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

Sunday, April 30, 2006


Workers Memorial Day In The News

This page will be updated over the next few days

California


Governor Schwarzenegger Proclaims April 28, 2006 Workers' Memorial ...
Resolution To Support April 28. 2006 Workers Memorial Day Sacramento Rally

Iowa
Vigil honors workers who died

Kentucky
Labor group dedicates memorial to workers killed on the job

Maryland
Union leaders and lawmakers honor those who died on the job

Massachusetts
Advocates urge worker protection, Boston
Study: Many job deaths are immigrants, Boston

Minnesota
Minnesota Marks “Workers Memorial Day"

Montana


New York
DOT Workers Memorial, Binghamton
Workers Memorial Day events planned, Elmira
Workers Memorial Day marked, Newburgh
Workers who died on jobs honored, Rochester

North Dakota
Workers Memorial Day

Pennsylvania
Workers' memorial, Harrisburg
Ceremony honors fallen workers, Easton
Ceremony honors those killed on the job in nation's workplaces, Pittsburgh
Remembering those who died in the workplace, York

Ohio
Memorial Services Honor Fallen Workers, Steubenville

Vermont
Vermonters Observe Workers Memorial Day

Washington
Worker memorial ceremony at noon today
Labor and Industries pauses to honor fallen workers

Wisconsin
Worker Memorial Day, LaCrosse

Misc
Hispanos, al frente de muertes laborales, Univision
Lack of Oxygen and Communication Killed Sago Miners—Families ‘Deserved Better’



International
(For more international news, check out the Hazards website here. Hazards made it possible this year to have an easier time identifying Workers Memorial Day events in Bangladesh or Tanzania, then it was to figure out what was going on in Peoria or Las Vegas.)

UN labour agency marks World Safety and Health Day with focus on ...

Australia
Moment's silence for trapped miners

Canada
Workers who died on job mourned
Widow receives medalto honour late husband
Memorial honours those killed, hurt on job
National Day of Mourning
No progress in worker safety in 20 years, ceremony told
Alberta Labour Groups Speak-Out on International Day of Mourning
Day of Mourning an international day of reflection say ...
Ottawa to lower Maple Leaf for those killed on job
CLC prez in Kamloops today
Remembering the sacrifice
Flag lowered to mark workplace deaths, injuries
Black Coffins, Fiery Words

Ghana
TUC Commemorates International Workers Memorial Day

Ireland
Family to mark workers memorial day
Builders' union calls for higher safety standards

United Kingdom
Festival goers get an earful of chav rap and The Fall in August
Remembering those who died at work
International Workers Memorial Day
T&G: Blair must get tough on workplace killing
Remembrance day for workers

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Weekly Toll

A partial list of American killed in the workplace over the past two weeks.

Safety agency joins trench death probe


GULFPORT, MS - A federal job safety agency has joined the investigation in the death of a construction worker buried from his neck down when a 10-foot trench collapsed in a sewer project on Klein Road.

Two of the three workers in the trench Thursday evening at Klein and Imilda Drive escaped when a large piece of the earthen wall fell, but the weight and movement of the wet clay crushed the head and chest of 20-year-old Eleazar Casiano, said Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove.

Casiano, of Mount Olive, N.C., was employed by Big Warrior of Cleveland, Ala. Company officials at the business 30 miles north of Birmingham were not available for comment Friday.

The workers on Klein Road did not shore-up the earthen walls before they dug underneath 48-inch drainage pipes to lay sewer pipes, Hargrove said.


Taylor campus mourns five deaths

UPLAND, Ind. — Taylor University’s plans to inaugurate Eugene Habecker as president will go on but the deaths of four students and a staff member in a traffic crash cast a pall over campus today.

The students and staff members killed in the 8:09 p.m. accident worked for university dining services and were returning Wednesday night from the school’s Fort Wayne campus. They had been preparing for a scholarship banquet that was part of the inauguration ceremony. A semitrailer crossed the median on Interstate 69, just 10 miles from the main Upland campus, and crashed into the van, killing the five and injuring five others, police said.

Police identified the deceased as students Elizabeth A. Smith, 22, of Mount Zion, Ill., Bradley J. Larson, 22, Elm Grove, Wis.; Whitney E. Cerak, 18, Gaylord, Mich.; and Laurel E. Erb, 20, St. Charles, Ill. Taylor University employee Monica Felver, 53, of Hartford City, Ind., also died in the crash.


Worker Killed Building Sam's Club

Charleston, WV -- One man is dead after falling off the roof of a construction site in Monongalia County.

It happened around 11 Friday morning at the site of the new Sam's Club at University Towne Center.

Police say the worker fell about 40 feet and was dead at the scene. The Occupational Safety Health Administration is investigating the accident. The worker was employed with Friday Mason Contractor Inc out of Pittsburgh.

His name has not yet been released.


Foundry worker killed by forklift

READINGTON TWP., NJ -- A Vianini Pipe employee died yesterday after he was struck by a forklift as it was backing up.

Santiago T. Castro, 28, was walking across the warehouse floor when the forklift, driven by employee Jose R. Prado, struck him, according to Hunterdon County Detective Daniel Hurley.


Worker falls to death in Spartanburg

Spartanburg, SC -- Investigators are trying to determine why a worker fell to his death while cleaning a skylight at a Spartanburg business.

47-year-old Donnie Myles Crocker of Spartanburg died in the fall Thursday. Officials say Crocker fell through the skylight at the building supply company where he worked.

Joseph Stewart with the Spartanburg County Coroner's Office estimated Crocker fell 18 feet. He was dead on arrival at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center.


Albany Police Mourn Death of Fellow Officer

39-year-old Detective Kenneth Wilcox died early Wednesday morning at Albany Medical Center after police say his unmarked police car veered off the road in a one car accident.

The crash happened around 2:40 Wednesday morning in the westbound lanes of I-90 near Everett Road. The on-duty officer was in an unmarked police cruiser when he crashed in the left hand lane.


Cahokia police officer killed in crash early Monday

CAHOKIA, IL - A Cahokia Police officer was killed after a driver crossed into his lane early this morning, according to Illinois State Police.

Cahokia Police officer Jeremy Chambers, 26, was killed when a full-sized GMC pickup at 2:08 a.m. Monday crossed the center line of Illinois 3, about 500 feet south of Queeny Drive in Cahokia. Alcohol was involved on the part of the wrong-way driver and charges are pending, according to Illinois State Police.


OAKLAND RESTAURANT WORKER DIES

OAKLAND, CA -- An 18-year-old restaurant employee shot inside his Oakland workplace Monday evening died today, Oakland police confirmed this evening.

Police identified the victim as Sonethavy Phomsouvandara of Oakland.

Officer Roland Holmgren said the rear door of the Bangkok Palace Thai restaurant at 3300 Grand Ave. in Oakland had been left open while the victim was cleaning up at the end of the workday when he was shot in the head in an apparent robbery.


Dunkin' Donuts Employee Killed by Car in Store Parking Lot

EAST HAVEN, CT -- A Dunkin' Donuts employee was killed Wednesday when a car careened through the parking lot off Main Street.

Ottavio Cuomo, 57, of Wallingford died right in front of the store where he worked.


Truck driver killed in Ontario collision

ONTARIO, CA - A man was fatally injured Wednesday afternoon when two semi-trucks collided on Milliken Avenue near Mission Boulevard in Ontario, Ontario police Cpl. Jeff Crittenden said in a news release.

Roberto Rocha, 38, of Mexicali, was driving a 1997 Kenworth truck south on Milliken Avenue about 12:30 p.m. when he collided with another tractor-trailer that was eastbound on Mission Boulevard, a San Bernardino County coroner's news release said. The two trucks hit a third semi and a light pole.


Second man injured in gas explosion dies

Canaan Valle, WV -- A second man injured in a natural gas explosion at a Canaan Valley construction site died Wednesday, a hospital official said.

Dana Guire, 46, of Elkins was one of five workers burned last week when the explosion occurred at the house they were building. Leroy Mallow, 47, of Red Creek died early Sunday morning.

Guire died early Wednesday, said Carolyn Fitzwilliam, media relations manager for West Penn Allegheny Health System's Burn Trauma Center.


Contractor Electrocuted While Working in Home

Riverside, CA --A 44-year-old Moreno Valley woman was electrocuted while repairing wires in a Riverside home Tuesday, authorities said.

Independent contractor Debra Ann McCullah was working on the wiring in a small attic space when she was electrocuted at 6:37 p.m., said Steven Frasher, spokesman for the Riverside Police Department.


Tree Trimmer Dies

INDIO, CA -- A tree trimmer who was found dangling in his waist harness died early today, the Riverside County Coroner's Office reported.

Rigo Noriego, 39, of Indio, was pronounced dead at 3:42 a.m. at John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital, said Deputy Coroner Denise Ferris.

Noriego was clearing palm fronds from a tree in front of 46200 Oasis St. at about 7 p.m. yesterday when he slipped, said Patrick Chandler of the Riverside County Fire Department.


IDOT Worker Killed In Construction Zone

"He was a loving father and loved his grandkids," Linda Heath never imagined Wednesday would mark the first time she referred to her husband of 31 years in the past tense.

Henry Jefferson "Jeff" Heath, Jr. was killed while directing traffic in a construction zone on Illinois Highway 162, just east of 111. Heath was struck by the trailer of a jackknifed truck, after the vehicle stopped suddenly to avoid hitting a pickup truck that properly slowed down for the zone.

Heath's wife and daughter hope his death raises awareness about safe driving.


Worker Killed By Load of Wood

HIGHLAND CITY, FL -- A Lakeland man was crushed to death while working on a roof Wednesday morning in Highland City, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

Cesar De La O Millan, 34, was standing on the wooden trusses of a home under construction in the River Lake subdivision near Lake Hancock when the accident happened, according to sheriff's spokeswoman Donna Wood.

A truck with a crane was raising a load of sheets of plywood over the roof of the house when the load fell on Millan, crushing him against the wooden trusses, Wood said.


Construction Accident Kills Man In Palm Coast

Palm Coast sheriff's officials said a 51-year-old Jacksonville man died at a construction site on Tuesday afternoon. Deputies say Michel Abi-Nasr was operating a piece of heavy equipment about 3:15 p.m. when the overhead bar on the machine caught a steel support cross beam and pulled the beam down on top of him. The accident happened at the site of a restaurant being built near the intersection of Interstate 95 and Palm Coast Parkway. Doctors pronounced Abi-Nasr dead at Florida Hospital Flagler. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration joined local officials in investigating the death.


Landscape worker dies after being crushed by tractor

TROY, Ill. -- A 20-year-old landscape worker has died after being crushed by a tractor. The accident in Troy happened yesterday morning. Authorities say Sean Creath was walking alongside a Bobcat tractor being driven by a co-worker when the front wheel caught his shoe and pulled him to the ground. The co-worker was not injured. He has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and Troy police are investigating the incident, including running toxicology tests on the man. Authorities say the co-worker had less than two days of experience driving the tractor. Funeral services for Creath have not yet been scheduled. (Troy is 20 miles northeast of St. Louis.)


Worker struck and killed on I-465, Man was setting up signs to alert drivers

A road construction worker setting up signs to slow down drivers was struck by a car and killed in a work zone Tuesday. Christopher T. Hutt, 33, Indianapolis, died at Methodist Hospital after the 12:45 p.m. accident on I-465 near Allisonville Road on the Northeastside, said Indiana State Police spokesman Sgt. Ray Poole.Hutt was struck while he was setting up signs for drivers to slow their speed to 45 mph in the work zone. Four people in three vehicles also were injured. Hutt was well-known as the quarterback who steered Scecina High School to its first football state title in 1990. According to State Police, the driver of an eastbound car rear-ended a Cadillac SUV, which then crashed into Hutt, knocking him over a median barrier and severing one of his legs. The Cadillac then hit Hutt's truck parked on the side of the road. The car that hit the Cadillac veered out of control across the interstate and struck an eastbound BMW.


Shooting Spree Leaves One Man Dead, Another Critical

Memphis, TN - A hot spring day in Memphis turns into a hot shooting spree for one man. "I had just left, cleaning up and helping his wife cook and stuff," Restaurant Employee Kenneth Partee says. That's when police say a man walked in "A Real Place Restaurant" at the corner of Decatur and Jackson. Police say he shot the owner 35 year old Will Redmond dead. "They had been arguing, arguing back and forth, but I didn't know all this was gone happen," Partee says. Police say it looks like the shooter didn't stop here. They believe he drove a few blocks away to Decatur and Galloway, walked in a man's home and shot him too. But they're still not sure why. "We're still investigating to determine his connection.


Blizzard in northeast Montana leaves at least one dead

Crosby, ND - An eastern Montana man has died, while working to restore electrical service after a powerful spring snowstorm. The manager of the Sheridan Electric Co-op says the victim was 47-year-old Harry Ming, a co-op employee from Westby, Montana. Manager Bill Schell says Ming died last night in a work-related accident, but says he can't provide any details. It happened just over the Montana line in North Dakota.


Officials still looking into death of farmer

HOLLANSBURG, Ohio -- Darke County officials are continuing to investigate the death of an area farmer found dead in a drainage hole on his property. Jerry Hyre, 68, 717 Weavers-Fort Jefferson Road, was found at about 5:02 p.m. Tuesday He was dead at the scene. Investigators believe he was attempting to repair drainage tile in the field when he died. An autopsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of death. There was no sign of foul play, Sgt. Shawn Trissel of the Darke County Sheriff's Department said.


State Patrol Makes Arrest In Pawnee County Slaying

PAWNEE CITY, Neb. -- Charges could be filed as soon as Wednesday against a 28-year-old man arrested on suspicion of killing a 75-year-old Pawnee City farmer last week. Patrick Schroeder had been in custody since Friday night on suspicion that he was forging checks on the dead man's account. The Nebraska State Patrol arrested him in connection with the death on Tuesday. Kenneth Albers' body was recovered Friday afternoon from about 6 feet of water in a well. A preliminary autopsy indicated Albers died from a blow to the head. Formal charges against Schroeder won't be filed until the Pawnee County attorney has a chance to review the case.


Transportation Worker Dies From Bridge Fall

DARLINGTON, S.C. - A transportation worker has died after the truck he was driving fell from a Darlington County bridge. Highway Patrol Senior Trooper Sonny Collins says 26-year-old Adrian Daniel Smith of McBee was driving the truck and trailer being used to fill potholes Monday afternoon when it plunged into Black Creek about two miles north of Darlington. Officials say Smith's truck ran off the road, then overcorrected and was struck by an oncoming pickup. Troopers says the Transportation Department truck then stuck the guardrail and went over the side of the bridge, landing in the water upside down. Authorities say Smith died at the scene.A passenger in the truck and the driver of the pickup were hurt. Collins says no charges will be filed.


Miami streets closed after fatal construction fall at condo

MIAMI, FL -- A worker fell 39 stories to his death late Monday at a condominium under construction downtown, authorities said, news partner NBC 6 reported. The accident occurred at the future site of the Marina Blue Condominium and Lofts at Biscayne Boulevard and Eighth Street around 6:30 Monday evening. Workers were trying to secure a crane to the building when a piece they were placing came crashing down for an unknown reason. The man was on the piece when it fell, said Miami Fire Rescue spokesman Ignatius Carroll. "A piece of equipment from the crane either fell, came loose, came crashing down, knocking this employee and another co-worker off of the safety platform that they were on," Carroll said. Miami Police later identified the dead man as Jesse B. Morris, 47, of Douglasville, Ga., and the injured man as his son, 20-year-old Jesse B. Morris Jr., also of Douglasville, Ga.


Cushing Man Killed In Work Related Accident

Cushing, TX - A Cushing man was killed Saturday while repairing a power outage in Panola County. The body of Stephen Kent Smith, 43, was found lying at the base of a utility pole on Panola County Road 166 near state highway 315. Smith was a lineman for the Rusk County Electric Co-op and had worked for the company for almost 25 years. A landowner called 9-1-1 after hearing the accident that is still under investigation by the co-op. A justice of the peace has ordered an autopsy.


Industrial accident kills plant worker

New Richmond, WI -- An employee of feed manufacturer Domain Inc. died early Friday in an industrial accident at the company's plant in New Richmond. The man, whose name wasn't released, became stuck in a mixing machine at about 4 a.m. Friday and was crushed, New Richmond police said. Another employee was injured in the incident and taken to Holy Family Hospital in New Richmond. New Richmond police determined Friday that the death was not the result of a criminal act and turned the investigation over to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration out of Eau Claire, said Lt. Jerry Cody. Police would not release more information about the incident. Investigators with OSHA will be at the site this week, preparing a preliminary report, area director Mark Hysell said. A final report should be available within six months, he said.


Shuttle driver killed in crash

WARWICK, RI -- A shuttle bus driver at T.F. Green Airport died after he lost control of his van, and hit a utility pole and concrete column at about 11 Saturday night, airport police said. "We think he had some sort of medical condition, like a heart attack, that caused him to lose control of the vehicle," said acting airport Police Chief Kevin Hopkins. "He was an older gentleman and a long-time employee who was well-liked." Hopkins declined to identify the driver, and said the airport police are investigating the accident. Hopkins said the driver was pulling into the commercial vehicle lane at the airport that is used by taxis and shuttles, when he apparently lost control of the van. There were no passengers in the van at the time of the accident, the police said.


Waldorf Man Rear-Ends Ambulance; Two Dead

Waldorf, MD - Members of the Calvert Investigative Team, the Maryland State Police Barrack Patrol Division and the Calvert County Sheriffs Office Patrol Division responded to the scene of an accident on April 17, 2006 at approximately 7:46 a.m. A 1993 Ford Thunderbird traveling southbound on Md. Rt. 4 in the area of German Chapel Road in Prince Frederick, being driven by Albert Reigle, Jr., 39, of Waldorf, struck the rear of a 1993 Ford Astrovan owned by AAA Ambulance Service of Upper Marlboro and operated by Natala Rose Lowery, 25, of North Beach. This caused the Ford Astrovan to go into a spin and cross the median strip into northbound traffic. A 2002 Chevrolet pickup truck traveling northbound operated by Joseph DeBay, 45, of St. Leonard, then struck the Astrovan broadside. St. Leonard was struck by the Astrovan while it was spinning. Natala Rose Lowery, an employee of AAA Ambulance, was pronounced dead on the scene


Taxi driver found dead in Lancaster

LANCASTER, Calif. A taxi driver has been found shot to death in his cab in the city of Lancaster. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department says the victim -- whose name has not been released -- was found at about 9 p-m last night. An employee at the Yellow Star Cab Company where the driver worked told K-A-B-C T-V that the driver was shot after picking up two men. Lancaster is about 70 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.


Bethlehem Police ID Man Who Was Shot And Killed Saturday

Allentown,PA - A man shot and killed on the south side of Bethlehem early Saturday has been identified as Eduardo V. Delgado Jr., 24, of 1132 Amplex St. in Bethlehem. Bethlehem police found Delgado at the southeast corner of Mechanic and Hobart streets at 2:34 a.m. after a 911 caller reported hearing shots. Delgado was taken to St. Luke's Hospital-Fountain Hill and was pronounced dead at 9:39 a.m. The coroner's office ruled the shooting a homicide. It is Bethlehem's third killing in 2006, and the most in the city since 2001. A black bow hung in the door of Delgado's home Sunday. Friends gathered to mourn, one of them Annie Ramirez. Ramirez said Delgado, a freelance construction worker, came to the United States from the Dominican Republic as a child and had a 10-month-old daughter. The girl's mother was present but did not want to be identified or speak to reporters. ''He was a good father,'' Ramirez said of Delgado. ''He used to be all day long with that baby. I'm pretty sure she's missing him.''


$1 million bond set in building site killing

Gainesville, FL -- An Alachua County judge set a $1 million bond Saturday morning for the suspect in Friday's shooting death at a construction site. The suspect, Frank Salonko, 27, had reportedly been fired from the Hardi Boys Construction company two days earlier for threatening a co-worker with a hammer and had come to the site to pick up his last paycheck, according to police. Police say Salonko shot 40-year-old Erik Schulz four times with a semi-automatic handgun.


Trucker killed in Pittsfield accident

PITTSFIELD, ME -- A 28-year-old man died when his southbound tractor-trailer veered off Interstate 95, tipped over and slammed into a stand of trees near the Pittsfield exit at 10:09 p.m. Friday. Kevin Little of Littleton was pronounced dead on the scene when Maine State Police troopers Aaron Hayden and Bruce Scott discovered him two minutes after receiving the call. No one else was involved in the accident, and troopers are at a bit of a loss in determining what caused the accident, since no one has come forward as a witness, Hayden said.


Bus Driver Dies on Road in Arlington

Arlington, VA - One minute, Arlington County police Sgt. Michael Watson was on a routine patrol, the next he and another man were running after a tour bus down Interstate 395. Watson pumped his legs hard as drivers on the opposite side looked in horror at the unfolding scene. Within seconds, Watson smashed through the glass passenger door of the white bus and the paramedic who had run with him climbed aboard and pulled the emergency brake. When they looked, they were greeted by a gruesome scene. "I saw a large amount of blood and it was clear the driver was dead," Watson said. No one else had been injured, no other vehicles were involved and the bus was stopped. There were no passengers on the bus. Traffic on southbound I-395 was backed up for miles yesterday as police struggled to make sense of the freak accident that closed the highway near Exit 7 in Shirlington for several hours. It began about 7:35 a.m., not long after 49-year-old bus driver David Audet left the dispatcher's office of Gunther Charters near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to pick up a group at an Alexandria hotel, said company President Martin Gunther.


CRUSHED WORKER'S BODY FOUND IN BIN

New York, NY - Milton Rocano, 20, Queens, was accidentally buried in scrap while working at a Greenpoint recycling plant. A crane operator emptied the scrap metal into a bin where Rocano was working on Saturday, cops discovered after viewing a surveillance video of the tragedy. His family was concerned when he didn't come home and went to the work site. "I knew something was wrong when I saw his wallet and a change of clothes in the break room," Rocano's sister Ana said, adding that a boss told the family, "Give him a couple of days. I'm sure he'll turn up." Instead, Rocano's body was found after the bin had been shipped to Melville, L.I. "He was sweet, considerate and very good to his family," Ana said of Rocano, who immigrated from Ecuador six months ago. Supervisors at the City Recycling plant refused to comment.


Teen charged with murder in police officer's death

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A 17-year-old accused of fatally shooting an off-duty police officer during an attempted robbery was charged Monday with murder. Authorities on Monday also filed a motion that if Jeffrey L. Finley of South Bend is convicted, he be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak said he could not seek the death penalty because Finley is not at least 18 years old. Officer Scott Severns, 36, was in plainclothes when he was shot three times -- once in the lower jaw and twice in the chest -- late Friday while talking with a woman outside her home. He died Sunday. Dvorak said the woman, Michelle Beelby, told investigators that a male wearing a ski mask had approached Severns and her pointing a silver handgun at them. She told police that words were exchanged before the male fired his gun.


Construction worker dies after falling from scaffolding

EASTON, MA --A construction worker died after falling 25 feet from scaffolding on a new store being built. Carlos Gonzalez Lopez, of Lawrence, was working at a construction site for a CVS Pharmacy in Easton when he fell Saturday and suffered a serious head injury, police said. He was taken to Brockton's Caritas Good Samaratin Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Gonzalez Lopez was working for New England Retail Construction of Fall River, police said. The accident is being investigated by the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the Bristol County District Attorney's office and the Easton Police. The construction work is being performed by New England Retail Construction from Fall River.


One Killed in Restaurant Shooting

Marietta, GA - Marietta police are searching for clues in a double shooting Friday night at the China Wok restaurant off of Delk Road. Police said a male employee was killed and another employee was seriously wounded in the incident. Witnesses told police the restaurant was still open when two men walked in and opened fire. "We haven't had much time to analyze the evidence we've collected thus far, but we'll do that throughout the day and in following days until we come up with a suspect," said Lt. Cliff Kelker.


Man found dead after 911 phone glitch

Gaithersburg, MD -- A Bangladeshi immigrant was found dead at his Gaithersburg, Maryland, office ten hours after he called emergency services saying he needed medical help. Kaafee Billah, 39, phoned for help 40 minutes after he started work at the medical company MedImmune Inc. on Tuesday morning, but almost ten hours passed before somebody found him lying on the floor of his office, the Washington Post reported Friday. Police said that an apparent phone glitch sent medical personnel to the wrong address and, finding nothing amiss, they believed the call was unfounded. "There is no way at this time to say if he would have survived the event if rescue personnel had reached him in a timely manner," the police officer who documented his death wrote in a preliminary report. "The error is in the technology of the company phone system."


On the Job Fatal

Cottage Grove, OR - It's being described as simply a terrible accident. Two Lane County workers were involved in a collision east of Cottage Grove Thursday, and one man died. It happened about a mile from the popular county park at Wildwood Falls. Two public works employees were cutting brush along Lower Brice Creek Road when one man, driving a pickup, somehow crashed his truck into a ditch. He got out safely, and went to talk to his partner who was driving the brush cutter. As he turned back towards the pickup, a second accident occurred. "Somehow, when this brush cutter was coming up, backing up, it struck this employee, and unfortunately we have a death," said Lt. Randy Smith with the Lane County Sheriff's Office. The victim, 53 year old Sean McQuillan, died at the scene. Lane County Sheriff's officials on the scene say they talked to the man driving the brush cutter, and they believe this to be a tragic accident. "There's no indication that there's any criminal intent here. This is by all definitions an accident. and uh, it's a sad day for him," said Lt. Smith. OSHA officials are investigating to see if perhaps there was a problem with the equipment on the work site that might have led to this accident..


Westminster man killed at Greenville work site

Greenville, SC - A construction worker from Westminster was killed Thursday in Greenville when a pipe he was trying to fit into another came loose and struck him in the abdomen, authorities said. Wesley Hare, 28, was killed just after 9 a.m. when the chain holding one of the pieces of pipe broke loose, Deputy Coroner Linda Holbrook said. The pipe struck Mr. Hare, pinning him against a trackhoe. Mr. Hare, who died at the scene shortly after the accident, was employed by Tugaloo Pipeline and was working at the International Center for Automotive Research construction site, Ms. Holbrook said. An autopsy is planned for today.


Foundry worker killed in W.Va. identified as Ohioan

WHEELING, W.Va. - A foundry worker who was electrocuted had recently been forced to leave his job Mittal Steel's Weirton mill through a buyout offer as part of downsizing. Independent Steelworkers Union spokesman Dave Gossett identified the worker as Gregory Allen Orwick, 47, of Hopedale, Ohio. Orwick was one of about 70 union workers at Mittal Steel who didn't have enough seniority and were forced to accept the buyout, Gossett said. Another 871 workers voluntarily accepted the offer, which reduced Weirton's union work force to about 1,000. Orwick was killed on Wednesday while working on a catwalk at the Centre Foundry & Machine Co. near Warwood, W.Va., according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.


Carlsborg man killed in industrial accident

CARLSBORG, WA -- A 53-year-old man was killed Thursday morning in an industrial accident outside of Sequim. Robert ``Bob'' Walkhoff was driving a tractor and cleaning up scrap metal on his property at 260513 U.S. Highway 101 between South Boyce and Joslin roads, according to a statement from the Clallam County Sheriff's Department. Investigators theorized that Walkhoff drove into an extended boom from a hydraulic log loader, which fell and pinned him against the tractor, killing him instantly, the statement said. Emergency rescue personnel from Clallam County Fire District No. 3 received word of the incident at 11:13 a.m., said Lt. Paul Rynearson. About 12 to 14 firefighters and paramedics responded, he said. The first units arrived about 11:15 a.m., Rynearson said. When rescuers arrived, Walkhoff was already dead.


Blast kills owner of welding shop

EVADALE, TX - An 18-wheel tanker truck exploded Thursday at an Evadale business, killing one man, injuring another and destroying the business, according to the Jasper County Sheriff's Department. About 9 a.m., the sheriff's department received a call that Design Fabrication and Welding on the corner of County Road 864 and FM 105 had blown up as owner Ray Lee Tarkington was installing a tanker level gauge. Apparently, the 40-foot truck exploded, Sheriff's Department Investigator Larry Folmar said in a telephone conversation while at the scene. A cutting torch was nearby, Folmar said. The blast killed Tarkington, a 66-year-old Silsbee resident, and injured an employee, 30-year-old Christopher David Enderle of Vidor, according to the Jasper County Sheriff's Department.


Worker killed in industrial accident near Lorena

Waco, TX - A man was killed in a Central Texas industrial accident Thursday afternoon. Just before 4pm paramedics were called to Waco Machinery near Lorena. Justice of the Peace Raymond Britton says a man was run over while working on a bulldozer in the company’s shop. He says the victim was working on the equipment and asked another employee to start the engine, when it ran him over. Paramedics were unable to save him


2 semis collide; driver killed

Marengo, IL - A South Dakota man was killed and a Carpentersville man seriously injured after two tractor-trailers collided head-on early Wednesday morning on U.S. Highway 20 near Marengo, authorities said. Gregory L. VanderSchaff, 45, of Sioux Falls, was pronounced dead at the scene. The other driver, Mark T. Rhodes, 41, of Carpentersville, was taken by helicopter to St. Anthony's Hospital in Rockford in serious condition, said Capt. Glenn Olson of the McHenry County Sheriff's Department. Sheriff's police are trying to determine which truck crossed the center line about 4:50 a.m. on U.S. 20, just west of Beck Road in southwestern McHenry County, Olson said.


Man dies in accident on port docks

FREEPORT, TX — A Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Ports employee was killed on the job Wednesday afternoon at Port Freeport when a truck backed over him. Robert Banford of Lake Jackson, a ship superintendent with P&O, was in the process of offloading large containers from a Dole Fresh Fruit vessel and setting them on box trailers along the dockside when he was caught on the back of the tractor-trailer carrying the containers, said Freeport Police Chief Jeff Pynes said. Family members could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon. No Port Freeport employees were involved in the accident, said port Managing Director Phyllis Saathoff. No charges were filed against the driver, Police Lt. Gus Flores said. The driver submitted to a urinalysis check to determine the alcoholic content of his blood, which is standard procedure for such accidents, Pynes said. Flores said it could be several days before the results come in. Frank Fogarty, senior vice president of marketing and sales for P&O, said company safety officials were en route to the port to investigate the accident.


Man buried alive in trench, Fire chief: Dig site lacked proper protective system

McALLEN, TX — Jose Rodriguez Garcia was fixing a water leak for Santa Cruz Irrigation District No. 15 at about 10 a.m. Wednesday when the walls of a trench he was working in collapsed, burying him alive. By the time the first firefighters arrived to the accident just north of the intersection of Monte Cristo and Ware roads, his two co-workers had managed to remove the soil around his face with their hands and a backhoe, but not quickly enough. He was already dead.

Workers fall from scaffolding at Lucite Plant

Memphis, TN -- Two employees at the Lucite Composites plant off Fite Road in Shelby County have fallen from a scaffolding along a smokestack. One employee died at the scene.

Officials with the Shelby County Fire are on site along with Special Operations Technical Rescue and the Memphis Fire Department.


Construction Worker Dies After Falling Four Stories

LOUISVILLE, KY -- OSHA officials are investigating the death of a Louisville construction worker overnight. It happened around 4 a.m. at an apartment complex under construction at Christ Church Cathedral at Second and Muhammad Ali Blvd.

Forty-six-year-old Robert Demerle died of multiple injuries after falling four stories from the apartment building.

Workers at the scene say he was trying to unclog a machine pouring concrete when it jerked, causing him to fall.


Two More Miners Killed

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Two miners were killed over the past two days in Kentucky, bringing the number of coal industry fatalities so far this year to 26 nationally.

Five coal miners have died on the job in Kentucky this year.

Rick McKnight, 45, of Cumberland, was crushed by a machine he was working on, said Harlan County Coroner Philip Bianchi. Bianchi said McKnight was pronounced dead at Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital. McKnight leaves a wife and two children.

The other fatal accident, on Thursday, occurred when material fell on a miner at a Pike County coal mine.

David Chad Bolen, 28, of Harold, was moving a shuttle car anchor in the Tri Star Coal LLC No. 1 mine, according to a release from the Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet.


Police: Landscape worker's death an accident

TROY, IL - Police in the Metro East community of Troy say this week's death of a landscape worker crushed by a tractor was an accident.

Police Chief Bill Brown says police have closed their investigation of Tuesday's death of 20-year-old Sean Creath.

Authorities say Creath was walking alongside a Bobcat tractor being driven by a co-worker when the front wheel caught his shoe and pulled him to the ground. Creath then was run over.


Man dies at construction site

Corpus Christi, TX - A construction company owner was killed near Kostoryz and Holly roads Wednesday afternoon by a piece of equipment called a trencher, according to police officials.

Manuel Duron Jr. 72, a co-owner of Duron and Duron Concrete and Construction, was lying in a ditch when police arrived about 12:30 p.m.

His son, Roy, said Duron slipped and fell into the ditch where the machine, which resembles a giant chainsaw on wheels, was running.


Construction worker dies in accident

Charleston, SC -- A 32-year-old construction worker was killed Tuesday when he fell two floors onto concrete in Summerville.

Bonifasico Mayorga of Columbia died at the construction site at 6:45 p.m. shortly after he fell, Berkeley County Coroner Glenn Rhoad said. Apartments are being built on Farm Springs Road, near Marymeade Drive and the Berlin Myers Parkway.

Rhoad said a wall Mayorga was nailing may have hit him and knocked him from the second-floor landing. Another worker told police that a piece of siding next to Mayorga fell on him.



OSHA probing death at Delta steel plant

DELTA, Ohio — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said yesterday it was investigating the death of a worker Thursday morning at the North Star Blue ScopeSteel LLC plant.

Jule Hovi, director of the Toledo-area office of OSHA, said the agency sent two investigators to the scene on Thursday and yesterday. She declined to provide additional information about the incident or the victim, whose identity has not been released.

Jim Jonasen, president of North Star, said the victim’s identification would have to be released by the subcontractor. The victim was from Texas and was working for a firm from Irondale, Ala., he said.


Construction worker crushed to death at LAX

LOS ANGELES, CA -- A man (Thomas Cadwallader, 60) was crushed to death this morning beneath road-paving equipment at L-A-X. Fire department officials say the 61-year-old man died at the scene of the accident. His name is being withheld pending notification of relatives.

The man was driving a two-roller asphalt compactor at low speed along the airport's western perimeter when it toppled over.


Carnival worker dies in collision

Guthrie, OK -- A carnival concession worker died early Monday when three tractor-trailers collided near Guthrie on Interstate 35.

The victim, Pride of Texas Shows employee Cecelia S. Bledsoe, 32, of Louisville, Ky., died when a tractor-trailer in which she was riding struck another tractor-trailer that was parked on the northbound shoulder. The Pride of Texas truck was carrying supplies for a carnival in Kansas when it was hit by a third tractor-trailer about 9:30 a.m. and burst into flames.

It was a concession truck that blew up, said Ed Burlingame, the owner of Pride of Texas Shows.


Barber shot in South Side shop dies

Chicago, IL -- A barber shot several times while cutting a man’s hair in his South Side shop on Thursday morning has died of his injuries.

Dexter Smith, 26, of Chicago, owner of D&D Trillion Cuts at 2438 W. 59th St., was shot several times, according to his brother, Gene Smith of Chicago.


Man arrested in killing of cab driver

New York, NY -- A Manhattan man has been arrested in the killing of a livery cab driver who was found dead in his car with a gunshot wound to the head, police said Saturday.

Eldred Leitzsey, 41, of North Moore Street in Tribeca was arrested late Friday and charged with murder in the death of 55-year-old Kwami Appeagwe, police said.

Appeagwe reportedly was shot by a passenger during an apparent robbery. His body was found at 3 a.m. Wednesday on Staten Island.


Trench collapse kills worker, injures another

Addison Township, MI -- One man died and one survived after a trench collapsed Sunday in Addison Township. Addison Township firefighters and members of the Oakland County Technical Rescue Response Team saved a 42-year-old man from St. Clair Shores who was buried under approximately 4 feet of dirt. A 41-year-old man from Eastpointe died before firefighters arrived.

Burkett said that as the pair were working, the man who died saw the wall caving in and ran the other way. As he ran, the other wall started falling, and he turned around and collided with his partner, Burkett said.


Volunteer firefighter killed when truck runs him over

PONCA CITY Okla. -- A volunteer firefighter from Sarge Creek has died after authorities believe he fell out of a fire truck and was run over while helping a landowner with a controlled burn in Kay County.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said 39-year-old William Lewis Robinson III was transported to a Ponca City hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The patrol said Robinson was helping monitor a controlled burn Friday in a pasture east of Ponca City when he fell out of the fire truck, which then ran him over.


Helicopter crash that killed pilot had no medical cause

BELLEVUE Wis. -- An autopsy on the pilot of a helicopter that went down Thursday confirmed that no medical condition or illness played a part in the crash that killed him, the medical examiner said.

James Vincent Jr. "died of trauma sustained in the crash," Brown County Interim Medical Examiner Al Klimek said Saturday. "There were no medical conditions that would have caused him to lose control of the aircraft."

Investigators suspected as much after early reports said Vincent issued a mayday over the helicopter's radio before the crash. He also apparently maintained enough control to guide the 3,000-pound aircraft to a vacant field and away from populated areas before the crash.


LOOSE LOAD OF LOGS CRUSHES TRUCK DRIVER

Brooklyn, NY -- A FLATBED TRUCK driver was crushed to death when a load of wooden planks toppled on him in Brooklyn yesterday, police said.

Wei Lin Wu, 36, of Manhattan was adjusting the 2-foot-by-12-foot planks on his flatbed truck along Meeker Ave. in Greenpoint when the entire load fell on him.

Wu suffered head trauma during the freak accident and was pronounced dead at the scene at 1:38 p.m.


4 Dead in Ex-Worker's Mo. Shooting Spree

ST. LOUIS, MO -- A man killed the mother of his child Tuesday, then went to the catering company where he once worked and fatally shot two women and himself, police said.

Police said Herbert Chalmers Jr. killed 53-year-old Sylvia Haynes at her apartment Tuesday morning. Hours later, he was overheard bragging about plans to kill his boss, then went to the catering company.

One of the women killed was 79-year-old Cleo Finninger, who ran the company with her husband, Charles, said Susan Akscin, the woman's niece. The other was their adult daughter, 44-year-old Christine Politte, who oversaw payroll, authorities said. The company is on the northwest edge of St. Louis and employs about 50 people.


Dallas road worker run over, killed

DALLAS, TX - A highway maintenance worker died Monday afternoon after being run over along a busy roadway, police said.

The name of the victim wasn't immediately released.

Witnesses say the man was walking along a closed lane of Interstate 35 when he was hit. The victim was wearing a reflective vest and hard hat when the car struck his stopped truck, and then him, authorities said.


Albany Officer Killed in Crash

Albany, NY - A decorated Albany police officer was killed in an early morning crash Wednesday, police said.

Detective Kenneth Wilcox
was on duty when he died in a one-car crash at about 2:30 a.m on Interstate 90.

His unmarked police car hit a guard rail beyond the outer lane before crossing into the median and slamming into a concrete barrier, said Detective James Miller, spokesman for the Albany police.


Sign Worker Dies Changing Lights In Bank Sign

NEW CARLISLE, Ohio -- Clark County Deputies are waiting on autopsy results to determine if electricity killed a worker on Monday afternoon.

William N. Purbaugh, 36, of Loveland, Ohio, was found not moving at a bank in New Carlisle. Workers at the bank called for help after they had not seen him move for several hours.

Investigators said it is unknown if Purbaugh was electrocuted or if he suffered from some sort of medical condition.

Deputies said Purbaugh was changing lights in a sign when he died.


Valve blew off gas well casing, killing worker, investigators say

FOREST HILL, TX - State investigators are studying a valve to determine why it blew off a natural gas well Saturday in Forest Hill, killing a worker and forcing the evacuation of about 500 homes.

Robert Gayan, 49, of Paradise died from blunt force injuries, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner.

Gayan was preparing to remove a valve on the well casing head when it burst off and struck him, said Stacy Fowler, a spokeswoman for the Texas Railroad Commission, which investigates such incidents.

“What we still don’t know is whether he was just standing there when it blew off or whether he was starting to remove it,” Fowler said.


Trainee dies after spill; Victim sitting next to instructor when tossed from raft

Denver, CO -- A man training to be a white-water guide died after he was thrown into the Colorado River from his seat in a raft beside his instructor.

Jason R. Hansen, 30, of Livermore, was pronounced dead Saturday at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs a short time after he was pulled from the river in Glenwood Canyon. An autopsy has been conducted, but what killed the fit young man has not been released, pending the results of toxicological tests.

"I think maybe the shock of the water froze his senses so he was not able to breathe," said Robert Hansen, of Fort Collins, Jason Hansen's father. "I can't understand myself what happened."


Miner dies when bulldozer falls through ice

Fairbanks, AK - A Fairbanks pilot and gold miner drowned after his bulldozer broke through the ice of a deep pond last week in the Chugach Mountains.

David Beyers, 48, was plowing a road to move equipment to his mine April 13 when he died, according to Alaska State Troopers. Beyers was plowing a road from his base camp two miles beyond the lodge to his mine 75 miles away when the bulldozer went through the ice of the 20-foot-deep pond, according to Fimpel and a trooper report.

The next day, Beyers' nephew found the submerged Cat D8 and called troopers.


Construction worker killed near I-25


Colorado Springs, CO -- An Interstate 25 construction worker was crushed to death Sunday night after a crane he was operating toppled in the COSMIX work zone while moving a concrete barrier.

Humberto Rodriguez
, 30, of Colorado Springs was operating the 30-ton rough-terrain crane as part of rebuilding the interstate. The accident happened about 11:30 p.m. east of I-25 near the northbound North Nevada Avenue offramp.


A maintenance man was murdered Tuesday morning at the Manor Motel in Ypsilanti Township.

Ypsilanti, MI -- Tuesday, Washtenaw County deputies were investigating the brutal murder of a motel worker. Neighboring business owners were not surprised by the murder, calling the area a hotbed for illegal activity like drugs and prostitution.

The employee’s body was found Tuesday morning inside the trailer where he lived, next to the Manor Motel in Ypsilanti Township.

Washtenaw County authorities responded to a break-in at the hotel just after midnight. They searched the premises and found the body of the maintenance man, who was in his 60s.


Illinois Firefighter Dies After Battling Electrical Fire

BLOOMINGTON, Illinois-- An Atlanta firefighter likely died of a blocked artery after fighting what fire officials say was an electrical fire late Friday night in Waynesville.

Preliminary autopsy results indicate Roger W. Armstrong, a 42-year-old volunteer firefighter, died from a blocked coronary artery about 1:35 a.m. Saturday at BroMenn Regional Medical Center, said McLean County Coroner Beth Kimmerling.

Atlanta Fire Department Chief Ric Cheek previously said Armstrong had complained he was not feeling well while fighting the house fire at 408 S. Isham St. He was directed to an ambulance after he started to feel worse.


Chaparral Firefighter Killed In Accident

A Chaparral firefighter was killed while responding to an emergency call. According to New Mexico State Police, Jose Ramirez, 35, was heading to a medical call early Saturday morning.

That's when police say he lost control of his county-issued vehicle and crashed into a utility pole near Luna Azul and Bobby Lane.

Officials say that most of the impact was to the driver's side of the vehicle and that Ramirez was not wearing his seatbelt.


OSHA investigating death at Demopolis paper mill

DEMOPOLIS Ala. -- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating an accident at the Rock-Tenn paper mill that led to an employee's death, officials said.

OSHA's Mobile Area Director Ken Atha said the administration began investigating the accident before Joe Steven Thrasher died Sunday at University of South Alabama Hospital in Mobile. Thrasher, 44, was severely burned in the April 10 accident.


Worker dies while removing copper

IN -- A man found dead at the former Indiana Army Ammunition Plant Wednesday was electrocuted while allegedly trying to take copper wire from an off-limits area, Indiana State Police said yesterday.

James D. Seal, a 48-year-old New Washington resident, was employed by a company that was doing work at the plant, according to the news release from the state police. But Seal strayed from his assigned work area "to allegedly take copper wire," the release said.

As he was removing the copper, "he got into an electric wire that was carrying electricity and was electrocuted," according to the release.


Large engine falls; worker, 19, killed

FORT SMITH, AR - A Crawford County man died Tuesday afternoon when a large engine he was working on fell on him.

John Curtis VanDevender V, 19, of Rudy had the engine on a jack stand at J.A. Riggs Tractor Co. at 6601 Zero St. when it fell and hit him in the head, Fort Smith Police Detective Greg Smithson said Wednesday.

Co-workers in another part of the business around 4:45 p.m. Tuesday heard a loud noise and found VanDevender on the floor with a severe head wound, Smithson said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

VanDevender had worked for the company about a month, Smithson said.


Firefighter Killed

Pleasantville, TN -- Pleasantville volunteer fighter Gary Tanner was killed when his tanker truck fell into a pit. The truck may have malfunctioned.

"He knew he had to do something," Jim Tanner said.

Tanner apparently had to choose: hit the pit or hit another driver. Those who knew Tanner know it was no choice.


State trooper killed last night chasing cycle

POMPEY HILL, N.Y. -- A state trooper was killed Sunday evening after crashing into a tree during a high-speed chase in Onondaga County.

State police said Craig Todeschini, 25, of Geddes was following a motorcyclist traveling around 100 miles an hour through the hamlet of Pompey Hill.

The motorcyclist, who was believed to have been traveling 100 mph when he passed the oncoming trooper, was not found.

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Saturday, April 29, 2006


Memorializing A Lost Worker

Congratulations to Michelle Lewis, whose stepfather was killed in a trench collapse last year, for getting the story of her family's experience published yesterday, Workers Memorial Day, in the Burlington (VT) Free Press. Lewis's story was first published in Confined Space last January.
My sisters, mother and I have felt compelled to stop at work-sites as we have passed them in recent months. We have shared Mike’s story with friends and strangers. We want to honor Mike and to remind people to be safe at any cost. To my family, Mike is a hero. He died providing for his wife and family and ultimately teaching others to be safe. My mother often says with sadness in her eyes and longing in her heart, “This never should have happened to Mike.” She is right. Mike’s death was preventable, as most trench collapses are.

According to the AFL-CIO’s report, “progress in protecting workers’ safety and health is slowing, and for some groups of workers jobs are becoming more dangerous.... As the economy, the workforce and hazards are changing, we are falling further and further behind in our efforts to protect workers from new and existing problems.”

This Worker’s Memorial Day, my family will pray for the safety of people everywhere and will support the efforts of those trying to make change. I will think of my step-dad and will continue to share his story to advocate for safe working conditions for all.
Articles and letters to the editor from family members who have lost loved ones in preventable workplace "accidents" have the potential to make regular people and politicians sit up and take notice -- and understand that more needs to be done to make our workplaces safer. And it's up to those of you who understand what needs to be done, and the political context in which the carnage in America's workplaces take place, to talk to family members about the important work they can do to ensure that the needless deaths of their loved ones were not in vain.

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Union Mines Are Safer Mines

Union mines are safer than non-union mines explains Charles McCollester, Director of the Pennsylvania Center for the Study of Labor Relations at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration levies fines but rarely collects and fails to go to court to enforce.

In a non-union mine, the inspector has no back-up. It's his word against the company. The union has the right to accompany inspectors and provide documentation and testimony. The heart of the union presence, the local Mine Committee, meets monthly, receives additional training, has the right to inspect any part of the mine including its access, and must perform full inspections at least every two months.

Critically, workers in a union mine are not afraid to speak. In a non-union operation, asking questions or challenging company mining practices or safety procedures can lead to termination. The company's fear of knowledgeable, independent inspections was illustrated in their attempt to bar the entry of UMWA representatives at Sago.

Union mines resist efforts to cut corners including the installation of dubious products like foam Omega blocks that the government now allows to replace previously mandated two-foot thick poured concrete or block walls.

Two successive roof fall deaths at the non-union Rosebud mine in Armstrong County were in an area with recognized poor roof conditions, but the company was not test drilling to effectively gauge conditions. It continued to take deep cuts (in excess of 20 feet) using 36- and 42-inch roof bolts when conditions called for longer ones. The failure to drill test bores was a contributing factor in the mine flooding at the non-union Quecreek operation.
McCollester alos authored a fascinating article on on the called so-called miraculous rescue of Less Than Miraculous: The Near-Disaster at Quecreek Mine Citing many of the warnings that the company had before that mine was flooded, McCollester wrote:
Black Wolf owner-operator David Rebuck called the flooding an "act of God" in one local TV interview. As McCollester wrote, "The flood of testimonials to the mercy of God threatens to obscure the very human factors that led to the near-disaster. God may well have had a hand in the rescue, but human avarice and more than a century of fierce corporate manipulation and struggle for profit and control were behind the wall of water that swept into the Quecreek mine."
In that near-disaster as well, McCollester writes, a union would have helped:
If Quecreek had been union, workers might have been more candid about company responsibility immediately after the rescue, when some of them supported management's claim of normal mining conditions. If the union had been recognized, the workers could have refused to continue advancing--without fear for their jobs--as they saw conditions worsening.

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Friday, April 28, 2006


Workers Memorial Day 2006

Today is Workers Memorial Day; a day dedicated by the labor movement to “pray for the dead and fight for the living,” in the words of fabled labor organizer Mother Jones. This year we’re hoping that while the praying goes forward as usual, the fight for the living may be making more headway.

The focus of this year’s commemoration is the Sago mine explosion in which 12 West Virginia coal miners died last January, as well as the subsequent Alma Aracoma fire that killed two miners. As traumatized as Americans were by the deaths of these men, the revelations of the Bush administration’s weak enforcement efforts, low fines and withdrawal of proposed regulations that could have saved the lives of the Sago and Alma miners have prompted citizens, labor advocates and politicians to take a serious look at this nation’s waning commitment to ensuring safe workplaces.

Mineworkers President Cecil Roberts, speaking at the AFL-CIO Wednesday evening, reminded us that only one Sago miner was killed in the initial explosion; the other 11 died from lack of oxygen. If they had had enough extra air or a means to communicate, the 11 miners would still be alive today. If the Bush administration hadn’t withdrawn a proposal to make coal belts fireproof, the two Aracoma miners would be alive today. This country created the Mine Safety and Health Administration, Roberts continued, because mine owners were not ensuring the safety of miners. Now, however, the Bush administration has handed MSHA back to the mine owners. And they’re not doing a very good job. Twenty-six coal miners have been killed so far this year, compared with 22 for all of 2005.

But Sago was not an isolated event. Few Americans realize that if the 12 miners who died at Sago were the only American workers to die on the job that day, it would have been a good day in the American workplace. Every day in this country, more than 15 workers are crushed in trench collapses, shot in convenience stores, mangled in machinery, killed in vehicle accidents, or fall to their deaths from scaffolds and cell towers. And the problem is getting worse. The number of workplace fatalities has risen in each of the past two years and the national workplace fatality rate rose in 2004 for the first time since 1994. The rate also rose for manufacturing, construction and Hispanic workers.

But the workplace dead are largely invisible souls. You can find the names, birthdates and hometowns of every American killed in Afghanistan or Iraq with only a few moments of web searching, but no amount of searching will identify more than a fraction of the almost 6,000 Americans killed in the workplace every year. Most die one at a time, noted only by their families, friends, co-workers, and possibly, a small article in the local paper.

Despite the rising workplace death rate, the Bush administration boasts about the falling number and rate of injuries and illnesses. “Only” 4.3 million injuries and illnesses were reported in the private sector in 2004, compared with 4.4 million in 2003. But in fact, no one really knows how many workers are injured or made ill in American workplaces. A recent study published by Michigan State University researchers confirms previous research showing that the federal government may miss up to two thirds of all workplace injuries and illnesses. Does anyone find it curious that the number and rate of workplace deaths is rising while the number of injuries and illnesses is allegedly falling? Could it have something to do with the fact that dead bodies are harder to hide than back injuries, cuts and burns?

Most of these deaths, injuries and illnesses could, of course, have been prevented if employers had simply complied with workplace safety standards issued by MSHA or OSHA. But the message has gone out from the Bush administration that employers don’t have to worry about OSHA or MSHA anymore. The overt hostility and unceasing attacks from the business community and Republican politicians has turned OSHA into a shadow of the tough enforcement agency originally envisioned by Congress. One of the first actions of the newly elected President George W. Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress was the repeal of OSHA’s ergonomics standard in March 2001. That standard, which would have addressed the largest health and safety problem facing American workers, had been ten years in the making. Today, one-third of workplace injuries and illnesses still come from ergonomic problems, and despite the administration’s promises to take ergonomics seriously, the agency has issued only three guidelines and 17 General Duty Citations over the past five years.

In fact, OSHA has issued only one other major standard since Bush took office – covering the cancer-causing chemical hexavalent chromium -- and that was done under court order. The standard was issued with permissible exposure limit (PEL) five times what was originally proposed by the agency; a level exposure which by OSHA’s own admission will leave workers at a significant risk of developing cancer. Only one week before, a study reported that the chromium industry had covered up evidence that the chemical caused cancer at extremely low levels. Meanwhile, standards to protect workers from silica, beryllium, noise and confined spaces in construction, and a requirement that employers pay for employees’ personal protective equipment make little progress at the agency. “New” issues like pandemic flu and other communicable diseases, stress, workplace violence and thousands of unregulated, uncontrolled chemicals are not even on the drawing table.

And OSHA isn’t even doing a very good job enforcing the standards it has on the books. American employers who are well aware that they are far less likely to be inspected by OSHA at work than they are to be pulled over for speeding on the way home from work. The AFL-CIO has found that it would take 117 years for OSHA to visit every worksite in those states covered by federal OSHA. Even if a workplace is inspected and violations are found, the fines levied by OSHA or MSHA are often absurdly small. Although the maximum penalty for a willful violation of an occupational safety and health standard is $70,000, most penalties are far smaller – even when a worker is killed. An exhaustive review of OSHA enforcement actions by Mike Casey of the Kansas City Star last year found that in 80 fatal and injury accidents, half of the fines Kansas City area employers paid were $3,000 or less. Even where fines are large, they are rarely high enough to present an effective deterrent. BP North America was fined $21.3 million for the 2005 Texas City refinery explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 170, but even that record penalty comes to only a few hours of profit for the giant corporation.

But Republican administrations and business hostility toward tough enforcement are only part of the problem. Most experts think that even with the most pro-worker administration, available resources and current penalties are not sufficient to force employers to take workplace safety more seriously. The Republican solution to this problem is to be less confrontational and leverage OSHA’s limited resources by promoting more partnerships, technical assistance, alliances and other voluntary programs under the theory that if you provide employers with relevant health and safety information, they will naturally do the right thing. Instead of an ergonomics standard, OSHA has formed 70 voluntary Alliances with industry associations ranging from he National Chicken Council and National Turkey Federation to the International Society of Canine Cosmetologists. Yet ergonomics remains the biggest problem facing American workers.

OSHA persists in expanding these voluntary programs despite a 2004 Government Accounting Office report that revealed that there is no evidence that these programs are effective in improving the safety of American workplaces. Further, the GAO warned, the growth of these expensive programs threatens to reduce the share of OSHA’s static budget pie dedicated to enforcing the law.

The continuing carnage in our nation’s workplaces proves the bankruptcy of the Republican voluntary approach. Labor unions and workplace safety advocates may have a better idea. Backed by studies that show that holding corporate heads personally liable for workplace crimes can be much more effective than monetary fines, they are arguing for more aggressive criminal prosecutions of employers who knowingly put workers in deadly environments.

Although rarely used, OSHA has the ability to criminally prosecute employers when a willful violation of a standard leads to the death of a worker. (“Willful” means violations in which the employer knew that workers’ lives were being put at risk.)

OSHA was embarrassed in 2003 by a New York Times investigation that revealed that from 1982 to 2002, OSHA declined to seek criminal prosecution in 93 percent of more than 1200 cases where a worker was killed due to a willful violation of an OSHA standard. At least 70 employers willfully violated safety laws again, resulting in scores of additional deaths. Even these repeat violators were rarely prosecuted. Fewer than 20 employers have ever gone to jail despite well over a thousand cases involving work deaths that involve “willful” OSHA violations over the past twenty years.

The problem is that a conviction under the Occupational Safety and Health Act is only a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of six months in jail. By comparison, the penalty for harassing a burro on federal land is one year in jail. In fact, a chemical release that kills fish and crabs draws a much larger penalty from the Environmental Protection Agency than killing workers. Although the agency has signaled renewed interest in pursuing criminal convictions following the New York Times series, the small penalties make federal prosecutors reluctant to dedicate the energy and resources to prosecuting cases unless the workplace death can be linked to the violation of an environmental law that carries higher penalties. Edwin Foulke, the new head of OSHA, has indicated that the administration has no interest in strengthening the laws criminal penalties, even for the worst violators.

But there is a small glimmer of hope that change may be on the way -- if not in Congress or at OSHA, then at the local level.

Last November, New York prosecutors charged a Staten Island construction company owner, Ken Formica with second degree manslaughter for the 2003 death of his employee, Lorenzo Pavia who was crushed to death under tons of earth when a 15 foot deep unprotected trench collapsed on top of him. Pavia was then decapitated in the rescue attempt. Formica had received a trenching citation nine months before Pavia's death. OSHA fined the company $15,000 for Pavia’s death. But if convicted of manslaughter, Formica faces 15 years in jail.

In Arizona, the Far West Water and Sewer Company was found guilty last year on five felony charges filed against it by the state prosecutors office. The company was found guilty of violating a safety standard causing the death of an employee and two counts of endangerment in the deaths of James Gamble, 26, and Gary Lanser, 62, who were overcome by toxic sewage gases while working on an underground sewer tank. The conviction resulted in a $1.8 million fine. The OSHA citation was only $31,000. Far West president Brent Weidman will be tried for manslaughter, aggravated assault and endangerment at the end of April.

Some prosecutors, like New York State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, aren’t even waiting for workers to die before jailing employers who put workers at risk. A Bronx jury recently found John Chiapperino and his company, Bronx Auto Venture, guilty of one count of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Second Degree, a felony, and two counts of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Fourth Degree, a misdemeanor, for sending one of its employees, Anselmo Alfaro to clean out pipes in a tank containing thousands of gallons of automotive petroleum waste products released during vehicle dismantling and crushing, without any protective equipment. Alfaro, who had objected to going into the tank, passed out and had to be rescued by the fire department. OSHA had fined the company $750, later reduced to $562.

What Is To Be Done

How can we make employers and the Bush administration take workplace safety and health more seriously. We could (and often do) go on all night coming up with ideas, but in the short term, there are two areas on which we can focus. First, let’s make every workplace fatality a “teachable moment.” Write a letter to the newspaper, or call the local T.V. station if they don’t report about how a workplace death could have been prevented.

Talk to local prosecutors about filing manslaughter charges. Talk to the press about talking to the prosecutors. If you’re not a family member, get in touch when the time is appropriate. Talk to them about how workplace deaths can be prevented, and how they can talk to the medial and local politicians.

Second, get the families who have experienced workplace tragedies involved. As a result of the "Weekly Toll" which lists workers who have died on the job in the previous two weeks, I hear from a lot of people who have lost loved ones to needless, preventable workplace tragedies. They're angry that the death of their son, daughter, husband, wife, mother or father could have been prevented. Their one wish is that somehow the death of their loved one will help to prevent similar tragedies from ever happening again. But, most of all, they're frustrated that nothing is being done, that the news media has glossed it all over with a short article implying that it was just a terrible freak accident, that OSHA has handed down an insignificant fine, that this tragedy that changed their lives forever had no impact, that it teaches no lessons. There's a lot of energy there to be harnessed and channeled into the political process. Let's not lose it.

Third, we’ve got an election coming up. Candidates will be crisscrossing their districts from now until November to talk to potential voters. Well, let’s make sure we talk to them. Workplace safety may never be a major issue in a national election, but it also doesn’t have to be a dead issue. If a politician hears once from an angry worker or family member who has lost a loved one, it’s a fluke. The second time, their ears may perk up. By the third or fourth time, they’re asking their staff for a report on who all these people are and what the hell do they want?!

And the same goes for union members who don’t feel their unions are doing enough about workplace safety and health conditions. Stop muttering to yourself and start nagging and complaining to your elected officials. They'll start nagging and complaining to headquarters.

As flawed as many of our institutions are, we still live in a democracy. Squeaky wheels eventually get greased – if they squeak enough.

Go forth and squeak.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006


Letter From Sago: Accepting Their Fate As Oxygen Packs Failed

Randall McCloy Jr., the only surviving miner from the Sago explosion last January, sent a letter to family members of those who died, saying that four of the "rescuers" or emergency oxygen packs failed to work:
The first thing we did was activate our rescuers, as we had been trained. At least four of the rescuers did not function. I shared my rescuer with Jerry Groves, while Junior Toler, Jesse Jones and Tom Anderson sought help from others. There were not enough rescuers to go around.
They pounded on a pipe to signal their location, but they got no response:
We attempted to signal our location to the surface by beating on the mine bolts and plates. We found a sledgehammer, and for a long time, we took turns pounding away. We had to take off the rescuers in order to hammer as hard as we could. This effort caused us to breathe much harder. We never heard a responsive blast or shot from the surface.
Soon, after trying to find a way out, there was nothing to do but accept their fate:
We were worried and afraid, but we began to accept our fate. Junior Toler led us all in the Sinners Prayer. We prayed a little longer, then someone suggested that we each write letters to our loved ones. I wrote a letter to Anna and my children. When I finished writing, I put the letter in Jackie Weaver's lunch box, where I hoped it would be found.

As time went on, I became very dizzy and lightheaded. Some drifted off into what appeared to be a deep sleep, and one person sitting near me collapsed and fell off his bucket, not moving. It was clear that there was nothing I could do to help him. The last person I remember speaking to was Jackie Weaver, who reassured me that if it was our time to go, then God's will would be fulfilled. As my trapped co-workers lost consciousness one by one, the room grew still and I continued to sit and wait, unable to do much else. I have no idea how much time went by before I also passed out from the gas and smoke, awaiting rescue.
The full text of the letter is here.

The miners' air packs use a chemical reaction to produce oxygen. Reportedly, they had problems.
At least two miners who escaped the blast said they, too, struggled with their air packs. Arnett Roger Perry told state and federal investigators he could not initially activate his.

"They're not worth a damn," co-worker Harley Joe Ryan, 60, told investigators. "There's going to have to be some design changes for them."
International Coal Group, which owns the Sago mine, denied that there was any problem with the air packs:
ICG said in a statement that the SCSRs worn by the Sago miners "were all within the manufacturer suggested life," that the devices are checked every 90 days by a person at the mine, and are also checked by the wearer every day.
More coal stories here.

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Oops. A Few Extra Deaths In '04

Just in time for Workers Memorial Day...

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported its revised 2004 fatality data yesterday. The revised data show 61 deaths more than previously reported, bringing the death toll in 2004 to 5,764.

Many of these deaths (19) were Hispanic workers, pushing the number of fatalities among Hispanic workers in 2004 to 902 - the highest number of fatalities ever reported for this group in the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries survey.

More here on the AFL-CIO blog.

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GUILTY: The "McWane Way" May Land Managers In Jail

Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Company, owned by the notorious McWane Inc., an Alabama-based conglomerate whose extensive record of safety and environmental violations was highlighted in a 2003 NY Times/Frontline series, along with four of its managers, were found guilty earlier this week of conspiring to evade workplace safety and environmental laws.
Yesterday's verdict marks the fifth time a McWane plant has been found guilty of federal crimes since The New York Times published a series of articles in 2003 about McWane's safety and environmental record.

In the four previous cases, McWane was ordered to pay a total of $19 million in fines and restitution, and several current or former managers were fined or sentenced to probation. The Atlantic States verdict is likely to bring many millions more in criminal fines; Atlantic States was found guilty on 32 of 34 counts. The four managers, all found guilty of multiple felony charges, face possible prison terms.
Prosecutors didn't have many nice things to say about the company
"Today's sweeping verdicts demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that McWane is one of the worst and most persistent violators of our nation's environmental and worker safety laws," David M. Uhlmann, chief of the Justice Department's environmental crimes section, said in an interview. The case represented the most serious confrontation yet between McWane and the Justice Department.

Prosecution witnesses, including several former foundry supervisors, depicted a brutal and dangerous workplace at Atlantic States, in Phillipsburg, N.J. They told of rigged smokestack tests, of polluted wastewater dumped under cover of night, of regulators stalled at the front gate while flagrant safety violations were hidden. Workers, they said, were blamed for accidents even when shoddy equipment or inadequate training was the real cause. Prosecutors called it "the McWane way."

"Welcome to Atlantic States, a division of McWane, where production is priority number one — everything else is incidental," Norv McAndrew, an assistant United States attorney.


***

Two incidents framed much of the trial testimony. The first concerned the foundry's response when environmental officials showed up one weekend day in 1999 to investigate the cause of an 8.5-mile oil slick on the Delaware River. The second focused on the actions of foundry managers after an employee was run over by a forklift and killed in 2000.

In both cases, prosecutors said, top foundry managers conspired to obstruct official investigations. "There was an implicit agreement between all of them," Mr. McAndrew said, "to work together for the common goal, and that goal was to deceive. That goal was to lie."
The managers that face jail time were convicted of a variety of crimes:
Besides the conspiracy charges, the four Atlantic States managers were convicted on other charges involving specific environmental and workplace crimes.

[John] Prisque, the plant manager, was convicted of making false statements to safety investigators after three separate workplace accidents, including the forklift fatality. In another, a worker had three fingers amputated in a cement mixer, and in another a worker lost an eye when a saw blade broke.

[Craig] Davidson, Jeffrey Maury, the maintenance supervisor, and Scott Faubert, the human resources manager, were all convicted of lying to either environmental or workplace safety investigators.
The New York Times article, written by David Barstow who is the Pulitzer Prize winning co-author of the oringal McWane series, points out that this is one of the first cases where the federal government is using stiffer environmental laws, on top of the much weaker Occupational Safety and Health Act to prosecute workplace wrongdoing. OSHA announced this program with little fanfare around a year ago.

Personally, while I think it's quite appropriate to to see prison sentences being used to punish workplace crimes instead of generally ineffectual financial penalties, you have to wonder if the managers are just evil, or whether they're acting under the direct (or implied) orders from above. In other words, what was it about the environment or "culture" in which they worked that encouraged them to cut corners, neglect safety standards and lie to government officials?

You can't help but feel sorry for the relatives:
Outside the courtroom after the verdicts were read, Jane Prisque, the elderly mother of defendant John Prisque, the plant manager, sobbed in the arms of Phyllis Davidson, the mother of defendant Craig Davidson, the finishing supervisor at the foundry.

"They don't deserve this. They were doing their jobs," Prisque said. "They took them out of the plant in chains. They're all good men. They didn't do nothing."

Craig Davidson's father, Stuart, stood nearby seething at prosecutors and jurors.

"I can't believe it. It's just pathetic what our government can do to us," he said. "They're just a bunch of tree huggers."
Well, not quite. And just "doing their jobs" sounds like a line out of Nuremburg. Nevertheless, if, as we hope, the idea of criminal prosecution catches on in this country, we need to do a lot more thinking about the issue of of "who should go to jail" -- particularly in big companies with many layers of management .



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