tax profits. Now the figure is over 10 percent. During the same period, there never was a quarter when wage and salary income amounted to less than 45 percent of the economy. Now the figure is below 44 percent. For companies, these are boom times. For workers, the opposite is true.

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Cardin bill angers whistleblower advocates
Legislation drafted by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin to update the 1917 Espionage Act has angered public disclosure advocates who say the proposal would make it harder for federal employees to expose government fraud and abuse. The bill would clarify a murky area of law to ensure that anyone who publicly leaks classified material could be prosecuted criminally, which is not necessarily the case today. The proposal also would make it illegal for government employees to violate nondisclosure agreements.

Gingrich: Laws preventing child labor are ‘truly stupid’
Newt Gingrich proposed a plan last week that would allow poor children to clean their schools for money, saying such a setup would both allow students to earn income and endow them with a strong work ethic. Speaking at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the former House Speaker said his system would be an improvement on current child labor laws, which he called “truly stupid.”

Another class action lawsuit against Walmart warehouse
With Black Friday sales beginning Thanksgiving at 10 p.m., Walmart expects to bring in many millions in sales this week on the single most important shopping day of the year. Meanwhile workers in Walmart’s warehouses in Chicago and southern California charge that the logistics companies contracted by the mega-retailer are nickel-and-diming them, shaving dollars off their hourly wages as temporary workers and obscuring the practice by failing to give them accurate pay stubs.

New Jersey nurses charge religious discrimination over hospital abortion policy
A dozen nurses in New Jersey have rekindled the contentious debate over when health-care workers can refuse to play a role in caring for women getting abortions. In a lawsuit filed in federal court Oct. 31, 12 nurses charge that the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey violated state and federal laws by abruptly announcing in September that nurses would have to help with abortion patients before and after the procedure, reversing a long-standing policy exempting employees who refuse based on religious or moral objections.

Federal officials issue alert on cancer-causing erionite
Federal health officials are calling for protective measures at job sites where workers may be exposed to erionite, a cancer-causing mineral similar to asbestos that is found in rock and soil in at least a dozen western states. An advisory published last week by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommended a series of steps to prevent employee exposure to eronite fibers at sites such as gravel quarries and road projects.

Interior drilling regulators prepare new penalties over BP spill
The Interior Department’s offshore drilling branch is preparing to issue a second round of regulatory violation notices to companies involved in last year’s BP oil spill, a top official said Monday. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Director Michael Bromwich said the so-called Incidents of Noncompliance notices could be sent to BP, Transocean and Halliburton in the next couple of weeks.

MSHA should scrap any plan to wait for OSHA action on respirable crystalline silica
I’m going to pay close attention to what the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) says about its plans to propose a rule to protect workers in the mining industry from respirable crystalline silica. It’s a hazard that is associated with the progressive, fibrotic lung disease silicosis, as well as lung cancer, and autoimmune and kidney disorders. I’m going to cringe if the next regulatory agenda MSHA issues suggests that progress on its proposed silica rule is linked to OSHA’s efforts to address the same hazard.

Number of suffocation deaths in grain bins is increasing
Working in grain bins is one of the most dangerous jobs in what has become America’s most hazardous industry: agriculture. And while deaths from grain elevator explosions such as the one in Atchison have become rare, grain bin accidents such as the one that killed Patrick Hayes are rising. Indeed, grain suffocation deaths last year reached an all-time high of 26. Despite those rising deaths, little has changed since Hayes died nearly two decades ago.

Airport workers say pay is illegally low
Elda Burke, 30, works as a passenger attendant at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, escorting the elderly and disabled to and from their gates by wheelchair. Even though the airlines describe this as a free service, Burke’s employer has her working partly for tips, which is why her base pay is a low $6.50 an hour, somewhat like a restaurant server’s, rather than the typical Illinois minimum wage of $8.25. But unlike diners at a restaurant, many of the passengers Burke will be escorting on their holiday travels this week won’t realize she’s working for tips — and by federal law, she won’t be allowed to tell them.

Let journalists work, city police are ordered
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has issued an internal message ordering officers in New York City not to interfere unreasonably with journalists’ access during news media coverage and warning that those who do will be subject to disciplinary action. The message was being read at police precinct station houses around New York on Wednesday. It came after journalists, including two from The Associated Press, were arrested covering Occupy Wall Street protests.

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Industry fights with health advocates over worker exposure to carcinogen
Business and labor interests are locked in a more than decade-long battle over how to limit worker exposure to a known carcinogen. The latest skirmish is over a proposal from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that has been stalled at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for close to 300 days. It would limit exposure to crystalline silica, a common element in the earth’s crust, for general industry, maritime and construction professionals, according to an OMB summary.

Young farm workers at greater risk of dying on-the-job, proposal to protect them called “detrimental,” “foolish” and “idiotic”
For U.S. workers, the risk of dying on the job is highest if you are employed in agricultural, fishing or hunting. These jobs are not just a little riskier than the average job, they are nearly 8 times more life-threatening. The fatality rate for all private sector workers is 3.5 per 100,000 workers; in agriculture, fishing and hunting, the rate is 26.8 deaths per 100,000 workers. Combine these statistics with age-specific fatality rates and it was time for the US Department of Labor (DOL) to review the adequacy of its safety regulations for children working in farming jobs. The rules currently enforce by DOL date back to 1970.

Car wash workers’ L.A. victory inspires Chicago campaign
Though car washes regularly subject their workers to hazardous conditions and wages far below the legal minimum, they have seldom been the target of union organizing. But inspired by a campaign in southern California that won the industry’s first union contract for car wash workers last month, workers, community groups and unions have launched their own drive to fight exploitation at car washes in Chicago.

MA rail operation fights OSHA case
A commuter railroad in Massachusetts is contesting 22 federal health and safety citations and a $130,800 fine related to working conditions at a maintenance facility. The Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. LLC is challenging a wide range of serious allegations made by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration about the railroad’s maintenance facility in Somerville.

US Department of Labor’s OSHA cites Ringo Drilling for safety violations following electrocution of worker near Ozona, Texas
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Ringo Drilling I LP, headquartered in Tye, with seven safety violations after an employee performing repair work on an oil drilling rig was electrocuted at the company’s worksite near Ozona in June.

Two workers struck by cranes, Cleveland firm fined $157,200
OSHA has cited Legend Tube and Metal Sales Inc. in Cleveland for 21 safety (including three willful) and health violations for operating unsafe cranes that struck and injured two workers at the steel service center. The company faces proposed fines of $157,200.

Houston workers demand justice for wage theft
Thursday’s protest, sponsored by the Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center, was an attempt to raise awareness about a growing problem and to put pressure on unscrupulous employers. In the last four years, the justice center has documented more than $3.3 million of stolen wages and has helped recoup about $550,000.

Doctor pleads guilty in Texas nurse whistleblower case
Last year we reported a story of two nurses from Winkler County, Texas that had been charged with “misuse of official information” for anonymously reporting concerns about a doctor’s medical practices to the Texas Medical Board. On November 7, that doctor, Rolando Arafiles Jr, MD, pleaded guilty to criminal charges for his retaliation against the two nurses for sending the complaint.

Fla. Craigslist jobseeker found dead in Ohio grave
A sheriff says a jobseeker from Florida has been killed and another from South Carolina has been shot after they responded to a Craigslist ad for a job on an Ohio cattle farm. Hannum says the South Carolina jobseeker who responded to the same ad was shot but escaped.

Targeting media who cover OWS
Early Tuesday morning, the New York Police Department forcibly evacuated Zuccotti Park, epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street movement. In what appears to have been a premeditated and coordinated effort to block media coverage of the raid, many journalists said they were barred from reporting the police action. Ten reporters were arrested, another was put in a choke hold and numerous others described extensive police harassment, including, perhaps ironically, a New York Post scribe who told the New York Times’s Brian Stelter that he’d been “roughed up.”

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Chronic polluters also chronic workplace health and safety violators
We have learned from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documents obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request and released by the Center for Public Integrity earlier this month that there are currently about 465 United States industrial facilities on what the EPA calls its “watch list.” The list is made up of businesses EPA considers chronic violators of the Clean Air Act – but against which the agency has taken no formal enforcement action. An examination of these same companies’ occupational health and safety records reveals them also to be chronic violators of Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) standards.

Board urges OSHA to stop delays on dust standard
The Obama administration needs to move much more quickly to set standards that could prevent combustible dust explosions like the one that killed three workers last December at a Hancock County metals recycling plant, a government watchdog agency said Wednesday. U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigators called on the Labor Department to propose broad new standards on combustible dust within a year.

Secrecy shenanigans continue despite collapse of case against Thomas Drake
Despite the Justice Department’s glaring defeat in the Drake case, the government is refusing to make amends with the whistleblowers it so egregiously mistreated. A front-page top-of-the-fold Baltimore Sun story reports that Drake and four other whistleblowers filed a lawsuit seeking to recoup property that the government seized in retaliatory raids back in 2007. Drake said the request is simple: “We’d like our stuff back.”

OSHA accuses SeaWorld of being influenced by media
The trial between SeaWorld and OSHA got heated Thursday when prosecutors accused park officials of changing policies solely because of media coverage. SeaWorld restricted trainers from entering the water with killer whales after one of the orca’s grabbed veteran trainer Dawn Brancheau by her ponytail, pulled her into the pool and drowned her. Prosecutors said SeaWorld should have seen it coming.

Retail employees face stress, injuries during holiday shopping season
Black Friday just might be the least favorite day of the year for retail employees. Richard Feinberg of the Purdue University Retail Institute says that full-time and seasonal employees working the front lines of retailing during the holidays face an enormous amount of stress, and OSHA is warning employers to protect employees during Black Friday and other major sales events during the holidays.

37,000 Target employees sign petition to protest working long hours On Thanksgiving
It’s no secret that to boost profits during a down economy, many retailers have put the squeeze on their employees to work longer and harder for less and less. Workers are often forced to choose between being with their families or working long hours on holidays to keep their jobs. Now, thousands of employees are standing up to the retail giant Target to protest the long hours they’re being required to work on Thanksgiving.

When it comes to EMS safety, worker perception may reflect reality, Pitt study finds
Poor perceptions about workplace safety culture among emergency medical services (EMS) workers is associated with negative patient and provider safety outcomes—the first time such a link has been shown in the pre-hospital setting, according to a study by University of Pittsburgh researchers that now appears online in Prehospital Emergency Care and is scheduled to be published in the January-March print edition.

The problem of presenteeism
Colleagues who work with runny noses, sore throats and clammy skin are as seasonal as the flu. Yet are sick employees workplace troopers or are they insecure about their jobs? A new study from Concordia University, published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, has found that presenteeism — attending work when ill — isn’t always a productive option.

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Gay federal workers say they’re only partway to equality
There are definite signs of change: More than 200 LGBT presidential appointees serve under President Obama, among them the first two who are openly transgender. Gay men and lesbians can serve openly in the armed forces. Intrusive questions about sex lives have been purged from security-clearance vettings. But even while the first openly gay U.S. ambassador promotes his memoir of life in the closet, an American contractor in Afghanistan is blocked from a gay social-networking site. And while the Environmental Protection Agency embraces Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, an EPA boss cancels an employee’s registration for an out-of-town conference because budget cuts would require him to share a room at the hotel with a straight co-worker.

‘You’re too fat’: Weight bias is on the rise in American workplaces
We are a nation of Tom Ferraros. Two-thirds of Americans age 20 and older have enough extra pounds to face health risks, according to the National Institutes of Health. But at the same time, we’re overwhelmingly biased against overweight people, convinced they are lazy, weak-willed and unintelligent. “In the workplace, it results in inequitable hiring practices, prejudice from employers, lower wages, discriminatory action and wrongful termination,” says Rebecca Puhl, director of research at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

Top-secret clearance restored to whistleblower who exposed failures to ship gear to US troops
A Marine Corps whistleblower who exposed the service’s failure to quickly deliver life-saving armored vehicles and other gear to troops in Iraq can return to work after military authorities reinstated his top-secret security clearance, his attorneys said Wednesday.

Judge won’t dismiss OSHA citation; SeaWorld mounts its defense of trainers’ ‘water work’ with killer whales
SeaWorld Orlando was unable Wednesday to persuade a judge to immediately dismiss a citation issued by the federal government following an investigation into the 2010 death of a killer-whale trainer, forcing the marine park to begin summoning witnesses in its own defense.

SeaWorld trainers: Working with killer whales is a calculated risk
SeaWorld employees on Tuesday testified at a federal job safety hearing that, while the behavior of killer whales is extremely predictable, the job of working with a 6-ton marine mammal carries a calculated risk.

Judge dismisses parts of civil suit against Kane coroner
A Kane County judge has dismissed parts of a civil suit against Kane County Coroner Chuck West, but the accusations of harassment and violating the Whistleblower Act remain. West has been charged with felony official misconduct, accused of allowing two of his employees to take a TV from the home of a dead Carpentersville man in 2007. In a civil lawsuit, Deputy Chief Coroner Loren Carrera said West harassed and demoted her for reporting the incident to police.

Kiln owner defies OSHA, risking a mounting fine
After repeated clashes with city officials over the years, the owner of a Sheridan lumber-drying operation is now embroiled in a dispute with officials from the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Division. After a routine inspection in June, the agency cited George Gabriel, owner of Custom Dry Kilns and Sawmill, for failing to monitor the noise levels employees are subjected to or implement a hearing preservation program.

One veteran’s rough path from killing and torturing to peace
Not yet 30, Evan Knappenberger has already lived several lives. His story destroys the U.S. government’s case against whistleblower Bradley Manning, exposes the toxic mix of fraud and incompetence that creates U.S. war policies, and highlights the damage so often done to soldiers who come home without visible injuries.

New webpage helps workers keep the benefits they earn
Workers participating in employer sponsored health and retirement plans deserve to understand their rights, responsibilities and benefits. They need one place to go to get answers to questions and to file a complaint if they believe their benefits have been improperly denied. That is why the U.S. Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration has launched a new consumer assistance webpage.

4 types of workplace violence: What’s your greatest risk?
Workplace violence typically falls into one of four categories, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Different workplaces are at risk for different types of violence, so identifying the type your company is most at risk for can help.

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New safety mandate kicks in for oil industry
Oil companies and offshore contractors have had 13 months to comply with a year-old government mandate requiring broad safety management systems designed to reduce human errors and to shrink operational risks. But on Tuesday, the clock winds down, as the federal government begins enforcing its requirement for Safety and Environmental Management Systems — or SEMS programs — that are meant to force oil and gas companies to systematically identify risks at every stage of their work

California OSHA regulations versus federal OSHA
If you’re just launching operations in California, or already have workers there, it’s essential to know the key differences in the California OSHA regulations versus the federal ones. For the most part, they’re more stringent than the federal OSHA rules, and cover such varied areas as Injury and Illness Prevention Programs (IIPPs), recordkeeping, hazardous chemicals, and ergonomics. In a BLR webinar titled “Cal/OSHA vs. Federal OSHA: The Key Differences Multistate Employers Must Be Aware Of,” Todd Hunt, Esq., outlined some of the key differences that employers who have employees in California – even if your headquarters is not there – need to keep in mind.

OSHA focuses on ‘intolerable’ worker safety at nursing homes
The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics has released detailed data on injuries and illnesses at nursing home facilities that the OSHA administrator is calling “intolerable.” The incidence rate of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work in 2010 for health care support workers increased 6 percent to 283 cases per 10,000 full-time workers, almost 2 1/2 times the rate for all private and public sector workers, at 118 cases per 10,000 full-time workers.

OSHA questions SeaWorld San Diego killer-whale trainer as safety hearing resumes
The second week of a legal hearing examining the safety of killer-whale trainers at SeaWorld Orlando opened Tuesday with government lawyers summoning a trainer from SeaWorld San Diego to the stand. John Black, lead lawyer for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, questioned Ken Peters about several dangerous incidents that Peters has been involved in during his 18 years as a killer-whale trainer at SeaWorld’s California park. In each case, Black noted that Peters and fellow trainers were able only after the fact to determine the specific negative indicators from their whales that suggested the animals were about to behave dangerously, either because the trainers missed the “precursors” or because they were not yet aware of them.

Questions two decades after Hamlet chicken plant tragedy
A 1991 fire that began in a deep fryer at a chicken plant in Hamlet took the lives of 25 workers. The tragic incident led to an overhaul of state workplace safety regulations and shed light on problems with the North Carolina inspection process. Two decades later, some safety advocates say budget cuts are causing current lags in inspections.

Survey: Company execs anticipate rise in whistleblower claims
Littler Mendelson, P.C. (Littler), a nationwide employment and labor law firm representing management, has released results of its National Whistleblower Survey. With the new financial incentives for whistleblowers created by Dodd-Frank in effect, the survey revealed that companies are increasingly concerned about whistleblowing activity. An overwhelming majority of respondents (96%) indicated they are either very concerned (27%) or moderately concerned (69%) about potential whistleblower claims and 73% identified whistleblowing and retaliation as emerging risk areas.

Group protests work conditions at fruit packer in Livonia
Conditions and complaints against a Livonia fruit packing company were the subject of a protest outside state OSHA offices on Monday. The group — consisting of current and former employees, as well as union representatives, immigration reform activists and state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, and the Rev. John Pitts Jr. — spoke before filing complaints about conditions at the Mastronardi Produce plant.

OSHA cites Utica-area feed processor after employee death
The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Harbor Point Mineral Products in Utica for 21 violations in the wake of their investigation into the death of a Mohawk man working at the facility. 24-year-old Craig Bernier died when he was engulfed in cotton seed in a silo at the facility.

Legacy Farms worker’s condition improved, OSHA probe continues
The condition of a construction worker hurt at Legacy Farms Thursday has improved, a family member said, though he faced two surgeries yesterday and has at least a month left in the hospital. The 42-year-old was crushed at the East Hopkinton project when two Bobcat-type vehicles backed into him and collided, Cruz has said. He suffered internal bleeding, a detached jaw, collapsed lungs, a lacerated liver and broken shoulders, ribs and facial bones.

Puncture: Exposure for bloodborne pathogen exposure
A dedicated and hard-working nurse is going through a normal shift. Checking vital signs, updating medical records, administering medications, comforting patients, drawing blood samples, inserting IVs, and then OUCH! What just happened? Is that a red dot underneath the glove? This can’t be right… One such story has been protrayed in the film Puncture. According to Roger Ebert’s review, “Puncture dramatizes this dilemma with its based-on-life story about two low-rent Houston lawyers who take on the personal injury case of Vicky (Vinessa Shaw), a nurse who contracts AIDS after an accidental stick.”This scenario has unfolded thousands of times among health care workers, often with tragic results. The CDC estimates that about 385,000 sharps-related injuries occur annually among health care workers in hospitals—with nurses the most affected healthcare occupation.

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