Confined Space
News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

APHA Letter To Homeland Security Protesting Fake OSHA Sting

Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, has sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff expressing the APHA's "deepest concern" about the July 6, 2005 sting where Immigration and Customs enforcement (ICE) officials misrepresented themselves as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials as part of a roundup of undocumented immigrant workrs at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina.
We believe this action was both inappropriate and counterproductive. It will significantly damage the credibility of OSHA and undermine citizen confidence in government. By making workers fearful of attending workplace safety programs it will set back our efforts to prevent injury and death on the job. This is a national goal, which we have worked tirelessly with employers, unions and government agencies, to ensure.
Benjamin also noted the broader public health impact of the ICE's action:
This action also has the serious potential to undermine your efforts to ensure the biosecurity of our nation, as well, by driving underground individuals who may be exposed to infectious diseases or prohibiting the occupational health personnel from providing critical preventive services that protect all Americans from new and deadly infectious diseases.

Sting operations of this type have the serious potential to damage national efforts to prevent workplace illness and injury, to improve access to health care services, and to protect the public health.
The letter called on the ICE to "take broad and prompt action to ensure this does not happen again" and to "adopt and publicize department policy prohibiting ICE from misrepresenting itself as OSHA or other public health and safety agencies in future operations."

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