What’s an American worker’s life worth? About $5,900
Incredibly, in over 40 years there has been only one monetary increase in penalties, despite inflation. Predictably, this has led unscrupulous employers to choosing miniscule fines rather than investing in a safer workplace. The fallout of this arrangement is that each year nearly 5,000 American workers are killed on the job. Which is why a bill (H.R. 2067), known as PAWA (Protecting America’s Workers Act) has been introduced in Congress. Its purpose is to basically modernize and upgrade OSHA — to equip it with the tools necessary to ensure safe work environments — by increasing fines and penalties, expanding jurisdiction, raising certain misdemeanors to felonies, extending reporting deadlines, punishing repeat offenders more severely, etc.
Workplace safety and randomized controlled trials: another weapon of delay?
A fundamental principle of modern workplace safety laws holds that if scientific evidence suggests the health and safety of the public is at risk, the federal government should step in and take action, even if no conclusive proof has yet been generated. The principle is that the government should adopt public protections based on the “best available evidence” rather than wait indefinitely for “proof” of a hazard while workers suffer harm. In practice, however, this has meant that industries and interests with an economic stake in the status quo often fight against federal health and safety improvements by trying to invalidate the scientific evidence showing that certain processes or products are dangerous to human health.
More silence on dust explosions from Obama OSHA
Once upon a time, then-Sen. Barack Obama thought protecting the nation’s workers from combustible dust explosions was pretty important, issuing a statement four years ago that said: We must do everything we can to protect America’s workers and prevent terrible accidents, like the deadly explosion at Imperial Sugar earlier this year, that occur as a result of combustible dust. It’s long past time that OSHA issue a standard to prevent these kinds of accidents. Now, as Obama’s fourth year as president of these United States stretches on, this is the best that the Center for Public Integrity’s Chris Hamby could get out of the U.S. Department of Labor about the status of Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards aimed at ending deadly dust explosions.
MSHA: Alpha did not evacuate miners
The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration has just released this collection of citations and enforcement orders issued to Alpha Natural Resources following discovering of a burning coal conveyor belt at the company’s Road Fork No. 51 Mine in Wyoming County. My quick count shows eight enforcement orders and four citations. Among the most interesting — and troubling — is one in which MSHA inspectors allege that Alpha mine management did not evacuate the underground workings when thick smoke was discovered without any source for that smoke being apparent to those mine managers.
OSHA cites chicken factory for safety, health violations
MB Consultants, Ltd., doing business as Murray’s Chickens, in South Fallsburg, has been cited by the US Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for eight violations of workplace safety and health standards at the company’s chicken processing plant.
Judge rules SeaWorld killer-whale trainers must be protected by physical barriers
SeaWorld Orlando’s iconic killer-whale shows could be forever altered after a judge ruled Wednesday that federal investigators were within their powers to recommend that trainers performing with the huge marine predators be protected by a physical barrier or something else providing the same level of safety. Judge Welsch was at times sharply critical of SeaWorld management. He called SeaWorld’s assertion that it was unaware that working with killer whales posed a hazard to employees “implausible” and “difficult to reconcile” with comments repeatedly made by management and with the litany of trainer incidents and injuries that have occurred over the years.
When a dirty workplace is an explosive hazard
Since 1980, more than 450 accidents involving dust have killed nearly 130 workers and injured another 800-plus, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data compiled by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the US Chemical Safety Board. Yet a push to issue a rule protecting workers from the danger has stalled in the face of bureaucratic hurdles, industry pushback, and political calculations.
26 Chinatown bus companies shut down by feds
The U.S. Transportation Department shut down 26 bus companies as imminent safety hazards, closing dozens of routes out of New York’s Chinatown in the government’s largest safety sweep of the motor-coach industry.
Staples.com survey shows gaps in office health and safety preparedness
A Staples.com survey of small business managers and office workers on office health and safety showed gaps in office workers’ awareness of companies’ safety plans and preparedness, a situation that could lead to increased accidents and injuries. The survey, conducted in advance of National Safety Month, found that managers were far better informed on workplace safety preparedness than office workers, who were uncertain on what they should do in case of an emergency.
Foxconn working conditions still harsh in China, say activists
Working conditions at Foxconn’s gargantuan Chinese factories that assemble Apple Inc’s slick gadgets have barely improved despite pledges this year to halt labor violations, workers’ rights activists and employees said on Thursday.