Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Worker's Getting Screwed...So What Else is New? In Houston, Someone Seems to Care

A collegue recently pointed me toward a continuing series in the Houston Chronicle about the conditions workers face today. The author of these articles, including the workers compensation article posted below, is written by Houston Chronicle reporter L.M. Sixel.

One of the best deals with safety incentive programs:
True path to safety is likely not lined with big prizes

For the past few months, employees heading into work at the Lyondell-Citgo refinery would walk past a shiny new four-door Ford pickup and Chevrolet Silverado parked at the front gate.

The trucks, loaded with accessories, were a delicious reminder that if the plant hit 1 million man-hours without a recordable injury, one lucky employee would win either the Ford or the Chevy or another $30,000 vehicle of his choice in a drawing.

Plant officials hoped that by giving away an expensive vehicle, like the Ford F150 pickup it awarded last year, the company could reinforce the importance of workplace safety. It was a way of staying focused, a refinery spokesman said.

But to some employees, the display of the fancy trucks was a subtle reminder not to report any injuries. Otherwise they'd face the wrath of their peers, who'd like to park one of those trucks in their own driveway.

"Unless you're bleeding or a bone is sticking out," most employees preferred to keep quiet and see their personal physicians, said process operator David Taylor, who is also a member of the Paperworkers, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Local 4-227 workers committee.
Others include
Efficiency's up but morale's down at Lyondell-Citgo

From all appearances, life looks normal at the Lyondell-Citgo Refinery on the Houston Ship Channel.

The PACE union flag flies in front of the sprawling refinery off Texas 225, and union members sit alongside management representatives on key safety committees.

But union representatives and rank-and-file employees say the atmosphere between labor and management has turned poisonous.

The workers say many of their colleagues have been unfairly terminated, a sizable portion of the plant has been disciplined and an atmosphere of fear has pervaded the refinery.

Hispanics still face more deaths, injuries on the job

It's a story I have written year after year. But for Hispanics, the dangers at work don't seem to decline.

Hispanics are more likely to die or get hurt on the job than any other ethnic group, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. And while the fatality rates for blacks and non-Hispanic whites have fallen over the past 10 years, it's barely changed for Hispanics.

To make matters worse, Hispanics are also less likely to have health insurance, so many don't get screened for major health problems such as diabetes and hypertension, according to a new study by Circadian Technologies, a Boston-based consulting firm.

The price for working at night may be your health

ABOUT 20 percent of us toil outside the traditional 9-to-5 routine as more and more companies embrace the concept of working around the clock. And according to a new study, that's causing major health problems.

As more people work evening and overnight shifts at call centers, retailers and bank processing centers, they're suffering from higher rates of gastrointestinal troubles, cardiovascular diseases and sleep disorders than their counterparts who are home in time to watch the 6 p.m. news.

State safety mandate little-know and less enforced

TEXAS has had a law on the books since 1989 requiring cranes to have insulators that prevent deaths from contact with power lines.

But those who should know about the device, which could have prevented some of the state's 30 construction-related electrocutions in the past three years, don't.

Safety consultants, union officials and some operators of the machines contend that few of the cranes working in Texas have the protective device.

And government safety experts and agencies differ on which is responsible for the problem.
And this is one of my favorites:
Law firm sees niche in 'dead peasant' policy defense

A few months ago, only a handful of people had ever heard of "dead peasant" life insurance.

But word has gotten out now that Wal-Mart and a few other companies have been sued for taking out secret life insurance policies on their employees and keeping the proceeds when the workers die.
This is great stuff. Makes you wonder why more newspapers aren't encouraging reporters to do the same thing.