Friday, April 29, 2005

Murder Risk Higher in Workplaces Allowing Guns

Well, duh!

A study by the University of North Carolina has found that workplace policies that allow employees to carry guns are more lethal than those that prohibit weapons, reported April 27.The report, published in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health, compared workplaces that allow employees to carry weapons and those that don't. It found that murders are three times more likely to occur in workplaces where employees may carry
weapons, and the risk doubles when the weapon is a gun.


Workers Memorial Day In The News

Worker's Memorial Day, Arkansas
Angelica workers to join Workers Memorial Day events across California
Governor Schwarzenegger Proclaims April 28, 2005 Workers' Memorial Day, California
Local citizens recognize fallen workers, California (added)
Workers killed on job remembered, Illinois (added)
Worker Memorial Day observed, Iowa
State honors those who died on the job, Iowa (added)
Report: Maine Tops Nation In Workplace Injuries, Maine
AFL-CIO chapter remembers fallen workers with ceremony, Maryland (added)
Those who died doing their jobs are remembered, Massachusetts
Little pain for killing workers, unions say, Massachusetts
UAW members gather for workers' memorial, Michigan
MSU report shows number of on-the-job deaths remains unchanged, Michigan
Workers Who Lost Their Lives Remembered, Michigan (added)
MnDOT remembers transportation workers killed on job, Minnesota
Activists Rally for Safer Working Conditions, Mississippi
Voice of the reader: Safe workplaces need to become reality, Montana
Fallen Laborers Remembered, New York
DOT honors highway workers killed in construction accidents, New York
Press lawmakers to make sure labor is not a cause of death, New York
Remembering Workers Killed on the Job, North Carolina
Early honor for workers killed on job draws 150 in Toledo, Ohio
Massillon remembers its steel history, Ohio (added)
Guest Viewpoint: Honor all who die on the job, here or abroad, Oregon (Steve Hecker)
Labor Forum Features Top Safety Experts, Oregon
Seven lost lives lengthen sad tally, Pennsylvania
Eleven SD Workers Killed on the Job Honored Today, South Dakota (added)
Workers Memorial Day, Tennessee
Texas had most fatalities of Hispanic workers in '03, Texas
Union holds Workers Memorial Day service, Texas (added)
Death at work: A memorial, Washington
Fallen not forgotten: Day honors those killed on the job, Wisconsin (added)
Workers killed on job to be honored, Wisconsin
Wyo tops nation in work fatalities, Wyoming
Worker Memorial Day Honors Those Who Have Died on the Job

Other Countries

Worker safety drive launched, Australia
Workplace deaths a wake-up call: widow, Australia
A special tribute to people who have died or been injured in the workplace, Canada
Flags half-mast for fallen workers, Canada
Politics intrude on memorial services, Canada
Workers killed on job mourned, Canada
Amicus Urges Speedy Introduction of Corporate Killing Legislation ..., Germany
Britain remembers workplace deaths
TUC commemorates International Workers Memorial Day, Ghana
Unions mark Workers Memorial Day with calls for accountability, Great Britain
Memorial day for workplace dead, Great Britain
Best memorial for workers would be tough new laws on corporate killing, Great Britain
Plaque erected to honour local workforce, Hong Kong
Malta joins the world to mark Safety and Health at Work Day, Malta
Workplace deaths remembered in rally, New Zealand
Planting hope for workers' welfare, New Zealand
Basque trade unions organise acts separately on the World Day forSafety and Health at Work Spain
WTO protest over health and safety, Switzerland
With job related deaths topping 2 million annually, UN calls for preventive steps, United Nations

More on worldwide events at Hazards Magazine.


Thursday, April 28, 2005

Incredibly Shrinking Worker Memorial Day At (Some Of) OSHA

Worker Memorial Day, although given birth by the labor movement of this and other countries, has become such an institution that even the most virulently anti-labor administration in this nation's history recognizes it each year -- at least in press releases.

But no Worker Memorial Day would be complete without the traditional Confined Space commentary on OSHA's ever shrinking observance of this day.

Shrinking? Since WMD '03, OSHA's tradional press release has been getting smaller and small, dropping every year to just over half of the previous year's size.

This year's WMD press release was a paltry 226 words, packed into 5 short paragraphs (compared to 415 words last year and a whopping 749 words the year before).

This is my favorite paragraph from this year's release:
"The dedicated men and women of the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration pause to reflect on their mission and its meaning for the well-being of our Nation. Those who enforce workplace standards, together with those engaged in outreach and compliance assistance, and all of OSHA's myriad tasks, today renew their efforts to ensure that all American workers return safely each day to their homes and loved ones.
Yes, they are dedicated. I used to work with them. It's true. But for some reason, this year, the only ones that are apparently truly dedicated are those who "enforce workplace standards, together with those engaged in outreach and compliance assistance."

What about those who develop new standards? That used to be a big part of OSHA's job. Now it's not even mentioned (OK, maybe it's part of those other "myriad tasks.")

Am I being petty and vindictive? Maybe. But it's my blog. If you don't like it, go write your own.


Workers Memorial Day: The Global Dimension

As we remember workers who have died on the job, we need to think about more than their "bad luck." The International Labor Office, in its report "A Fair Globalization." emphasizes the interconnectedness of economic insecurity and poor working conditions around the globe, and argues that a minimum level of socio-economic security is essential to cope with the strains of globalization. Economically vulnerable workers have little power to advocate for improved working conditions and job safety.

Lest we think that this is a problem only in faraway countries, one need only read the weekly toll of fatal workplace accidents in the U.S. to see that immigrant workers, an especially vulnerable segment of the workforce, are disproportionately represented. Beyond these tragic workplace deaths lies a vast global toll of ill health connected with various forms of economic and job insecurity, not to mention workplace exposures to hazardous substances.
From an Op-Ed by Steve Hecker, associate professor at the University of Oregon's Labor Education and Research Center

Angelica Workers Using Workplace Safety To Organize Over Health and Safety Issues

Using health and safety issues in an bargaining campaign? There's an idea.

Workers at Angelica Textile Services are bringing health and safety issues to the front of their stuggle to force the company to bargain in good faith. The workers, represented by UNITE, held Workers Memorial Day rallies in Oakland, Los Angeles and Fresno, California:
Laundry workers at Angelica toil in filthy, unsanitary conditions where repetitive strain injuries are common, amputations occur, and linen quality is questionable. Workers face dangerous working conditions, including handling material which may carry HIV. Although workers are exposed to Hepatitis B, Angelica doesn’t always provide vaccinations. The multi-million dollar company, based in Chesterfield, Missouri, faces over $435,000 in possible fines from federal and state health and safety agencies.
Angelica is the leading health care linen service provider in the United States. The company has been cited in 17 different OSHA investigations and faces proposed penalties of nearly half a million dollars for not providing the safety training or protective equipment, even though they're exposed to linens soaked with blood and feces, that frequently contain used hypodermic needles and surgical instruments. Despite their exposure to materials that could transmit hepatitis B, the Angelica workers are not provided hepatitis B vaccinations.

A contract covering several Northern California shops expires on April 30th and Angelica workers throughout the the nation have threatened to strike on May 5if the company continues to break labor laws, jeopardize their health and safety and bargain in bad faith.


Injured Workers: "Tossed Onto The Junk Heap"

This is from an article from Dr. Michael Lax, Medical Director of the Central NY Occupational Health Clinical Center about the injured workers he sees who have gotten injured or become ill on the job:
One of the most striking things I have noted is how badly workers are treated from the time they are first injured or sick. Time after time, I see workers who have been injured treated like worn-out pieces of machinery, tossed onto the junk heap without a thought as to what they have contributed to the workplace or what they are still capable of contributing.

When they try and access workers' compensation benefits, they are fought every step of the way by the insurance carrier, delaying needed medical care and needlessly prolonging the injury or illness. They find that many physicians refuse to take workers' compensation or see patients with work-related maladies. Finally, when they look for other work, they face the discrimination of employers who don't want to hire someone with limitations, especially if those limitations are the result of a work-related health problem.

And throughout this often long process, the injured worker is forced to confront the accusation, sometimes subtly stated, sometimes blatantly expressed, that s/he is a faker, just trying to milk the system for some easy money.

As might be imagined, the injured worker who finds him or herself facing this situation is often devastated. It is no wonder that serious depression, anger, anxiety and frustration so often amplify the distress of the injury or illness and the difficulties of accessing medical care and benefits.


Fixing the system so that injured workers are treated with the dignity and support they deserve, and so that workplace injuries and illnesses are prevented, will require changing this basic problem. We should support an agenda for specific changes in workers' compensation, more vigorous preventive efforts and universal health coverage. But more fundamentally, worship of the bottom line needs to be replaced with the simple justice of requiring employers to take full financial responsibility for workers injured in their workplaces. If employers paid what they owe, efforts to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses would increase dramatically and the toll of these calamities on workers' lives would be diminished. This would be something to celebrate on future Workers Memorial Days.


On March 23, 2005, a huge explosion ripped through the giant BP Amoco refinery in Texas City, Texas, killing 15 contract workers. Twelve of the workers were in an office trailer located in the middle of the blast zone. As with most workplace fatalities, illnesses and injuries, these deaths were preventable. While a full investigation won’t be completed for many months, it is clear that refinery officials were aware that the process was outdated and hazardous. Refinery officials and the contractor were also aware of the trailer’s hazardous location.

Today, April 28, is Workers Memorial Day. Across the country, workers and labor unions will pause to remember the 15 Texas City employees and the more than 5,500 other workers killed in workplace incidents over the past year. Between 50 and 60 thousand workers perished from work-related illnesses caused by toxic materials like asbestos close to five million suffered injuries and illnesses. The toll is enormous: according to Liberty Mutual, the nation’s largest workers’ compensation insurance company, the direct cost of occupational injury and illness is $1 billion per week, with indirect costs many times higher.

Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act 35 years ago to assure “every working man and woman in the nation safe and healthful working conditions.” Among the tools given to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) were the authorization “to set mandatory occupational safety and health standards” and the ability to penalize those who break the laws. But instead of making progress in workplace safety over the past several years, the Bush administration has taken the country backwards.

In the workplace safety field, the Bush administration’s aim to make workplace safety issues less “confrontational” is transforming this country from a nation of laws to a nation of fact sheets and web pages.

One of the first actions of the Bush administration was to repeal an OSHA standard that addressed the biggest source of injury facing American workers -- ergonomic hazards. Year after year back, shoulder and wrist disorders make up one-third of all workplace injuries and illnesses. Instead of a standard that would have forced employers to address this workplace epidemic, OSHA substituted voluntary guidelines, along with a new innovation of the Bush administration: the Alliance – a voluntary information sharing partnership between industry associations and OSHA.

Setting up voluntary alliances as a replacement for mandatory standards has become a pattern for the agency and a means to accomplish the long-term goal of President Bush’s corporate supporters – making OSHA irrelevant.

For example, when the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, an independent government agency, recommended in 2002 that OSHA revise a standard to prevent explosions that have killed over 100 workers between 1980 and 2001, OSHA’s only response was a voluntary alliance with the chemical industry.

When a butter flavoring chemical destroyed the lungs of thirty workers at one popcorn plant in Missouri, OSHA formed an alliance with the Popcorn Council instead issuing an emergency standard. The alliance has yet to produce even a fact sheet. This is not an isolated example. OSHA regulates only around 600 out of the thousands of chemicals used in industry, and the vast majority of those standards are based on information more than 40 years old. The only chemical standard close to completion, however, is being done under a court order.

There is nothing wrong with promoting outreach and information sharing. In fact, government agencies should do more of it. But outreach should accompany enforcement, not replace it. Educating drivers about the dangers of drunk driving is important. But education should not replace strict laws that punish drivers found guilty of drunk driving.

OSHA’s penalty structure is another problem. Even when an employer knowingly puts a worker into a dangerous environment that causes his death, the maximum penalty, which OSHA rarely pursues, is 6 months in jail. The penalty for harassing a burro on federal land is one year in jail. In fact, killing fish and crabs draw larger penalties than killing workers. After a chemical tank at a Delaware Motiva refinery exploded in 2001, dissolving a worker in sulfuric acid, OSHA issued a $170,000 fine. But because the acid was released into the atmosphere and the nearby river where it killed thousands of fish and crabs, the Environmental Protection Agency levied a $10 million fine on the company.

Earlier this week, a Brooklyn contractor pleaded guilty to the death of a worker and to cheating workers out of the wages the contractor was supposed to be paying its employees. For killing one worker and injuring others, the employer potentially faces six months in jail, OSHA's maximum penalty. But for committing mail fraud while underpaying its workers (the building was under contract with the Postal Service), the employer faces a possible 20 year jail term.

The purpose of Workers Memorial Day is to “mourn for the dead and fight for the living.” Worthy goals indeed. But forgotten in this motto are the millions injured on the job every year, many of whom are (were) dedicated workers that have been tossed into the garbage by their employers and our country’s disintegrating workers compensation system. Like the families of those killed in the workplace, most of those injured are left to their own devices without anyone to put their plight into a political context, without anyone out there organizing them for change. Confined Space has fallen into the same trap – focusing on the dead (who are easier to find and count than the injured and ill, and who make far sexier stories) – and forgetting about the millions who have lost their livelihoods, lost the useful lives they once lived, and too often have lost their homes and means of support.

The political issues raging in this country – over court appointments, social security, terrorism and the war in Iraq – are important, but they tend to overshadow many of the concerns of the vast majority of people who are not politically engaged. But ask people if they think that workers injured on the job should suffer economically for the rest of their lives, ask people whether the jobs and chemicals should be considered safe until we manage to count the bodies or lungs of people who prove otherwise, ask people whether they think they have the power to make their workplaces safer or whether they think there is a role for laws and government enforcement – and you’ll probably get answers that don’t line up with those who are in power in Washington (or in most state capitals) today. The challenge is to organize them into a potent political force – not just in New York city and Boston, but in Wichita, Kansas, Houston Texas, Boise, Idaho and Atlanta, Georgia.

This is the challenge we face if we are ever again to move forward on workplace safety issues – in Republican or Democratic administrations. And we’re not going to be able to depend excusively on labor unions to get there. They’re too small, they’re too consumed with fighting for survival, and health and safety has not (yet) risen to the level where enough labor leaders see it as one way to build the labor movement. This doesn’t mean that we give up on labor; they’re still the most potent progressive force out there, but it does mean that we can’t depend on them exclusively. Some states have COSH groups, some have injured workers associations and some states have strong, active and aware unions. But they aren’t enough. Unless and until those concerned about workplace safety make strong common cause with other progressive groups – environmentalists, womens rights groups, progressive churches, immigrant organizations and others, ours will be a difficult and ultimately futile struggle.

The American people are ready to listen. A recent poll showed that out of a variety of issues that Americans think Congress should be involved in (endangered species, gun control, gay marriage, steroids in baseball, "Schiavo" type family health cases), "Rules in the workplace that deal with health and safety issues" came out on top.

And I believe you'd get similar answers if you asked a few more questions:
  • Do you think that the health effects of chemicals should be understood and the chemicals regulated before or after workers get sick and die from being exposed on the job?

  • Do you think that 6 months in jail is an appropriate punishment for an employer who knowingly violates the law, putting a worker into a job where he is killed?

  • Do you think that OSHA standards that protect employees from exposure to dangerous chemicals should be based on the most recent scientific information, or information that was gathered forty years ago?

  • Do you think that public employees who fix your roads, work in your sewage treatment plants, care for the mentally ill, put out our fires and guard our most dangerous criminals should have the same guarantee of a safe workplace that private sector employees doing the same work have?
I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Finally, with more than 50,000 workers dying each year from work-related accidents and illnesses, with millions suffering injuries, with workers in the U.S. now working more hours than workers in most of Western Europe and Japan more than one quarter of workers in the mining, manufacturing and wholesale trade industries working more than 40 hours per week, and with mounting evidence that these conditions cause elevated levels of psychological stress, increased exposure to physical hazards and more repetitive stress problems, as well as other serious health problems like heart attacks -- with all of these problems increasing in American workplaces, with the labor movement spiraling into oblivion, why are we, on this Workers Memorial Day, worrying about whether the AFL-CIO is going to abolish its health and safety department? Why can't we seem to understand that the conditions people work under are among the strongest issues on which to build a labor movement that actually shows that it cares about what people actually do at work -- between 9:00 and 5:00 or between 5:00 and 1:00, or between 1:00 and 9:00.

These are the thoughts I'm having this Workers Memorial Day -- and they aren't happy ones.


AFL-CIO Releases 14th Annual Death on the Job Report

The AFL-CIO has released its 14th annual Death on the Job report (Introduction here. Full 154 page report here.) The report is a national and state-by-state profile of worker safety and health in the United States. This version takes a look at not just the past year, but the entire first term of the Bush administration. It contains every bit of data you’ll ever need to back up your health and safety arguments or conduct a media interview. Read it, download it, print it out and save it.

Here are some of the "highlights."
  • According to the BLS, there were 5,559 workplace deaths due to traumatic injuries in 2003, a slight increase from the number of deaths in 2002, when 5,534 workplace deaths were reported.

  • The construction sector had the largest number of fatal work injuries (1,126) in 2003, followed by transportation and warehousing (805) and agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (707).

  • The number of workplace homicides increased for the first time since 2000.

  • In 2003, 4.4 million injuries and illnesses were reported in private-sector workplaces, a slight decrease from 4.7 million in 2002, as well as 585,300 injuries and illnesses among state and local employees in the 30 states and territories where these data are collected.

  • Injuries and Illnesses are Underestimated: While government statistics show that occupational injury and illness are on the decline, numerous studies have shown that government counts of occupational injury and illness are underestimated by as much as 69 percent.

  • Musculoskeletal disorders continue to account for one-third of all injuries and illnesses with days away from work The occupations that reported the highest number of MSDs involving days away from work in 2003 were nursing aides, orderlies and attendants. MSDs are underreported by the BLS by at least a factor of two.

  • Immigrant Workers: Fatal injuries to Hispanic or Latino workers decreased for the second year in a row, although Hispanic workers continue to record the highest rate of fatal injuries among the racial/ethnic groups reported.

    Thirty percent of the fatal injuries to foreign-born workers were a result of transportation incidents and assaults and homicides accounted for nearly thirty percent. The construction industry accounted for 260 or one-third of all Hispanic worker fatalities.
  • In FY 2005, there are at most 2,138 federal and state OSHA inspectors responsible for enforcing the law at approximately 8 million workplaces.

  • In FY 2004, OSHA conducted 638 fewer health and safety inspections than in FY 2003. At its current staffing and inspection levels, it would take federal OSHA 108 years to inspect each workplace under its jurisdiction just once.

  • In fiscal year (FY) 2004, serious violations of the OSH Act carried an average penalty of only $873.

  • The average number of hours spent per inspection decreased between FY 1999 and FY 2004, from 22 to 18.7 hours per safety inspection and from 40 to 35.6 hours per health inspection.

  • The number of citations for willful violations decreased from 607 in FY 1999 to 446 in FY 2004.

  • Criminal Prosecutions: Of the 170,000 workplace deaths since 1982, only 16 convictions involving jail time have resulted—although 1,242 cases involving work deaths were determined by OSHA to involve “willful” violations by employers (violations in which the employer knew that workers’ lives were being put at risk).

  • Coverage: The current OSHA law still does not cover 8.5 million state and local government employees. Although these public employees encounter the same hazards as private-sector workers, in 26 states and the District of Columbia they are not provided with protection under the OSH Act.

Overall funding levels proposed for OSHA, MSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are insufficient to maintain current program activities of these agencies.
  • At OSHA, the President proposes to eliminate all funding for worker safety training programs at the same time seeking increases for employer assistance programs. Taking into account inflation, this year’s proposed budget freezes OSHA’s and MSHA’s enforcement programs.

  • For FY 2006, the Bush administration has proposed a $286 million budget for NIOSH, similar to the level of funds appropriated for NIOSH in FY 2005 ($285.4 million), but adjusted for inflation represents a $5.1 million cut in real dollar terms.

  • The administration’s FY 2006 MSHA budget proposes $280 million in funding for MSHA compared with $279.2 appropriated in FY 2005. Adjusting for inflation, the FY 2006 proposed MSHA budget represents a $4.9 million cut in real dollar terms

OSHA and MSHA Standards

The Bush administration is the only administration in history not to issue a major safety and health regulation during its four years in office.

  • During its first term, in addition to repealing the ergonomics standard, the administration has withdrawn 24 pending OSHA regulatory actions from its regulatory agenda, leaving few major initiatives on the regulatory schedule.

  • OSHA still has taken no action on the Employer Payment for Personal Protective Equipment standard, which has been through the rulemaking process and is ready for final action.

  • The one major regulation on which OSHA is working, hexavalent chromium, is the result of a lawsuit brought against the agency by Public Citizen and PACE International Union.

  • There are currently 4 economically significant regulations still on the regulatory agenda in addition to Hexavalent Chromium: Crystalline Silica (in the pre-rule stage); Confined Spaces in Construction (proposed rule stage); Beryllium (pre-rule stage) and Hearing Conservation for Construction Workers (long-term action with the next action undetermined). There is no commitment from OSHA to propose the rules that are in the pre-rule or long-term action stages.

  • Seventeen MSHA standards for miners have been withdrawn since the President Bush took office, including the Air Quality, Chemical Substances and Respiratory standard.

So what are the issues that we need to work on, according to the report?
  • Hispanic and Foreign-Born Worker Fatalities and Injuries: Fatalities among Hispanic workers rose 48 percent from 1992 to 2003, while overall workplace fatalities went down by 11 percent.

    Hispanic men have the greatest overall relative risk of fatal occupational injury of any gender or race/ethnicity group. In 2000, Hispanic construction workers made up less than 16 percent of the construction workforce, but they suffered 23.5 percent of the fatalities. In 2000, Hispanic construction workers were nearly twice as likely to be killed by occupational injuries than their non-Hispanic counterparts.

    In February 2002, OSHA announced an initiative to address the increased safety and health risks of immigrant and Hispanic workers. But at the same time, the administration has proposed terminating funding for worker training and outreach programs, many of which are targeted to these high-risk workers.

  • Ergonomics: Despite repealing the OSHA ergonomics standard four years ago, the administration’s major activities consist of just three final ergonomics guidelines—for the nursing home industry, retail grocery stores and poultry processing and a total of 17 general duty clause citations since January 2001.

  • Congressman Charlie Norwood has introduced four pieces of legislation, "a grab bag of political favors for business -- that threaten worker safety." More here (pdf).

  • OSHA has not aggressively addressed work-related issues stemming from 9/11 like biohazards, emergency response, security and surveillance of workers cleaning up the World Trade Center.

  • Long hours of work and the way work is organized: The International Labor Organization (ILO) reports that hours worked annually in the United States have been steadily increasing over the past couple of decades. Workers in the U.S. now work more hours than workers in most of Western Europe and Japan. Evidence that long hours of work cause injuries and illnesses is growing.

  • Workers’ health is also affected by such elements as the pace of work, number of people performing the job (staffing levels), hours and days on the job, amount and length of rest breaks, work load, layout of the work and skills of those workers on the job. Work organization changes, such as machine-paced work, inadequate work-rest cycles, time pressures, and repetitive work are associated with musculoskeletal disorders, increases in blood pressure and risks of cardiovascular mortality.

    Ten states have passed legislation placing limits on the amount of mandatory overtime nurses or health care workers can be forced to work and some states are passing legislation establishing nurse-to-patient hospital staffing ratios

  • Behavior-based safety programs, incentive programs and injury discipline programs attempt to shift the responsibility for injuries and job safety to workers instead of focusing on workplace hazards and discourage workers from reporting injuries or unsafe working conditions.
Workers Compensation
  • Because workers’ compensation insurers are denying claims and workers are failing to file them in the first place, workers, their families, businesses, federal and state governments together are paying anywhere from $7.6 billion to $23.1 billion each year for occupational diseases that should be covered by workers compensation insurance.

  • Led by the American Insurance Association, and the Chamber of Commerce, businesses from Hawaii to Alaska to New Hampshire and Maryland continued to demand cuts in workers’ compensation coverage and benefits in 2004-2005. For the most part, they succeeded.

  • Insurance companies were largely successful convincing state legislatures in 2004 and 2005 to enact more restrictions on medical care and disability benefits, limit attorneys and resist attempts to regulate rates

  • Workers’ compensation laws need to be reformed to expand coverage and eligibility, to increase benefit levels and to permit workers their choice of physician. Insurance reform is sorely needed.

What is to be done?

According to the AFL-CIO,
The OSH Act needs to be strengthened to make it easier to issue safety and health standards and to make the penalties for violating the law tougher. Workers need to be given a real voice in the workplace and real rights to participate in safety and health as part of a comprehensive safety program to identify and correct hazards. Coverage should be extended to the millions of workers who fall outside the Act’s protection.

A standard is still needed to protect workers from ergonomic hazards and crippling repetitive strain injuries and back injuries, which continue to represent the most significant job safety problem in the nation. OSHA needs to keep up with new hazards that face workers as workplaces and the nature of work change. Hazardous conditions in the service sector and in retail trade need greater attention. OSHA and MSHA need additional funding to develop and enforce standards and to expand worker safety and health training. Similarly, additional funds are needed for NIOSH to support enhanced research on safety and health problems.


Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Asbestos Compensation Hearings Held

The Senate Judiciary Committe held a hearing yesterday on the asbestos compensation bill, S. 852, co-sponsored by Senator's Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Pat Leahy (D-VT).

AFL-CIO Safety and Health Director Peg Seminario summed up the labor federation's main issues.
Over the past three years, as we have worked on this legislation, we have listened to the concerns and proposals put forward by business and insurers, and have attempted to be responsive. In the interest of reaching agreement on legislation we have compromised on our initial position that all claimants deserve a monetary award. We have accepted a much lower level of overall funding for the program than we think will be actually required to meet anticipated claims. And, while we have pushed for full transparency on the funding mechanisms and participant contributions, we have not made such disclosures a condition of our endorsement.

But on the fundamental issue of ensuring that the legislation will create a system that will, in fact, deal with victims fairly and pay timely compensation to those who are sick from asbestos disease, we can accept no compromise that does not achieve this basic objective. It is not in victims’ interests to trade one flawed system for another that has serious identifiable problems and deficiencies and threatens to leave many individuals worse off. These serious problems include the exclusion of thousands of asbestos-related lung cancer claims, leaving most victims with no remedy during the start-up period, the inclusion of restrictions preventing individuals with both asbestos and silica disease from obtaining access to the courts or fair compensation from the fund, unworkable statute of limitations provisions that could bar tens of thousands of worthy claims, and program sunset provisions that could leave claimants in limbo should the fund run out of money.
The main issue is 25,000 - 30,000 people would be left out of the fund. This group was extensively exposed to asbestos, have lung cancer with no obvious signs of underlying asbestos disease, but who also smoked.

The AFL-CIO is also supporting the ability of terminally ill and seriously disabled victims to continue to use the courts until the fund is functioning.

The insurance industry is opposing the bill because of "leakage" -- the ability of terminally ill and other disabled asbestos victims to continue to use courts until the fund becomes operational and after it runs out of money.

Despite the strong opposition of the AFL-CIO, the United Auto Workers continue to support the bill. Although the UAW recognizes some of the bill's flaws, UAW Legislative Director Alan Reuther explained that "The UAW firmly believes that the no-fault asbestos compensation system established under the Specter-Leahy bill would be vastly preferable to the current tort system."

In addition,
As a result of the mass of law suits filed against companies that produced or used products containing asbestos, a number of auto parts companies have been forced into bankruptcy. In addition, rising claims against major auto manufacturers threaten to expose them to significant liabilities in the future, posing a major threat to their long-term economic health and the jobs and benefits of hundreds of thousands of active and retired UAW members.


The system established under the Specter-Leahy bill would ensure that the costs of compensating victims of asbestos-related diseases are spread broadly across defendant companies and insurers in a rational, predictable manner. This will help to reduce business bankruptcies, thereby protecting the jobs and benefits of hundreds of thousands of workers and retirees.
The committee is expected to vote on the bill tomorrow. If it passes, it will be sent to the Senate floor. No bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives yet, and it is not clear whether they would pass the same bill.

Meanwhile, the The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) met with Senator Specter yesterda in Washington to demonstrate their opposition to the bill. ADAO Co-Founder and Executive Director Linda Reinstein outlined their opposition to the bill: the elimination of a person's basic right to have their grievances heard in court, vast under-funding, unwarranted ineligibility and exclusion of claims, faulty medical criteria, burdensome claims processes, insufficient up front funding, lack of equitable transition for current cases, under funding for research into potential treatments and a cure, lack of proper definition for financial awards and too much power in the hands of the Administrator.

According to Reinstein,
"The bottom line is that Senate Bill 852 was written without the voice of the victims. At the same time, it protects the asbestos industry and cuts its liability at every turn...I believe the victims' organizations gathered here today - and the thousands of victims we represent across the country - would support an asbestos resolution bill -- if it was fair and equitable. There are solutions to this problem. But, they are not represented in this bill. Ladies and gentleman, asbestos companies are not victims. Congress should only pass legislation that properly protects and supports those who are."

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Residential Care Centers: The 21st Century Jungle?

One of the most interesting -- and often upsetting -- parts about representing health care and social service workers was listening to stories about their working conditions -- conditions that few people are aware of and that fewer people would ever want to do, especially for the low wages.

This is what workers endure at the Latham Centers in Brewster, MA which specializes in children and adults with emotional and behavioral problems.
  • A resident threw a flower pot at a counselor. The counselor who was injured during the flower pot attack could not seek medical help because she was the only employee present

  • A week after the flower pot attack, after the union's request for additional staffing was denied, the same client bit the counselor eight times on the arms. The counselor now has nerve damage in one arm and will soon undergo surgery.

  • Last October, a counselor suffered three broken ribs after trying to restrain a violent resident. There were two counselors on duty at the time watching three residents.

  • A few months later, a resident tried to choke a staffer who was driving an agency van. In January, a resident threw feces and blood at a counselor.

  • Last weekend, a resident assaulted a counselor as he tried to restrain her. The counselor, who was working alone, had to ask another client to call a different residence for help. But the residence did not have enough staff, so the counselor asked the client to dial 911. When the Yarmouthport police arrived, the resident attacked an officer and was later charged with assault and battery.
The union representing the workers has been negotiating with management for their first contract since November 2003.

The union, of course, is making outrageous demands. They want two staff members working together on all shifts and annual cost-of-living increases. The workers currently make $12 anhour, which comes to a princely $24,000 a year. Approximately 40 percent of staff at the centers has turned over in the last 18 months.

Executive director Anne McManus says the workers are a bunch of lying greedheads:
McManus questioned whether the six incidents of assault actually occurred and said Latham Centers adheres by state regulations.

McManus said that the centers do not lack adequate staff and that the unions are focusing on the assaults because of the contentious contract negotiations. "This is just a response to the union's anxiety over getting a contract signed very quickly," she said.
This brings a number of questions to my mind:

Are people like McManus born that way, or do they have to go to school to become mean and malicious? Are they truly ignorant or just cruel?

And finally, how can anyone read an article like this or talk to these workers and still believe that unions have outlived their usefulness?


Monday, April 25, 2005

Labor Department's Hidden Agenda

Nathan Newman has ranted and raved quite articulately about the extensive new paperwork requirements that the Bush administration has imposed on labor unions in retaliation for their support of Democratic candidates. Not only that the sheer detail is clearly punitive, but that labor corruption uncovered recently by federal prosecutors, while shameful, is insignificant in comparison to the huge scale of recent corporate scandals.
Can you imagine what would be said if liberals were demanding similar disclosure from every corporation? Actually, we already know since they are already whining about the Sarbanes-Oxley bill passed in the wake of the Enron-WorldCom scandals, and the disclosure to the public required for those forms are far less extensive.

Even as the Bush administration fails to fund inspectors to enforce the minimum wage or workplace safety, it's diverting money to audit unions-- clear political revenge against its perceived enemies. It has no evidence of any pervasive problems in union finances, but it's manufacturing a supposed crisis to justify its political attack.
Dan Haar at the Hartford Currant makes a similar point:
[Secretary of Labor, Elaine] Chao, like others in the Bush administration, has an annoying habit of couching anti-worker rules as pro-worker measures. This confusing and unwarranted mess of data is, the department insists, a way of letting union members know where their money is going.

Don't believe it, coming from an administration that has replaced rules with voluntary compliance for businesses, adopted few, if any workplace safety rules and slashed budgets for such items as worker safety training.

As one union leader put it, aptly, "If for-profit corporations had to have the same level of disclosure, there would be a general meltdown on Wall Street."
So what exactly does Wall St. think about all of this? Well, if one is to believe that the Wall St. Journal (subcription required) speaks for Wall St., all these rules have very little to do with uncovering corruption and everything to do with undermining unions:
Talk about eye-openers. Consider a LM-2 filed by a California local of the Communication Workers of America. While the union's spending is fairly routine, its dues base certainly isn't; 47% of its members are "agency fee payers." In plain English, these are members who, exercising their right under the Supreme Court's 1988 Beck decision, have withheld any dues that go to political or non-bargaining-related activity.

This suggests either that the members disagree with their leaders' agenda, or resent their forced enrollment in the union in the first place. It is especially notable because a vote of only 50% of a union's participants can oust the current leadership, or more drastically decertify the union altogether. Evidence of such disgruntlement in the ranks is exactly the sort of information that union chiefs would prefer to keep quiet.
Well, at least they're being honest.


Workers Memorial Day Up North

Some excerpts from a Workers Memorial Day column by Canadian Autoworkers President Buzz Hargrove:

New chemicals are introduced into workplaces every day without adequate testing to prove they will not cause harm to workers. For centuries, workers have been the guinea pigs of health hazards. Toxic substances, which are concentrated in workplaces, find their way in greatly reduced concentrations to the environment where they may harm others.

We now know there are 25 carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) that cause lung cancer, the most common cancer among men and women in Canada. Twenty four of these carcinogens were discovered by counting excess deaths among workers. The only exception is cigarette smoke, but it too causes deaths among workers who are exposed at work.

What is to be done? Among Hargrove's suggestions:
  • We can forbid use in the workplace of substances we know are harmful. We've begun to do that with cigarette smoke and we can do it for so many other substances. The Canadian Auto Workers has bargained a prohibition on the use of a number of carcinogens in our collective agreements with General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler. These prohibitions should be written into law.

  • We can use the precautionary principle for new hazards. This principle states: When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. It is wrong to wait for a body count of workers before we take action.

  • We can use the ALARA principle (as low as reasonably achievable) to reduce workers' exposure to harmful substances.

  • We can support workers who have the courage to stand up to employers by refusing to work with substances they know will harm their health and by insisting on the control of these substances or their replacement by safer substitutes.


Workplace Violence: Missing The Story?

Clifton Patterson of Benton, Mississippi was fatally shot at work last week in by a co-worker during a dispute over missing mechanic's tools.

Following the shooting, an article entitled "Workplace shootings in Mississippi" appeared in the Jackson Clarion Ledger. The article describes the killings of a dozen workers over the past 19 years. That's not bad, I thought. Only 12 workers shot in almost 20 years? But reading closer, I realized that these were all workers killed by co-workers who had "gone postal." But what about all of the workers shot to death in convenience store robberies? Don't they count as "workplace shootings?" What about law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, like Thomas Catchings, a 41-year-old Jackson motorcycle patrol officer who was killed last week in a gun battle. Wasn't he a worker?

Actually, so-called "worker-on-worker" or "internecine" violence amounts to no more than about 7% of all workplace violence, even though it receives most of the press. In fact, violence, mostly from retail robberies, is the leading cause of death among immigrant workers. But all of those workers who get shot in convenience or police officers who chose dangerous work somehow aren't as sexy as workers who "go postal."

Related Stories

Immigrants & Teens: Frontline Soldiers in the War Against Retail Crime?, July 28, 2004
Workplace Violence: Fashionable vs. Unfashionable, January 18, 2004


Sunday, April 24, 2005

Formosa Plastics: One Year Later

On April 23, 2004, an explosion ripped through Formosa Plastics Corp, killing 5 workers. OSHA has fined the company $300,000 and a report from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board is expected this Fall.
ILLIOPOLIS - On the face of it, Bradford Bradshaw would be about the last person you'd expect to be rooting for a new chemical plant in Illiopolis.

On Saturday night, he attended an emotional candlelight service honoring the memory of his five co-workers who died after the Formosa Plastics Corp. plant was hit by a fiery explosion a year ago at 10:40 p.m. April 23.

Bradshaw escaped having his name added to the list of the dead by the merest fraction: burned over 60 percent of his body with his right eye destroyed, he went into kidney and congestive heart failure and was in a coma for 6½ weeks. His wife, Donna, said afterward that his face looked "like a marshmallow after you leave it in the fire too long."

And yet, reflecting back on the 12 months that now separate him from the disaster, Bradshaw, 48, thinks the greater good would be served by having those dozens of well-paying jobs back. He recalls co-workers, many related to each other and who had worked out there all of their lives, and says chemical plant paychecks sustained a lot of families.

"If it's rebuilt and run correctly and safely, then I don't have a problem with it, and I think a lot of people wouldn't have a problem with it," said Bradshaw. "For the sake of the economy and jobs, it would be good to rebuild."

Weekly Toll: Workers Memorial Day Edition

Thursday, April 28, is Workers Memorial Day, a day set aside by labor unions and workers around the world to "mourn for the dead and fight for the living." Below is the last Weekly Toll before this year's observance. At the bottom, I've added links for all of the Weekly Tolls for the past year.

A few comments:

First, as you've probably noted, the "Weekly Toll" is misnamed, it's actually a bi-weekly toll.

Second, as I've said before, this is only a partial count. I generally list "only" between forty and fifty workplace fatalities every two weeks, yet over 200 workers die in workplace accidents every two weeks in the United States. Many never get listed in the newspapers where I get my information, and others I just can't find.

Third, between 1900 and 2300 workers die every two weeks from work-related disease, many from work-related cancers. Very few of those names will ever appear in the news media or on the Weekly Toll.

Finally, if you haven't done so, click on some of the links. It's never ceases to shock and depress me how short some of the articles are and how little information they contain about what caused the incident and how it could have been prevented. Many of the articles don't include the name of the worker killed because the names are being temporarily withheld until the family is notified. But the press has often lost interest by then, and we'll never know their names.

So what's the point? When I was at AFSCME I wrote a bi-monthly health and safety newsletter for a few years. An edition would never go by without having to report on the death of one or more of our members. I was told that some of the powers-that-be thought this list was too depressing and they didn't see the point. But I considered all of these deaths "teachable moments," for members doing similar work, for staff that should be assisting members to prevent these incidents, and for the leadership, some of whom had been away from the workplaces of their members for too long to remember the often life-threatening working conditions.

So why do we continue to do this terribly depressing list? I had asked myself the same qustion a few months into doing this Blog. It was a lot of work, and I wasn't sure what meaning it had or if anyone was even reading it. But gradually, I started hearing from people about how much more impact these stories had than just hearing numbers and statistics. Most meaningfully, I started hearing from the family members of many of the victims I listed. They found some consolation in seeing their loved ones names listed, and some measure of understanding to see their deaths put into a political and social context. Finally, I think many found some outlet to the anger and frustratoin they had been feeling.

For all of that, the labor (emotional and physical) of putting this together is worth it. But, even with all of that, I'm not sure I could have continued this long without the help of Tammy and Kelly who unfailingly spend hours compiling this list, while doing their own memorial webpage, United Support & Memorial For Workplace Fatalities.


Local man dies in industrial accident

Phelps, KY -- A Whayne Supply employee died while working Thursday afternoon, officials have confirmed. "We've confirmed that we have lost an employee," said branch operations manager Mark Miller.

According to an accident report from the Mine Safety and Health Administration, Rocky J. Reynolds, 22, of Robinson Creek, was conducting repair work to the steering system on a Caterpilar 980G front end loader when he was fatally crushed in the articulation pivot area of the loader.

The incident, which occured around 2 p.m., happened at the Point Rock Tipple in Phelps, which is operated by Central Appalachia Mining. A company representative was not available for comment.

Man Killed in Trench Collapse

Madera, CA — A deadly trench collapse in Madera killed one man Thursday morning. It happened in front of the man's brother, who tried, but was unable to save him.

Excavation workers were in the process of digging and installing concrete irrigation pipe when tragedy struck, as a sidewall inside a trench collapsed. 28-year-old Mario Romero was working inside the trench when he was suddenly overcome by thousands of pounds of dirt.

There were no signs of any shoring inside the 12-foot deep trench.

Chillicothe officer Larry Cox was killed

Chillicothe, OH -- A manhunt was underway in Chillicothe Friday for a man who police say shot and killed an off-duty police officer during the attempted robbery of a gas station.

Police Chief Jeffrey Keener says the suspect stole a car from a restaurant and then tried to rob the gas station around 9 p.m. Thursday

Keener says off-duty officer Larry Cox had been on the force for 19 years. He was married and had a son.

Officials say Cox was walking home from his parents' house when he happened upon the pursuit.

Mechanic shot, killed

Benton, MS -- Eric Winford stood by his cousin's side as ambulance workers tried to revive the man after he was shot Friday morning.

"We were trying to get him to blink his eyes, but we had no luck with that," Winford said.

Winford's cousin, Clifton Patterson of Benton, was fatally shot at work in Jackson during a dispute over missing mechanic's tools, police said.

Eddie Mitchell, 51, of Vicksburg allegedly shot fellow employee Patterson, 43, multiple times, Jackson Police Department spokesman Robert Graham said. The men worked as mechanics at Anglin Tire Co., 926 I-20 West at Gallatin Street.

Missouri trooper hurrying to manhunt is killed in crash

A call for help took Ralph C. Tatoian away from his wife and three children before dawn Wednesday.

But in a sense, the Missouri Highway Patrol trooper took them along. A photo of his family was the only thing tucked in his pockets when he died in a car crash about 30 minutes later, while rushing to a manhunt.

On the back of the picture someone had written, "We'll always love you."

Tatoian, 32, was on his way to join fellow tactical officers in looking for a burglary suspect who wounded an officer in a gunfight in Gasconade County several hours earlier.

Two electrocuted while working on power lines

COMFORT, Texas - Two utility workers were electrocuted Thursday while upgrading a power line in this town about 50 miles northwest of San Antonio.

The men were inside a bucket truck working on a 345-kilovolt line at a substation. One was a 26-year-old LaGrange man and the other a 48-year-old Wimberly resident, Kendall County Sheriff's Lt. Louis Martinez said. Their names were not immediately released.

Both were employees of the Lower Colorado River Authority.

OSHA investigating working conditions that led to Boise man's death

BOISE -- The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating whether working conditions at a site where a 58-year-old Boise man died complied with safety regulations.

James Wonacott died from extensive head and neck injuries after he was hit by a chain while clearing trees near the Boise River Tuesday. Ada County Coronor Erwin Sonnenberg says the chain was wrapped around a tree. It got caught in a chipper, which threw the chain at Wonacott.

OSHA reports say he was working for Hailey, Idaho-based Sawtooth Wood Recycling.

Worker killed in fall at mill in Madawaska

MADAWASKA, ME - An electrician wiring a motor atop a nearly 30-foot-high empty mixing tank died Wednesday morning when a grating platform he was standing on collapsed and he fell into the tank, a Fraser Papers official said. The early morning industrial accident at Fraser Papers paper mill killed Marc Baron, 49, a first class electrician and a 27-year veteran at the mill. Baron was believed to have died instantly from blunt force, according to a company spokesman. The incident was reported to mill security personnel at 9:11 a.m. It was the first industrial accident at the mill since the early 1950s.

Truck driver dies in crash; nearly 50 firefighters sent to hospital

NAUGATUCK, W.Va -- A truck driver has died and nearly 50 emergency workers and others have been treated for hazardous chemical exposure after an accident in Mingo County.

The flatbed truck crashed and burst into flames just before midnight Thursday night on U.S. Route 119 near Millers Creek and Naugatuck. The four-lane highway remained shut down in both directions Friday because of the accident and police are asking drivers to avoid the area.

The truck was carrying barrels of a polyurethane-based sealant called Retneau that is used to fill the tires of off-road coal mining equipment to prevent flats and as a wood sealant.

Firefighters responding to the accident first thought the leaking liquid was oil but they soon began complaining of breathing problems and other ailments. They were taken to Williamson Memorial Hospital for treatment and decontamination.

3 Pilots Die in Crash of Firefighting Plane

Chico, CA -- A firefighting aircraft that was scheduled to operate for the U.S. Forest Service next month crashed in a northeastern California forest Wednesday evening, killing three crew members aboard.

The wreckage was spread over an area of steep, rocky terrain on the edge of the Lassen National Forest and caused a fire that consumed more than two acres on impact, Forest Service spokeswoman Heidi Perry said. Forest Service and local firefighting crews were able to contain the fire by yesterday morning, Perry said.

Government safety investigators who arrived at the scene 30 miles outside Chico, Calif., yesterday said they could not determine the cause of the crash, but the accident renewed safety experts' concerns about the continued use of aging military planes to fight fires under difficult conditions that they were not designed to fly in. The National Transportation Safety Board cautioned the Forest Service about its use of converted military planes to fight fires last year after two fatal accidents in 2002, when the planes literally broke up during flight because of cracks caused by fatigue.

Among those killed in the crash were Aero Union's chief pilot, Tom Lynch, and pilots Brian Bruns and Paul Cockrell, the company said.

Memphis, Tennessee Firefighter Dies While Driving Firetruck

A 38-year-old Memphis firefighter died Wednesday after he collapsed behind the wheel of a fire engine on a routine alarm call.

Shortly after 11 a.m. David O'Conner, driving Engine 7 west on St. Paul, collapsed, sending the fire engine onto the sidewalk, MFD Deputy Director Alvin Benson said.

Lt. Kenneth Lepard jumped over the console, grabbed the wheel and steered it clear of a fence, Benson said. It's unclear how fast the engine was moving.

Firefighters were unable to revive O'Conner, Benson said. He was pronounced dead at Methodist University Hospital.

Pittsburgh man killed in turnpike accident

Mt. Pleasant, PA -- A Pittsburgh businessman was killed Tuesday morning in a one-vehicle accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Mt. Pleasant Township.

Alexander Shvets, 35, of Greenfield, died after his 2003 Chevrolet Express van left the roadway at 5:50 a.m. at mile marker 82.8, said Westmoreland County Deputy Coroner Joseph Musgrove.

Shvets was traveling west when the van failed to negotiate a curve and overturned, state police said. He was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle, according to police.

Shvets owned a food service company in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill section and was transporting restaurant supplies in the 15-seat van when the accident occurred, Musgrove said.

Remote control claims another victim

CLEVELAND, OH -- A Union Pacific switchman was killed in a remote control switching accident in Riverdale, Utah, on April 11, underscoring the dangers of unregulated remote control train operations. Early reports indicate that a lack of training may have contributed to the fatality, the latest in a string of serious remote control related accidents. The victim in the accident -- a 38-year-old switchman named Anthony L. Petersen -- had eight months of total railroad experience at the time of the accident. It was only his second day on the job at Riverdale when he was killed.

“Right now remote control operators only get two weeks of training,” BLET National President Don Hahs said. “That’s not enough and sadly, Anthony L. Petersen paid the ultimate price for this lack of oversight.”

It is believed that the switchman, who was not wearing a beltpack device, was riding on the side of a rail car when he fell and was run over.

Arena Football player dies from injury in game, Lucas was hit, presumed to damage spinal cord

LOS ANGELES - Al Lucas, a lineman for the Los Angeles Avengers, died yesterday afternoon after suffereing an apparent spinal cord injury while trying to make a tackle early in the Arena Football League team's game at Staples Center, officials said.


New York, NY- One of the country's leading breast-cancer surgeons was killed yesterday by an ambulette as she crossed the street less than a block from her job at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. Renowned specialist Dr. Jeanne Petrek, 57, was on her way to work after apparently visiting her elderly mom, who lives down the street, at around 10:15 a.m., when she was struck walking across East 64th Street at Second Avenue, witnesses said.

Store clerk shot to death in Gaffney

GAFFNEY, S.C. - The clerk at a gasoline station here was found shot to death in a restroom and police said her boyfriend turned himself in to sheriff's deputies in Georgia. A co-worker found the body of Pamela Ownby, 43, of Gaffney about 6:10 a.m. Tuesday, Police Chief John O'Donald said. Ownby had opened the store at 5:30 a.m.

Worker killed by falling tree

LOVELAND, KY LOVELAND, Ky. A Kentucky man trimming trees at a home northeast of Cincinnati was killed when a tree fell on him.

James Napier was pronounced dead yesterday at University Hospital in Cincinnati. The 35-year-old was from Dayton in Campbell County.

He worked for Scottie's and Son Tree Service. He suffered head and neck injuries

Investigators looking into death of employee at Lawton Goodyear

LAWTON, Okla. - Authorities believe the death of an employee at the Goodyear tire plant in Lawton is an accident, but they don't know exactly what happened. Curtis Eary was found late Sunday tangled in a piece of equipment. He was taken to a local hospital where he died and his body is now being sent to the state medical examiner's to determine the cause of death. Comanche County Sheriff Kenny Stradley says Eary may have had a heart attack, or may have gotten his arm caught in the machine.

Slain Paper Deliveryman Is Mourned

Los Angeles, CA -- While the rest of the city slept, Alejo Ortiz Amador collected several hundred freshly printed editions of the Los Angeles Times and headed out into the darkness in his pickup truck.

His delivery route of gas stations, pharmacies and liquor stores crisscrossed the streets of South Los Angeles.

After three decades on the job, he had told friends and family he was looking forward to the day -- two years from now -- when he could retire with his wife, Alma, on property in his native Mexico.

But early Sunday morning, the 56-year-old father of seven had barely made it out of his red Toyota near the corner of East 95th and Main streets when he was confronted by an unknown gunman. The assailant shot him once in the face at close range, police said.

The gunman took Amador's wallet, police said, and left him to die beside the same bundles of newsprint that he had distributed for years to help support his large, close-knit family.

Two Evanston Firefighters Killed in Town House Blaze

Evanston, UT -- Two Evanston firefighters died Monday and three were injured, apparently from an explosion while they were searching for children believed to be in a burning town house complex.

Thirty-eight year old Robert Henderson and 23-year old Jacob Cook, both volunteer firefighters, died in the blaze.

City Employee Dies After Crashing Into Pole

CHICAGO, IL -- A city employee was killed Monday when the city vehicle he was driving veered across two lanes of traffic and crashed into a utility pole. William Ashby, 68, was pronounced dead at about 6:30 p.m. at a local hospital. Officials said Ashby was driving a city-owned vehicle west on 79th Street when he lost control of the vehicle. Officials were investigating whether the crash killed Ashby, or if he had died from a medical condition that caused him to lose control, police said.

City files charges in trench death

White Plains, NY -- The city is charging a contracting company with building code violations after a foreman was crushed to death by an unshored trench that collapsed as he was installing a drainage system for a single-family home on Wednesday. "Not only was there no shoring provided by the contractor, but that work was not included in the approved plans that we issued the permit for," Noel Shaw, the city's deputy commissioner of development, said yesterday. "This was a huge oversight. It's a shame that people have to lose their lives because of not following the proper safety precautions." Meanwhile, federal safety officials opened an investigation into the trench collapse, which killed Thore Christensen, a 59-year-old Garnerville resident. U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations require that trenches deeper than 5 feet be shored up to prevent them from caving in, said the agency's area director, Diana Cortez. Police said the trench where Christensen was buried was more than 8 feet deep and 5 feet wide when the unsupported sides collapsed.

The general contractor, Carmine Giuliano, and his company, Carroe Construction, based in Scarsdale, will be held responsible for any violations, even though the company subcontracted the work to Christensen.

Family mourns woman killed in work accident

CHESTER, SC -- Just more than three weeks ago, Margaret Diane Gallman McAbee was planning her wedding. On March 26, she remarried her former husband, Billy McAbee, and they recently celebrated three weeks of marriage.
That was Saturday.

Now, Billy is preparing to say goodbye.

Diane McAbee, 49, of 22 Peay Ridge Road died Sunday morning after a machine fell on her as she worked at a local manufacturing plant.

Firefighter Dies Battling Blaze

Burke, NY -- A volunteer firefighter died while battling a blaze at his own house on Saturday.

53 year-old Dale Monica was at his home in Burke, New York when the fire broke out. He rushed to the fire station and collapsed shortly after he arrived with fire crews back at his home.
Fire officials say the fire started on the first floor of the building. It was quickly knocked down and no one was hurt fighting the fire.

Monica was found laying on the ground outside the building. He was brought to the hospital where he died.

Charcoal plant worker died today

Poplar Bluff, MO -- David P. Hendrix, 28, of Grandin, who was critically injured in Friday's explosion at the Royal Oaks Charcoal Plant in Ellsinore, died at 12:12 a.m. today in Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, according to the Medical Examiner's Office in St. Louis.

Tim Tanksley, 38, of Ellsinore, who also was injured during the explosion, remains a patient at Saint Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau.

Carter County Sheriff Greg Melton reported the steel doors on one of the plant's charcoal kilns were blown off when a violent explosion occurred inside the kiln. Hendrix and Tanksley were working near the doors.

Detective Is Killed in Interrogation at Station

PROVIDENCE, R.I., April 17 (AP) - A city detective was killed at police headquarters on Sunday by a man being questioned who managed to take the detective's gun, the Providence police chief said.

The detective, James Allen, 50, was shot in a conference room while questioning the man, Esteban Carpio, about the stabbing of an 84-year-old woman, Chief Dean Esserman said.

Mr. Carpio was not under arrest at the time, and his handcuffs had been removed, the chief said.
Mr. Carpio, 26, grabbed the detective's gun, shot him, broke a window in an adjacent office on the third floor and jumped onto a service road, Chief Esserman said at a news conference. Mr. Carpio was captured after a struggle a few blocks away and was charged with murder.

One killed and one injured in industrial accident

Valdosta, GA - The Cook County coroner released the name of the subcontractor who died Tuesday in Adel during construction of a feed mill.

Felipe D. Ramires, 22, died of crushing trauma to the body, Coroner Ron Lipsey said.

Although Ramires was living in Austell, his body will be sent back to Mexico. Another worker was taken to South Georgia Medical Center for injuries.

Sources at the scene said workers were putting up precast panels when one of the panels toppled over, dropping concrete on one of the workers and pinning the other man.

Fall From Building Kills Lakeland Man

Orlando, FL -- A Lakeland construction worker died Monday morning in Orlando after he fell from the wall of a condominium building, according to an Orange County Sheriff's Office report.

Santiago Arriaga, 24, was working at the Blue Heron condominiums at 13418 Blue Heron Beach Drive when the accident happened.

A crane operator at the scene said Arriaga was on the top of a 17th-story wall. The wall was hooked to a crane, and when Arriaga unhooked the crane, the wall started to lean. Arriaga's coworkers grabbed the wall and tried to hold it, the sheriff's office reported.

Arriaga held onto the wall for 10-15 seconds before trying to swing to a platform one story below him. Instead, he hit a safety cable, bounced off and fell 15 stories.


SEMINOLE COUNTY, FL -- A 19-year-old construction worker was killed Thursday while operating a cement mixer at Wilson Elementary School west of Sanford, authorities said.

Seminole County firefighters found Garvin Gayle of Orlando partially trapped inside a portable cement mixer just before 2 p.m.

Gayle, who had been working on a pre-kindergarten classroom, was dead at the scene. The Seminole County Sheriff's Office and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating.

OSHA looks into fatal incidents

Nassau County, NY -- The recent deaths of three vinyl siding workers in Nassau County, who were killed in two separate incidents when their aluminum scaffolding poles touched high-voltage power lines, are being investigated by federal safety officials.

"This appears to be a tragic coincidence," said Det. Lt. Dennis Farrell, commanding officer of the Nassau Homicide Squad. "It may be a question of education, or training. It would seem that, for whatever reason, they're not cautious enough or aware enough."

Elkin Astaiza Ceballos, 19, and David Coy Sanchez, 25, lost control of a 30-foot aluminum pump jack while taking it apart Thursday, and were hit with a blast of electricity from a 13,000-volt primary LIPA wire, said Joseph Monahan, a Floral Park Police dectective.

Besides a new investigation into last Thursday's incident, OSHA has a continuing investigation into the Nov. 14 electrocution death of vinyl siding worker Santos Garcia, 34, of Hicksville, said OSHA spokesman John Chavez. He declined to comment further on the investigations.

OSHA to investigate oil-field worker's death

SHIDLER, OK -- The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration will investigate an accident in which an oil-field worker died after falling 50 feet from a crane.

Joel Richard Brothers, 51, died Friday, three days after he fell, landing on Tim Sletto, who sustained several fractures to his leg, shoulder and ribs but is expected to recover, said Curtis Biram, the attorney for Lamamco Drilling of Skiatook, which was drilling the well where the accident took place.

The lanyard, or strap, that was attached to Brothers' safety harness broke, and he fell from a pulling unit -- a crane with pulleys that is used in oil-field drilling.


St. Lucie County, FL -- A construction worker fell 50 feet to his death Wednesday afternoon after slipping off the top of a concrete silo at the Tarmac America concrete plant along Selvitz Road, the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office said Thursday. Scott Rehm, 43, of Massillon, Ohio, died instantly. He worked for Ohio-based Mast-Lepley Storage Structures as a concrete finisher, according to a sheriff's office report. An autopsy has been scheduled, and the sheriff's office continues to investigate. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also looking into Rehm's death.

2 die in I-95 construction zone crash

ORMOND BEACH, FL -- The driver of a tractor-trailer is blamed for a crash that killed two day laborers early Friday, when the construction trailer they were riding in was mowed down in a work zone on Interstate 95, authorities said. Richard Wilkes, 45, of Holly Hill and a 26-year-old Deltona man whose name was withheld pending notification of next-of-kin, were placing traffic barrels in a construction zone around 12:20 a.m. near State Road 40. The men were working on a six-lane widening project between State Road 40 and the Flagler County line. More here.

Missing cab driver found dead in Hall County

GAINESVILLE, Ga.-A missing taxicab driver has been found dead, lying in a wooded area about 10 miles from his abandoned cab. Jose Roberto Gomez-Javier, 37, was discovered by a passer-by Thursday night. His wife reported him missing the previous Monday. An autopsy confirmed the driver for El Mexicano Taxi service in Gwinnett had been shot, although authorities have not said where the wound was. More here.

Ponchatoula strawberry farmer killed by freight train

Ponchatoula , Alabama- A 64-year-old strawberry farmer was killed when she was struck by a freight train traveling through this town on Saturday afternoon, Ponchatoula police said. Scottie Kupper was a longtime strawberry farmer and frequently sold her strawberries along tracks where vendors line up to sell their vegetables, fruits and goods, Sgt. Chad Miller said.

Woman killed in crane accident at the Port of Miami

A Port of Miami employee died just after midnight Thursday morning after she was run over by a crane, Miami-Dade Police said.

The woman, identified 50-year-old Audrey McCollum, was on break at pier No. 164 at 1306 Port Blvd. when a crane ran over her at about 12:01 a.m., police said.

Construction worker dies in fatal fall

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. A north Alabama construction worker was killed yesterday afternoon when he fell three-stories to his death. It happened about 1:45 p-m at a new apartment/condominium development off University Drive.

The worker, 44-year-old Carlos Lopez of Madison, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officer dies on way to accident scene

BELMONT, N.C. – The Belmont police force is in mourning Sunday for a fellow officer who died on the job. Capt. Byron Carpenter collapsed behind the wheel of his cruiser Saturday while rushing to an accident, one that claimed the life of a 13-year-old.

Man falls to his death at industrial park

AMBRIDGE, PA - A man died around 1:15 p.m. Monday after falling about 60 feet through the roof of the WorldClass Processing Corp. plant in the Port Ambridge Industrial Park, Police Chief David Sabol said. Beaver County Deputy Coroner Bill Pasquale said the Honduras native, Saul F. Martinez, 27, of North Carolina, who was working with a subcontractor's crew replacing the plant's roof, died almost instantly after the fall. Pasquale said the coroner's office didn't have an official cause of death Monday evening because an autopsy was not complete.

Worker Killed on Interchange Project

Burke, VA -- A 35-year-old iron worker on the Virginia Department of Transportation's Springfield Interchange Project was killed in an accident on site on Saturday, April 9.

According to project manager Larry Cloyed, Darren Havermale of West Virginia, a foreman with Williams Steel, the steel contractor for the seven-phase, seven-year project, was killed while working overnight in a man-lift installing large beams to form part of a bridge connecting I-395 South to I-the Outer Loop of 495 East.

Cloyed said both VDOT and the Department of Labor are still conducting investigations into the particulars of the accident, but details reveal that Havermale was working in the lift, 70 feet in the air, in proximity to a steel beam when his head became "pinched" between the man-lift cage and the beam.

Pensacola Construction Worker Killed in Partial House Collapse

PENSACOLA, FL (AP) -- Workers for Ambercombie Construction say they were trying to elevate a house in Pensacola when a construction worker died. They say the side of a house collapsed and pinned him under it.

An Escambia County emergency management spokeswoman says that's when the house either shifted or its center beam collapsed. The spokesperson says 22-year-old James Peter Griffith of Pensacola died, and another worker suffered a leg injury.

Worker dies in elevator shaft plunge

Boston, MA -- A 35-year-old elevator repairman plunged to his death last night when he fell down an elevator shaft in a Beacon Street office building. The man was working inside One Beacon Street yesterday at 8:40 p.m. when he fell 20 feet from the ground floor to the basement and suffered head injuries, said Scott Salman, spokesman for the Boston Fire Department. Salman said the man was repairing the elevator, but it's unclear what caused the fall. Ladders were left in the area, he said. Boston police and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating.

Worker dies of explosion injuries

Louisville, KY -- An employee of Transformer Decommissioning LLC, a transformer recycling company located at Marble Hill, died Saturday after an empty transformer he was working on exploded Friday.

Rodney Dwayne “Rod” Skirvin, 40, of 219 W. Skyline Drive, was taken by Stat-Flight to the University of Louisville Hospital. He died Saturday due to massive brain damage, his wife, Donna Skirvin, said today.

Rob Van Vliet, president of Transformer Decommissioning LLC, said it is not known what caused the transformer to explode, but the company is investigating. “It was an accident, plain and simple,” he said.

Store clerk shot to death in Gaffney

Gaffney, GA -- The clerk at a gasoline station here was found shot to death in a restroom and police said her boyfriend turned himself in to sheriff's deputies in Georgia.

A co-worker found the body of Pamela Ownby, 43, of Gaffney about 6:10 a.m. Tuesday, Police Chief John O'Donald said. Ownby had opened the store at 5:30 a.m.

It appeared she was shot several times while moving some merchandise that had been stored in the restroom, O'Donald said.

Mark Pearson, the victim's boyfriend, turned himself in to sheriff's deputies in Franklin County, Ga., shortly before noon Tuesday, O'Donald said.

1 worker dead, 1 hurt in Kearny

KEARNY, NJ - One man was killed and another injured yesterday after the pair fell about 20 feet from a manlift while fighting a transformer fire, authorities said. Roldan Lauro, 37, of Pacific Street in Newark, was pronounced dead at University Hospital in Newark yesterday, police said. Carlos Fonseca, 32, of Windsor Street in Kearny, was listed in fair condition at the hospital yesterday, a hospital spokesman said.

Employee dies at Dan River facility

DANVILLE, Va. - Dan River officials say a long-time employee died today when a forklift she was operating flipped over. Human Resources Vice President Calvin Barnhardt says 58-year-old Joanne Deshazor had worked at the Martha Lane distribution center since 1967. It happened around 11:30 this morning. Danville Police Lieutenant Scott Eanes says the lift bar on the machine was up, and that as Deshazor drove down an aisle, the bar struck an overhead shelf. That caused the forklift to overturn. Police say she likely died instantly. The company is cooperating with an Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation.

Deputy killed during late-night standoff

Wichita, KS -- Ron Potter said he knew there was trouble brewing Saturday across the street in Newton when he saw the six patrol cars. About 3 a.m., all hell suddenly broke loose.

"I heard about a half-dozen, maybe nine shots," Potter said. "Pow-pow-pow-pow-pow-pow -- it was just that quick."

Hours later, Potter and the rest of Newton learned that those gunshots had killed Harvey County sheriff's Deputy Kurt Ford, 38. They left Hesston police Detective Chris Eilert, 33, critically injured.

Investigators said the officers were shot when they tried to force their way into a house where they could hear a man beating a woman.

The shooting marked the second time this year that a Kansas law enforcement officer was killed in the line of duty. Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels, 42, was shot to death in January while serving a search warrant.

Road flagman killed in hit-run

Denver, CO - A construction flagman died early Friday morning after being struck by a vehicle near Porter Adventist Hospital.

The victim's identity and his employer were not released Friday.

According to Denver police, a witness saw a pickup crash through road barricades on South Downing Street and Vassar Avenue and strike the flagman.

Weekly Tolls Since Workers Memorial Day 2004

April 10, 2005
March 27, 2005
March 13, 2005
February 27, 2005
February 13, 2005
January 30, 2005
January 16, 2005
January 2, 2005
December 19, 2004
December 5, 2004
November 22,2004
October 25, 2004
October 12, 2004
September 28, 2004
September 13, 2004
August 13, 2004
August 1, 2004
July 18, 2004
July 7, 2004
June 20, 2004
June 5, 2004
May 23, 2004
May 9, 2004