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

Thursday, August 31, 2006


FDA to Popcorn Eaters: Nothing To Worry About From Lung Destroying Chemical. Really.

I've written a number of times about the artificial butter flavoring chemical diacetyl and how it destroys workers' lungs. Last month several unions petitioned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for a standard to protect workers. Baltimore Sun journalist Andrew Schneider, who has been following the issue closely, reported on more than a dozen cases of lung disease across the country last April.
Since then, health officials in Ohio have identified more than 20 former workers at a Cincinnati flavoring manufacturer who have the disease, and physicians elsewhere have diagnosed more than a dozen other cases.
Given the havoc that diacetyl wreaks on the lungs of workers, one might reasonably wonder whether or not the chemical may also damage consumers' lungs when they microwave popcorn or heat up other foods containing additives. Schneider explains in an article earlier this week how diacetyl's possible effect on consumers has fallen through the regulatory cracks.
"The problem with a chemical like diacetyl is that the route of exposure - inhalation - does not fit easily the jurisdiction of any of these agencies," said David Vladeck, a Georgetown University law professor who spent 30 years at Public Citizen handling litigation on food and drug issues.

The problem is that OSHA only regulates exposure to workers (or at least it did before the current administration). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting a study of how much of the chemicals consumers may be exposed to, but the results are currently out for industry review and apparently won't have any information about the health effects of that exposure.

In any case, it's questionable whether EPA has the authority to regulate diacetyl, as it's a food additive, which comes under the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA currently classifies diacetyl as "generally recognized as safe" as long as you're just eating it, based on studies that were done in the late 1950s and early 1980s. The FDA did not look into whether their were adverse health effects from inhaling diacetyl while the food's cooking. And apparently the agency has no intention of looking any further at the issue.

In fact, the FDA seems to be using the traditional corporate-approved scientific method called "just making stuff up"

Michael Cheeseman, associate director of the FDA's Office of Food Additive Safety, said diacetyl occurs naturally in butter. And while the agency has not tested what kinds of vapors are released when products containing diacetyl are used in cooking, he said home cooks are not "being exposed to anything that they would not be exposed to if the food were prepared with real butter."
OK, so they haven't tested it or anything, but that doesn't stop them from assuming it's perfectly natural and therefore OK.

In other words, first kill the cows.

Of course, there are scientists out there who think the FDA is full of crap.

"How does he know that the diacetyl from cows is identical to diacetyl brewed in chemical vats?" asked Dr. David Egilman, a specialist in occupational medicine who was an expert witness for many of the injured popcorn workers in their lawsuits against flavoring companies.

Dr. David Michaels, director of the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy at George Washington University's School of Public Health, called the FDA's conclusions "absurd."

"There is no evidence that breathing diacetyl vapors is safe and plenty of evidence that it is deadly," he said.
I always liked stove-top popcorn better anyway.

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Tragedy On The High Seas

This is a gripping seven-part series in the Seattle Post-Intellegencer about a woman, Rose Bard, who was seriously injured while working on a fishing boat in the Bering Sea, her hair-raising rescue and her difficult recuperation while awaiting the birth of her child.

A taste:
One of Rose's routine tasks as a quality-control technician was to scour equipment with pressure hoses. She donned her rain gear and XtraTuff boots, checked with her supervisor to make sure a large hopper funnel was shut down for cleaning, and climbed into the bowl-shaped machine. A waist-high, stainless-steel vat with two fat screws at the bottom of it, the funnel churned the pollock paste into pans for freezing. She scrubbed away, chatting with a fellow worker, who was cleaning the machine next to hers.

Suddenly, the ship lurched as a massive wave slammed the side of the boat. The impact sent a deckhand reeling against the switch that turned on Rose's machine. She felt something grab her feet from behind, yanking her to her knees. Pain seared up her legs. She could feel her bones crunching. She looked behind and saw her feet disappearing into the bowels of the machine. Only the pole of the paddle blade that stirred the pollock, now wedged between her knees, prevented the rest of her body from being sucked through the turning screws. Above her, the orange emergency stop cord hung just out of her reach.

Help me! She screamed. Get me out!



Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Nutcase Alert! Is It A Full Moon?

Sometimes I just don't know whether to laugh or cry.

First, the labor movement's attempt to pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) allowing for card-check recognition of unions rather than the traditional bankrupt NLRB elections is gaining so much support in Congress that it's bringing the wackjobs out of the loonytoon closet.

We've already written, ad nauseum, about Richard Berman and his corporate-backed anti-union Center or Union "Facts" (sic). Now we have "former union activist" (which somehow adds credibility) Peter A. List striking fear into the hearts of vulnerable freedom-loving, terrorist-fearing Americans
"One of the biggest threats facing America today is the threat from today's labor movement and the Employee Free Choice Act, a euphemism for what should be more aptly called the Kill American Jobs Act," explains Mr. List. "If this destructive legislation is passed by Congress and signed into law, it will be the biggest political payoff in history to any special interest group and will have a devastating impact on small businesses and American jobs."
Ooo, sounds bad. Why, it seems only yesterday that the "biggest political payoff in history to any special interest group" were Bush's tax cuts, or was it the bankruptcy bill, or the repeal of the ergonomics standard? It's so hard to keep track of these things.

List's view of American history is also a bit skewed -- particularly for a "former union activist."

"After killing off entire industries in America," List explains, "it seems rather depraved that today's unions have become so pathetically desperate that they are willing to sacrifice the rest of America's workers whose jobs are vulnerable to globalization in order to unionize jobs that they deem can't be outsourced.'"
Now this is a rather curious statement, particularly in view of a New York Times article earlier this week that the median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. Meanwhile, productivity has been rising steadily. But, of course, everyone's not losing:
In 2004, the top 1 percent of earners — a group that includes many chief executives — received 11.2 percent of all wage income, up from 8.7 percent a decade earlier and less than 6 percent three decades ago, according to Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, economists who analyzed the tax data.
And what's one major reason for this sad state of affairs, according to the Times? You guessed it, "the weakness of trade unions." In other words, a rising tide doesn't raise all boats unless someone is powerful and organized enough to make sure all boats get raised. (More on that here.)

You can check out his full press release if you have the stomach. One thing I'll give him is that what he lacks in reason, honesty and intelligence, he makes up for in hyperbole.

OK, moving right along to the next group of nutcases.

You may have heard that CBS is running an updated version of the Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning documentary "9/11" on Sunday, Sept. 10, in commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the 2001 attacks. The documentary is an eyewitness account of the World Trade Center attack by firefighters and first-responders.

So what's the problem? Witnessing one of the greatest disasters in American history, some of the first responders filmed in the documentary regretfully lost their heads and used harsh language -- profanity that has rarely, if ever, been heard on network television. Although CBS has already aired it uncut twice before (with warnings), the Federal Communications Commission -- still obsessing over Janet Jackson's breast -- has since raised fines for on-air profanity to $325,000 per instance.

And as you might imagine, those right-wing religious guardians of our morals are having a shit-fit problem. Apparently fearing that children will be more traumatized by hearing the "F-word" or the "S-word" than they will by viewing people jumping out of buildings to their deaths and thousands dying beneath two collapsed skyscrapers, the American Family Association (defending "traditional American values") is calling for an "outpouring of complaints" to CBS and the FCC (emphasis in the original):
"9/11," which will be shown in prime-time, contains a tremendous amount of hardcore profanity. CBS has stated they have not, and will not, make any cuts in the amount and degree of profanity. CBS will ignore the law. The network is suing the FCC over the indecency law, saying they should be able to show whatever they desire whenever they desire. CBS wants no limits.

This is a test case for CBS to see how far they can go. If there is no out-pouring of complaints from the public, they will go further the next time.

CBS could very easily bleep out the profanity, but they refuse. The goal of CBS is to be able to show whatever they want at anytime. The network wants no restraints on their programming. If they are allowed to get away with this, they will simply air even more profanity in the future....
Or at least whenever terrorists knock down a couple of tall buildings.

I think Kathy Kirkland, director of the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics said it best:
This one is personal. I've been speaking daily with responders to WTC. What they saw was the profanity, not what they said. If you haven't seen the documentary under discussion, plan to watch but do so with a stiff drink. This isn't a scripted melodrama, this was real life and should be shown as such.
She's suggesting that we organize our own outpouring by writing to CBS and the FCC to support the bleepless airing of "9/11." You can find your local CBS affiliate here and you can e-mail the FCC here.

Do it. Otherwise the terrorists have won.

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New Law Provides Benefits For 9/11 Workers and Volunteers: Spread the Word

I'm republishing this article by New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) Communications director Jonathan Bennett to make sure it gets wide distribution. If you know anyone who might be affected, please pass it on or reprint it.

In short, New York State has just passed a law making tens of thousands of people, including volunteers, eligible for workers’ compensation. The law went into effect on August 14 and those who are eligible have one year to register.

NYCOSH is a non-profit educational advocacy organization that has been active in fighting for medical treatment for workers and volunteers who have become sick as a result of exposure to toxic substances in the aftermath of the collapse of the World Trade Center. They are concerned that many of those eligible will not register because they are unaware of the new legislation that extends the time limits for filing claims.


New law provides benefits for 9/11 workers and volunteers: Registration open for a year


By Jonathan Bennett

Thanks to a new law, most people who performed rescue, recovery or cleanup work after the collapse of the World Trade Center are now eligible to register with the Workers’ Compensation Board. Anyone who is registered who develops a 9/11-related illness at any time in the future will be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim. Failure to register by August 14, 2007 will make it impossible to file a claim, even if the worker develops a 9/11-related illness.

"Now all those who did rescue, recovery or cleanup work after 9/11 have an opportunity to ensure that if they ever become ill as a result, their medical expenses will be covered one hundred percent," said Joel Shufro, Executive Director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health. "But for that to happen they need to register within a year. I urge anyone who did paid or unpaid work in Lower Manhattan after 9/11, whether sick or healthy, to find out about eligibility requirements and register. Working in partnership with the National Disaster Ministries of the United Church of Christ we have launched a major campaign to inform all workers and volunteers about the new program."

The new law permits workers and volunteers who worked in lower Manhattan after the attack on the World Trade Center who are ill, and those who were exposed to toxic substances and may become ill in the future, until August 14, 2007 to register with the New York State Worker’s Compensation Board.

Some workers and volunteers have been prevented from getting compensation because they only began to become sick after the 2-year deadline for filing a claim. Others who were exposed to the toxic atmosphere in Lower Manhattan are healthy now, but may develop a 9/11-related disease in the future. Under the old rules, they would also have been prevented from receiving benefits.

The law applies to most people who did paid or unpaid rescue, recovery or cleanup work in Lower Manhattan south of Canal or Pike Streets between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sept. 12, 2002. It also applies to rescue, recovery or cleanup workers who worked at the Staten Island landfill, the barge operation between Manhattan and Staten Island or the New York City morgue, and temporary morgues. The only workers who are not covered are those who are not in the workers’ compensation system: NYC uniformed services (firefighters, police, sanitation workers), NYC teachers and federal employees. But those workers are eligible if they performed any rescue, recovery or cleanup work off-duty, as a volunteer.

Anyone who has already filed a claim for 9/11-related workers’ compensation and been turned down because the claim was filed after the 2-year filing deadline had passed can register and file a new claim under the new law.

Workers who have already filed for workers’ compensation for injuries suffered during the rescue, recovery or cleanup operation should register in case they develop a 9/11-related condition that is different from the basis of their established claim. An already-established claim does not cover the new condition.

The registration must be notarized and indicate the dates and locations of the rescue, recovery or cleanup work performed and the employer’s name, or the organization for whom the volunteer worked, if applicable.

"It is imperative that anyone who worked within the boundaries or at the sites detailed in the law register with the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board whether they are sick or not," said Shufro. "By joining the registry before the deadline, a year from now, workers and volunteers will preserve their rights to benefits. Failure to register within the next twelve months will prevent individuals who may develop cancer or other slow starting diseases some years from now receiving benefits."

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BP, Blowjobs and Dead Workers

From the comments, Tasha pointed me to this article about a judge's decision to require BP CEO Lord John Browne to to give a video deposition and be available to testify at trial in a lawsuit brought by victims of the March 23, 2005 Texas City refinery explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 170. Browne had resisted the deposition, claiming that he didn't know anything more than people closer to the process knew.

But plaintiffs' attorney Brent Coon wasn't buying it, arguing that Browne and BP Global Refining Director John Manzoni
have information about "how that plant operated and the problems associated with that plant. It goes back to budget cuts Manzoni and Browne ordered that compromised plant maintenance."
And here's the quote that Tasha liked:
"If President Clinton could be deposed in a harassment case, we think Lord Browne could be deposed in an accident at one of his plants that killed 15 and injured more than 100 others," Coon said.
Indeed.

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It's My Birthday...

And I'll blog if I want to...



Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Au Revoir to MSHA Nominee?

When last we left the sad story of Mine Safety and Health Nominee Richard Stickler, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow was claiming to "have no earthly clue" about his status. The vote on Stickler's nomination, as you may remember, was cancelled by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist because they didn't have enough votes to confirm. Then Senators Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy employed a rarely used Senate rule to send the nomination back to the White House -- which means that Bush either has to renominate Stickler or find a new candidate.

Well, it looks like the Administration may be looking for a new candidate. At the White House Press Conference the following day, Snow admitted that the White House may be looking for a new candidate:
Q: Did you get a chance to follow up on the mine safety nomination by any chance?

MR. SNOW: At this point, we don't have any. We don't have any likely -- we're not in a position to announce another nominee.

Q: But are you planning to make another nomination and not a recess appointment?

MR. SNOW: You know, from what I gather, yes, but I'll find out.
Hmm. I'd say if I was Richard Stickler, I don't think I'd be looking to buy a house in Washington.

Hat tip to Mine Safety and Health News.

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'Hog Hell' In Tar Heel

Eric Shlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, has an article -- Hog Hell -- about Smithfield Packing Company in Tar Heel, North Carolina. We've written a lot about the union busting, racism and poor health and safety conditions at the plant (see below), but Schlosser always manages to find information that hasn't been discussed before:
One of the most remarkable things about Smithfield's behavior is that it was criticized by a branch of the federal government. Since George W. Bush took office in January 2001, the meatpacking industry has wielded more power than at any other time since the early twentieth century. The Bush Administration has worked closely with the industry to weaken food safety and worker safety rules and to make union organizing more difficult. The US Department of Agriculture now offers a textbook example of a regulatory agency controlled by the industry it's supposed to regulate. The current chief of staff at the USDA was, until 2001, the chief lobbyist for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Meanwhile, the sort of abuses criticized in the NLRB's Smithfield decision are still being committed. A recent Human Rights Watch report on the US meatpacking industry found "systematic human rights violations." Lance Compa, the author of the report, teaches labor law at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Compa interviewed many workers at the Smithfield plant in Tar Heel. What's happening there, he says, is "a modern-day version of The Jungle."
Schlosser notes that this year marks the 100th anniversary of Upton Sinclair's, The Jungle. And guess who's celebrating?
Meanwhile, the industry continues to peddle its version of reality. In June the American Meat Institute held a luncheon for journalists in Washington, DC, to celebrate Upton Sinclair and the passage of the 1906 Meat Inspection Act. French champagne was served, glasses were raised in honor of the centennial and a commemorative booklet was handed out. It outlines the industry's labor, environmental and food safety policies, with the title: "If Upton Sinclair were alive today... He'd be Amazed by the U.S. Meat Industry." That much is true. He would be amazed--by how little has fundamentally changed, how brazenly a new set of immigrants is being exploited in a familiar way, how old lies are being repeated. But you'd never catch him at that luncheon, sponsored by an industry that tried so hard to destroy him. If Upton Sinclair were alive today, you would find him in Tar Heel, North Carolina, fighting for the union and angry as hell.
Amen

Related Stories




Unions Petition Cal/OSHA For Popcorn Lung Standard

The United Food and Commercial Workers union and the California State Labor Federation have petitioned Cal/OSHA for an emergency temporary standard to protect workers against the damaging lung disease caused by diacetyl, a deadly chemical used in flavorings.T
he UFCW and the California Labor Federation are petitioning the Standards Board to require employers to control airborne exposure to diacetyl and ensure that all employees who are exposed to a certain airborne level of the chemical are provided with air purifying respirators. The safety of these workers would be additionally monitored through medical surveillance and regular consultations.

The petition also demands that Cal/OSHA immediately issue a bulletin to all employers and employees potentially exposed to diacetyl outlining the dangers of the chemical. Cal/OSHA is being asked to conduct inspections and begin rule-making proceedings to establish a permanent standard that will put an end to this tragic epidemic and protect workers from exposure to all flavorings.
There are 16 to 20 plants producing flavorings in the state of California, according to CalOSHA.

Last month, the UFCW and the Teamsters petitioned federal OSHA for a standard. The AFL-CIO followed up with a letter of support to OSHA, stating that "clearly, in the absence of a standard and proper control measures, workers exposed to the flavoring diacetyl face a grave danger."

California, and 20 other states that have federally approved OSHA "state plans," are authorized to issue their own health and safety standards, as long as they are "at least as effective" as federal OSHA standards. They can also go beyond federal standards. California, for example, is the only state to have an ergonomics and a heat standard -- although they're both relatively weak.

More here.
More on popcorn lung here.

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Monday, August 28, 2006


Ground Zero Workers: The Continuing Cost Of A Cover-Up

"I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, D.C., that their air is safe to breathe and their water is safe to drink." - Christie Whitman, U.S. EPA administrator, September 19, 2001
It's one thing when people are exposed to hazardous conditions in the heat of a crisis, or because no one is aware of the hazard. In the case of World Trade Center ground zero workers, plenty was known early on about the toxicity of the dust they were inhaling, and little was done to ensure that workers were protected -- especially by those agencies -- the City of New York, OSHA and EPA -- who were responsible for worker safety. One only hopes that, should something like this ever happen again, we've learned our lesson.

Now documents and memos obtained by Newsday reveal that New York city officials, pressured by building and business owners to open up downtown New York in the vicinity of the collapsed World Trade Center buildings following 9/11, ignored advice from experts, possibly dooming thousands to illness, shorter lives and death. The documents show that city officials may have opened up hazardous areas prematurely, even though they were warned by other officials at the New York Department of Environmental Protection that the air may have still been hazardous.

The documents revealed that:
  • City, state and federal officials failed to enforce workplace safety laws - for example, fining or expelling workers who did not wear respirators. Use of respirators remained below 45 percent for most of the recovery project.

  • The city's Department of Environmental Protection, which conducted tests for asbestos in the days immediately after Sept. 11 that showed dangerously high levels of the fibers, did not reveal those test results to the public. The results were later disclosed by the state in response to a Freedom of Information request.

  • A U.S. Geological Survey study found that the dust was as caustic as drain cleaner. That study was not disclosed to the public until February 2002.
And the failure to enforce the use of respirators becomes even more troubling. Associate Commissioner Kelly McKinney
suggested that the health department should start issuing violations to enforce the safety rules. The idea went nowhere. It wasn't until February 2002 that the city's Department of Design and Construction began to issue fines to companies whose workers disregarded the safety rules, records show.

Neither McKinney, now with OEM [Office of Environmental Management], nor health department officials responded to a written request for comment.

Early on, the federal, state and local officials running the site decided that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which enforces workplace safety rules, would only act in an advisory capacity, records show.

Kenneth Holden, the city official in charge of Ground Zero until June 2002, believed that the guidelines in place were sufficient. "We knew that the air quality was less than ideal, but I was also repeatedly and regularly informed that the protection those employees had was sufficient to protect their health," he said in a deposition in the pending class-action suit.

But Ground Zero workers routinely flouted rules requiring the use of respirators. An OSHA summary spanning Sept. 11 to March shows that respirator use among construction workers rarely exceeded 45 percent and was often much lower. The rate among police officers and firefighters was only slightly better.

Safety inspectors who roamed the site consistently reported the failure to use respirators. "We have observed very inconsistent compliance with our recommendations," the EPA's Bruce Sprague warned in an Oct. 5 memo.

On Oct. 15, Stew Burkhammer, an official with Bechtel, the firm initially in charge of safety, complained to city safety official Robert Adams: "They [contractors] are either refusing to take corrective action or are giving our team excuses as to why we have no authority to tell them anything. Our team members are not used to taking abuse like this and are getting very discouraged."

In January and February 2002, the failure to use respirators remained a serious problem. On Jan. 3, for example, DDC official Bruce Rottner wrote that just 20 percent of workers were wearing their respirators.

"Throughout the entire site tonight and last night use of respiratory protective equipment . . . was terrible," Rottner wrote.

There were several reasons for the problems. The masks were difficult to wear. It was hard to breathe and hard to talk in them. And it was a lot to ask workers, on exhausting 12-hour shifts, to wear them at all times, according to memos at the time.

Though OSHA said it had trained thousands of workers, some Ground Zero workers claimed that they either never received respirators or did not receive adequate training in using them.


Several officials have acknowledged in depositions that there was no one person in charge of enforcing the safety guidelines. In hindsight, Sam Benson, a city OEM official, testified: "I certainly would have had more of an overhead team ... and to have a more disciplined process."
And it's not like the damage showed up years later. Within two months of 9/11, almost 1000 Ground Zero workers reported lung injuries.

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SHOCKED! Not Enough OSHA Inspectors

Following the death of a construction worker who fell fell from the roof of the 30-story building to the sixth floor deck, Jacksonville, Florida media seem surprised that there aren't enough OSHA inspectors to ensure that workplaces are safe.

According to Charles Sorenson, an attorney who has represented several families who've sued construction companies claiming the workplace was unsafe, says
part of the reason workplaces cut corners is because they know OSHA probably won't be checking.

"People take shortcuts, that's the simple answer," said Sorenson. "They take shortcuts and they balance whether the fine or the penalty is going to be worth worrying about."

First Coast News has learned there are 12 compliance officers to monitor 37 counties in Florida.

They inspect about 600 places a year.

Half of those places are already picked and the other half are in response to tragedy.

"They can't see even a tiny fraction of all of the construction that's going up and basically they're just reacting to death cases," said Sorenson.
OSHA agrees:
The area director from OSHA says they simply don't have the staff to do routine checks, and he says making a dangerous business a safe workplace is the employer's job.

OSHA has a free consultation service for construction companies, which means someone from a university in southern Florida would come up and check the site.

The area director says a good number of companies take advantage of the service because of the risk of injury and death to their workers, and the lawsuit that could result.
Yeah, but the ones who ask for free consultation aren't the ones we're worried about.



Sunday, August 27, 2006


Workplace Deaths: For The World To See

The billboard pictured below went up at the corner of Texas Ave and 33rd street in Texas City, Texas the other day -- approximately one block from the main entrance of the BP Texas City refinery where 15 workers were killed and 170 injured on March 23, 2005.



But Raymundo C. Gonzalez, Jr. and Leonard Maurice Moore, Jr. didn't die in that explosion. They died from burns from 500 degree water and steam after a pipe broke at the refinery on September 2, 2004, around six months before the larger blast. The billboard was paid for by Gonzalez's daughter Katherine Rodriguez who writes at the USMWF (United Support & Memorial For Workplace Fatalities) website
"I am just now getting to the point where I have the energy to help fight the cause. My Father was hurt along with a fellow co-worker at the BP Texas City plant, just six months before the March 23 explosion that killed 15 contract workers. They were hurt on September 2, 2004. His co-worker passed away September 3, and my Father on November 12. I hold the date of their deaths as family days. Those are the days that we honor them as a family, however the date of the accident is the date that I want everyone in our community to be reminded of for years to come."
Check out the USMWF "Billboard Watch" site for more information.

BP was later cited and fined over $100,000 by OSHA for the deaths, including a willful citation for violating the lockout-tagout standard which requres all hazardous energy sources to be controlled.

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Incentives To Cheat: OSHA Recordkeeping And Its Toll On Workers

Injury and illness recordkeeping is one of those seemingly boring, but extremely important topics. Who OSHA targets for inspections, funding for workplace safety programs, companies' insurance rates and their ability to secure contracts all depend to some extent on where the injury and illness numbers are. And as with any such system, when significant finanical implications are matched with inadequate oversight you have a predictable result: lots of cheating.

The Contra Costa Times takes a deep look into how KFM, during its project to rebuild the Bay Bridge, systematically lied about workers' injuries on the project:
Doctors who scanned Bay Bridge skyway carpenter Ramon Martinez's brain prohibited him from working with machinery after he was struck on the head.

They declared mechanic Keith Bates totally disabled after he fell from a truck on the bridge construction site.

Workers had to lift pile driver Arne Paulson, hobbled by a knee injury, onto a boat daily for months to transport him to a bridge pier.

According to injury records provided to state worker safety authorities, none of these workers missed a day of work or required anything more than first aid. Many injury victims, including Bates and Paulson, were fired shortly after they received independent medical care.

The contractor building the Bay Bridge's $1 billion replacement segment concealed worker injuries behind a sophisticated curtain of bonuses, pliant medical workers and a don't-ask-don't-tell policy of handling workers' compensation claims and safety conditions, a review of state records shows.

Workers for KFM, A Joint Venture, were routinely fired when their injuries were too severe to hide, according to official interviews with workers, foremen and safety officers, as well as a state Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) review of injury logs and medical records.
How did they do it? First, KFM has a classic safety program that rewarded workers who had not experienced (or reported) an injury, and punished those who were injured on the job. Even when workers reported injuries, the company made sure that no one missed a day of work -- no matter how serious the injury -- and if the injury was too severe, the worker was simply fired.
Whenever Cal/OSHA safety inspectors arrived on the bridge site, KFM safety managers would offer up a "dog and pony show" during which they withheld their own misgivings about worker safety, according to a statement by Winston Peart in the state audit. He is a former KFM safety manager and former Arizona state worker safety compliance officer.

Peart, a 40-year safety veteran, told a state auditor in October that he "witnessed a pattern of deliberate underreporting of injuries," which were routinely minimized as requiring only first aid so workers could return to work. Missed work is one of the criteria for determining that an injury is severe enough to include in logs kept for state authorities.

When injuries occurred, Peart reported, his supervisor "would accompany the victim to a KFM-controlled medical clinic" where he "knew the doctors there and had some degree of influence in persuading them to classify injuries in a way as to not make them either reportable or recordable, depending upon the severity of the injury."

***
Cal/OSHA investigators cited the company for failing to record the back injury of carpenter Darrell Hall, whose company-contracted doctors prescribed increasing levels of "modified work" until he could not stoop or bend, or lift anything heavier than 5 pounds and could work only while seated.

Five days after seeking outside medical help, Hall was fired, according to the record accompanying the Cal/OSHA citation.

Cal/OSHA noticed these injuries only after the state audit criticized the agency for failing to properly police the skyway worksite.

(Another story of a worker fired due to his injuries here.)

KFM had once boasted about its immaculate safety record, five times safer than the average heavy construction project, "even safer than your average flower shop." But last June Cal/OSHA issued three citations against KFM, fining the company $5,790 fine - including $5,000 for the willful violation, the maximum penalty allowed. Cal/OSHA accused the company of deliberately failing to record 13 injuries on their OSHA Log 300 report. The citations followed a report by the California State Auditor that accused the agency of not having procedures necessary to verify the accuracy of injury and illness reporting, and noting that the Cal/OSHA's compliance assistance/partnership approach with the company made it even more difficult to uncover unsafe conditions and faulty reporting.

In 2005, an Oakland Tribune article reported that KFM's amazing safety record was likely due to the $100 to $2,500 bonuses that depended on the number of worker hours logged without reporting a recordable injury, rather than safe working conditions. KFM and its lead firm, Kiewit Pacific Company, also used the stick: suspending workers without pay for reporting injuries.

And why cheat? Because it pays.
A contractor's safety is not among the main factors used to award construction contracts or bonuses for completing work early, said Bart Ney, spokesman for Caltrans, which is paying for the two main segments of the Bay Bridge eastern span.

But if a contractor had a poor safety record, "then their insurance goes sky-high and they can't bid. It's sort of market-controlled," he said.

Safety records might also come into play if other factors, such as the amount of money bid for a contract, were equal, he said.
In addition, in order to "leverage" its scarce resources, OSHA has a system for targeting the most dangerous workplaces. And what is this targeting system based on? These same self-reported injury and illness statistics.

Last may, we ran a series about OSHA recordkeeping by guest-bloggers ERM who alleged that even state enforcers may have an interest in perpetuating the bankruptcy of the recordkeeping system. If injury and illness statistics are dropping, OSHA (or CalOSHA) can point to the number as proof of their programs' success. And then there was this "benefit" described in the Contra Costa Times article:
Those figures, which show California with a lower-than-average injury rate, were used by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to help justify vetoing $1.5 million from the state budget to hire 15 safety inspectors for Cal/OSHA.
(More on Scharzenegger's budget priorities here.)

The union representing CalOSHA inspectors has complained that understaffing of the agency restricts their ability to oversee safety conditions or accurate reporting. The understaffing is caused by the failure to maintain CalOSHA's budget, a situation that the Governor justifies by citing the (undercounted) injuries and illnesses. The undercounted statistics also justify the partnerships that further reduce the oversight CalOSHA is able to exercise over workplace safety and accurate recordkeeping. It's a nice tidy little circle -- a win-win situation -- unless you happen to be a worker.

And the problem is much bigger than just the Bay Bridge project:
Collecting accurate data on workplace injuries and illness is a significant problem in California with effects that reach far beyond the Bay Bridge project, said Fran Schreiberg, acting director of WorkSafe, an Oakland-based nonprofit group that promotes workplace safety policy.

When statistics are skewed by chronic underrecording, she said, "the whole thing becomes a downward spiral: 'Gee, everything's fine, nobody's reporting anything, so let's give employers greater freedom.'"
The most amazing (and disturbing) thing throughout this whole affair is how, even after the devastating articles in the Oakland Tribune and Contra Costa Times, even after the California State Auditor's report, and even after the citations, Cal/OSHA officials continue to stick to their defense of the company and their own failed programs:
Cal/OSHA spokesman Dean Fryer said the agency views the partnership as a success, and that KFM agreed to it after the discovery that welders were exposed to hazardous levels of manganese fumes.

Focusing on the accuracy of the injury logs, which "has been in question since the requirement to keep these logs was first adopted," Fryer said in an e-mail, "is a classic case of missing the forest for the trees.

"This project is now close to logging over 3.5 million worker hours without a fatality and with very few serious injuries. This is an extraordinary accident record," he said in response to an e-mail query asking the agency to rate its oversight of the skyway project.

"This type of project involves extremely hazardous work and is very prone to causing serious injuries. The low rate of fatalities and serious injuries, which cannot be hidden and no one has alleged to have been hidden, is the kind of result the partnership set out to accomplish." (emphasis added)
Finally, just to add illness to insult to injury, the 13 injuries that OSHA cited KFM for not reporting were apparently just the tip of the iceberg, according to another Contra Costa Times article:
The welders connecting the foundation of the new Bay Bridge to the rest of its structure labored in confined spaces up to 40 feet below the waterline in 150-degree temperatures while inhaling fumes measured above the legal limit for manganese.

But when the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) slapped KFM Joint Venture with 17 citations last June, the state agency declined to cite the contractor for ignoring the claims of as many as 48 sick welders who blamed their illnesses on manganese overexposure, leaving them to fend for themselves in Bay Area clinics and courts.
Despite a report from a research that the workers "had increased respiratory problems, and their working memory was impacted from the manganese,"
Len Welsh, acting Cal/OSHA division chief, said theevidence linking Bay Bridge manganese levels to illness "was a little too problematic" to issue citations.

"They found manganese in their blood," Welsh said. "There are lots of things in the blood — that doesn't mean you have a disease."

According to state regulations, work-related illnesses "involving chronic irreversible disease" are required to be recorded in the Log 300 — the document at the core of the other citations — even when the illness does not lead to missed days of work or restricted duty.
In May 2005, forty-three Bay Bridge welders filed a lawsuit against KFM and a number of other welding rod manufacturers and other companies, accusing KFM and the other defendants of failing to alert workers to the hazards of manganese exposure and failure to address their illnesses.

One final note. When the media starts piling on one or two bad companies -- such as KFM or McWane Industries, for example -- there is a tendency to think of these companies as uniquely evil. In fact, however, the problem of underreporting is chronic not just to California, but throughout the country. A recent study by Michigan State University researchers, for example, found that the current national surveillance system for work-related injuries and illnesses may miss two-thirds of the total number of occupational injuries and illnesses.

Until the system is cleaned up, we need to take OSHA's annual self-congratulating boast-fest about declining injury and illness statistics with several grains of salt.


Related Stories

OSHA Recordkeeping Series by ERM

Part I: Learning From Enron: Why Accurate OSHA Recordkeeping Matters, May 15, 2006
Part II: At AK Steel, as at Enron, the Numbers Don’t Add Up, May 23, 2006
Part III: OSHA Recordkeeping and KFM: Who Will Audit the Auditors?, May 27, 2006



Confined Space KFM/Bay Bridge and Related Stories

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Saturday, August 26, 2006


BP's Problems: Lemony Snicket tale for the Oil Patch?

My favorite business columnist, Loren Steffy of the Houston Chronicle, is trying to figure out why BP is having so many problems. So he asked Carl Veley at vPSI Group, a management consulting firm that specializes in accident prevention:
Accidents recur, Veley says, because companies tend to focus on what's already happened rather than preventing future problems. If, for example, a factory has a sign that boasts the number of days it's gone without an accident, it's sending the wrong message to workers, Veley argues. It encourages employees to downplay accidents or potential problems. Who wants to be responsible for resetting the number on the sign?

"The more you demand success, the less likely you are to hear about failure," says Veley, whose firm has more than 40 clients in the energy and chemical business, although not BP. "Darkness makes problems grow."
A Series of Unfortunate Incidents?

And then, of course, despite incident after incident, BP continues to claim that it's all a big series of coincidences:
BP argues that problems like the deaths in Texas City and the pipeline corrosion on the North Slope aren't related. It's caught in a series of unfortunate events, a Lemony Snicket tale for the Oil Patch.

Veley is particularly critical of the way companies often respond to accidents. Frequently, they resort to training videos and the like, things that stress worker behavior, but largely ignore management attitude, he says.

"It does nothing to change what people do," he says. "Changing what people do is a management job."
If it's going to effectively address its problems, Veley argues, BP will have to start encouraging workers to report problems, not discourage them.
Veley says companies typically respond to accidents by addressing only the harm that's caused, such as injuries, rather than the source of the accident itself.

If an accident doesn't result in an injury, it often doesn't get reported, he says.

Instead, companies should reward employees for reporting potential problems, he argues. Success, in other words, can be found by embracing shortcomings.
And instead of basking in the Schadenfreude, other companies might want to learn from BP's experience before it's too late.

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Attention Corporate America: Ignore Me At Your Peril!

Yup, that's me: "And emerging power...that many organizations ignore at their peril."






Fear of bloggers seems to be a booming business. (I wrote about a similar organization that challenges menacing bloggers last week.) The Chamber of Commerce seems to be making money off of sowing fear throughout the land. So how come I'm not making any money off the busienss I'm stirring up for them? Look at all of the companies I trash on a daily basis. Without me they'd have nothing, bupkis! They could probably hold an entire conference just on the companies whose reputations Confined Space alone has destroyed.

I'm waiting for these guys to invite me to speak at their conference. It's right down the street. An offer in the low four figures ought to be enough to get me there.

If you're interested in attending, check them out here. It's only $225 (or $150, if you're a Chamber of Commerce member.)




Thursday, August 24, 2006


Bush's Nomination For Regulatory Chief Is A Deadly Dud



















Disaster in Iraq, war in the Middle East, Iranian nukes, anniversaries of 9/11 and Katrina, and on and on.

Meanwhile, back at home, virtually unnoticed, the Bush administration continues its deadly attacks on worker health.

Celeste Monforton, a senior research associate with the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy at George Washington University School of Public Health (and occasional Confined Space guest blogger), explains in the Louisville Courier Journal why President Bush's recent nomination of Susan Dudley to head the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA may end up killing workers.

As we've written before (here and here), Dudley currently directs the Mercatus Center's Regulatory Studies Program. According to Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch, Dudley is "a true anti-regulatory zealot"-- exactly the type of person who would be a disaster as head of the agency that oversees the administration's regulatory policies.

Monforton focuses on Dudley's opinions on the deadly lung disease, silicosis and shows thatthat Dudley is simply
following the script first popularized many decades ago by the tobacco industry: When faced with regulation to protect the public health, always raise doubt and manufacture uncertainty about the scientific evidence.
She falsely claims that scientists don't really know how silica dust causes the disease:

This is not true. The cause of lung damage is exposure to respirable crystalline silica. Despite the authors' assertions, physicians, toxicologists and other experts have known for nearly a century that microscopic particles of SiO{-2} (silicon dioxide, or quartz), when inhaled, can penetrate deep into the lung's alveoli. The body's natural defense mechanisms attack the tiny silica particle, thereby creating scar tissue -- and with too much exposure and too much scar tissue, silicosis develops.

When materials containing SiO{-2}, such as cement, bricks or rock are drilled, sawed or otherwise disrupted and create dust, or when crystalline silica sand is used for abrasive blasting or in foundry processes, workers are at risk of breathing respirable particles containing quartz. This is all well-known, indisputable science.

She also claims that we don't know which types of silica are dangerous that the the evidence comes from limited sources.

Again,
Not true. The American Thoracic Society's 1997 official statement on the health effects of exposure to respirable crystalline silica includes more than 140 references, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's health hazard review lists nearly 500 scientific papers and documents to support its findings. Claims of scientific uncertainty by two law professors do not make it so.

Dudley also asserts in her article that epidemiological studies of silica-exposed workers may not be relevant because the studied workers "were exposed to silica of particular types, which may or may not be representative of silica found elsewhere."

Again, this tactic follows the uncertainty script, and, again, it is not true: SiO{-2} is SiO{-2}.
What would Dudley's appointment mean for workers, especially coal miners?
If confirmed to the White House post, is this how Dudley would interpret scientific evidence, even such settled science as the cause of silicosis or coal workers' pneumoconiosis?

Following her logic, might she declare that the coal mine dust from the Upper Harlan seam and the Pocahontas seam are substantially different? If so, would she require MSHA to develop "coal-seam specific" regulations before miners could be protected from the deadly dust?

Sounds ludicrous, but stranger things have happened when ill-qualified idealogues are appointed to decision-making posts for the sole purpose of delaying or stopping all regulations.
Dudley's nomination is yet another confirmation of the importance of taking back Congress this November. The Senate has to confirm the nomination of high-level Bush appointments like Dudley, and there is a critical need for Congress to get back into the oversight business -- to hold hearings that will reveal the damage this administration is causing to American workers. And the only way that will happen is if the Democrats take back at least one House of Congress.

So get out there and campaign. People's lungs and lives may depend on it.

Related Articles

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Airport Ground Crews: Grind 'em Up And Spit 'em Out

Before you open up your book next time you get on a plane, take a look out the window and check out all the work being done on the tramac below you.

Keith L. Alexander of the Washington Post penned a great article today about the hazards faced by airport ground crews. It aint' pretty:

So far this year, four ground workers have been killed or seriously injured, according to data collected by The Washington Post. In one incident, a mechanic died in January when he was sucked into the engine of a Continental Airlines aircraft at El Paso International Airport. A month later, a baggage handler for Comair, a Delta Air Lines regional carrier, was killed when he was struck by a baggage cart at the Detroit airport. Three serious or deadly accidents occurred in 2005 and two in 2004.

Through the busy summer season, ground workers have been under increased pressure to load and unload bags swiftly and to ensure that the aircraft are prepared for safe travel. Many financially strapped carriers have reduced their staffs, leaving more work for the remaining employees. Some airlines have been hiring ground workers at lower wages to cut costs.

I've spent some time working on health and safety issues with baggage handlers and other ground crew and it's pretty depressing. First, they fall in a gray area in terms of OSHA enforcement. Section 4(b)1 of the OSH Act prevents OSHA from enforcing its regulations if a working condition is regulated by another Federal agency such as the Federal Aviation Administration -- even if that agency is doing a lousy job. Safety conditions for flight attendants, for example, can't be enforced by OSHA, because the FAA claims jurisdiction. Baggage handlers and other ground crew, I learned when I was at OSHA, are in a gray area. If they're actually working on the plane, they're covered by the FAA. If they're on the ground, sometimes their OSHA's and sometimes their FAA's. When I first arrived at OSHA, the policy differed from Region to Region, although I believe it's been straightened out now.

The other problem is their working conditions. As the post describes:
They fix planes and load and unload heavy bags in sweltering heat and frigid cold. For many passengers, they are invisible, though they toil right underfoot. Airport ground workers do their jobs amid the deafening roar of aircraft engines and the arrival and departure of tanker-size jetliners. They must avoid stepping in oil slicks and watch out for baggage carts whizzing by.

***

While serious injuries and death occur, the most common injuries among ground workers result from heavy lifting, in many cases causing severe back strain. According to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 4.53 injuries and fatalities per 100 airport ground workers in 2004, the latest year for which data are available. By comparison, coal miners had a rate of 6.58 injuries and fatalities per 100 workers; in construction, the rate was 5.77.
When I was working at the AFL-CIO, I received a call from a disabled USAir ground employee who had seriously injured his back unloading bags. He worked on the smaller commuter planes where you have to lift the heavy luggage without being able to stand up in the luggage compartments -- not exactly proper lifting techniques. The company was fighting his workers comp claim. (Must have hurt his back bowling or playing tennis.) He couldn't believe that the company he had given his life to was treating him like garbage.

The reason for the article and the current attention to employee health and safety is a three day symposium that the airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration are co-hosting for the first time to focus on "improving safety on the tarmac at the nation's airports." All of the airlines quoted in the article claim that safety is a first priority. The families of those killed on the job disagree:
Yolanda Corbett, 32, was attracted to a subsidiary of the airline during an earlier hiring fare in 2005. She liked the free travel offered to employees and a chance to take her two young daughters to Disney World. The pay, about $9.75 an hour, was low, but it represented steady work for the single mother who had held such odd jobs as babysitting after being laid off from an accounting position at a local Welfare to Work office.

For two weeks, US Airways baggage handlers instructed the D.C. resident on the proper way to lift bags and navigate the busy runways of Reagan National Airport in a baggage-loading cart. She received a 100 percent accuracy rating in her training tests. In her third week on the job, Corbett was killed when she lost control of a baggage cart, which rammed the side of a regional jet, pinning her under the aircraft and severing her spine.

The NTSB attributed the accident to Corbett's inexperience with driving the cart.

Corbett's mother, Mary, said her daughter was trained to operate the baggage cart, but the day she was killed was the first time she had driven it by herself. "She wasn't trained properly. She wasn't ready to drive that vehicle. It just wasn't safe," she said.
Last year, the International Association of Machinists objected to a National Transportation Safety Board report on the death of Northwest Airline worker, Denise Bogucki, who was crushed against the nose of a plane in September 2003. The report essentially blamed Bogucki for her own death because of her "decision to use improper equipment" to push back an airplane from the gate. The union argued that she was using the only equipment Northwest provided to do the job and that she shouldn't have been working alone. Virginia OSHA cited the company and Northwest instituted changes, including requiring two people for pushbacks. The NTSB later agreed to reevaluate the investigation "due to new information." (Also check out the comment left by Bogucki's son.)

The unions want more oversight:
Paul Kempinski, director of ground safety for the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers District 141, said unions have urged government agencies to more rigorously monitor ground operations. OSHA "only comes out when something happens," said Kempinski, who represents baggage handlers at United and Aloha airlines and US Airways. "Something needs to be done sooner. Someone needs to be in charge of oversight."
And ground crews aren't the only ones with problems.

By coincidence, I was wearing my OSHA NOW! t-shirt today, given to me by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) in 2000 after OSHA and the FAA signed an agreement directed the agencies to “establish a procedure for coordinating and supporting enforcement … with respect to the working conditions of employees on aircraft in operation … and for resolving jurisdictional questions." Unfortunately, under the Bush administration, the agreement was never implemented and last year the AFA filed a complaint in District Court against Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and FAA Administrator Marion Blakely for their failure to ensure the health and safety of flight attendants and other employees working in the airline industry. And if you think their jobs are safe and easy, check out their health and safety website.

So, now you know all you never wanted to know about airport workers. They're not all glamorous pilots. So think about all of this again next time the airlines cut staff and ask ground workers to make concessions.

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More on OSHA Director's Spin On Latest Fatality Statistics

Jon Coppelman over at Workers Comp Insider wasn't much more impressed with recent workplace fatality statistics than I was, nor with OSHA head Ed Foulke's response:
"Today's report is positive news for our nation and all workers," said Foulke. [A bizarre statement, to say the least. ] "The overall decrease in workplace fatalities is the third lowest annual total recorded since BLS began collecting this data. [Give me a break. We're talking a difference of 62 deaths. Given the 143 million participants in the workforce, 62 fewer deaths is hardly statistically significant.] More importantly, this shows that more men and women were able to return home safely from their jobs. [Well, yes. But this report is the sad tale of the 5,702 workers who didn't.]

"Many of our initiatives to reduce workplace fatalities are showing tremendous successes, [Excuse me, Mr. Secretary, would you care to elaborate on these initiatives?] but there is still more work to do," he said. "The data released today highlight areas where our resources must be focused in order to eliminate fatalities on the job. We remain committed to doing just that." [I'm waiting for OSHA's new "Zero Fatalities for Fishermen" Initiative, coming soon to a port near you.]
In fact, he doesn't have much faith in this administration at all:
The annual data on dying at work does not contain much in the way of positive news. Every year, too many people die on the job. Virtually all of these fatalities are preventable. While we can debate what specific programs are most effective in decreasing the risk of injury and death in the workplace, it's safe to say that this administration has reduced government's role to the bare mimimum. No amount of data spinning is going to change that.
Amen



Tuesday, August 22, 2006


BP's Problem: Political Correctness

Who wudda thunk it?

True, BP has been neglecting safety and maintenance for years, but the giant oil company's real problem is apparently that it has been distracted by political correctness, according to the Washington Times:
Global energy giant BP has been a leader of the so-called "corporate social responsibility" (CSR) movement. That's the concept pushed by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and environmental activists who want corporations to buy into -- and pay for -- solving every imagined problem on the planet that can claim to be caused by business activity.

In 2000, BP climbed onto the CSR bandwagon as company executives embarked on a public-relations campaign to show how environmentally sensitive they were. In the years since, BP has issued annual reports assessing its contributions to sustainability, diversity, inclusiveness and the like.

Two weeks ago, the campaign broke down. BP shut down its Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska's North Slope after discovering what a company press release called "unexpectedly severe corrosion" in the pipeline. The company says it will replace 73 percent of the Prudhoe Bay pipelines. The shutdown will cost the nation 8 percent of its output -- 400,000 barrels of oil a day -- at a time when consumer gas prices are hitting record highs and world oil prices are soaring.
So give up trying to make yourself a good guy and get back to just pumping oil before political correctness does to this country what Sadaam and Osama have failed to do:
Who would have guessed that the world's second-largest oil company would fail to maintain its own facilities? Unlike the Middle East or the Gulf of Mexico, Alaskan oil production hasn't been considered risky. There are no wars or hurricanes. But America's domestic energy supply is in jeopardy now because BP put the rhetoric of corporate social responsibility ahead of minding its own business -- literally.

BP should spent some of its advertising budget and corporate philanthropy on fixing its pipeline.
Word.




Tunnel Rats Make The National News

I've written a few times about the "tunnel rats" -- the US Capitol employees who labor in asbestos laden tunnels beneath the nation's capitol ((here, here and here). Well, their story made the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams yesterday.Lisa Myers reported the story:
Inside tunnels that snake their way for miles, huge slabs of concrete fall from ceilings and white powder coats some pipes and floors. But it’s not all dust. Much of it is asbestos — harmful fibers that can scar lungs and, potentially, cause death. Ten men work down in these tunnels every day, where temperatures often exceed 150 degrees. They call themselves “the tunnel rats.”

Federal investigators recently found that conditions in the tunnels pose an “imminent danger” to the workers, and that the owner of the tunnels had “effectively ignored” safety warnings for six years. So who owns these tunnels? The United States Congress.
You can watch the entire broadcast here (Microsoft Explorer seems to be needed, sorry Firefox people.)

Just one amusing note. Brian Williams introduces the piece describing the environment and says workers claim that "their employer has ignored their safety problems for years and doesn't seem to care. And you might be surprised to learn just who that employer is."

Not likely.

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Monday, August 21, 2006


Memorial Service For Harlan County Miners: "No 'Freak Accidents' In Mining"

A memorial service was held yesterday for the eight Harlan County, KY, miners who died in the coal mines already this year. Five were killed in the Darby disaster on May 20. Fourteen coal miners have died this year in the state of Kentucky, compared with 7 in all of 2005.

The service was organized by former federal mine safety advocate Tony Oppegard and former state mine official Kenny Johnson. Several family members spoke at the ceremony:
In simple, heartfelt testimonials the survivors spoke of their loved ones. Most were in tears; several said they wished they had been able to die in the place of their relatives, including Barbara Halcomb, who said she would have "crawled" to take the place of her son, Brandon Wilder, one of two miners who died in a roof fall at Stillhouse Mining in August 2005.

"It's hard to explain to a 2-year-old that her daddy is never coming home," said Halcomb, a soft-spoken woman with a gray bun, wearing a blue T-shirt with her son's name.

Mike Franks, 29, whose uncle Russell Cole was the other miner killed in the Stillhouse accident, said he will never forget waiting outside the mine when the headlights of the approaching hearse cut through the fog.

"I often think about what it would have been like if he came walking off that mountain instead of riding in a hearse," said Franks, who wept during his comments and left many at the memorial service in tears.
Tony Oppegard put the disasters in political perspective. Here are some excerpts from Tony's speech:
Although miners are mythic figures in many ways - because they work under the mountain in dark, dangerous places, where most of us would not work and will never experience – they nonetheless are rarely recognized by our society until there is a mining disaster. In fact, most miners die one at a time, and they receive very little public attention.

***

I see a lot of coal miners in the audience . And every miner in this audience - indeed, every miner in Harlan County - knows that there are miners working today in Harlan County, right now on the 2nd shift, who are working in unsafe conditions. There are miners being made to work right now under unsupported top. There are miners who are working without ventilation curtains being hung – and that is why we read the other day in the papers that Harlan County is a “hot spot” for miners who are still contracting black lung disease. There are miners working with the safety features of electrical equipment bypassed or “bridged out”. And there are miners who are working without thorough preshift exams for hazardous conditions and onshift exams for hazardous conditions having been performed. Most miners endure these dangerous conditions for one reason: because they need to support their families and they can’t afford to lose their job, which is precisely what would happen if they complained.

So the next time you hear that a coal miner has been killed by a “freak accident”, don’t accept that characterization. There are no “freak accidents” in mining. The next time you hear that a miner has been killed by an “Act of God”, don’t accept that characterization. Every mining fatality in Harlan County this past year was the result of an act of man, not an act of God.

And the next time you hear the argument that most coal miners cause their own deaths by carelessness - and what is needed is more “behavior modification” by miners and fewer mine inspections by federal and state inspectors – don’t accept that simplistic worn out excuse.




Mine Disaster Publicity Brings Good News and Bad

Louisville Courier Journal columnist David Hawpe says all the news about coal mine hazards this year brings good news and bad news.
All the publicity, all the pressure, all the potential for political damage came to bear earlier this month when something extraordinary happened:

The Republican-controlled Senate sent back to the White House the Bush nominations of Richard Stickler to be assistant secretary of Labor for mine safety and John Correll to be head of Interior's Office of Surface Mining.

Like so many Bush nominees, Stickler came from the industry he was supposed to regulate. He managed mines that, according a United Mine Workers' analysis, had injury rates double the national average. As a Pennsylvania agency head, the UMW said, he oversaw an operation that failed to prevent the Quecreek mine disaster.

Correll, as described by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, was part of the Mine Safety and Health Administration leadership that preferred cooperating with industry to confronting its bad attitudes and practices, that undercut the inspection system, that sabotaged safety rules and that turned MSHA's investigation of the Martin County spill into a coverup. The Bush White House thought he was just the man to oversee the nation's surface mines. The Senate said no.

The bad news?

The folks who want industry-friendly regulation and sent those nominations to the Senate are still in the White House.
But come next January, we may at least have better oversight into what they're doing if all goes well on November 7.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006


Weekly Toll: Death In The American Workplace

Worker killed in accident

NEW GARDEN, PA -- A 27-year-old worker died of a severe head injury suffered at Toughkenemon mushroom farm last week. Heriberto Ayala, of Oxford, had worked in the spawning process at Modern Mushroom. He was injured by a machine used in that process, according to sources.

The accident took place Aug. 12, said Leni Uddyback-Forston, a spokeswoman at U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration office in Philadelphia.

While fatal injuries among mushroom farm workers are rare, Youngdalh Lombardi said, injuries are not. She said she commonly sees employees suffer back injuries, less severe head injuries and neurological problems.


Man injured in UNCC explosion dies

CHARLOTTE, NC -- A 53-year-old University of North Carolina at Charlotte employee died Wednesday from injuries sustained in an on-campus explosion earlier this year.

In April, Edward Seamon and other facilities management workers were near a manhole between the Fretwell and Friday buildings when a flash fire forced the manhole into the air.


Logging accident victim named

A man killed in a logging accident northeast of Durango has been identified as Manuel Gonzales, 38, of Farmington, N.M.

La Plata County sheriff's investigator Pat Downs said a tree that had been cut by a co-worker fell on Gonzales and that the death was accidental.

The men worked for a logging company contracted by the U.S. Forest Service to clear trees near a road that were deemed a hazard. It took a helicopter medical team an hour to reach the site about 20 miles northeast of Durango after the accident, and Gonzales was dead when they arrived.


Expressway Accident Turns Into Fatality

OMAHA, Neb. -- The construction worker who fell while working on the West Dodge Expressway earlier this week has died.

Officials at The Nebraska Medical Center told KETV Newswatch 7 that 35-year-old David Vierkandt passed away early Saturday.

Vierkandt was smoothing concrete on the eastbound side of the Expressway Tuesday morning when he stepped back and fell nearly 35 feet.

The investigation into the accident is still ongoing.


Factory worker dies in attempt to fix drill press

NORTH BALTIMORE, OH — A Continental Structural Plastics employee was killed Wednesday when he became caught in a drill press on which he was working.

Police said Donald W. Lynch, 53, of Tiffin was pronounced dead at the plant by an air ambulance physician responding to the scene.

Chief Gerald Perry said Mr. Lynch apparently was trying to fix a machine that drills mounting holes in auto parts manufactured at the plant. He had worked 33 years for the company.


Police officer killed in Reading

READING, PA -- A plainclothes police officer responding to a report of a fight near City Hall was shot in the chest and died yesterday, officials said. Patrolman Scott A. Wertz and another officer were chasing suspect Cletus C. Rivera when Mr. Rivera fired two shots, at least one of which struck Officer Wertz, Mayor Tom McMahon said. Officer Wertz, 40, was not believed to have been wearing a bulletproof vest. He was shot just after 2 a.m. outside a convenience store. The other officer tackled Mr. Rivera and took him into custody, and authorities said they were preparing to file murder charges against him. As he was led into court yesterday, Mr. Rivera told reporters that he was innocent.


Car barrels past cones, kills highway worker

A Missouri Department of Transportation worker was killed Tuesday when a driver drove through emergency cones and struck him at the scene of a vehicle fire on Interstate 55.

Authorities identified the victim as Kenneth G. Hoierman, 38, of Affton. He was a worker with MoDOT's Motorist Assist and Emergency Response Program.

Police said Hoierman was standing between two MoDOT trucks that had parked on the shoulder and in the slow lane of southbound I-55 to block traffic near Weber.



Pennsylvania Firefighter Dies at Fire

McClure, PA - Flags in Mifflin and Snyder counties in Pennsylvania are flying at half-mast today in honor of a volunteer firefighter who died in the line of duty Saturday. Denny Hayes, 59, a member of McClure Volunteer Fire Co., was about to start operating the pump panel on the engine when he collapsed. He was treated by paramedics on the scene and rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.


Man found dead in auto dealership elevator shaft

Bloomfield, PA - A 60-year-old Bloomfield man was found dead Saturday morning in an elevator shaft at Don Allen Automotive Group along Baum Boulevard. The victim is William Napoleon, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office. He is a custodian for the car dealership in Bloomfield. "The automobile elevator got stock between floors," said city homicide detective George Trosky. "It appears he was trying to get out." Police discovered the body after employees had found a service door open and called police.


Worker Dies After Mistakenly Drinking Poisonous Chemical

RIFLE, Colo. -- A Rifle metalworker has died after drinking what he thought was an energy drink. It was a highly toxic liquid. The death of 53-year-old Frank Gabossi occurred Aug. 6, two days after drinking the liquid at an Old Snowmass work site, is being investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Ron Ryan, investigator for the Pitkin sheriff, said Gabossi was working on a metal staircase when he picked up a Gatorade bottle and drank it. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the job-site safety practices of Pitkin Iron, the Glenwood Springs company where Frank Gabossi worked.


Kenosha man killed in wood chipper mishap

PLEASANT PRAIRIE, WIS. — Federal health and safety officials are probing the death of a Kenosha tree service owner who was pulled through a wood chipper in an apparent accident. Dead is Jeremiah Sanders, 30, who owned J's Quality Tree Service. He was killed shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday while doing work on property in the 8900 block of 26th Avenue, police said. Police Chief Brian Wagner said Wednesday that according to witnesses Sanders "was using his foot to move a piece of wood that had gotten jammed in the chipper when his foot became entangled in the intake." He said Sanders "was pulled into and through the chipper." Co-workers attempted to stop the chipper, but were unsuccessful, the police chief said. Foul play is not suspected, said.


Worker killed in fall was not wearing safety harness

HARRISBURG, PA -- A construction worker who fell from a Pennsylvania Turnpike bridge being built over the Susquehanna River was not wearing a safety harness, the Dauphin County coroner said. Workers on the project told a deputy coroner that Raymond Thomas Miller, 44, of Kulpmont, had been in a part of the construction site where harnesses were not required, Coroner Graham Hetrick said Wednesday. Bob Fink, area director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Harrisburg office, declined to comment on the investigation but said in general, workers must use safety harnesses and lanyards in areas where they could fall six or more feet. Miller died when he slipped through a space between planks on the partially completed bridge and fell 70 feet to a gravel road below on Calver Island, Hetrick said.


Construction accident victim identified

Carson City, NV - The name of a Carson City man killed in a construction accident in Kingsbury was released Wednesday. Douglas County Sheriff's Deputy Greg Hubbard said Manuel Chavez-Barragan, 41, was pronounced dead at the scene following a 25-foot fall onto rocks from a roof. Hubbard said Chavez-Barragan was working for AAA Roofing when he was on top of a North Bowl Lane home off Kingsbury Grade, and material began to slide. Barragan apparently tried to avoid the material and fell to his death, Hubbard said. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was called in to investigate, according to Sgt. Tom Mezzetta said.


Widow wants answers

Baltimore, MD - Port worker's 'suspicious death' still unexplained, 6 weeks later More than six weeks after a Maryland Port Administration maintenance supervisor died of massive head injuries suffered at work, police and port officials have yet to settle on an explanation for a fatal incident that was not promptly reported to law enforcement officers and paramedics. Robert Benway, 45, was rushed to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in a truck by co-workers June 26 with injuries they said he suffered in a fall from a ladder at the all-but-deserted Clinton Street Marine Terminal. He died July 1 without regaining consciousness.


Carwash supplier, employee found murdered

STEDMAN, NC — Mark Robinson, who owned a carwash supply company and an employee were found dead in the company's warehouse and police are investigating the case as a double murder, The Fayetteville Observer reports. While investigators from the Cumberland County Sheriff's department have said Robinson, 49, and Tammy Rosario, 29, were murdered, they have revealed few other details, the newspaper said in an Aug. 17 story. The two victims were discovered on the morning of Aug. 15 when other employees showed up for work at Car Wash Service Express warehouse where Robinson also lived, the newspaper reported. The company also has a warehouse in Chester, S.C. The newspaper said investigators are not releasing details for fear it would compromise the investigation.


Hunt County Man Dies In Accident At Landfill

FORT WORTH, Texas -- A city employee in the Hunt County city of Greenville was killed in an accident at a landfill Wednesday morning. Wastewater operator David Gann's dump truck got stuck at the Malloy Landfill. After his truck was pulled free, Gann was pinned between the truck and bulldozer while unhooking a tow chain. Gann, 34, was pronounced dead at the scene. He was a Greenville employee since 1998 and is survived by his wife and one daughter.


2 who died in manhole incident identified

Owings Mill, MD - The two construction workers who died after losing consciousness in a sewer manhole Wednesday evening at Villa Julie College's Owings Mills campus were identified yesterday by Baltimore County police, while state occupational safety officials tried to determine what caused their deaths. Cesar Salazar, 22, of the 300 block of Middle Grove Court in Westminster went into the manhole first, apparently to retrieve a tool, and lost consciousness, according to state and local authorities. A second worker, Craig Michael Gouker, 47, of the 1000 block of Old Westminster Road in Hanover, Pa., went in the 15-foot hole to attempt to rescue Salazar but also lost consciousness, officials said.


Worker dies while repairing machinery

CHANNELVIEW, TX - Authorities are investigating the death of a contract worker who was fatally injured Saturday night at Lyondell's Equistar chemical plant. Kenny Ruthart, 33, was working near heat exchanger machinery used in the chemical reaction process when the accident occurred. Details on how the accident occurred weren't immediately available. "He was performing maintenance activities at one of our units that had been temporarily taken out of service," Lyondell spokesman Aaron Woods said in a story in Sunday's online edition of the Houston Chronicle.


Harlem Deli Worker Dies After Struggle Over a Box of Cereal

New York, NY - A 56-year-old worker at a deli in Harlem died, apparently of a heart attack, after struggling with a shoplifter who tried to steal a box of cereal from the store Saturday night, the police said. The victim, Mohammed Mused, confronted the shoplifter about 10 p.m., the police said yesterday, and the would-be thief fled empty-handed. Moments later, Mr. Mused collapsed on the floor of the cramped store on Lenox Avenue. The police said there had been a physical altercation but did not elaborate.


Day care center on alert after worker dies from meningitis

FARGO, N.D. — More than 100 children at a day care center here are being treated as a precaution after one of its workers died from a form of meningitis. Preliminary tests show the woman died Wednesday of meningococcal meningitis, which is not highly contagious and is rarely fatal, said Fargo Cass Public Health Officer John Baird. ``We're just making this announcement so others are aware of her death and can be protected if needed,'' Baird said. The Forum identified the woman as Erin Mae Bye, 25, whose parents live near Devils Lake. The Gilbertson-Gloger Funeral Home of Devils Lake said a memorial service is scheduled at 2 p.m. Saturday at the home of her parents, Bob and Joyce Bye, in rural Devils Lake.


Killers of employee at mini-mart at large

San Jose, CA - A mini-mart employee was shot and killed in San Jose late Sunday, and the shooters were still at large Monday. Police were called to the Hello Hollywood Enterprises market in a small strip mall in the 1000 block of Tully Road near the intersection of McLaughlin Avenue about 11:50 p.m., police Sgt. Nick Muyo said. The employee, a man who is believed to be between 40 and 50 years old, was pronounced dead at the scene, Muyo said. His name had not been released as of Monday.


Work Conditions May Have Contributed To Fatal Fall

CHICAGO, IL - 48-Year-Old Man Who Plunged To His Death May Have Been Working Without Fall Protection. Unsafe work conditions may have contributed to the death of a 48-year-old Elmwood Park man who fatally fell from a porch he was building Monday on the Northwest Side. Antoni Lojko of 2633 74th Court in Elmwood Park was pronounced dead at 3:20 p.m. Monday on the scene, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. Lojko was working on the rear porch of a building at 1941 W. Armitage Ave., and while he was on the stairs between the second and third floors, fell to his death about 2 p.m., according to police News Affairs Officer Kristina Schuler.


Man killed in Johnston County tractor accident

Middlesex, NC - A man culling tobacco in northern Johnston County died this morning when his shirt got tangled in a piece of equipment. Mario Morales, 35, died late this morning after being pulled into a tobacco harvester, said Tammy Amaon, spokeswoman for the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office. He and a group of other workers — harvesting for Nash County farmer Derick Bissette — had been clearing a crop of tobacco on 2153 Woodard Dairy Road, Amaon said. Morales was operating a harvester alone, while several others worked on nearby equipment. Fellow workers were unable to pull him out of the machine in time, Amaon said. Emergency workers declared him dead with they arrived. An investigator from the state Department of Labor will be looking into Morales death, said spokesman Neal O'Briant

Welder's death prompts inquiry

TAMPA, FL - Wilfredo Montalvo Morales left Puerto Rico in search of a better job, trying to provide for his family.

A sweet-natured man with big dreams, he was optimistic, figuring he could make a living from welding skills learned from his father, said his cousin's wife, Sonia Aleman. His search brought him to New Orleans, then to Tampa, where he was hired as a welder at a shipyard. But on his second day on the job, Morales, 40, collapsed inside a ship and died.


Spancrete Employees, Pilot Killed in Plane Crash

Waukesha, WI - The president of a Waukesha concrete company says his brother, two employees, and an area pilot were killed in the crash of a small plane in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Spancrete president John Nagy says his 30-year-old brother, Dan, and the three others were traveling to Canada during a business trip when their plane crashed. The twin-engine plane went down near the Chippewa Correctional Facility Monday morning, narrowly missing some buildings. John Nagy says Spancrete employees 47-year-old James Wehr and 59-year-old Mike Wraalstad were also aboard the plane. Nagy says he doesn't know the pilot's identity. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are looking into the crash. Nagy says Spancrete is a family company, and the men who worked together also were friends.


Industrial fatality at Tyson Foods in Center

Center, TX - A contracted long-haul truck driver for Tyson Foods was killed early Sunday in an industrial accident at the Tyson Foods plant in Center. Forty-nine-year-old Lloyd E. Koch, of Lincoln, Ark,. was apparently making preparations to haul a truckload of frozen chicken when he was run over by another rig at the plant, according to Shelby County Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 Harold Osborne. "He was out wandering around in the parking lot, and there was another one backing up and they didn't see him," Osborne said. Osborne said the man was "run over" by the rig, and he died of trauma to the head and chest areas.


Construction Worker Killed by Lightning

WESLEY CHAPEL, FL (AP) -- Authorities say a construction worker was killed by a lightning strike yesterday in Wesley Chapel as heavy thunderstorms moved into the area.

Firefighters were sent to a construction site at the Meadow Pointe Three subdivision north of Tampa about 4 p.m. Rescuers reported the man was dead 15 minutes later. The man's name was not immediately available.


Seattle mourns officer killed in crash

SEATTLE, WA - Flags in Seattle have been lowered to half-staff as the city mourns the loss of rookie officer Joselito “Lito” Barber, killed Sunday when his squad car was broadsided by an SUV. Authorities now say the 31-year-old woman driving the SUV had no license, and recently had a warrant issued for her arrest. Police spokesman Sean Whitcomb said Officer Joselito "Lito" Barber, 26, was working alone on a routine patrol, was driving northbound on 23rd Avenue when he entered the intersection at Yesler on a green light around 4 a.m. in the Central District. Police say a woman driving an SUV ran a red light and rammed into the officer's car, killing him on impact.


ATV crash kills set worker during filming in Mesa area

MESA, AZ — An assistant propmaster died on the set of a movie starring Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner. "The Kingdom" is a contemporary thriller set in the Middle East. Part of the film is being shot in the far eastern part of metropolitan Phoenix in Mesa on the Loop 202 Red Mountain Freeway, part of which is now adorned with signs in Arabic. Just after shooting ended Saturday, 25-year-old Nick Papac of Los Angeles was driving an all-terrain vehicle on the freeway, which has been closed to the public. He crashed the golf-cart-like vehicle into a sport utility vehicle carrying the director of the film, according to a press release from officials with the movie. After paramedics with Universal Pictures/Forward Pass attended to Papac, he was flown to a local hospital, where he died a few hours later from severe head injuries. No one else was injured in the crash. Filming of the movie was suspended on Sunday and will resume on Wednesday.


Driver charged with DWI in highway worker's death

Cache, MO -- Cpl. Julie Scerine of the Missouri Highway Patrol said the death of a highway worker Aug. 9 on Highway 40 (Interstate 64) in Frontenac is a deadly reminder of construction-zone safety.

Michael Poahway, 50, of Cache, Okla., was killed while working with a crew repaving westbound lanes on the highway just east of Ballas Road about 3:50 a.m. last Wednesday.

Copter crash kills 4 heading to wildfire

A pilot and three forest workers were killed in Idaho on Sunday when a helicopter crashed while heading to join the battle against a wildfire in the Payette National Forest. Fire crews in the area have been working to protect the cabin community of Yellow Pine from an 11-square-mile complex of fires.


BRPD motorcycle officer killed in traffic accident

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Baton Rouge police say an officer died today (Monday) when his motorcycle hit a car which turned left at a light Monday. Sergeant Don Kelly says the other driver is in serious condition.

Kelly says 31-year-old Corporal Christopher Metternich was thrown from his motorcycle and landed on his head when he hit the side of a car driven by 63-year-old Betty Morse of Baton Rouge. He says Morse was taken to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.


Accident at Merc kills two workers

Two workers were killed Monday morning when large chunks of concrete fell from the 19th floor of the Mercantile complex in downtown Dallas, authorities said.

The debris was knocked loose at about 9:30 a.m. by a Bobcat front-end loader operating on the 19th floor of the historic building, said Cpl. Jamie Matthews, a police spokeswoman.The victims were having a conversation when the material fell on them, Matthews said. One man was in the cab of a tractor-trailer rig and the other man was standing nearby, she said.

The truck driver was Edgar Omar Navarro Santos, 34, of Dallas, said a spokeswoman for the Dallas County medical examiner's office. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The other man was Keyvin Oliva, 21, also of Dallas, who died later at Baylor Medical Center.


Residents mourn ice cream man

Chicago, IL - Weekend murder victim Hector Jimenez didn't live in the Lawndale neighborhood where he sold ice cream, but residents there still viewed him as one of their own. "The ice cream costs 75 cents, but he'll give it to you for 50 cents," said Josie Smith, who had bought ice cream from Jimenez for years. "He'd always say, 'Why don't you ever have enough money?'" Chicago Police detectives spent Sunday trying to figure out who shot Jimenez to death Saturday night while he drove his ice cream truck on his familiar route: South Harding Avenue between 19th and 18th streets. Jimenez, 34, graduated from Benito Juarez High School in Pilsen and spent a year at Daley Community College, he told members of the Coca family, who owned his ice cream truck. "He was a real good worker," said Ruth Coca Jr. "He said he looked at us like his second family," Cynthy Coca said.


Chinese Acrobat Killed At Elitchs Identified

DENVER, CO -- Denver police have identified a member of the Amazing Acrobats of China who died over the weekend following a performance at Six Flags Elitch Gardens. Police spokesman Sonny Jackson said Lin Zhao, 19, of China fell 25 to 30 feet while he was on top of a stack of balanced chairs, hitting his head. Park spokeswoman Brooke Brasher said the performer was rushed to Denver Health Medical Center where he later died from his injuries. An audience was present during the stunt. Brasher says they were ushered out of the theater after the fall. Brasher says the troupe was finishing its first season at the park. Its remaining shows have been postponed.


Pawn Shop Owner Killed, Employee Injured

Greenville, SC - Greenville County Deputies and the South Carolina Highway Patrol swarmed Whitehorse Road Saturday afternoon after police say a man trying to rob the Fast Cash Pawn Shop opened fire on two employees. Perry Shealey, who owns a local pawn shop, told FOX Carolina, "If the guy would have come and asked for money Tim would have given it to him...nothing is worth your life." But somebody thought differently Saturday afternoon. The Greenville County Sheriff's office said around 2:30 pm a man attempted to rob The Fast Cash Pawn Shop on Whitehorse Road. That robbery quickly turned deadly. A sheriff's spokesman said an employee called 911 and said he had been shot along with his boss 53-year old Timothy Henson. Debbie Reece, a customer of Fast Cash Store, said, "Tim was always smiling and always in a good mood...it's a shame." The Greenville County Coroner's office told FOX Carolina Tim Henson from Taylors, South Carolina was dead when deputies arrived on the scene. The other employee was shot multiple times, but was conscious when police arrived. The shooting prompted a massive search, the South Carolina Highway Patrol and the Greenville County Sheriff's office barricaded a six block perimeter searching for the shooter. Tony Lee, a spokesman for the Sheriff's office, said, "We have no witnesses that say he left in a car so we assume he's still in the area."


Elderly construction worker found dead in Franklin

FRANKLIN, TN - A 75-year-old man was discovered dead at a residential construction site near the McKay's Mill subdivision in east Franklin today. Police said construction workers found the man’s body shortly before noon. While the cause of death is being investigated, Detective J.P. Taylor said “there does not appear to be any foul play.” The man had been using a bulldozer to clear dirt at the site. Fellow workers noticed something was wrong and found that the man did not have a pulse, according to Taylor. The man’s identity has not been released. A statement from police indicated he was a construction worker.


Colonial Heights officer dies in chase

Colonial Heights, TN - A 17-year Colonial Heights police veteran was killed in a traffic accident during a police chase that began in Chesterfield County. Lt. James H. Sears, 38, was killed early Saturday morning in Colonial Heights, apparently as one police car swerved to avoid another vehicle. Colonial Heights Police officials said in a prepared statement that Sears commanded a night-shift patrol division, but was off duty at the time of his death.


Man electrocuted in accident at Kenan Stadium

CHAPEL HILL, NC -- A contract worker replacing light fixtures was electrocuted at the University of North Carolina's football stadium on Wednesday, the university said. Leland S. Williams, 31, of Burlington, died shortly before noon, according to a statement from the school. He and his co-workers were replacing bulbs and fixtures on field lights. Williams was working at a height of about 90 feet when he was electrocuted but did not fall, said Randy Young, spokesman for the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Public Safety. Williams was pronounced dead at the scene, he said. Williams was an employee of Kemco of Burlington Inc., the university said. A telephone message left at the company was not immediately returned.


NIPSCO worker dies during repair job

MEDARYVILLE, Ind. - NIPSCO is investigating how a utility worker died while trying to replace a pole carrying electric power lines. Union leaders say Michael Nesius, 43, died yesterday morning when he came in contact with a live, 12,500-volt circuit. The Rensselaer man was part of a crew that replacing an electrical pole that was broken during a car accident. In a statement released Friday, the company says it's creating a fund for Nesius' family. NIPSCO spokesman Tom Cuddy declined to release further information about the accident.


Man killed in construction accident

Ciudad Acuna, TX -- A 56-year-old Ciudad Acuña man was killed Friday afternoon in a construction accident just outside the city limits. The man’s identity had not been released as of press time Friday night, pending the notification of his next of kin. Val Verde County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Bryan Simons, who investigated the accident, said it occurred about 4 p.m. Friday at the end of Alma Lane off Farm-to-Market Road 2523 at the site of a paving project in Val Verde Park Estates. Simons said an 18-wheel gravel truck owned by Jay Miller/Sundown Construction Co., headquartered in Kerrville, was maneuvering into position near a stationary front-end loader when the 18-wheeler bumped the front-end loader.


Well-known sprint car driver dies after crash

JETMORE, KS - Former Hutchinson Nationals sprint car champion Steve King died at a Des Moines, Iowa, hospital Thursday, a day after his car hit a wall at the Knoxville Nationals. The wreck happened in the final lap of Wednesday night's feature race. King, 33, was driving the No. 88 car with a 360-cubic-inch engine. "We think something broke ... which took him head-on into the wall," said Ralph Capitani, director of racing at the Knoxville Raceway. "His seat gave way, which made him loose and caused massive head injuries."


Highway worker killed in accident; drunk driving suspected

LADUE, Mo. - A highway construction worker from Oklahoma was killed early Wednesday when he was struck by a car allegedly driven by a drunk driver in west St. Louis County. The name of the worker has not been released. Missouri State Highway Patrol Cpl. Julie Scerine said the man was from Cache, Okla., and worked for Multiple Concrete Enterprises of Ogden, Utah. The firm was a subcontractor doing work for the Missouri Department of Transportation. The 24-year-old drunk driving suspect has not been charged, and his name has not been released.


Big rig driver in fatal crash ID'd

VALLEY CENTER – A tractor-trailer driver who was killed in a rollover crash Wednesday has been identified by the county Medical Examiner's Office as Victor Manuel Gutierrez-Paz, 42, of Indio. Gutierrez-Paz was driving the big rig loaded with sod when he lost control on state Route 76 at Valley Center Road and crashed into a pickup parked on the shoulder of the highway, the California Highway Patrol said. Gutierrez-Paz was trapped in the cab of the truck and could not be freed.


Worker electrocuted in Worth County

NORTHWOOD, IA — A Worth County secondary road worker was killed Thursday when the augur he was operating came into contact with a high voltage power line.

Pronounced dead at the scene was 49-year-old Claire “Rocky” Low of Northwood, Worth County Sheriff David Gentz reported.

“It appears he was digging a sign hole and in the process of raising the augur hit an 8,000-volt power line,” Dr. Steven Goetz, Worth County medical examiner, said.


Tree trimmer dies after saw taps 7,200-volt line in Dunedin

DUNEDIN, FL - A tree trimmer cutting branches off a gigantic oak in a back yard was electrocuted Monday after his saw apparently touched a 7,200-volt power line, authorities said.

Jaime Bautista, 29, was working in a five-person crew for Hanson Tree Service of Clearwater. During the morning, they were trimming large trees at 1149 Nelson St., a home just east of the Dunedin Country Club. Four crew members were working in front of the house, while Bautista was trimming a grand oak in the back yard, investigators said.

He was wearing a harness and using a manual pole saw. Just before 10:45 a.m., Bautista was roughly 30 feet up in the tree when his saw apparently touched what is called a primary line, the most powerful line that can be found in a residential area, said Chief Tom Brennan of the Dunedin Fire Department.


Richland County paramedic dies in line of duty

Columbia, SC -- A Richland County Emergency Services worker died early Saturday morning after helping to treat an injured patient.

Lieutenant Woodford "Woody" King responded to an incident on Lucious Rd. Saturday morning to back up a paramedic crew treating a patient. After the victim was transported by the initial responding EMS unit, Woody collapsed at the scene.

Public safety workers, including Columbia Police officers, began resuscitative procedures, and paramedics worked to revive Woody at the scene. Richland County EMS paramedics transported Woody to Palmetto Richland Hospital, where lifesaving efforts were continued. Despite the efforts of EMS and the hospital, Woody passed away.


Arts academy employee dies after 35-foot fall

IDYLLWILD, CA - The man, 43, was in a bucket attached to a crane when the accident occurred. Students and employees at the Idyllwild Arts Academy are reacting with shock over the death of a well-liked maintenance supervisor. Keith James Kent, 43, of Idyllwild, died Tuesday at Riverside County Regional Medical Center in Moreno Valley about two hours after falling approximately 35 feet and landing on industrial equipment, authorities said. Riverside County sheriff's Sgt. Daniel Anne said deputies responded at about 1 p.m. after receiving a report of an industrial accident at the Temecula Road school in the San Jacinto Mountains. Kent suffered multiple traumatic injuries in the fall and was taken by helicopter to the hospital, authorities said. Kent was working in a bucket attached to a crane when he fell, according to a release from the Riverside County coroner's office.


Worker dies in accident at Moyle cement plant

Ontonagon, MI — A 30-year-old man died Wednesday evening while working at the Moyle Construction Cement Plant on M-38 in Ontonagon. Tom Kestie, of Dollar Bay, was found trapped between an end loader and a conveyer belt at about 5:25 p.m. He passed away at 7:13 p.m. Jeff Moyle, president of Moyle Construction & Development Inc., said Kestie had been employed with the company for three years as a concrete truck driver and operator. “He was very well liked and responsible,” Moyle said. “He knew what he was doing. It wasn’t his first day on the job by any means.” Kestie was not married and does not have any children. His mother lives in Calumet. Moyle said Kestie was doing work around the yard when the accident happened. “It happened in late afternoon and they were almost done for the day,” he said. “He was there by himself.” Moyle said he could not provide more specific details until an investigation by the Michigan Occupational Safety Health Administration is completed. A representative from MIOSHA is headed from Escanaba to the site today.


CHP Officer Dies After Hit-And-Run Collision

Oakland, CA - The California Highway Patrol continues to search for a hit-and-run suspect vehicle, possibly a red or tan Buick with front-end damage, that was involved in a collision Saturday night in Oakland that killed Officer Brent Clearman. Meanwhile, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was among those lamenting the loss of Clearman, who died today from wounds suffered in the accident on Interstate Highway 880. "Californians owe a debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who put themselves in constant danger to keep us safe," Schwarzenegger said in a statement released this afternoon. "Officer Clearman exemplified that commitment and courageously made the ultimate sacrifice. Our hearts go out to his friends and family during this difficult time." Clearman was 33 years old and is survived by his wife Cathy Jo. Flags at the state Capitol will be flown at half-staff in his honor.


Police release name of man killed in work accident

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- Police in Providence have released the name of a Capco Steel worker killed on the job last week. John Maki died Friday after he was hit in the head with a piece of steel at the company's facility in Providence. The police say the 60-year-old Cranston man died in a work-related accident. Capco is the largest steel manufacturer in Rhode Island.


Worker killed in Cass County

CALVIN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) -- A St. Johns man died in a workplace accident, Cass County Sheriff Joseph M. Underwood Jr. said. The victim was identified as Curtis Sorell, 34, an employee of Kent Power Co. of Kent City. Sorell was working on a new electrical substation about 1:40 p.m. Monday when he came in contact with an area of high voltage, then fell from the structure, Underwood said in a statement. Co-workers began CPR before an ambulance arrived, but Sorell was pronounced dead at the scene. The accident remained under investigation Tuesday. It was not immediately known if Sorell was electrocuted or was killed by the fall.


Pizza man killed after last run

Minneapolis, MN - 20-year-old was saving for college, had just finished night's work A pizza deliveryman lay dying on a tree-lined street in North Minneapolis late Sunday, murmuring for help. His customer heard the shot. She spun around and anxiously called to him from her porch. "Sir, can you hear me?" Toua Xiong didn't answer. He soon was dead, killed while trying to earn money for college. At Pizza Hut, where Toua Xiong worked, the shift manager was especially mournful. Toua Xiong was his brother. The deliveryman was on his last run of the night.


Convenience Store Employee Dead After Fairfield Shooting

Fiarfield, TN - A convenience store worker is dead, shot by a robber in his store. Police are worried because the victim obeyed all the gunmen's requests. The employee was shot once in the chest around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at the YR Market in Fairfield. Known as Raj, the victim was also a co-owner of the store. The convenience store is located at the corner of Lafayette Street and Fairfield Avenue. The robber walked into the store, demanded money, fired a shot, and fled the scene. The clerk was found by an off-duty store employee. “The clerk complied with the robbers demand, and according to witnesses, as he exited the store, he turned and shot the clerk one time in the chest,” Metro Police Spokesperson Amanda Sluss said. “The 24-year-old clerk was pronounced dead at the scene.”


Carnival Worker Killed In Accident

Escanaba, MI - An employee of Skerbeck Brothers Carnival in Escanaba has been killed in an accident downstate. The victim is a 36-year-old man from Gladstone. His name has not yet been released. The accident happened early Sunday morning at a fair in St. Clair County. The Sheriff's Department says the employee suffered a fatal head injury when the amusement park trailer he was working on lost support from one of its hydraulic jacks. Skerbeck Brothers Carnival says they're working with state and local officials to understand the cause of the accident and prevent it from happening again.


Maintenance worker killed in explosion in Endicott

ENDICOTT, NY — A routine procedure ended in a tragedy Thursday as one maintenance worker was killed and another seriously burned in an explosion at the Huron Real Estate Associates campus in Endicott. “We're obviously devastated. We're doing our best to deal with the employee who was burned and reach out to the families,” said James Sullivan, vice president of human resources for Huron Real Estate Associates and Endicott Interconnect Technologies. Huron Real Estate Associates The four-story building houses about 300 employees from IBM, EI, and Fidelity Investments. The accident took place in the building's mechanical room. Marion Korcipa, 54, of Endicott, died in the explosion, while Ronald Walter, 58, of Brackney, Pa., was seriously injured. The two maintenance workers were doing routine repair work to a pressurized steam pipe in Building 14 on the Huron campus, 1301 North St., at the time of the accident, Sullivan said.


Plant employee dies from injuries

DAYTON, Tenn. — An employee of Fuji Hunt Specialty Products has died from injuries sustained in a plant explosion last week, a hospital spokeswoman said today. Michael Lockhart, 35, of Dunlap, died Sunday at Erlanger hospital in Chattanooga, hospital officials said. Mr. Lockhart was working early Thursday morning when there was an explosion and fire at the plant. The plant manager said last week that company officials are investigating the cause of the explosion. Officials with the Tennessee Occupation Safety and Health Administration also are probing the blast, state officials said.

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