Saturday, June 12, 2004

CalOSHA Clouds Worker Safety In Sunny California

CalOSHA Infected With Partnership Obsession

After a two month investigation, CalOSHA has found that a company knowingly over-exposed its welders for almost a year to two to three times the legal limit for manganese and welding fumes and then refused to tell the workers the truth (as required by law) or provide them with the legally required information or training.
"These do rank as very serious, violative conditions that existed that could have potential harm to the employees exposed," said Cal-OSHA spokesman Dean Fryer.
Sounds serious (and willful) enough for a pretty high fine, if not a criminal prosecution, no?

Apparently not. It seems CalOSHA has been infected with the same dubious "partnership" obsession as Federal OSHA. In this case, the leadership of CalOSHA had decided that the companies, KFM Joint Venture (a partnership of three construction companies, Kiewit Pacific, FCI Constructors and Manson Construction Co.), should receive no citations, no fines — nothing but a verbal promise to "take care of the problem" sometime. These are violations that, by law, CalOSHA should be citing with fines. Instead, a "partnership" with evil-doers has been formed.

Exposure to manganese and welding fumes is serious
According to the National Safety Council, inhalation or ingestion of manganese dust or fumes can cause a wide range of symptoms including: Parkinson's, insomnia, mental confusion, metal fume fever, weakness, paralysis, dry throat, cough, tight chest, flu-like fever, low-back pain, and vomiting.
Adding insult to injury, the Pile Drivers union, which represents the welders, is letting Cal/OSHA get away with it by signing off on the partnership.

The linked article is only one I've seen on the issue. CalOSHA is trying to keep the deal quiet because it is apparently considering a similar "partnership" arrangement with contractors in San Diego who have had similar "problems" and the arrangement is causing morale problems among CalOSHA inspectors who actually care more about workers' health and safety than they do about being "cooperative" and "non-adversarial".

Well, I just hope that other scumbag employers who are poisoning their workers are paying very close attention. (Merriam Webster: scum·bag: Pronunciation: 'sk&m-"bag. Function: noun, slang: a dirty or despicable person)If you discover that you're over-exposing your employees to poisonous fumes and then you decide to break the law by continuing to over-expose them and then you don't inform or train them, you're in BIG, BIG TROUBLE. Keep it up and you just might find yourself sentenced to a partnership and forced to promise that you won't do it again.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
Workers are healthy somewhere, and somewhere unions fight,
And somewhere OSHA struggles, and somewhere workers win,
But there is no fight in Oakland — CalOSHA has caved in.