Saturday, July 31, 2004

U.S. Contractor Deaths in Iraq: High Pay, High Price, But Few Death Benefits

Don Rumsfeld and his neo-con buddies had an idea that the war in Iraq could be fought on the cheap with a relatively small number of U.S. troops. One of the way's to do this was to contract out everything they could: food, housing, logistics, security....

And contractors can make big money in Iraq, often more than they can make in the U.S. and certainly more than they can make in the U.S. Armed Forces, but they often pay the same price as U.S. soldiers:
At least 110 contractors working for U.S. firms ...have died in Iraq, according to industry estimates. Experts say the number of casualties could be far higher, given the tens of thousands of private contractors who have taken over duties for the military. The Pentagon does not keep an official count, and many companies do not announce when their employees in Iraq are killed. By comparison, there were seven contractor deaths in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, according to a report by the General Accounting Office, now the Government Accountability Office.
They pay the same price, but those left behind get fewer benefits: insurance, death benefits, recognition and a last flight home.
Contractors are paid more than soldiers are, but their life insurance policies are usually not as generous or as ironclad. A dead soldier's family is guaranteed life insurance and death benefits.

And although the military generally transports soldiers' and contractors' bodies together from Iraq to Kuwait, they are treated differently upon arrival. The military aims to fly soldiers' bodies to Dover Port Mortuary in Delaware within three days of their arrival at the Kuwait processing center. Contractors generally have to find a commercial flight to ship the bodies, and that can take time.


After Jesse Gentry and Henry A. Doll III, two DynCorp employees, were killed in Iraq, DynCorp officials initially said the military would help return the bodies to the United States, according to Gentry's and Doll's families. But after several days of confusion, DynCorp, a unit of Computer Sciences Corp., put the employees' remains on a commercial flight. By the time they arrived in the United States, the bodies had begun to deteriorate.

The funeral director advised Doll's family not to view the remains, which were then cremated. "We've already had to deal with a tragedy, now this," said Doll's son, Henry, a Maryland state trooper. Doll's family is awaiting DNA test results to make sure they received the correct body.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Help Is On The Way?

Maybe, but it's too late for these guys...

1 man killed, 1 injured when trench collapses

Thursday, July 29, 2004
By Joe Fahy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A Franklin Park man died and another man was injured yesterday in the collapse of a trench in Beaver County that authorities said was not reinforced as required under federal health and safety standards.

Marion E. Peters, 61, died at the scene in the 200 block of Silverdale Drive in Economy, said Deputy Coroner Skip Haswell. An autopsy will be performed today, he said.

It was the fifth trench collapse in the region since November.
And this:

Man dies in cave-in
Trench collapse kills worker
Advocate Reporter

NEWARK -- Construction workers frantically tried to dig out a man buried alive when a sewer line trench collapsed Wednesday at a new subdivision in north Newark.

"We were finishing up a job down the road when one of the guys on the trucks yell's, my God,'..." said concrete worker Dean Watson.

"We ran over there with shovels and dug, and we found him, and we pulled his head up, and he still had a pulse and we keep digging and digging, trying to yank him out of there. We couldn't get him out, and his pulse stopped somewhere during that.

Authorities identified the dead worker as Gary Dillon, 40.

Note: Newark, OH is less than five miles from Heath, OH where Steve Durbin was killed in a trench collapse last September.

So maybe the only way to stop these senseless deaths is for John Kerry to stand up in front of the entire country and declare: "Trenches Deeper Than 5 Feet Deep Must Be Shored. Use a Trench Box Or You Go In a Box!"

This Should Get Your Attention...

But only if it's huge.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Immigrants & Teens: Frontline Soldiers in the War Against Retail Crime?

As a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics study reported, workplace violence is the leading cause of death among immigrant workers in this country. Many of these workers are employed in retail establishments. And, of course, the issue of retail violence is not just limited to immigrant workers. Small articles in newspapers across the country bear witness to this fact:
Man stabbed to death in restaurant robbery
By Franci Richardson
Saturday, May 22, 2004

A 35-year-old Worcester man is dead after interrupting a restaurant robbery where the thief put a knife against another man's throat and demanded cash, police said.

Valtair Silva was stabbed in the chest by a man trying to rob the restaurant Ciao Bella, where he was an after-hours cleaning man. Silva was pronounced dead at Worcester Medical Center about 12:10 a.m. yesterday.
And also in Boston, there was this:
A dream lost to violence
Slain teenager recalled as friendly, hard worker

By John Ellement and Michael Rosenwald, Globe Staff, 2/18/2000

Cristian Ribeiro Giambrone was on the cusp of a dream. The 18-year-old had banked $5,000, not for a new flat-screen television or video game system, but to pay for an important trip to his mother's native Brazil.

A student at Boston Latin Academy, one of the city's exam schools, Ribeiro Giambrone amassed his savings working part-time at a CVS store in Boston's Longwood neighborhood, the heart of the city's thriving medical community.

Ribeiro Giambrone was working on Monday, Presidents' Day, banking more holiday cash for his trip, when CVS employees became suspicious of a man in a red puffy jacket and dark hat. Police said that employees, including Ribeiro Giambrone, confronted the man outside, but that he attacked them, stabbing Ribeiro Giambrone in the neck and another employee in the torso.

Ribeiro Giambrone died. The search for his killer continued last night.
Gambrone's mother,Taciana Ribeiro Saab, is not not just mourning for her son, she is also fighting:
Her last gift to him is a campaign to stiffen workplace rules in retail establishments all across the state so that employees do not feel pressure - explicit or implicit - to pursue shoplifters. Her goal is to persuade businesses to hire security guards, to adopt policies that prohibit employees from confronting shoplifters, and to better train the young people who increasingly man the front lines of retail.


Since Cristian's death, Saab has undertaken her own informal survey of workplace policies. When she goes shopping at a hardware store, she will ask the clerk: "If I had just shoplifted, what would you do?" But the larger question she is determined to answer through her activism, even as she battles the grief that still reduces her to tears at a moment's notice, is this: "How can we use his death as a catalyst for positive social change in the workplace?"
Saab is speaking in schools and neighborhood forums about workplace safety as a volunteer for Project COBWEB (Collaboration for Better Work Environment for Brazilians in Massachusetts).
C. Eduardo Siqueira, a research assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell who is spearheading the project, says that while its aim is to educate and train young Brazilian immigrants working in restaurants or fast-food chains and other industries on how to avoid occupational hazards, it will reach out to retail workers of all ethnic groups.
Siqueira has organized a campaign led by teenagers to collect anecdotes about other kids who may have been exposed to violence in retail workplaces. Four Brazilian teenagers and other immigrant students are working with the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCosh) to train teenagers over the summer about health and safety issues, and afterwards become peer-trainers and youth leaders.

They're advocating for better education and awareness about the causes and solutions for workplace violence, paying particular attention to corporate policies on chasing shoplifters. CVS is the main target.. In addition, they are building a popular theater group this year to improve the awareness of Brazilians about health and safety on the job.

For more information on this project, contact Dr. Siqueira.

Footnote: This issue has become personally relevant to me lately. My daughter works at a popular store in Georgetown where one of her responsibilities is to monitor the front door for shoplifters and keep them in the store until a manager arrives. My wife and I visited the store last week and in the 45 mintues we were in the store, the teen employees confronted at least three shoplifters as they left the store.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Opposition To NIOSH Reorganization Growing

Opposition to CDC's proposed reorganization of NIOSH is rising and has come to national attention with an article in the Los Angeles Times. The Times reported on a letter from four former heads of NIOSH -- Marcus M. Key, Anthony Robbins, J. Donald Millar and Linda Rosenstock -- to Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson expressing "great concern" with the reorganization that I wrote about last May. Key and Millar served under Republican administrations.
To downgrade NIOSH and blur its mission by combining key functions with other CDC programs will erode its independence and visibility and weaken the scientific contribution that has long benefited American workers and employers
The reorganization would put NIOSH into the Coordinating Center for Environmental Health, which includes the National Center for Environmental Health, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Thompson also received a letter from former Assistant Secretaries of Labor for OSHA, Dr. Eula Bingham, Gerald Scannell and Joe Dear, as well as former MSHA Director J. Davitt McAtteer and Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environment, Safety and Health. Scannell served under the first Bush and Bingham under Jimmy Carter. The others served in the Clinton administration.

They asked Thompson to suspend the reorganization, arguing that
In our former positions we found NIOSH's independent scientific recommendations to be indispensable. Because the process of establishing and enforcing workplace standards is always difficult and contentious, a solid scientific basis for rulemaking goes far toward narrowing the gap between opposing points of view. Moving NIOSH lower in the Departmental structure and obscuring the distinct identity and special role of NIOSH would markedly diminish its effectiveness in helping the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Mine Safety and Health Administration bring science-based considerations to the rulemaking process. It was not the intent of Congress for the head of OSHA to communicate with someone five levels down in the DHHS bureaucracy.
Other letters have been sent to Thompson from the AFL-CIO, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, the American Society of Safety Engineers and American Industrial Hygiene Association.

Guess What? Business Associations Don't Like John Kerry

Big surprise:
Jeffrey Uhlenburg, president of Donovan Heat Treating Co. of Philadelphia, said he's glad the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers are making it so clear so early that they want President Bush re-elected.

"I feel they are taking a strong stand, but for good reasons," Uhlenburg said. "As a business owner, I've seen some of the best tax relief ever in the last four years. I like what I see, and I'd like it to continue."
So what's the problem? According to the National Federation of Independent Business, here is where Kerry went wrong. He voted "wrong" on:
  • An amendment to block funds for a proposal making it easier to exempt employees from overtime pay.
  • The Jobs and Growth Act of 2003, which reduced taxes, including several on small businesses.
  • An amendment to permanently extend the repeal of the estate tax.
  • A bill to impose various health insurance mandates, including which benefits must be provided by health plans.
  • An amendment to shield employers from liability from the health care insurance they provide employees.
  • The Tax Relief Act of 2001, which reduced all income tax rates and gradually repealed the estate tax.
And last, but certainly not least for Confined Space readers:
  • A resolution stating the ergonomics rule submitted by the Clinton administration had no force or effect.
As Franklin Roosevelt said, “I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.”

So far, Kerry's on the wrong side of the right people.

Convention Report: Obama was good, but Teddy wins by a nose

No, I'm not there, but I watch T.V. (This is the first convention since I got cable T.V., do I get to watch the whole thing. Yeah, I know, I'm a political junkie)

Tonight's verdict:

Barak Obama actually met -- and exceeded -- all expectations. Almost gives you faith in the American political system.

After hearing about Teresa Heinz Kerry for so long, it was good to actually hear from her.

And finally, Ted Kennedy. It wasn't the best speech I've ever heard him give (that would be his 1980 convention speech -- among the best speeches I've ever heard) But the best part of his speech was that he is the only conventions speaker (at least that I've heard) that has mentioned workplace safety:
When men and women needed protection in the workplace, we demanded safe conditions for their jobs. We insisted on the right to higher pay for working overtime. We guaranteed the right to form a union. We pledged a fair minimum wage, so that no one in America who works for a living should have to live in poverty.
Consequently, Senator Edward M. Kennedy is tonight's winner of the Confined Space Award for Best Addressing the Concerns of Working People.

Congratulations Senator.

SEIU's Andy Stern: Labor's Soothsayer or Pessimist?

Or maybe a little of both:
Breaking sharply with the enforced harmony of the Democratic National Convention, the president of the largest AFL-CIO union said Monday that both organized labor and the Democratic Party might be better off in the long run if Sen. John F. Kerry loses the election.

Andrew L. Stern, the head of the 1.6 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), said in an interview with The Washington Post that both the party and its longtime ally, the labor movement, are "in deep crisis," devoid of new ideas and working with archaic structures.

Stern argued that Kerry's election might stifle needed reform within the party and the labor movement. He said he still believes that Kerry overall would make a better president than President Bush, and his union has poured huge resources into that effort. But he contends that Kerry's election would have the effect of slowing the "evolution" of the dialogue within the party.
Update: Stern explains himself here:
There were several press reports in today’s newspapers regarding my views about the Democratic Party and the AFL-CIO. These reports reflect a mixture of comments made in several different interviews. Let me be clear...

There’s nothing I want more than a John Kerry victory. He’s spent a lifetime fighting for good jobs and strong families, and a Kerry victory is the biggest goal of our union right now. We will spend $65 million and are sending over 2,004 workers to work full time in battleground states. We will continue to do whatever we can to make sure John Kerry is the next president of the United States. This is the largest non-party effort of any single organization in a national election ever. And we’re not working this hard just because John Kerry has a D after his name. John Kerry is right on our issues and he’s fought with us when we have needed him.

What I was saying yesterday is that when you accomplish a big goal like beating George Bush there can be a tendency to lose energy and unity and we cannot let that happen. Our party is at a time of extraordinary energy and unity and we have to make sure we hold on to that even after Senator Kerry beats Bush.

OK, Andy. Good points. That all makes sense. But timing is everything. This is the convention -- in the middle of a campaign where you need to spend all your energy firing up the troops. There will be plenty of time after January 20, 2005 to criticize President Kerry and the Democratic party.

More thoughts by Nathan Newman here.

Monday, July 26, 2004

OSHA "Summits" With Friends While Hispanic Workers Continue to Die

Only a few hundred miles and several hours away from Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao's keynote address at the Department of Labor's Hispanic Summit in Orlando, Florida (where she also managed to give away some strategically placed government funding), construction workers Lauro Hernandez of Oakland Park and Gregorio Ruiz of Wilton Manors were crushed to death under tons of concrete when a three-story townhouse in West Palm Beach collapsed on top of them. Five workers were hospitalized and one worker, 19 years old, remains in critical condition. One of the workers who escaped the collapse was 13 years old.

The Hispanic Summit had come under sharp criticism for serving as window dressing on a serious and deadly crisis facing Hispanic workers in this country. A group of labor unions, community organizations and COSH groups denounced the summit last week "as a blatant election-year play for Hispanic votes."

According to the Orlando Sentinel,
Although scheduled to showcase various best practices for reducing Hispanic fatalities in the workplace, the summit was eclipsed by political overtones in a presidential-election year when Hispanics are one of Florida's key swing populations.
The only co-sponsors of the Summit were a couple of Hispanic business associations. NIOSH had dropped its sponsorship because the Department of Labor refused to allow the research agency any meaningful role in organizing the conference. Labor unions and community organizations that do the most work with Hispanic workers were not invited.

Doing her part in a closely fought election campaign in which the Republican party is losing support among Hispanic voters, Chao took advantage of the event's strategic location to spread a little election-year cheer largesse:
Chao used the Orlando event to hand over a check for $2.76 million to Esperanza USA, the largest faith-based, Hispanic nonprofit organization in the United States.

The three-year grant is in addition to other funds Esperanza has received to administer the Hispanic portion of Bush's Faith Initiative Capacity Project. The money will allow faith-based organizations in nine U.S. cities to work with at-risk Hispanic youth.

Two of the cities included in the grant's first year are in Florida: Miami and Orlando. In Orlando, the initiative is administered by Pastor Angel Rios of the Hispanic Association of Christian Churches of Central Florida.
In her keynote speech, Chao noted that
Since 2002, there has been a consistent decrease in all workplace fatalities. I am proud of the fact that for the first time in seven years, workplace fatalities among Hispanic workers declined in 2002," U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao said.
While "since 2002" is technically true, 2002 is the last year for which the federal government has statistics.

And as a recent AP article pointed out:
The good news did not extend to the overall Hispanic immigrant population the department is trying to reach. Workers in that group -- which includes Central and South Americans, as well as Mexicans -- continued to die in record numbers in 2002, federal data show....

The decline in Mexican-born worker deaths came during the safest year on record for the overall work force in the United States. From 2001 to 2002, total on-the-job deaths fell from 5,915 workers to 5,524 workers -- an unprecedented 6.6 percent drop.

Deaths among U.S.-born Hispanic workers declined at an even greater rate in 2002. However, deaths among all foreign-born Hispanics rose that year over 2001, from 572 to 577. It was also the first year Mexican-born worker fatalities fell since 1994-1995, when deaths dropped from 213 to 206.
And what is this all about?
Because of the importance of family in the Hispanic community, the Department is making safety a family affair. OSHA's Dallas and Ft. Lauderdale offices, for example, have sponsored family safety days for Spanish-speaking workers. They feature health and safety learning activities for everyone in the family and health and safety training sessions for workers.
Is she just being patronizing, or is safety a family affair for Hispanics because so many Hispanic children teenagers die in the workplace.

Assistant Secretary of Labor John Henshaw took credit for a decline in the number of Hispanic deaths in 2002, crediting OSHA's Hispanic initiative which consisted of a website, a toll-free number, public service announcements in Spanish, more Spanish-speaking staff members and expanded training.

Ironically, OSHA boasted of
50 nonprofit groups [funded]as part of our Susan Harwood Training Grant Program that provide training or develop training materials for others to use. Let me just share with you a few examples of what our training grantees are offering to Spanish-speaking workers and employers:
Ironic, first, because for the fourth straight year, the Bush administration is attempting to eliminate the Harwood program. In addition, Henshaw failed to mention its largest and most successful Harwood grant to the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (formerly known as the National Network of Committees/Coalitions on Occupational Safety and Health)--a federation of non-profit organizations around the United States that advocate for worker safety and health. Possibly because the COSH groups received the 5-year grant under the Clinton administration and individual COSH groups have been critical of the Bush administration's workplace safety policies.

I have already written extensively about the "success" of OSHA's Hispanic initiative and whether or not OSHA could take credit for the 2002 decline. Read the whole thing, but in a nutshell, it's unlikely:
First, OSHA's Hispanic worker initiative wasn't announced until the end of February 2002. An 8% drop in fatalities as a result of a 10 month-old program would be impressive, indeed.

[Associated Press writer Justin] Pritchard reports that experts at the federal Centers for Disease Control (NIOSH) and the National Safety Council are skeptical whether any improvements can be credited to OSHA's recent outreach initiative:
Workplace safety experts at the federal Centers for Disease Control and the National Safety Council, a nonprofit public service organization, said no research substantiates a link between OSHA's fledgling outreach and the drop in Mexican worker deaths.

"It's not something that you throw a small amount of money at and issue some pamphlets and you're going to see dramatic changes," said David Richardson, a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill professor of epidemiology who tracks worker deaths in the South. "It's a slow battle."
So why the decline in Mexican worker deaths in 2002?
According to work safety specialists, statisticians and even some federal outreach workers, there's no evidence any one effort is responsible for the improvement in 2002. Possible factors include the economic recession that followed the September 2001 terror attacks and changes in immigration and border security. Mexican-born workers have stayed longer in the United States, gaining experience and perhaps decreasing their willingness to take risks.

"It's good that they're doing outreach," says Dr. Sherry Baron, a lead CDC researcher on immigrant workers. However, "a change in one year, it's hard to conclude anything. Part of it is, we need more time."
Finally, Henshaw pleaded for feedback from the attendees:
We need to hear new ideas and to explore best practices for reaching Hispanic workers. We want to listen to others who can suggest additional strategies.
Which, again, is ironic, considering that those unions and community groups that are doing the most innovative work were not included in the planning or even invited.

It's all too bad. The Department of Labor and OSHA took the first step in recognizing the seriousness of the issue, but failed to follow through with a conference that could have brought together the nation's leading activists to help develop a national strategy that could have made real progress in addressing the problem -- and provided OSHA with something worth listening to. OSHA didn't need a summit, it needed the opposite -- some time with the grass roots.

Instead, we get a one-day, talking head, election year promotional opportunity for the Bush campaign.

What a waste.

Blogging From the Convention

No, not me. I'm stuck here in Washington. But these guys are there.

9/11 Commission Report: Something Missing

OK, I've read the entire 500+ pages of the 9/11 report. Well, not really, but I did read Chapter 12: What to Do? A Global Strategy.

And guess what wasn't there. In fact, I searched the entire report and couldn't find any mention of concerns or recommendations addressing chemical security, despite the fact that
According to the EPA, there are 823 sites where the death or injury toll from a catastrophic disaster at a chemical plant could reach from 100,000 to more than 1 million people...There are no federal laws that establish minimum security standards at chemical facilities.
-- as quoted in a new book released last week by Dr. Stephen Flynn, who held major national security positions in the George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations.

Too controversial for a bi-partisan commission?

Olympic Death Toll

The news has been full of speculation about whether Greece would be able to overcome logistical nightmares to finish Olympic construction by the time the games start next month.  Almost hidden, however, has been the human toll of this enterprise.
Many workers have been killed - many more than the official death toll of 14, a Greek union representative said.

But, he told the programme, no official numbers are being kept.

The BBC team observed workers - many from Eastern Europe and South Asia - operating without protective equipment and with minimal supervision. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Face the Facts programme, Greek Olympic Committee President Lampis Nikolaou admitted that the death toll in Athens was far greater than in any other city to have recently hosted the games.
A BBC team visited a variety of sites in Greece and reported that similar site would have been shut down had employees been working under the same conditions in Britain.
The general secretary of the Greek Construction Workers' Union, George Theodorou, told the programme he had collected names and details of 14 workers who had died on Olympic facilities.

But he believes there have been many more deaths on all the supporting infrastructure, like Athens' new roads, tram lines and metro, taking the actual death toll to 40.

"Men are being forced to work long shifts, up to 14 hours a day every day, in very hot temperatures and under constant pressure to complete construction work in time for the Olympics," he said.

"Most have no hard hats or safety boots and if they complain, they're sacked."

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Gators: Unusual Landscaping Hazards

Landscape work is not without hazards: cuts, scratches, trips and falls, pesticides, back injuries, insects and reptiles. Sometimes BIG reptiles
A Sanibel landscaper who lost part of her right arm Wednesday when a 12-foot alligator dragged her into a pond remained in critical condition Thursday morning.

Janie Melsek, 54, was working on a vacation rental at 3061 Poinciana Circle. She was at the water’s edge about 10 feet from the house when the 400-pound-plus alligator lunged at her and clamped down on her right arm, pulling her into the water.


Melsek, who has worked as a landscape architect for more than 20 years, underwent six hours of surgery at Lee Memorial Hospital on Wednesday evening.

Doctors had to amputate her arm midway between her elbow and her wrist, said her brother, Lee Melsek of Fort Myers Beach. He is a reporter for The News-Press.

“The gator bite almost severed her arm,” he said, adding that his sister suffered extensive damage to her buttocks and inner thighs.
The gator didn't do quote so well. It was shot by a police officer.

UPDATE: Janie Melsek, 54, died Friday at Lee Memorial Hospital. Doctors said her body simply shut down in response to the infection.

DOL Stages Hispanic "Photo-Op"

The Department of Labor's Hispanic Summit, held today in Orlando, Florida, came under attack by a coalition of twenty-five labor unions, Hispanic community organizations and COSH groups*.
In their letter to OSHA, members of the Coalition for Hispanic Worker Safety noted that the conference was organized with virtually no input from major Hispanic advocacy organizations or grassroots worker groups. “This is clearly not a serious effort to address the epidemic of workplace injuries and illnesses suffered by our community,” said Jayesh Rathod, Staff Attorney of CASA of Maryland.   Planners chose not to invite groups like ours because they knew we would raise serious concerns about the administration’s dismantling of workplace safety rules,” Rathod added. 
The conference, whose only co-sponsors were a couple of Hispanic business groups, had even lost NIOSH as a co-sponsor because the Labor Department refused to open the meeting to speakers representing all of the important interest groups or work with outside interest groups to help organize the conference.

Florida labor leaders were also not impressed with the DOL's sincerity:
"We feel this is nothing more than a political statement in an election year," said Debra Booth, president of the AFL-CIO of Central Florida.


Union officials, who said they weren't invited to the summit, said the Bush administration has hurt workers with its attempts to eliminate overtime pay for some white-collar workers and funding cuts to health and safety programs.

Matt Miller, a spokesman for Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, in a statement, called the summit merely a "photo-op."

Tirso Moreno, general coordinator for the Farmworker Association of Florida, said the most important thing the administration could do to help Hispanic workers is make sure the federal AgJobs bill passes.

The bill would allow undocumented farmworkers to earn the right to stay in the United States by continuing to work in agriculture. Most Hispanic workers who are in the United States illegally hesitate to speak up when faced with work-safety concerns because they fear being deported, Moreno said.

"What we Hispanic workers need is more funding for protection at work," said Nilda Galano, a nursing assistant who is a member of SEIU Local 1199 in Orlando.
* Coalition members include: AFL-CIO , Arkansas Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, Casa de Maryland, Chicago Area Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, Commonwealth Coalition (Boston, MA), Connecticut Council on Occupational Safety and Health, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Maine Labor Group on Health, Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health , Mid-State (NY) Education and Service Foundation, National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, National Council of la Raza, National Employment Law Project, New Hampshire Committee for Occupational Safety and Health , New Jersey Work Environment Council, New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, Philadelphia Project on Occupational Safety and Health, Rhode Island Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, Service Employees International Union, Sheet Metal Workers International Association,  and Transport Workers Union of America

A Legacy of the Past: Asbestos Deaths on the Rise

The use of asbestos may be declining in the United States, but asbestos related deaths are on the rise and will continue to rise for at least the next decade according to a new study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health:

Deaths from asbestos exposure have surged in the United States and are set to keep rising in the next decade as more workers succumb to the lung disease caused by the industrial mineral, federal health experts warned on Thursday.

The number of Americans who died of asbestosis, which is caused by inhalation of asbestos particles, jumped to 1,493 in 2000 from 77 in 1968, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The incurable disease, marked by shortness of breath and persistent cough and linked to a higher risk of cancer, is now a bigger killer than silicosis and black lung and the deadliest of all work-related respiratory illnesses.

The Atlanta-based CDC warned that the death toll would likely continue rising because of the lag -- often as much as 45 years -- between initial exposure to asbestos fibers and death.

"What we're dealing with is a legacy of the past," said Michael Attfield, an epidemiologist in the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and one of the study's authors.


What Do Homeless Persons Need?

A webpage, of course.

The Bush Administration is clearly coming to an end and Bush officials are looking for other jobs. For example, one of Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao's media people is trying out as a joke writer for the Jay Leno show.

Labor Department Launches Web Site to Help the Homeless

WASHINGTON—The Department of Labor (DOL) today launched a Web site to help America’s homeless find jobs through mainstream as well as targeted training, education and placement services and to provide a vital link to government-wide resources.

"This Web page furthers the Administration’s commitment to helping the homeless, including homeless veterans," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao, who serves as vice chairman of the Interagency Council on Homelessness. "The Department of Labor is committed to pooling our resources and working together with Congress, our federal, state and local partners to achieve the President’s goal of ending chronic homelessness in 10 years."

The Web page provides links to DOL’s homeless programs as well as to other major government and non-government homeless Web pages and programs. Information on the new Web page will allow groups and individuals to better serve the homeless population. This page can be accessed at:

And what do the homeless find on that webpage when they fire up the computer in the shopping cart or hidden under the cot at the homeless shelter?

They can learn about all of the grants being given to swing states. And they have plenty of time on their hands to read the 2003 DOL Annual Report on Homelessness. Or you can connect to the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives. And never let it be said that this administration doesn't support its brave soldiers in Iraq: Much of the page covers programs for homeless veterans. Finally, homeless families be very pleased to know that Secretary Chao has been named Vice Chairperson of the Interagency Council on Homelessness. That will make their day.

Well, if you can't find enough jobs for people, I suppose a web page will have to do...

TB Control in DC and VA

This is the state of tuberculosis control at the D.C. Health Department's Tuberculosis Control Bureau in our nation's capital in the year 2004.
Doctors who refer patients to the bureau for screening and long-term follow-up care say the staff has been mishandling treatment of many infected patients and turning away people seeking TB screening.

The bureau's chest X-ray machine, which provides evidence of TB in the lungs, is 16 years old and breaks down often; at other times, staff members report, they have run out of X-ray film or chemicals, which forces the office to close. Located in a run-down building on the campus of the shuttered D.C. General Hospital, the bureau has unreliable water, air-conditioning and heating systems, city officials say.

In recent months, the agency stopped filing regular TB reports with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and local doctors say that leaves them unable to tell whether TB incidence in the District is rising or falling this year.

Doctors also say the city has no designated facility to house homeless TB patients where health officials can observe them taking daily medications for up to a year -- the only reliable way to contain an infectious disease diagnosed in 79 District residents last year. Instead, many TB patients roam the streets and move from shelter to shelter without sticking with the therapy.


The District TB rate in 2003 was 13.8 per 100,000 residents, compared with 5.1 for the nation, and immigrants and African Americans are at greatest risk, according to experts.
What does this say about the state of public health in this country?

And good thing we got rid of the OSHA TB standard, now that the problem is solved:
In the past year, the woman has been hospitalized for several 30-day stays in an isolation room at George Washington University Hospital at a cost of about $250,000 to her Medicaid health maintenance organization, Health Right. But the woman did not always stay in her room and walked the halls or stood in front of the hospital without a surgical mask, according to Goetcheus and others familiar with the case.

Last month the woman landed in the D.C. jail, and Goetcheus was incensed to learn that the woman was not segregated from other inmates and did not receive all of her drugs while there, potentially exposing people to multidrug-resistant TB. Finally, concerned officials at Health Right notified the city's Child and Family Services Agency of the problem, and it took her children for screening.

Meanwhile, next door in Virginia, a second hospital worker has been found to have active TB: 

Second hospital worker found to have active TB
Chesapeake General Hospital after a nurse at the hospital died of TB last month.

By ELIZABETH SIMPSON, The Virginian-Pilot
© July 20, 2004

CHESAPEAKE — Health officials won’t know until later in the week whether a new round of people will need to be tested for tuberculosis now that another health-care worker at Chesapeake General Hospital has developed an active case of the disease

The most recent case involved an employee who worked on the same unit as a nurse who died of TB in June. The co-worker has not yet shown symptoms of the disease, however, so health officials are hopeful she did not spread the bacteria.


According to the state Department of Health, 59 cases of confirmed, active tuberculosis were reported in 2003 in the eastern region of Virginia, which includes Hampton Roads. Statewide, 332 TB cases were confirmed last year, a 5.4 percent increase from 2002, when there were 292 cases.

OSHA Descends to Hispanic Summit Today

Today is the Labor Department's Hispanic Summit and to prepare for it, Secretary of Labor Chao has signed "a Joint Declaration that reaffirms the shared commitment of the United States and Mexico to improve compliance with and awareness of workplace laws and regulations protecting Mexican workers in the United States."

Clearly concerned that the American workplace is becoming a weapon of mass destruction for his countrymen, "President Vicente Fox has instructed the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs to implement concrete actions that will improve the quality of life of all Mexicans in the United States."

As the Bush administration attempts for the fourth straight year to cut its worker training grants (many of which target Hispanic workers) and refuses to issue the Payment for Personal Protection Standard (which would particularly benefit Hispanic workers), it is not entirely clear what this Joint Declaration actually does for Mexican workers in the U.S. But it made a great press release, and that's what's important.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced earlier this month that between 1996 and 2001:
Mexican-born-worker fatalities alone accounted for 40 percent (1,915) of all fatalities to foreignborn workers, and fatal work injuries to Mexican-born workers were uniquely observed to trend upward over the duration of the 6-year period under analysis, increasing from a low of 241 fatalities in 1996 to 422 in 2001.
And speaking of Press Releases, the Labor Department also (re)announced today that Secretary Chao will deliver the keynote address at the Hispanic summit.

Fatalities among Mexican workers fell 8% in 2002, while fatalities among all Hispanic workers rose.

Meanwhile, the really important news in the press release was the election campaign announcement that
After her address, Secretary Chao will also announce a significant grant to help Hispanic youth in Orlando [that would be Orlando, Florida) and four other cities. The grant will provide education and training services to help at-risk Hispanic youth."
Oh, did I mention that the Summit and the grant were located in Florida?

Aside from Chao and Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, John Henshaw, the Labor Department has announced no other speakers at the conference, which is being co-sponsored by two Hispanic business groups. NIOSH had dropped its co-sponsorship because DOL would not allow their input into the planning process.

(If anyone reading this is going to the summit, I'd love to hear about it.)


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Nixon EPA Administrator Says Bush's Environmental Policy Is "Polluter Protection"

Russel Train, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency from 1973 to 1977 under Presidents Nixon and Ford -- and former co-chairman of co-chairman of Conservationists for (George H.W.)Bush, says that the current President's record on environmental protection is so dismal that he's voting for John Kerry
"It's almost as if the motto of the administration in power today in Washington is not environmental protection, but polluter protection," Train said. "I find this deeply disturbing."

Life: Going Cheap...

OK, it's a small company and the guy that died was a partner with his brothers in the company founded by his late father.

But $3,100 for a life?
NEW HANOVER, PA -- Officials of Richard H. Bealer Inc. recently reached a settlement with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration after being cited with three violations for a trench collapse in April that killed one worker and injured another.

A settlement of $3,100 was reached during a negotiation meeting Monday between officials of OSHA and Richard H. Bealer Inc., said Leni Uddyback-Sortson, a spokeswoman for OSHA.

Kerry-Edwards: "In memory of my brother..."

Donna Puleio Spadaro received a mailing from the Kerry-Edwards campaign asking whether she had a story that the candidates needed to hear about why the election matters to her.
Turns out Donna did have a story to tell -- about her brother who was killed on the job
Election Day 2004 is the day we call for an end to the “silence” of the very agencies assigned to protect workers from these injustices. We must fight to make workplaces safer. We must toughen laws that make the willful killing of workers a felony not a misdemeanor. The downgrading and abatement of violations until they amount to little more than a meaningless “slap on the wrist” must be stopped. Our country cannot become a low wage economy where safety is ignored and dead workers are an accepted cost of doing business. In memory of my brother, I plan to support Kerry-Edwards in 2004.

What country do you live in?

Now for something a little off-topic.

It seems that Linda Ronstadt was thrown out of the Aladdin casino in Las Vegas on the weekend after dedicating the song "Desparado" to filmmaker Michael Moore and his movie "Fahrenheit 9/11."
That dedication angered some Aladdin guests who spilled drinks, tore down posters and demanded their money back, said casino spokeswoman Sara Gorgon.


A statement issued by the Aladdin said Ronstadt had been "escorted out of the hotel" just after her performance and said the performer would "not be welcomed back."

"Ms. Ronstadt was hired to entertain the guests of the Aladdin, not to espouse political views," the casino said.
Moore sent an open letter to Bill Timmins, President Aladdin Casino and Hotel:
I understand from the news reports I've read that, after Linda Ronstadt, one of America's greatest singers, dedicated a song to me from your stage on Saturday night, you instructed your security guards to remove her from the Aladdin, which they did.

What country do you live in? Last time I checked, Las Vegas is still in the United States. And in the United States, we have something called "The First Amendment." This constitutional right gives everyone here the right to say whatever they want to say. All Americans hold this right as sacred. Many of our young people put on a uniform and risk their lives to defend it. My film is all about asking the questions that should have been asked before those brave soldiers were sent into harms way.

For you to throw Linda Ronstadt off the premises because she dared to say a few words in support of me and my film, is simply stupid and Un-American. Frankly, I have never heard of such a thing happening. I read that you wouldn't even let her go back up to her room at your hotel! Are you crazy? For crying out loud, it was a song DEDICATION! To "Desperado!" Every American loves that song! Sure, some people didn't like the dedication, and that's their right. But neither they nor you have the right to remove her from your building when all she did was exercise her AMERICAN right to speak her mind.

Of all the things that go on in Las Vegas, this is what creates the need for serious action? What about the other half of the crowd at the Aladdin who, according to the Las Vegas Sun, cheered her when she made her remarks? Did you throw them out, too?

I think you owe Ms. Ronstadt an apology. And I have an idea how you can make it up to her -- and to the millions of Americans you have offended. Invite her back and I'll join her in singing "America the Beautiful" on your stage. Then I will show "Fahrenheit 9/11" free of charge to all your guests and anyone else in Las Vegas who wants to see it.

Mr. Timmins, as the song "Desperado" says -- "Come to your senses!" How can you refuse this offer? I await your reply.

Michael Moore
Director, "Fahrenheit 9/11"

UPDATE: The NY Times wonders why Mrs. Ronstadt was eject when it was certain members of the audience who were misbehaving:
Perhaps her praise for Mr. Moore, even at the very end of her show, did ruin the performance for some people. They have a right to voice their disapproval - to express their opinion as Ms. Ronstadt expressed hers and to ask for a refund. But if their intemperate behavior began to worry the management, then they were the ones who should have been thrown out and told never to return, not Ms. Ronstadt, who threatened, after all, only to sing.

Monday, July 19, 2004

I'm Shocked! Refineries use clout to hold off regulators

Maybe this is a reason the Bush administration has been so slow to pass chemical plant security legislation opposed by the chemical industry:
Petroleum is not just the nation's No. 1 source of energy. Refineries are often the lifeblood of their communities. That gives them tremendous clout. With battalions of top-gun lawyers and lobbyists, they have influenced the nation's energy policy and fought regulatory crackdowns on pollution. And their political action committees pump millions of dollars into the coffers of powerful elected leaders in Washington.
Not only do they often provide the only good jobs in the community, but they also give to community groups, schools, church picnics and social functions.

And along with the money they donate to politicians, the petroleum industry has gained considerable clout in Washington D.C., getting the Bush administration to add industry-friendly provisions to the stalled energy bill, getting an executive order that would require "federal agencies, including the EPA, to consider the effect of any new rule on the energy supply and to expedite any energy-related projects," and rolling back rules requiring refineries to upgrade their pollution controls when modernizing the facility. Environmental controls have been blamed for high gas prices, and Republicans are even exploiting the slow employment situation in an attempt to weaken environmental protections:
Last month, the U.S. House approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, that would allow new refineries in areas with high unemployment to bypass some federal and state environmental regulations.

The committee didn't discuss the bill until last week. Barton acknowledged that it was unusual to pass a bill without holding hearings first or having the committee act on it, and he was blasted by Democrats for doing so.

Barton said the nation lacks refining capacity, an urgent problem that needs to be addressed. And he sees the effort as reining in what he calls out-of-control environmentalists.
Oh, and don't forget to follow the money:

The Bush re-election campaign is the prime recipient of oil and gas political donations. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, both former oil-industry executives, have received $2.4 million since 1993.

Barton, whose committee has legislative oversight of the EPA, receives more money from the energy industry than any other member of the House of Representatives.

Commerce Secretary Don Evans was an oil-company executive. Jeffrey Holmstead, a lawyer appointed to oversee the EPA division responsible for air pollution, worked for a law firm that represented utility companies.



Sunday, July 18, 2004

Chris Cox & Tim Russert: Educate Yourselves!

One would think that if you were chairman of the Homeland Security Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, you would know about the status of chemical plant security legislation and how the chemical industry feels about it. But not if you're representative Chris Cox (R-CA).
And you'd think if you were the moderator of NBC's Meet the Press, you'd know when a Congressman is either terribly uninformed or BS-ing you.  But not if you're Tim Russert.
Russert had Cox on Meet the Press today along with Stephen Flynn, author of America the Vulnerable:  How Our Government is Failing to Protect Us From Terrorism. The theme of Flynn's book was summed up in this paragraph that Russert read: 
From water and food supplies; refineries, energy grids, and pipelines; bridges, tunnels, trains, trucks, and cargo containers; to the cyber backbone that underpins the information age in which we live, the measures we have been cobbling together are hardly fit to deter amateur thieves, vandals, and hackers, never mind determined terrorists. 
Russert asked Cox why his committee hasn't moved on chemical plant security, given the seriousness of the problem as layed out in Flynn's book: 
It is crucial that we dramatically improve security of the chemical industry.  Our enemies do not need to smuggle chemical weapons across our borders.  ...Chemical facilities and the thousands of tons of chemicals that move each day around the U.S. on trucks, trains, and barges could be targeted by terrorists to devastating effect.  All told, there are about 15,000 chemical plants, refineries, and other sites in the U.S. that store large quantities of hazardous materials on their property. ...  There are no federal laws that establish minimum security standards at chemical facilities.
After assuring the television audience that "President Bush is very keen on making sure that there are homeland security regulations of chemical plants," Cox went into an incredibly obtuse, eye-glazing monologue about "jurisdictional problems," turf battles, conflicting authorization authority, etc., etc. tjat were holding up the legislation. Russert then asked why Congress couldn't  "set aside these turf fights and jurisdictional elbowing and focus on chemical plants and their security immediately?" and whether it might have something to do with the "$6.5 million in soft money between 2000 and 2002" that had been given to committee members.

Cox responded, incredibly:

This turf problem is near and dear to my heart and I want to address it.  But I want to go back first to the little bullet you had about the chemical industry.  The chemical industry supports, as far as I know, the Markey legislation, the Corzine legislation, what the White House is proposing.  The chemical industry is in support of regulations so that there are standards across the board so that we can protect plants. So to whomever they're donating goes either credit or demerit for that support. 

Now, as anyone half-way familiar with these issues knows, the American Chemical Council spent millions to kill the Corzine bill after it had passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, unanimously, 19-0 last year. According to the National Journal, “Then the council ramped up its opposition arguing that the bill’s regulatory regime was overzealous and so potentially costly that it risked driving American companies out of business. By the time the full Senate took up the bill in September, most of the committee’s Republicans agreed with the industry’s message. The GOP members backtracked on their earlier vote and the measure died.” (National Journal 4/26/03, p. 1310-1311)

The Bush Administration, which was considering having EPA issue chemical security regulations under its existing Clean Air Act authority, then “abandoned efforts to impose tough new security regulations on the chemical industry to protect against possible terrorist attacks, following months of intense internal fighting within the administration and resistance from the industry....The decision marks a victory for major chemical manufacturers who have argued they can improve security without regulatory intervention.”
Corzine's legislation would call on the chemical industry to use inherently safer technologies such as substituting a less hazardous chemical for a more hazardous chemical.  Corzine's bill came partially in response to numerous newspaper reports and a 60 Minutes investigation that showed how easy it is for reporters to roam unmolested around chemical plants that store deadly chemicals capable of wiping out entire cities. A Government Accounting Office study also found that despite government rhetoric, "the extent of security preparedness at U.S. chemical facilities is unknown."

Instead, the administration is supporting a much weaker bill proposed by Senator James Inhoffe (R-OK)that would give all authority for chemical plant security to the Department of Homeland Security and would simply let chemical companies follow voluntary guidelines -- mostly focused on higher fences and more armed guards -- issued by the American Chemistry Council.

All of this must have been much too complicated for Russert and his crack team of researchers (who certainly had not been reading Confined Space) because he then let Cox blather on for a few more minutes about jurisdictional issues and authorization minutiae. Cox was never challenged on the truthfulness of his statement.

Flynn came much closer to the truth when Russert asked him whether he thought the chemical industry wanted regulation:
Well, I think it's when you get down to the nitty-gritty that they want some standards but they're very interested in there being very minimal oversight. There are fears for costs. The chemical industry's under tremendous pressure in the international marketplace to basically stay alive, and they're very fearful that security will cost a lot.
And his book lays out some of the political background:
Part of the problem is because the private sector owns and operates so much of this material.  And the pervasive wisdom is that the market should take care of itself.  But this is a very difficult thing for the market to do by itself. It needs standards, and it needs to know they're uniformly enforced, so the good guys aren't at a competitive disadvantage for people who pay footloose and fancy free.  That requires a government capacity to set requirements with private sector and partnership and to have the means to provide oversight that we really don't have much capability in right now to deal with.
We all know that politicians will lie, distort, divert and obfuscate when asked an uncomfortable questions, but it's hard to know how the American public is supposed to inform itself about these life-and-death issues when the "toughest" moderator of the country's supposedly premiere political television program can't even bother to study the facts.

Weekly Toll

Mechanic crushed to death at yard

A Fort Lauderdale man died Saturday when a front-end loader that he was repairing fell off its jack and crushed him.

Myron Niedzwiecki, 50, owned A-1 Mobile Tire Service, which changed tires on large vehicles like 18-wheelers, front-end loaders and farm tractors.

Niedzwiecki was working underneath the vehicle when it slipped and killed him instantly, said Bill Bamford, spokesman for the Davie Police Department.

Investigators look into worker's death

MARYSVILLE, MI -- The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the Thursday death of a worker at Huntsman Corp.

Allen Edward Frederick, 51, of Port Huron was crushed about 2 p.m. by a gate as he rode on a motorized railcar in the northeast corner of the company's property, Marysville Police Chief Mark Thorner said. It appears the wind blew the gate partially closed, pinning Frederick between the fence and the railcar, he said.

"It's just one of those freak accidents where if you take one thing out of the equation, this accident doesn't happen," Thorner said Friday.

Worker dies after machine accident

CALHOUN, Tenn. — A longtime employee at the Bowater newsprint plant died yesterday from injuries suffered when a machine was turned on while he was cleaning it, the plant's resident manager said.

Plant vice president and resident manager Roger Loney said Carl Chastain, 47, was fatally injured about 7:50 a.m. while cleaning a chip screen.

Loney said Bowater emergency workers responded and Chastain was taken to a hospital in Cleveland.

Loney said the chip screen is cleaned daily, and the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration would help investigate how it got turned on.

Toledo man killed at Wal-Mart construction building site in Portage

A construction worker who died Thursday from injuries sustained at the Wal-Mart building site in Portage has been identified as Ryan Tack, 18, of Toledo, Ohio.

Tack was employed by Lamar Construction of Holland, which is working on the project on Shaver Road. Portage police identified Tack on Friday. He was injured when a steel roof truss that was standing on the ground tipped over onto the midsection of his body.

"He was preparing to move the beam when it somehow fell," said Portage Fire Chief Randolph Lawton. More here.

Worker Killed in Tractor Accident

MARION, OH -- John Price, 58, 264 Uncapher Ave., was killed between 10 a.m. and noon at Ohio Heartland Community Action Center, said Marc Comianos, Marion County Coroner. He died almost immediately. Robert Jordan, executive director of Goodwill Industries, Price's employer, found the body between 4-5 p.m. that day. Price was a 17-year employee with Goodwill Industries, and did independent contract work for the community center at 1183 Bellefontaine Ave.

Comianos said Price was thrown from the tractor when he hit a 15-foot-long, 4-by-4 piece of wood in the field and fell beneath the pull-behind Bush-Hog style mower. It is unknown where the piece of wood came from, according to police reports. And there is no indication that there were any witnesses to the incident.

Millersburg worker dies in freak shop accident

MILLERSBURG, OR — An accident at a small Millersburg shop Wednesday killed the business's sole employee, investigators said.

Casey Stewart, 20, was operating a high-pressure hydraulic press at Oregon Livestock Equipment, 1410 Old Salem Road, when a hydraulic fitting exploded off the press, hitting him in the chest, according to Linn County Sheriff Dave Burright.

Mercer man dies in accident at Bright Leaf treatment plant

HARRODSBURG, ky - Keith Casey, 53, of Mercer Avenue, died Thursday morning in an accident while he was working on the sewage treatment plant that serves his neighborhood in Bright Leaf Estates subdivision.

Casey had sprayed weeds to kill them and was putting gravel on the space using a small front-end loader, a Mustang Model 2204, that had been rented for the job.

Catlett said Casey was familiar with the equipment, having used it several times. He was putting down gravel over a 6-foot fence in a narrow area. The loader would not fit in the area where the gravel needed to be placed. After dropping the gravel, Casey would have gotten off the loader and spread the gravel with a rake or similar tool. The loader was sitting on an incline, and that led to the accident, Catlett said.

"It's my opinion that after he dropped the load of gravel, he had the shovel fully extended," Catlett said. "As soon as the rock left the shovel, (the loader) slid down the incline with the bucket extended. The bucket broke the top strand of barbed wire, slid down the incline and did a backwards flip and landed upside down."

Catlett said Casey was using all of the safety equipment on the machine, including a seat belt and a roll bar, but something went wrong with the seat. "The latch which held the seat came loose," he said. "It sprung like a mousetrap and pressed him to the front of the thing. ... He should have been hanging upside down held by the bar and the belt, but the seat let go."

OSHA probes port death

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration has begun the investigation into Tuesday’s accident that claimed the life of Stevedoring Services of America employee Roson Simmons.

Simmons died as a result of multiple trauma when he was crushed by rolls of paper, each weighing 1,000 pounds, as he worked at the docks of the S.C. Ports Authority Tuesday afternoon, Georgetown County Coroner Kenny Johnson said.

He said Simmons and three other men were helping to get the round bales of paper from a forklift to a harness when three of the four rolls on the machine fell. More here.

Worker Dies at Hanford

The Department of Energy says a worker at Hanford died in an accident late Thursday afternoon. The D.O.E. hasn't released the man's name yet. A spokeperson says the worker fell off an office trailer being moved on the 200 East area. The D.O.E. says it has launched a "Type-A" investigation, the highest kind of safety inquiry.

Worker Dies While Clearing Trees From Power Lines

Fairfax, Va. (AP) - Fairfax County police say a worker was killed Wednesday night while trying to clear trees from power lines.

Authorities say 56-year-old Bobby Hill of D.C. was clearing the lines about 10 o'clock in the 7,200 block of Barry Road in the Kingstowne area, when one of the trees fell and struck him in the upper body.

He was taken to the Inova Springfield Healthplex, where he was pronounced dead.

Hill was employed by the Asplundh Tree Expert Company - a contractor for Dominion Virginia Power.

Worker's death was electrocution

HAMILTON - A 46-year-old worker was electrocuted at a job site, the Butler County coroner has ruled, even though the wire he touched was not high voltage.

Dr. Richard P. Burkhardt on Wednesday said Daniel Anderson of Barnesville, in southeastern Ohio, died because he was wearing wet, muddy boots that helped electricity pass through his body as he handled an electrical wire.

About 6:30 p.m. Monday, Anderson and two fellow employees of Mid-Ohio Pipeline Co. Inc. of Lexington, Ohio, were working on Fort Hamilton Hospital's new intensive-care unit just north of the hospital on Eaton Avenue.

One of the workers knocked down an overhead wire with a forklift. Anderson, thinking the wire was a harmless cable TV line, began coiling up the wire, Burkhardt said.

"The current went through his left arm to his feet," Burkhardt said. During an autopsy Tuesday, Burkhardt found telltale signs of electrocution: an electrical burn on Anderson's left arm and tiny broken blood vessels in his feet.

Asphyxiation was cause of construction worker's death

A 34-year-old construction worker died from asphyxiation, an autopsy concluded Tuesday.

Glen W. Wilkins, of Benton, KY, died Monday afternoon while working on a sewer line for a new subdivision off Wiswell Road. A crew was digging the sewer line and in the process of making a man hole fell from a steel beam approximately 20 feet in the air.

Driver dies at mine

ELKO, NV - Dave Miller, 43, was killed at the Mineral Ridge Mine when his water truck went out of control, becoming the first mining fatality in Nevada this year.

Miller was killed on June 29, and U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration's initial report states that Miller apparently lost control of the water truck as it was traveling down a grade.

"He either attempted to exit the cab or was ejected and was fatally injured," MSHA states.

According to MSHA's Web site, Miller's death is the first for Nevada this year and the 12th death nationwide in the metals and nonmetals mining industries. There have been 14 fatalities in coal mining.

Worker hit by truck door dies

GREECE, NY — A construction worker died Monday after he was struck by the door of a truck at a work site at Greece Arcadia High School, 120 Island Cottage Road. Police did not release the man's name.

The man had just finished loading a compactor-type truck around 10:46 a.m. and was talking to the driver when the driver pulled away from the construction site, Officer Jim Leary said.

The 10- to 12-foot-high door swung out and hit the man, he said. The man suffered a significant head injury and was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital, where he died.

Construction worker dies in on-site accident

Austin, TX -- A construction worker died after falling from the roof of a garage early Sunday morning. The accident happened on the 10000 block of Courtney Way in West Travis County.

There were other construction workers at the site, but investigators believe the man was the only one who was working on the garage.

"We have a shell of a garage -- just the studs and the rafts are the only party of the structure and the concrete floor. He was in the process of putting a roof up. He was up on the shell of the roof and fell," Roger Wade, with the Travis County Sheriff's Office, said.

Valley construction worker dies after falling from roof

Opelika, AL -- A 54-year-old Valley man was killed this morning when he fell more than 25 feet from a roof construction site.

East Alabama Medical Center paramedics arrived at the West Point-Stevens plant around 10:00 a-m.

They found that Randall Wallace Pitchford, an employee of High Tech Roofing of Lanett had fallen after he apparently stepped onto a section of tin roof that was NOT supported.

Danbury man dies from fall off house

RIDGEFIELD, CT — The scaffolding along the right corner of this new home construction in Ridgefield apparently gave away, sending a worker falling to his death. A 45-year-old Danbury man died Friday when he fell from the second-floor scaffolding he was working on. Police said Jiri Hladky of Park Avenue, a roofer working on a construction site of upscale homes off Route 35, died of massive trauma.

Trench Collapse

Benton County, IA -- Construction worker Stacey Kusel of Elberon was the man who died yesterday after a trench collapsed around him.

Authorities say three men were in the 9-foot-deep hole when the it caved in. Two of the workers got out on their own. And rescuers did manage to get Kusel out, but he later died at a Cedar Rapids hospital.

State OSHA investigators were in Mount Auburn this morning interviewing people and looking at the trench. They say it could be months before they determine if any safety rules were violated. Regardless, working in trenches, or rescuing people from the can be very dangerous.

Captain Mike Fredericks is an expert in trench rescue techniques. He says nationally more than 100 workers die every year in trench collapses because they don't follow state OSHA regulations.

Fredericks says any trench over five feet deep must have a protective system or shield. He says once a trench collapses, it's much more likely a second collapse will occur. Rescuers must put in a protective device before attempting to get the victim out.

Worker killed in construction accident

Onalaska, WI -- George A. Gilbert Jr., a 52-year-old construction worker from the town of Campbell, died Wednesday morning after part of a basement wall collapsed, at an Onalaska home where an addition was being built.

"The ground was definitely saturated" from recent rainfall, which may have been a factor in the wall's collapse, Steers said. The wall collapsed outward, into an excavated area, he said.

Construction workers were in an excavated hole next to the limestone basement wall when the wall collapsed, pinning the victim under the wall, according to an Onalaska Police Department press release. Update here.

By the book, Company says safety rules were being followed at the time of employee's death, expresses 'hurt' and 'sorrow' at his loss

MUSCATINE, Iowa - A Union Tank Car representative said Wednesday that routine air safety tests made inside an empty railroad tank car showed no signs of depleted oxygen nor high flammability or toxicity levels before a fatal accident at the plant.

An autopsy was scheduled to be performed by a state medical examiner Wednesday on Union Tank Car employee and Columbus Junction resident Jeffrey Paetz to determine a cause of death, the company official said.

Paetz, 36, was found by a co-worker inside a tank car at the company's Muscatine Railcar Maintenance and Coating Shop, 2603 Industrial Connector Road, around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. According to company officials, he was working alone inside the car at the time of the accident.

Reno city worker killed in tree-cutting accident

A city of Reno tree maintenance worker fell 20 feet to his death Wednesday while removing a dead tree at Jones Street and Riverside Drive, officials said.

Scott McCall, 42, of Sparks, was pronounced dead in the Washoe Medical Center trauma center about 50 minutes after the 8 a.m. fall near the Truckee River, city spokesman Steve Frady said.

Witnesses said McCall, a 17-year city employee, was sawing a large branch from the elevated bucket of a truck. Two other employees were holding ropes tied to the limb.

When the limb became stuck and pinched the saw, the workers tugged on the branch to pull it away from the saw and the bucket, Frady said.

The branch struck the bucket, bouncing McCall several feet and out of the bucket. He hit the limb and fell to Riverside Drive, suffering injuries to his chest, Frady said.

Flag man on roadway dies when van hits him

A flag worker was killed Tuesday west of Boynton Beach when he was struck and killed by a minivan.

Vincent Berrick, 39, of North Lauderdale, was flagging motorists in the northbound lanes of Military Trail near Palm Gate Drive about 2 p.m. when a northbound minivan hit him, according to Palm Beach County sheriff's reports.

Two workers stricken, die in manhole

A federal investigation is under way into the deaths of two Berks County sewer workers who were stricken while working in a manhole in Newtown a week ago today. Robert P. Hampton, 43, of Leesport, died last Saturday an Bryn Mawr Hospital. Larry Dunning, 60, of Barto, died last Friday at Riddle Memorial Hospital.

Accident claims city worker

Roxboro, NC -- A City of Roxboro employee died Friday afternoon from injuries he sustained in a work-related accident.

Michael Wayne Ladd, 40, of 320 Johnny Palmer Rd. was dead when emergency authorities arrived on the scene of the accident behind the City of Roxboro Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is off of Cavel-Chub Lake Road.

"He was operating a street sweeper and got caught between the tailgate and the hopper," Roxboro Assistant City Manager Tommy Warren said. "He was behind the wastewater treatment plant. We have a place back there where we dump all the leaves and limbs that we collect."

Industrial plant blast kills 1, injures 1 in Pampa

PAMPA, TX -- An explosion killed one worker and injured at least one more at an industrial plant in the Panhandle today, officials said.

There was no immediate word on what caused the explosion and fire at Titan Specialties in Pampa, Gray County Sheriff Don Copeland said.

Karen Standefer, a Titan employee, died in the blast about 7:30 a.m., Copeland said. He said another employee, Merry Jenkins, suffered severe burns and was airlifted to a Lubbock hospital. She remained in critical condition Tuesday afternoon.

Public Utility Worker Electrocuted

A Mt. Carmel, IL public utility company worker is dead, and his partner is in a Louisville hospital Tuesday.

Both were working about two o'clock Tuesday morning trying to get power back on for the Mt. Carmel area. Forty-five-year-old Rick Henson was apparently electrocuted when he came in contact with a live power line. Fifty-year-old Kenny Kiefer was seriously hurt in the accident and rushed to a Louisville hospital.

Riders' helper killed in fall at Elk River rodeo

A horse-drawn hearse will carry Randy Tribitt to his final resting place on Friday, a cowboy funeral for a man whose habits were incongruous with the modern age.

A rodeo worker for more than two decades, Randy Tribitt died Sunday when a bucking bronco toppled his horse and sent him crashing face-first to the hard-packed dirt of an Elk River arena floor. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Airport construction fatality still under investigation

Gertie Mae Fennell will bury her 52-year-old son today.

"I'm going to miss him," she said. "He was a good child."

Nathaniel Fennell died July 1 while working on the south west perimeter road at the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. He was employed by R.B. Baker Construction Inc., a company he had been with for several years. He was working in a manhole at the time of the incident.

A fellow construction worker, Johney Ellison, followed Fennell into the confined space to try to help him. His condition is unknown. Ellison had been listed in critical condition last week.

Fennell is the second person to have died while under the employment of R.B. Baker Construction Inc., according to OSHA records.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Screeners' Health, Dignity Suffers Along With Air Safety

Just heard a radio commercial today offering a bright career with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) -- airport security. After reading this upsetting article, it doesn't sound nearly as attractive:
On any given day, federal workers who screen passengers and luggage at the nation's airports stand a good chance of being berated by bosses, harassed on the job, injured while lugging heavy bags, ordered to work extra hours or cheated on their pay.

In Seattle, a screener received a letter of admonishment for this offense: "Hands in uniform pants pockets." A Denver screener says a supervisor repeatedly called him "boy" — and explained it away by saying that where he is from, that's what blacks are called. A Los Angeles screener injured his arm lifting a passenger's bag that held not clothes or toiletries but a small engine block.

Some screeners struggle to stay awake while trying to spot weapons in grainy X-ray images. Some get distracted by managers prowling for petty infractions. Some have been fired by mistake, victims of bureaucratic bungling.

Morale has suffered, and with it, security.

Since the 1970s, the federal government has linked working conditions for screeners with public safety. Time and again, audits have blamed failure to detect guns, knives or bombs on low pay, high turnover, insufficient training and a kind of thankless work that combines tedium with stress.
And then there are health and safety problems, including those mysterious non-existant ergonomics problems:
TSA employees get hurt or sick more than any other federal employees, suffering back, shoulder and knee injuries, pulled muscles, tendinitis, and cuts and puncture wounds from sharp objects tucked in luggage.

In the fiscal year that ended last September, nearly one in five TSA employees sought workers' compensation, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Overall, 4.2 percent of federal workers suffered work-related injuries or illness. TSA's percentage was 19.4 — nearly five times as high, topping Park Service employees and federal marshals.

Even worse numbers loom. This fiscal year, one in four TSA workers will get sick or injured, according to an OSHA projection using first-quarter statistics.

Those numbers also create a cycle: the more workers out sick or hurt, the greater the strain on those who remain, causing fatigue and more injuries.
Without question, more physical labor is demanded of the typical TSA employee than, say, a financial analyst for the Office of Management and Budget. In fact, Hatfield said, TSA's injury rate isn't much higher than United Parcel Service's.

But many screeners attribute TSA's injury rate to insufficient training and inadequate safety equipment. They want, for example, more training on lifting heavy objects, and gloves that resist punctures.

Screeners say they regularly lift bags weighing 70 pounds or more. TSA tells screeners to get help with bags heavier than 40 pounds and warns that not doing so could jeopardize workers' compensation claims. But because of staffing shortages, screeners say, help is hard to come by.

In Los Angeles, screener Obed Quintero said he hurt his back lifting heavy bags and went on workers' compensation for seven months. When his compensation stopped, Quintero said, he asked for light duty. But the TSA couldn't find him a position, Quintero said, and let him go.

"I did an excellent job," he said. "It's kind of a shame, because what we were doing was very important."
You read things like this and all I can do is laugh (even though it isn't funny) when I think about the people you run into who say "Yes, unions were once needed -- a long time ago -- but not today:

At TSA, screeners say, it doesn't take much to run afoul of the rules and of certain supervisors.

Socks must be black (supervisors can conduct sock checks, ordering screeners to lift their pant legs), and ink must be blue (former Albany, N.Y., supervisor Todd Grandy says a boss "had a conniption" when he used a green pen to make checkmarks on a form).

Some managers dictate posture, ordering screeners to keep their hands out of their pockets or to stand at parade rest — hands clasped behind back, feet a foot apart — as though in the military.

In Portland, Ore., screeners could not take breaks in the concourse areas unless they wore coats over their uniforms and were there to buy a meal. (A cup of coffee, they were told, would not suffice.) The policy was rescinded only after screeners pointed out how much they spent at airport restaurants.

Many screeners interviewed by The Times complained of inexperienced supervisors, leadership by intimidation, and promotions based on favoritism (at least two security directors have lost their jobs over nepotism charges).

Most screeners requested anonymity for fear of being fired. But with few exceptions, The Times was able to obtain corroboration from documents or other screeners.

Unfortunately, TSA is part of the Department of Homeland Security which took away the right to TSA employees to bargain collectively. (It's all part of the new "It's necessary to destroy democracy in order to save it" program).

Across the country, many screeners have reached out to unions, members of Congress and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Although TSA forbids screeners to bargain collectively, about 700 employees have joined the American Federation of Government Employees, seeking help with lawsuits, discrimination complaints and better working conditions.

"There is no effective safety valve at TSA," said Peter Winch, a national organizer for the union. "There is no good way to raise concerns about the way you're being treated."
I guess this all must be what Under Secretary Admiral James M. Loy means when he writes that
Nothing is more important to the ability of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to achieve our mission than its employees. As we build the programs and infrastructure necessary to accomplish our critical mission we must commit to building a model workplace in which we embrace the best employment ideals and practices. Such a workplace will be based on mutual respect fairness open communication and cooperation. It will celebrate diversity and the contributions of all members of the TSA workforce and will provide an environment in which all TSA employees can do their best. There will be zero tolerance of harassment discrimination intimidation or workplace violence.

DuPont: Hiding Worker Injury

DuPont just can't seem to catch a break these days. Last week the Environmental Protection Agency accuses the company of failing for two decades to report possible health and environmental problems linked to a key ingredient used in making Teflon. Now OSHA is citing the chemical company for not reporting a workplace injury, a practice that DuPont has been cited for before:
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration said Monday that it cited DuPont de Nemours & Company Inc. for failing to report an on-site injury at its Niagara Falls plant last November.

OSHA said a worker at the plant received medical treatment and missed one month of work after inhaling chlorine gas.

Though the agency did not levy a fine against the company, DuPont contested the violation, OSHA said.

The penalty comes after a National Labor Relations Board ruled against the company for refusing to provide its workers' union with information about where hazardous chemicals had been spilled or contaminated an area. DuPont allegedly stopped union health inspectors from examining the plant in 2002.

NIOSH: Hanford Employees Vaporized

According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation continue to pay the price for cleaning up after the mess made during the Cold War. The Hanford workers are empying underground tanks containing 53 million gallons of radioactive and dangerous chemical waste.

NIOSH has released a report

stating that there is "a potential for significant occupational exposures and health effects from vapors released from the hazardous waste-storage tanks," and that "vapor constituents may be present at sufficiently high concentrations to pose a health risk to workers."
The report also found that "that chemical monitoring was insufficient and conducted in arbitrary locations, and that samples were sometimes collected hours after a vapor exposure had occurred. "

You may recall that the Washington Post and Government Accountability Project investigation and a Department of Energy study found similar problems at Hanford.

The institute's report, released yesterday, was applauded by workers and watchdog groups who said it provides added vindication for their allegations that tank workers were being made sick.

"They found what we've been saying, that (the contractor) can do a much better job protecting us," said Steve Lewis, an electrician who has worked at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation for more than a decade and says he was injured by tank vapors.

I will post a link to the NIOSH report when I find it.

Update: And here it is.