Monday, October 31, 2005

Alito, Worker Protections and the Environment

In an attempt to take the media's mind of their runaway Scooter (not to mention Harriet, Katrina and Iraq) and to shore up his last remaining political stronghold -- the ultra conservative religious right-wing -- President Bush today ignored my suggestion to find a Hispanic John Roberts in drag and wasted no time in nominating Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

Generally thought to be to the right of both Rehnquist and Scalia (hence the nickname, Scalito), Alito's record seems assured to incite major partisan warfare, possibly culminating in a filibuster and the long-feared "nuclear option."

Most of the discussion about Alito will focus on how he will respond to a challenge of Roe v. Wade, but as everyone from David Sirota to the National Association of Manufacturers agrees, the real business of the Court is business. And, here at Confined Space, as always, we want to know what a Scalito nomination means for workplace protections, OSHA and the environment. Alito doesn't seem to have many decisions directly bearing on the OSHAct (or on environmental laws), but indications from other decisions indicate that workers and the environment may be in big trouble if he is confirmed.

Alito hasn't worked in the private sector, so we don't know as well as with John Roberts or Harriet Miers to what extent he sold his soul to corporate America. He has been on the court for 15 years, however, so we have a pretty good idea of where he comes down on a number of issues -- and he can't claim that he was just representing his clients.

On the whole, according to (long, technical) papers put together by the Alliance for Justice and People for the American Way, many of Alito's decisions, if upheld, would have placed impossible burdens on victims of race and sex discrimination who are attempting to prove their claims.
Specifically, according to Think Progress:
ALITO WOULD ALLOW RACE-BASED DISCRIMINATION: Alito dissented from a decision in favor of a Marriott Hotel manager who said she had been discriminated against on the basis of race. The majority explained that Alito would have protected racist employers by “immuniz[ing] an employer from the reach of Title VII if the employer’s belief that it had selected the ‘best’ candidate was the result of conscious racial bias.” [Bray v. Marriott Hotels, 1997]

ALITO WOULD ALLOW DISABILITY-BASED DISCRIMINATION: In Nathanson v. Medical College of Pennsylvania, the majority said the standard for proving disability-based discrimination articulated in Alito’s dissent was so restrictive that “few if any…cases would survive summary judgment.” [Nathanson v. Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1991]
Alito's record also seems to put the Family Medical Leave Act in jeopardy. According to Angry Bear, Alito found
that the FMLA was unconstitutional because there was no evidence for the notion that women are disadvantaged in the workplace when they are not allowed to take family leave. Furthermore, he argued, the requirement that everyone be guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid family leave was a disproportionately strong remedy:

Notably absent [from the FMLA] is any finding concerning the existence, much less the prevalence, in public employment of personal sick leave practices that amounted to intentional gender discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

...Moreover, even if there were relevant findings or evidence, the FMLA provisions at issue here would not be congruent or proportional.
A Supreme Court opinion, authored by William Rehnquist, overturned Alitos' ruling, finding it deeply flawed. Rehnquist
cited the extensive evidence that was presented during the debate about the FMLA in Congress, and that clearly documented the pervasive discrimination implicit in unregulated family leave policies. Furthermore, Rehnquist argued that the FMLA was an entirely appropriate remedy to this subtle form of discrimination.
Most troubling, however, is Alito's identification with the theories espoused by the so-called "Constitution in Exile" group (which I've written about here, here, and here) which argues that the most important rights are economic rights, particularly the right to property, and anything that take away those rights -- such as environmental or workplace safety laws -- are, or should be, unconstitutional.

And I quoted University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein, warning that "many decisions of the Federal Communications Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and possibly the National Labor Relations Board would be unconstitutional."

As the New Republic's Jeffrey Rosen wrote earlier this year (subscription required),
What should be far more troubling to Senate Democrats, however, is Alito's 1996 dissent from a decision upholding the constitutionality of a federal law prohibiting the possession of machine guns. Applying the logic of the Constitution in Exile for all it's worth, Alito insisted that the private possession of machine guns was not an economic activity, and there was no empirical evidence that private gun possession increased violent crime in a way that substantially affected commerce--therefore, Congress has no right to regulate it. Alito's colleagues criticized him for requiring "Congress or the Executive to play Show and Tell with the federal courts at the peril of invalidation of a Congressional statute." His lack of deference to Congress is unsettling.
Alito's ruling in this case even caused some conservatives to do a double-take:
Broad interpretations both of federalism and the Interstate Commerce Clause are considered the heart of a vast number of civil rights laws, discrimination laws and worker protections. And the fact that Alito, in the medical leave case, took a more conservative view of congressional power than even Rehnquist should give pause to liberals, said Eric Maltz, of Rutgers University School of Law.

Maltz said the machine gun case involves a far more conservative position than that of Roberts, whose views of interstate commerce became controversial because of an opinion involving California toads.

"Toads aren't part of interstate commerce, but machine guns are," said Maltz, himself a conservative. "I think liberal interest groups should really worry about that."
And how far is it from "no empirical evidence that private gun possession increased violent crime in a way that substantially affected commerce" to "no empirical evidence that deaths and injuries in the workplace increase medical costs that substantially affect commerce," particularly considering that even Rehnquist was highly critical of Alito's attention to the evidence in his decision about the FMLA?

Regarding environmental issues, Earthjustice has found a decision by Alito, and guess what, it's bad. Alito attempted to make it more difficult to hold polluters accountable when they fouled water supplies:
In Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) v. Magnesium Elektron (MEI), Judge Alito joined in a 2-1 ruling gutting citizens' access to courts under the Clean Water Act. Although the Act authorizes "any citizen" to bring a "civil enforcement action" against alleged polluters, the Third Circuit ruling declared that PIRG did not have standing to sue because it had not demonstrated that MEI's pollution resulted in serious harm to the environment (reversing a rare $2.6 million fine handed down by the trial court for MEI's violations of the Act). The majority concluded that the Constitution denied Congress the authority to pass a law allowing citizens access to courts in these circumstances. Three years later, the Supreme Court essentially reversed and rejected Judge Alito's analysis, ruling (in a 7-2 decision over a heated dissent by Justice Scalia) that "the relevant showing... is not injury to the environment, but injury to the plaintiff." (Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw)
It's hard to tell how the politics of this nomination will play out -- especially concerning labor and business issues -- but it's already entering at least one 2006 Senatorial race. Sherrod Brown, who is running against Ohio Republican Senator (and Senate Judiciary Committee member)Mike DeWine
voiced disappointment with Bush’s Supreme Court pick. If he were a Judiciary Committee member, like DeWine, Brown said, he would want to know more about Alito’s positions on worker rights and the environment.
To sum up, this is serious stuff. To quote myself earlier this year:
What does all of this mean for the rapidly approaching national struggle over Bush's court nominations and the filibuster battle that will accompany it? It means that we need to make the American people know what's at stake -- nothing less than the advances ths society has made over the past 100 years. Not just the fate of legal abortion, but also the fate of workplace safety, the environment, minimum wage laws, consumer wage laws, the 8-hour day, child labor prohibitions -- in other words, issues that strike at the very heart of 20th and 21st century American values.

Much more on Scalito's Anti-Worker record at Nathan Newman.

For more information about Alito, check out these websites:

People for the American Way
Alliance for Justice
American Constitution Society
Think Progress Supreme Court Page
The day's Top 10 most astute Alito observations

Happy Halloween

My kids. Aren't they lovely?

Terminator to Labor Movement: Wah, Wah, Wah

This is almost funny. As recent polls show that none of Arnold's initiatives are winning, the Governor throws a hissy fit:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger painted a grim picture of California's political culture, accusing Democrats and "union bosses" of reflexively blocking government reform and caring more about bringing down the governor than solving the state's problems.

"I want to move things forward, and to them, it works like - they want to destroy me," Schwarzenegger said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. "It's a self-serving government that's all about them rather than serving the people, and it's wrong."

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Controversy Over BP Panel

The independent panel commissioned by BP to look into the safety culture that caused the March 23 explosion that killed 15 workers at BP's Texas City plant continues to be controversial.

Former Secretary of State James Baker III who heads the panel insists that the panel will be independent and that the told BP Chairman John Browne,
‘You’d better expect an aggressive investigation that will let the chips fall where they may,’” Baker said.

He recalled Browne answering that he would expect nothing less.
Others are a bit more skeptical
“I do not believe you can accurately use the word ‘independent’ in its truest definition to describe this panel hired by BP,” said Allan R. Jamail, an official with Pipefitters Local 211, which represents about 30 BP employees.

“This is BP’s own investigative panel bought and paid for by BP,” he said. “And from what I can see, it looks like about the best panel BP’s money can buy.”

BP is paying for the panel as required by its agreement with the safety board. Panel members will receive $100,000 each for their work, and the company will cover all expenses.
A local USW member was more critical:

"(Baker) may be good at fixing elections, but fixing problems in a refinery? I am not so sure,” the high-ranking union leader said, referring to Baker’s role in representing President George W. Bush during the 2000 election ballot recounts in Florida. “I think most of us look at this panel as a joke. I hope I am wrong, but I don’t have much confidence in what this panel will find."
USW Health and Safety Director Mike Wright is witholding judgment until the panel issues its final report:
“The proof of the panel will be in the final report it offers,” Wright said. “We very much want (the panel members) to hear from us.

“But our judgment will be reserved for what the panel says in its report.”


The USW has been critical of BP, saying it placed too much blame on employees and not enough focus on faulty equipment and lack of management oversight in safety issues.

Much of its effort has been directed at urging BP to rehire three union members who were fired in connection with the incident that led to the fatal blasts.

Wright said the union was encouraged that Irv Rosenthal, the former CSB board member who is a senior fellow at the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Process Center, had been selected to join the panel. Rosenthal had been working with the USW on the union’s investigation into the March 23 incident.

In addition, The Daily News confirmed that the head of the USW’s Triangle of Prevention safety program and a former Texas City Amoco employee, Glenn Erwin, will be named to the 11-member panel. Erwin has been critical of BP’s lack of recognizing past problems and doing little to fix of even investigate them.

He has also taken the company to task for not doing a good enough job following up on near-miss incidents that often are precursors to major events.

Another Deadly "Accident." Who Would Have Thought That Pesticides Are Bad For You?

What do these words have in common: homicide, suicide, genocide, pesticide?

Yes, they all end in "cide," the latin word for "killing."

Which is why University of Washington Professor (and former Washington State OSHA Director) Michael Silverstein is a bit perplexed about the pesticide "accident" that killed a woman in Florence, Oregon.
Florence Kolbeck, 76, of Florence died "most likely from a cardiac arrhythmia associated with non-lethal levels of the pyrethroid insecticide," according to the autopsy.

The death was ruled accidental, which closes the criminal investigation, a Florence police spokeswoman said Thursday.

The Department of Agriculture and Department of Human Services may complete its investigation by early December, said Agriculture spokesman Bruce Pokarney.

Kolbeck, who had heart disease, died a few hours after her home was sprayed June 29 by a technician with Swanson's Pest Management of Eugene.

"The level of insecticide in the home was not a toxic level," deputy medical examiner Lynn Walter said. "But it was a level sufficient enough to cause respiratory distress and irritation. That led to an arrhythmia, which led to the cause of death."(emphasis added)
Mike notes that this is the same type of logic used to label a trench collapse a "freak accident" despite the fact that numerous safety standards were violated.
The part I love is the medical examiner’s statement that “the level of insecticide in the home was not a toxic level…But it was a level sufficient enough to cause respiratory distress and irritation. That led to an arrhythmia, which led to the cause of death.” I guess that means something like sufficiently non-toxic to accidentally send your lungs and heart to the cleaners. No wonder the employer “couldn’t draw any conclusion.” At least he does “feel terrible the lady died.”
Moral of the story: Pesticides are bad. Some are less bad than others, but they are designed to kill undesirable critters, and most also have ill effects on humans. Given the well-recognized fact that humans have variable susceptibilities to toxic materials depending on their age, health situation, allergic sensitivities, etc, the effects can be worse on some than on others -- even deadly.

These facts shouldn't be a surprise to pesticide applicators or their employers. And this was an "accident" only in the same sense that most workplace deaths and injuries are the result of accidents. They may not be "intentional," but they're also not unforeseeable.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Cell Phones Kill

Well, not the phones as much as the towers. Actually, not the towers themselves, but falling from the towers(paid subscription):
In 2000, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said between 1992 and 1997, nearly 100 workers died from falls and other injuries related to tower construction. Sixteen tower-construction workers died on the job in 2003, according to an OSHA official.

NIOSH estimated at that time the risk for fatal injuries among telecom tower workers ranges from 49 to 468 injury-related deaths per 100,000 employees, compared with about five deaths per 100,000 employees in all other U.S. industries. The reason for the wide spread in the estimate, according to NIOSH, is difficulty in identifying the number of employees involved in building and maintaining telecom towers.
Nine tower-related deaths have occurred in the North Carolina in recent years. And despite objections from the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE), the state has issued potentially precedent-setting telecom tower standard which includes a fall-protection provision.

NATE objected to the 100-percent fall-protection requirement, arguing that it was too onerous on small businesses subcontracted by large tower companies and mobile-phone carriers.

Another problem for NATE was the number of employees with rescue training that needed to be on site. The state had originally argued that two employees with rescue training needed to be onsite because many of the towers are located in remote locales-where there is a lack of equipment and expertise to deal with tower emergencies in a timely manner. The state compromised with a requirement that one employee with traning was needed as long as another was trained within 6 month. NATE wanted a year to add another trained employee.

Federal OSHA is reported to be also looking at the possibility of issuing a similar standard.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Better News From California On Paycheck Protection Deception

Good news from north to south, coast to coast lately:

Jonathan Tasini points us to some good poll news from California. After consistently looking like it would pass by a comfortable margin, support for Proposition 75, a Schwarzenegger-backed initiative that would require government employee unions to give prior notice to members before using dues on political activity, seems to be slipping to the point where it is currently tied.

The poll, conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California has the yes and no votes tied at 46% each. In fact, all of the Schwarzenegger-backed initiatives are losing, including the teacher tenure initiative that I wrote about last week.

All in all, things are looking rather bleak for the Governator according to the LA Times:
For a governor whose public image is the driving force in the election, the survey also found broader trouble: Just 38% of likely voters gave him positive job ratings, a steep drop from a year ago. The poll was the first independent measurement of public opinion since the full engagement of campaign advertising began.

The big questions to be answered in the campaign's final stretch are whether Schwarzenegger can quickly revive his popularity — or get large groups of voters to overlook their disapproval of him and back at least one of his four ballot measures, said pollster Mark Baldassare of the policy institute.

"That's really the challenge," he said.

Earlier polls had found Schwarzenegger's best chance was Proposition 75, which could weaken his labor adversaries in Sacramento by requiring public-employee unions to get written permission from members each year before spending their dues on campaigns.

But amid a raging television ad battle over the measure, support for it has slid to 46% of likely voters, down from 58% in August, with 46% now opposed. The tight race — and the political power at stake for labor and its Democratic allies — makes Proposition 75 a central fight of the campaign's closing days.

On Thursday, unions began airing a new television ad saying the measure would stifle public workers "but not Arnold's corporate donors," an effort to build on prior criticism of Schwarzenegger's fundraising. It also stresses that union members already have the right to keep their dues from being spent on campaigns.

"Put the brakes on Arnold's sneaky power play," the ad says.

Schwarzenegger and his business allies have spent heavily on ads showing public workers saying Proposition 75 would protect them from having their union dues spent against their will on political campaigns they disagree with. Those ads are aimed, in part, at encouraging union members to buck their leadership and back the measure.

But the new poll found that 62% of union members or those with immediate family in a union opposed the measure.

Related Articles

The Politics Behind The Davis Bacon Wage Reversal

Harold Meyerson enlightens us a bit about why Republican moderates joined Congressman George Miller (D-CA) to pressure the President into lifting the suspension of Davis-Bacon wage supports for Gulf Workers earlier this week:
Earlier this week, the leaders of their hitherto-raison-d’etre-less alliance, the Republican Mainstream Partnership, told Andy Card that they could not support the president’s suspension of the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, which guarantees the payment of prevailing wages on federally-funded construction jobs, for post-Katrina reconstruction efforts. On Wednesday, the administration announced that it would end that suspension on November 8.

The moderates’ hand was forced by George Miller, the veteran San Francisco Democrat, who had uncovered an obscure parliamentary provision that enables congressmen to force a vote on rescinding statutes that a president suspends. With the unified support of the Democratic caucus, Miller had done just that, and Congress would have had to vote on the week of November 7 on his bill rescinding Bush’s action. The maneuver solidified Miller’s standing as a worthy successor to his long-ago mentor, the late San Francisco Congressman Phil Burton, by common consent the most effective liberal legislator of the past half-century.

Miller’s motion put Republican moderates in a bind. Disproportionately hailing from such states as New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio, they still represent sizable numbers of union members. Worse yet, those union members most likely to vote for them come disproportionately from the (still mainly white, male) building trades -- the very unions Bush’s order was intended to hurt. A number of these members are frequently endorsed by the building trades locals in their districts, and the prospect of the trades on the warpath against them in 2006 was one they were eager to avoid. “Why pick this fight?” New York Republican Peter King wondered aloud in The New York Times.
The Wall St. Journal, on the other hand, was not at all pleased with the spectre of Republican moderates standing up to their President:
We're told yesterday's decision to reinstate Davis-Bacon in the affected Gulf states on November 8 came after a meeting last week between Chief of Staff Andrew Card and about 20 Republican Congressmen from union-heavy districts. The move can only increase the cost and slow the pace of reconstruction. And as an act of unprincipled political calculation it ranks right up there with the decision to impose tariffs on imported steel during Mr. Bush's first term.

MI Governor Tells Ergo Foes To Stick It Up Their Carpal Tunnel

The battle over ergonomics continues in the Great Lakes State state.

The Bureau of National Affairs (paid subscription) reports that Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has determined that a ban on funding the promulgation of an ergonomics standard that was included in Michigan's labor appropriation is "unenforceable."
Because the language is unenforceable, "you don't have to act on it," Granholm's spokesman Greg Bird said, and the governor is letting Michigan's occupational safety and health agency continue work on developing a standard.

The labor appropriation--which was signed by Granholm Sept. 29--included language that said "no funds shall be used to support the development of, or activities that promote the development of, guidelines, rules, standards, protocols, or other similar mandates that are more stringent than federal voluntary ergonomics guidelines." The language does not prohibit work on voluntary ergonomics standards.

"The governor felt that section of boilerplate language is unenforceable," said Bird. The ergonomics ban attempts to amend the bill improperly through amendment by reference, he explained.
When the legislature passed the ban earlier this month, some observers speculated that Granholm was caving in due to falling popularity ratings.

The Michigan chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business has vowed to continue to fight the regulation and is supporting additional legislation.

Trench Collapses: Rescue is Good, Prevention is Better

This seems like good news:
Dave Trzcianka, chief of the Baden Volunteer Fire Department, was tired of crews waiting for backup when helping victims at trench and building collapses and other rescue sites.


Trzcianka said Beaver County fire and rescue workers often must rely on help from the city of Pittsburgh or farther away when facing a difficult accident. By training the three departments, Trzcianka said rescuers should be able to reach any Beaver County accident within 30 minutes.
The problem is that for trench collapses, 30 minutes is likely to be about a half hour too late. According to
A cube of soil measuring 1 ft. on a side weighs around 100 lb. A cubic yard of soil contains 27 of these, or 2700 lbs. total. This weighs about as much as a mid-sized automobile. A trench wall collapse might contain 3 to 5 cubic yards of soil, weighing from 8,000 to 14,000 lbs.

A person buried under only a couple of feet of soil would experience enough pressure on the chest area to prevent their lungs from expanding. Suffocation would take place within about 3 minutes. Even if the person is rescued in time, the heavy soil loads are likely to inflict serious internal injuries. A person buried in earth as high as his diaphragm, would not be able to dig himself out, and his chances of survival are low. If the face is even partially covered, death is almost certain.
It might be better for the county to make an extra effort to make sure that construction companies use trench boxes and other means to prevent the collapses in the first place.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

BP Could Have Prevented Explosion That Killed 15

The March 23 explosion at the BP Amoco Texas City Refinery that killed 15 workers and injured 170 could have been prevented if the refinery had installed a flare system years before, as OSHA had recommended, and heeded past warnings.

The isomerization unit, a gasoline octane booster that exploded, should not have been started up on March 23, according to the Chemical Safety Board (CSB), because of a history of problems and a malfunctioning level indicator, level alarm, and a control valve. In addition, the raffinate splitter tower that overflowed on March 23 had a history of abnormal startups that included recurrent high liquid levels and pressures. BP management was aware of these incidents and malfunctioning equipment, but had never acted on that knowledge.

The Board held a hearing in Texas City this evening. According to CSB Lead Investigator Don Holmstrom
"The first rule of oil refinery safety is to keep the flammable, hazardous materials inside piping and equipment. A properly designed and sized knockout drum and flare system would have safely contained the liquids and burned off the flammable vapors, preventing a release to the atmosphere." Mr. Holmstrom said investigators found evidence that BP evaluated connecting the raffinate splitter to a flare system in 2002 but ultimately decided against it. After the March 2005 incident, BP said it would eliminate blowdown stacks that vent directly to the atmosphere at all U.S. refineries.

Investigators presented new details on the 16 previous startups of the raffinate splitter from 2000 onward. They found eight startups with tower pressures of at least double the normal value, and thirteen startups with excess liquid levels. These abnormal startups were not investigated by BP. "Investigations of these incidents could have resulted in improvements in tower design, instrumentation, procedures, and controls," Mr. Holmstrom stated.

In his presentation, Mr. Holmstrom said that there was no supervisor with appropriate experience overseeing the startup at a critical time on March 23. Operators did not follow the requirements of startup procedures, including opening the level control valve for the splitter tower. This omission allowed the tower level to rise rapidly for three hours, to fifteen times its normal level. Operators were misled by the malfunctioning level indicator on the tower and a separate high-level alarm which failed to activate. The training and experience of the operators remains under investigation.

Investigators stated that a variety of equipment problems made it unsafe to start up the raffinate splitter on March 23. "Proper working order of key process instrumentation was not checked as required by the startup procedure. Managers turned away technicians and signed off on the instrument tests as if they had been done," Mr. Holmstrom said. Investigators also found that BP's traffic policy allowed vehicles unrestricted access near process units. On the day of the incident, there were running vehicles including a diesel pickup truck as close as 25 feet from the blowdown drum. A total of 55 vehicles were located in the vicinity of the drum, investigators determined, and one likely served as the ignition source for the explosions.
Earlier this week, the CSB issued an "urgent recommendation" to the American Petrleum Institute and the National Petroleum Refiners Association, calling on them to revise their guidelines to prohibit unsafe siting of office trailers. Most of the workers who died in the explosion were in a temporary office trailer only 100 to 150 feet away from the vent stack that exploded.

As a result of the March 23 explosion and other incidents at BP refineries, the Board issued the first "urgent recommendation" in the Board's history last August, calling on BP to establish an independent panel to review a range of safety management and culture issues in its North American operations. BP announced the panel's members earlier this week.

More on the CSB report and meeting here and here.

More BP stories here.

Bush Picks Perfect Supreme Court Candidate

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Juanita Robérts.

She not only shares many important qualifications of recent successful SCOTUS nominees, but she avoids these “problem areas” defined by the White House:

  • No litmus test on religion or abortion. (Litmus quizzes, however, are OK)
  • No judicial activist. (It's not considered “activist” to overturn laws or reverse previous court decisions addressing workplace safety, the environment, disability, civil rights, women’s right to choose, homosexuality, presidential powers, freedom of the press, the right to life, right to die, right to organize, right to strike, right to sue, right to legal representation, right to privacy, separation of church and state, or the way we choose the President.)
  • No one working in the area bounded by Constitution Ave, 15th St., I St and 17th St. K St., on the other hand, is just fine.
  • Must be fluid in Reddish (That’s a language used to secretly communicate certain “signals” to Bush’s right-wing religious base, without Democrats or the liberal press being able to understand them.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bush Surrenders: Restores Davis Bacon Wage Protections For Gulf Workers

It's so rare that I get a chance to report good political news that my fingers almost don't know what to do.

The Bush administration has rescinded the suspension of the Davis Bacon act for Gulf Coast recovery workers, forcing employers who receive federal funding to once again pay the prevailing wage.

Let's hear from the instigator of this coup, California Congressman George Miller who put not only figured out a way to challenge the administration's wage cut for Gulf Coast recovery workers, but also managed to collect the support of 37 Republicans to join with a solid Democratic caucus to force Bush's hand.

This is from Miller's press release:
WASHINGTON, DC -- Bowing to pressure from a united Democratic front, a small group of members of his own party, the religious community, and the labor movement, President Bush announced today he would reverse the decision he made in September to remove wage protections for construction workers in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.

After Katrina, the President suspended the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, which requires federal contractors to pay at least the prevailing wage to construction workers in a local area. The president’s action, which was widely denounced, followed requests from right-wing activists and Republican members of Congress who exploited Katrina to achieve a long-sought ideological agenda item.

“President Bush finally realized that his Gulf Coast wage cut was a bad idea that hurt the workers and their families affected by Katrina,” said Miller. “But let me be clear – the President is backing down today only because he had no other choice.

“The President’s wage cut was just another example of his incompetence as a leader in a time of crisis and of his constant need reward the private agenda’s of his special special-interest friends rather than attend to the needs of all the people affected by this storm.”
As I wrote last week, Congressman George Miller (D-CA), the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, led the effort in the House to force Bush to rescind his Gulf Coast wage cut. Miller forced the surrender by using an little known parliamentary procedure to introduce a resolution to restore Bush’s Gulf Coast pay cut. Under the law, the House would have been required to vote on Miller’s resolution no later than Nov. 4—a vote many observers believed workers would have won, according to the AFL-CIO and other Congressional observers. In addition to Miller's action, the labor movement generated 350,000 e-mails and letters to Congress.

The move came after reports of union workers in Louisiana being replaced by low-wage workers, some undocumented immigrants from Texas, stories of horrendous working conditions and cheating immigrant workers out of their pay.

The administration denied surrendering to the inevitable and said they had planned to rescind the suspension all along:
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan disputed the notion that Bush was reversing himself.

"We always said it was a temporary waiver," he said. "This is similar to the precedent set by Hurricane Andrew, which is also a temporary waiver."

In a prepared statement, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao described the suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act as part of "an administration-wide effort to remove as many barriers as possible to aid the recovery efforts in the impacted areas." She gave no reason for lifting the suspension.

The construction industry and Conservatives saw the decision as another example of the Bush administration turning its back on conservative pro-business principles:
The decision was a rare victory for organized labor during George W. Bush's presidency. It was a defeat for traditional Bush allies, including the construction industry and conservatives in Congress. Yesterday, both groups said the president's reversal would inflate the cost of reconstruction.

"It's the kind of thing that shows they're turning their backs on the things that Ronald Reagan and those who built this party care deeply about," said Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.)

"Certain special interests and their allies in Congress are more concerned about reinstating this wasteful and outdated act than they are with fairly and expeditiously reconstructing the devastated areas," M. Kirk Pickerel, chief executive of Associated Builders and Contractors, said in a written statement.
Good point. If I were them I'd never vote for another Republican.

Wal-Mart Says Discrimination Good For Business

Just as the Beast of Bentonville was threatening to turn into a beauty with a new health care plan, environmental consciousness and pressing Congress to raise the minimum wage, their true nature comes through:
An internal memo sent to sent to Wal-Mart's board of directors proposes numerous ways to hold down spending on health care and other benefits while seeking to minimize damage to the retailer's reputation. Among the recommendations are hiring more part-time workers and discouraging unhealthy people from working at Wal-Mart.

In the memorandum, M. Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart's executive vice president for benefits, also recommends reducing 401(k) contributions and wooing younger, and presumably healthier, workers by offering education benefits. The memo voices concern that workers with seven years' seniority earn more than workers with one year's seniority, but are no more productive.

To discourage unhealthy job applicants, Ms. Chambers suggests that Wal-Mart arrange for "all jobs to include some physical activity (e.g., all cashiers do some cart-gathering)."
At least Wal-Mart recognizes that it has problems:
Acknowledging that Wal-Mart has image problems, Ms. Chambers wrote: "Wal-Mart's critics can easily exploit some aspects of our benefits offering to make their case; in other words, our critics are correct in some of their observations. Specifically, our coverage is expensive for low-income families, and Wal-Mart has a significant percentage of associates and their children on public assistance."

Her memo stated that 5 percent of Wal-Mart's workers were on Medicaid, compared with 4 percent for other national employers. She said that Wal-Mart spent $1.5 billion a year on health insurance, which amounts to $2,660 per insured worker.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

James Baker To Head BP Explosion Panel

More events resulting from the catastrophic explosion at BP Texas City last March that killed 15 workers and injured 170.

First, in response to a recent "urgent recommendation" from the Chemical Safety Board, BP yesterday announced the composition of its independent panel that will review a range of safety management and culture issues in its North American operations.

The panel will be headed by former Secretary of State James Baker III -- yes, the same James Baker who likes to boast "I fixed the election in Florida for George Bush." The rest of the panel is composed of industry experts, public service officials, as well as a representative of the United Steelworkers, the union that represents workers at the plant. Despite Baker, the union member on the board along with a few truly independent experts should ensure that "uncomfortable" issues are addressed by the panel in a public forum.

As Baker's lawfirm has in the past done work for BP, Baker is attempting to shield himself from any hint of conflict of interest
Both the Houston law firm and public policy institute that bear Baker's name have financial ties to BP, and Baker and his wife, Susan, sold 675 shares of BP stock as he agreed to oversee the panel.

Baker, a senior partner at the Baker Botts law firm founded by his grandfather, was White House chief of staff and treasury secretary in the Reagan administration and secretary of state in the first Bush administration.

Baker Botts has represented BP, accounting for less than 1 percent of the firm's revenues over the past five years, the law firm said. It also noted that Baker has not been personally involved in any BP legal matters.

Baker is also honorary chairman of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, but takes no salary for his role. The institute has received $215,000 since 1993 for its charitable activities from BP and Amoco, which merged in 1998.
Despite these actions, Baker sounded a tad defensive about defending his reputation (assuming he still has a reputation left to preserve after Florida and other escapades.)
"I'm determined that this is going to be a transparent operation," Baker said Monday. "Anybody that thinks that I would jeopardize a public service career, such as I have had ... to go in the tank for something like this, I don't think they understand how important one's reputation is."
Yeah, yeah. Sorry Jimbo, you can whine and cry and protest, but you can't get your virginity back again.

Other panel participants are less controversial, although one wonders what expertise some have to sit on the panel. They include: Retired Admiral Skip Bowman, former Director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion; Slade Gorton, former Senator and member of the 9/11 Commission; Dennis Hendershot, a chemical engineer who has more than 30 years of experience in chemical process research and development; Dr. Nancy Leveson, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Professor of Engineering Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.); Ms. Sharon Priest, the first woman elected as Arkansas Secretary of State, and former president of the National Association for Secretaries of State (and her qualifications would be....?); Dr. Isadore “Irv” Rosenthal, a former board member of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board; Dr. Paul V. Tebo, a retired Dupont vice president; Dr. Douglas Wiegmann, a senior associate consultant and clinical research scholar within the Division of Cardiovascular Surgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, an expert in the field of human factor analysis and a former investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board; and Duane Wilson, a retired vice president, Refining, Marketing, Supply and Transportation-Fuels Technology for ConocoPhillips. Each member will receive $100,000.

Last month, OSHA fined the company $21.3 million for the accident. BP, which blamed the accident on "management failures and employee mistakes," plans to issue its own final report on the explosion by next month. The independent panel has been asked to complete its work within a year and to make its recommendations public.

More BP stories here.

Location, Location, Location: New Chem Board BP Explosion Recommendation

The US Chemical Safety Board has issued another "urgent" recommendation related to the BP Texas City explosoin that killed 15 workers. The recommendations called for the safer placement of trailers for workers at petrochemical facilities throughout the U.S.
The Board directed the urgent recommendations to two leading national trade organizations, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), which represent most major domestic oil and petrochemical producers. API develops recommended safety practices that influence operations at thousands of petrochemical facilities around the country.

The first recommendation calls on API to develop new industry guidance "to ensure the safe placement of occupied trailers and similar temporary structures away from hazardous areas of process plants." The Board noted that the existing safety guidance, API Recommended Practice 752, does not prohibit the placement of trailers in close proximity to hazardous process units. The guidance, entitled "Management of Hazards Associated with Location of Process Plant Buildings," is widely used by U.S. oil and chemical companies to assess siting hazards, a regulatory requirement under OSHA's Process Safety Management standard.


A separate urgent recommendation, directed jointly to API and NPRA, called on the organizations to immediately contact their members urging "prompt action to ensure the safe placement of occupied trailers away from hazardous areas of process plants," before the new API safety guidance is completed.
Most of the workers who died in the explosion were in a temporary office trailer only 100 to 150 feet away from the vent stack that exploded.

The API and NPRA seemed to react favorably to the recommendations, although the proof will be in the proverbial pudding:
"There are currently no government regulations or industry standards for establishing minimum safe distances from hazardous areas for buildings within refineries," said Ray Connolly, spokesman for the API.

Nonetheless, "An API task force will consider developing new industry guidance to assist companies in the safe placement of trailers located within process plants."

Sharon Dey, spokeswoman for the NPRA, said that the group's 450 members were contacted about the CSB's recommendation by this afternoon.

"The CSB is respected and taken seriously in this industry," she said. "But I have to believe that many of them (members) are already doing this. There is no higher priority for our people than to ensure the safety of their workers and their contractors."

Short Stops: Blogs To Check Out

Wal-Mart's New Health Plan

Wal-Mart has a new health care plan that it says is affordable for its employees. Workers Comp Insider says WalMart's new health care plan needs to be watched carefully. UFCW says don't bother and Wal-Mart is morally corrupt as well. Meanwhile, Nathan Newman leads us to a NY Times article showing how Wal-Mart "is saving money by forcing more employees into part-time work without benefits and discriminating against the unhealthy and disabled."

Iraq: 2000 And Counting....

As long as we're writing about people who get killed just doing their jobs, head over to My DD to find out why its a mistake to focus only on the 2,000 American military who have now been killed in Iraq.

Improved Productivity Kills

Mick Arran says that downsizing and increased productivity is a
recipe for human disaster—social disruption, health problems and higher medical costs (as if they weren’t high enough already), civic failure (who’s got time to be a citizen when they’re working 80 hrs a week and trying to take care of their familes the rest of the time?), and increased danger from products that have been tested or inspected or even made by exhausted workers. The Good News is that some workers are finally fighting back.
Strike Blog

Laddy at My DD points out that the Sutter Health Care workers have been on strike for 40 days now, and they have their own blog. And on a health and safety note, the blog points out that the scabs don't even know how to dispose of syringes safely. (Hat tip Majikthise)

Extension Cords From Hell. Photo At Eleven

I keep forgetting to mention a neat little webpage called Safety Photo which manages to come up with fascinating photos of safety hazards almost every day.

Today's photo continues my recent theme of why violations of OSHA standards that address the misuse of extension cords are not trivial.

Head over there and check it out. Click on the photo for a truly scary enlargement.

Someone In Mississippi Appreciates OSHA

I wrote last week about an absurd letter in the Mississippi Clarion Ledger entitled "Don't let OSHA delay work crews from hurricane clean-up."

Apparently I wasn't the only one who thought the guy was full of crap. Here's a letter that appeared in today's Clarion Ledger.

OSHA regulations save lives in state

I read with dismay the letter from Mike Reese ("Don't let OSHA delay work crews from hurricane clean-up," Oct. 14).

Mr. Reese's comments regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reflect either naivete or a clear lack of understanding of the purpose and mission of OSHA.

In a state such as Mississippi where no Department of Labor exists, thanks to our Legislature, the only agency left to monitor and safeguard the workplace is OSHA. Its office is located in Jackson and is staffed not with bureaucratic busybodies, but with dedicated hard-working individuals who work long hours for civil service pay and often in an unappreciated environment.

The work of OSHA in Mississippi, in all probability, saves countless lives.

Anyone working for a responsible employer performing storm clean-up would have been furnished a hard hat and safety equipment.

A description of Mr. Reese's work certainly seemed to warrant such equipment.

Safety in the workplace is just as important today as it was a hundred years ago and in the state of Mississippi only the Occupational Safety and Health Administration stands between employers and serious or fatal injuries to employees.

Roger K. Doolittle
Roger that.

California Union Members: Not Deceived By Payroll Deception Campaign

California's public employees are apparently not stupid.

As you may know, Proposition 75, Payroll Protection Deception, one of the upcoming initiatives in California, would choke off the political influence of California's public employee unions by forcing them to get the written approval of each member before spending dues money on political campaigns -- even though public employees already have the option to pay only lower "agency fees" that would not go to politics.

Well surprise, surprise, the Los Angeles Times reports that there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of union support for the measure.
Out of more than 1 million union members who would be affected by the measure, only 181 have publicly endorsed it.

The absence of union members within the Campaign for Paycheck Protection is striking because its advocates say that one-third to one-half of union households favor the measure.
Hmm, gosh, could that be because...
"If you look at the folks who are making the major contributions, they are all very right-wing, very conservative folks, none that I can see who have ever been in a labor union," said Lou Paulson, president of the California Firefighters Assn.

Campaign finance records show that 73% of the nearly $4.9 million raised by the proposition's advocates so far has come from nine sources, including wealthy bankers and business executives who favor private school vouchers and conservative activism; the California Republican Party; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and an association of engineers and land surveyors that is a frequent adversary of the Caltrans engineers union.
Public employee unions have been a major political force in the state, and have been winning campaigns against Governor Schwarzenegger's attempts to dismantle the state's public employee pension system, delay implementation of nurse-patient staffing ratios and delay teacher tenure and contributed to the Governator's steep drop in popularity -- which is why the business community is suddenly so interested in "protecting" the interests public employees. If only the public employees would cooperate in their own protection.

The reason more public employees aren't streaming into their campaign, according to Prop. 75 supporters is that they're intimidated by their unions. But even there, their rather unconvincing. The initiative's sponsor, anti-tax activist Lewis K. Uhler, claimed that his son, a teacher, had been intimidated out of participating in a "Yes on 75" advertisement. His son denies that intimidation has anything to do with it.

In fact, most of the public employees who seem to be publicly supporting the campaign are those who are already "fee payers" or those who are Republicans with political ambitions.

Unfortunately, Proposition 75 seems to be winning, despite the fact that business interests heavily outspend labor in political campaigns:
And while Schwarzenegger has criticized labor for spending lavishly on political campaigns and buying clout in Sacramento, business interests outspend unions considerably in California politics.

Last year, for example, business groups -- ranging from agriculture to energy companies -- spent a combined $46.6 million on candidates for statewide offices and the Legislature, according to the Montana-based Institute on Money in State Politics.

Labor spent about $12.5 million, according to the institute, which tracks political spending in all 50 states. In 2002, business contributed $117 million, compared to labor's $36 million.
California's unions, however, have a counterattack up their sleeves:
The unions are increasingly talking about a ballot proposition of their own as early as next year that would require stockholders of corporations to approve expenditures for political purposes. That would be a mirror image of this year's Proposition 75, which would require union members to annually approve of the expenditure of a portion of their dues for political campaigns. If the unions lose the Prop. 75 battle -- an increasingly likely scenario -- they may turn the tables and try to apply the same logic to corporations.
What effect that would have on corporate contributions is unclear, as corporate executives make up a major portion of corporate contributions. On the other hand, the Chamber of Commerce opposes it, so it must have some virtue.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Corporate Corruption Of Science: They Can't Help It -- The System Makes Them Do It

In the United States alone in 2002, a total of 139 million workers suffered “5500 fatal work injuries, 4.4 million nonfatal injuries . . . 294,500 illnesses . . . [and] estimates suggest that occupational disease deaths exceed 55,000 per year.”
The result of "isolated and unique failures of science, the government, or industry to protect the best interest of the public," the proverbial few rotten apples in the barrel?

Not even close -- the entire barrel is rotten argues David Egilman and Susanna Rankin Bohme in the current edition of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health

The theme of the issue is corporate corruption of science: how corporations influence science and the effects that influence has on environmental and occupational health.
In other words, the current economic and political system (both in the United states and in the global context) privileges corporate actors and actually provides incentives for the production of injury and disease rather than its prevention. This metaphorical barrel produces diseasebecause political, economic, regulatory, and ideological norms prioritize values of wealth and profit over human health and environmental well-being
And the problem, according to Egilman and friends, is not the evil employer or corrupt corporation, it's the system that's based on Milton Friedman’s 1970 directive, that “the [only] social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.”
The corporation is an entity whose main purpose is to generate profit for its stockholders. The imperative to reduce costs means keeping wages low, minimizing investment in environmentally-friendly technologies, resisting regulation by the state, and failing to implement “voluntary” safety and health standards. In the global economy, the mandate to maximize profit leads corporations into a seemingly unending “race to the bottom,” where transnational corporations shop for the nations with the lowest occupational and environmental standards
What all this means, of course, is that corporations need to control science:
Science is important to corporations, public health professionals, and the public. It is the yardstick for measuring the health risks of corporate products and processes, and is depended upon by politicians, consumers, and workers to make decisions about what is a “reasonable” risk to citizens, to themselves, to the environment, and to society at large. Corporations have much at stake when the safety of their products is put to scientific test, and spend hundreds of billions on research each year worldwide.
The authors don't just curse the bad guys, they also attempt to come up with solutions. In short they advocate a
broad agenda that has as its goal the mobilization of a populace through the articulation of concerns about corporate-funded science and the presentation of alternatives in a manner that resonates with people’s own concerns, interests, and issues.

Occupational and environmental health offers an ideal platform from which to address wider social and economic inequities on a national and international basis. Many people experience first- or second-hand the serious effects of ill health. Those who are healthy can be moved by an understanding that their health or the health of their children may be at risk.
Well, I could go on an summarize the entire issue for you, but I'm tired and I'd just be enabling you to depend on me -- when, thanks to the good folks at IJOEM, you can read it all on the web yourself. Get ye there, or better yet, subscribe.

UPDATE: Slingshot has written a bit more about the report.

Workplace Safety Gone To The Dogs

Much of New Orleans is a swampy toxic soup, recovery workers risk electrocution, asphyxiation in confined spaces, mold, communicable diseases, exposure to leaking and explosive chemicals, injuries from collapsing buildings and falling objects, as well as normal construction hazards. But there's one group of hazards that hasn't been addressed -- until now. The National Instititute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has issued a new publication: Interim Guidance on Health and Safety Hazards When Working with Displaced Domestic Animals.

Animal bites and scratches, rabies, heavy lifting, animal allergens, pesticide exposure (from tick and flea treatments), and, of course, noise ("Excessive noise levels that damage hearing may be generated by large numbers of crated, barking animals in enclosed spaces or loud equipment" See NIOSH Noise Fact Sheet for more info.)

One health and safety expert (who shall remain anonymous due to potential threats from animal lovers) suggested that many of these hazards can be minimized by just shooting that damn mutts -- with tranquilizers, that is.

What with OSHA's recent pathbreaking Alliance with the International Society of Canine Cosmetologists, I'd say we've got the animal hazard area pretty much wrapped up.

Now on to those pesky falls, trench collapses, communicable diseases and chemical standards.

MSHA Nominee Stickler: High Risk For Miners?

Last month, President Bush nominated Richard Stickler to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The National Mining Association applauded the nomination, saying that Stickler “clearly has a great deal of experience with mine safety and health."

The problem, according to the United Mineworkers, is that most of that experience is bad.

In fact, while Sticker was a mine manager prior to his appointment in 1997 as Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Deep Mine Safety, the mines he managed had injury rates that were double the national average, according to government data assembled by the Mineworkers.
The data was collected in a letter from formerUMWA Safety Director Joe Main in a letter to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge objecting to Stickler's appointment to the Bureau
In his letter, Main said UMW officials examined the safety records of the two Bethlehem Steel operations that Stickler managed. Stickler was manager of the company’s Cambria Slope Mine No. 33 near Ebensburg, Pa., from 1989 to mid-1994. He was manager of Bethlehem’s Eagle’s Nest Mine near Van, Boone County, from 1994 through 1996.

Main wrote that the Cambria mine “had a deplorable health and safety record (one of the worst in Pennsylvania) during the time that Stickler managed the mine.”

While Stickler was mine manager at Eagle’s Nest, Main wrote, federal officials targeted the mine for the most serious enforcement action allowed under the nation’s mine safety laws.

He wrote that the two mines had injury and accident rates that were double the national average in six of the eight years that the union reviewed.

Also, Main wrote, both operations were cited for hundreds of mine safety violations in each of the years that Stickler managed them.

He said the figures indicate “a very poor compliance record.”

“These figures would rank Stickler’s operations among the highest cited in the country,” Main wrote. “Collectively over the eight-year period, the federal government issued nearly 3,000 citations and closure orders at mines that Mr. Stickler managed.”

“I found this information on Mr. Stickler’s background very alarming,” Main wrote. “Not only has Stickler’s focus been solely on productivity and cost, but it appears that management at his mines allowed miners to be placed at a very high risk while he worked toward his focused goals.

“How could such a person with this clear pattern of high violations and high accidents even be considered for such an important health and safety position?
The Charleston Gazette, which found the letter, says that Stickler has declined to be interviewed and the White House has not yet responded to questions from the paper.

Bush clearly thinks that the Stick-man did a heck of a job in his past jobs. Sounds like Stickler's confirmation hearings could be interesting, assuming the Senators feel like taking seriously their "advise and consent" role in these post-Brownie times.

Silly OSHA Citations

I wrote a story last week about Jancoa Janitorial Services, a (not so) small business that was featured in Business Week as a victim of arbitrary and vicious OSHA inspectors who had fined the company $9,000 (later reduced to $5,000) for "two extension cord violations."

The main point of the article was that the legal costs of fighting such an OSHA violation exceeded the cost of just paying the damn fine, and wouldn't it make sense to pass a law forcing OSHA to reimburse attorney's fees for small businesses when they win an appeal.

But the underlying, unsaid message was that OSHA citations for "extension cord violations" are a good example of how OSHA harrasses honest small business owners for silly, trivial, unimportant "safety" violations that are barely more significant than the size of toilet seats when they clearly don't have the resources to comply with OSHA's "labyrinthine" regulations.

Then I ran across this today:
Companies Fined by OSHA

By Dana Willhoit
The Ledger

LAKELAND, FL -- Two local companies have been cited and fined by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration in the onthe-job deaths of men killed in two electrocution accidents in September 2004.


At Zephyr Egg Co. in north Lakeland in September 2004, Santiago Gomez of Dade City died when the metal cart he and another employee were pushing struck a hanging power cord, according to Polk sheriff's spokeswoman Carrie Rodgers.

The cord was operating industrial fans, Rodgers said.

Zephyr was cited for violations including:
  • Having a flexible power cord, providing power to a fan, substituted for the permanent wiring of the building.
  • Having that flexible power cord not energized from an appropriate outlet.
  • Not having the flexible cord protected from accidental damage.
Zephyr was fined $14,700 in the incident.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Weekly Toll

A partial list of the roughly two-hundred American workers killed on the job over the past two weeks.

A Bly logger died Thursday in an accident on a Bonanza-area road.

Klamath Falls, OR -- Bryant Daniel Myers, 18, was run over by a piece of logging equipment he was riding on, known as a skidder, after falling off the running board.

Myers died shortly after the ambulance arrived on logging road No. 215 off Keno Springs Road where the accident happened, according to a press release from the Klamath County Sheriff's Office.

Myers was probably riding the skidder from the logging site to a fuel truck when the accident occurred, authorities said.

OSHA probes death of Ingleside plant worker

INGLESIDE, TX — Federal regulators are looking into the death of a plant employee who died after falling at work.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was called after the death Saturday at Kiewit Offshore Services, authorities said. Details about the man's death, his name and age were not immediately available.

Owner Killed and Three Others Shot in Barbershop

Fort George, NY - An owner of a barbershop in Upper Manhattan was killed yesterday afternoon when a disgruntled former owner of the shop walked in and shot him and three other men, the police said. The gunman, identified by the police as Eddy Espinal, 40, was arrested around the corner from the shop, which is on St. Nicholas Avenue near West 189th Street in Fort George, after a passing police officer saw him running away. Officers found a long-barreled pistol that he had tossed under a car, the police said. Last night, he was charged with second-degree murder, assault and criminal possession of a weapon, the police said. The man who was killed, identified by a co-worker as Ernesto Filpo, 25, was struck four times - in the shoulder, thigh, leg and back; he was pronounced dead a short time later at NewYork- Presbyterian Hospital, the police said. The other owner, identified by the police as Rodney, Franklin 31, was shot in the stomach and was listed in critical condition at the same hospital. Mr. Rodney is the father of four children, ranging in age from 4 months to 4 years, said the co-worker, Fran Rosario.

Convenience Store Worker Dies From Injuries

EVANSVILLE, Ind. - An Indiana convenience store clerk has died from gunshot wounds she suffered during a robbery. Police say 56-year-old Georgia Cook of Evansville, Indiana was shot during a robbery last Thursday, committed by a woman who remains at large. Cook died yesterday at Saint Mary's Medical Center where she'd been in critical condition since the shooting. Cook was working last Thursday afternoon when the woman came into the Busler's store on the city's north side and fired at least four shots. The gunwoman then walked outside with her hand over her purse and drove north on U-S 41 in a gray, four-door car. She was described as being between 45 and 60 years of age.

Employee at gas station struck and killed by newspaper truck

WOBURN, Mass. Police in Woburn (WOO'-bern) are investigating an accident that claimed the life of a gas station employee. Fifty-year-old Bonnie Gallagher of Woburn was struck and killed by a Boston Globe delivery truck shortly before 6 a-m at the Getty station, which had not yet opened for business. Police say Gallagher was crouching to check the fuel level of an underground storage tank when she was struck. Police identified the driver of the truck as 58-year-old James Lasoff of Newton. The incident is still under investigation and no charges have been filed.

Farmer killed by lion forgot to lock cage

CAMP CADIZ, Ill., Oct. 14 (UPI) -- A report on the death of an Illinois farmer killed by a caged lion found his own carelessness caused the tragedy. Al Abell apparently decided to clean the lion's cage in February 2004 while his wife, Kathie, was out running errands, the Chicago Tribune reported Friday. An investigator said Abell may have felt over-confident around the lion, a 5-year-old male named Simba, because the couple had raised it from infancy. As required by law, Simba had both a large cage and a smaller enclosure to be used when the main cage was being cleaned. Guidelines say two people should move an animal, but Abell moved Simba by himself and then forgot to lock the shift cage. When Kathie Abell returned home, she discovered the lion out of its cage and her husband missing. She summoned police, who decided they had no choice but to shoot the animal, and then she discovered her husband's body. The exhibition farm, Cougar Bluff, passed an inspection only a few weeks before Abell's death.

Authorities Identify Truck Driver Killed In Lake Tulloch Accident

Sonora, CA -- Authorities have identified the driver of the truck that plunged into Tulloch Reservoir Friday afternoon. Police say 48-year-old Larry Swehla was driving to Yuba City on O'Byrnes Ferry Road when the truck fell off the Lake Tulloch Bridge and into about 40 feet of water. The accident prompted closure of the road for several hours as rescuers and dive teams attempted to get Swehla out of the truck's cab. Crews were able to hoist the truck from the water and extricate Swehla's body from the truck late Friday afternoon. Swehla was an employee of Boblitt Trucking out of Sacramento.

Deli worker slain by customer

BREWERYTOWN, PA - deli employee bled to death yesterday afternoon after an angry customer threw him into a plate-glass window, puncturing the man's neck. Witnesses told police that the argument started with a dispute about how to make a sandwich. Neighbors said the victim was Emanuel Oliver, 52, a native of the Dominican Republic. He was working as a cook at the Community Food Market, 29th and Oxford streets, and lived above the store.

QC man, 20, fatally stabbed, Death of town employee mourned

Queen Creek, AZ - When sirens shattered the silence early Sunday morning, Oct. 2, most residents in the Combs area of Queen Creek thought another car accident was to blame. But they were stunned to learn that a lifelong resident and Town of Queen Creek employee had been stabbed to death, at the Chevron station owned by the Gantzel family at 25 W. Ocotillo Road, at Ironwood Road. Ramon Munguia Ramon, 20, an active volunteer in the community, had been fatally wounded in the left chest. He was later pronounced dead at a convenience store four miles away.

Neighbors Remember Man as a Generous Friend

LAKELAND, FL - Eliceo Orona, 34, died Monday when he was crushed by a toppled forklift. Residents at the Plantation Community Apartments Tuesday night continued their after-work ritual of gathering outside to shoot the breeze, searching the apartment's entrance gate one last time for a man who they said made the ritual complete -- 34-year-old Eliceo "Eli" Orona. "He would be coming through that gate right now," said resident Christa Honors, shortly after 5 p.m Tuesday. Orona, who lived at the 515 Bon Air St. complex, died Monday afternoon when a forklift he was operating tipped over and crushed him. Orona -- a staff worker for Hands On Staffing, Inc. -- was working the forklift at GLT Office supplies at 2929 S. Combee Road when he died. A Polk County sheriff's report said the forklift tipped over after Orona veered the machine to the left. He fell to the ground and the forklift fell on top of him, killing him instantly, the report said. Sheriff's officials said his death appears to be accidental.

Chinese Food Deliverman Shot In Face Dies

Bronx, NY - A Chinese food deliveryman shot in the Bronx Monday night has died. Sahua Chen, 52, was shot in the face after making a delivery to a building on East 149th Street. According to police, just after 8:00 Monday night, Chen complained to a building worker that he had been robbed while making a delivery on the second floor. Two men then came downstairs, and that's when Chen was shot.

Deliveryman killed on the job

Tinley Park, IL -- A veteran pizza deliveryman was attacked and beaten to death while on the job in Markham. Frank Sedevic, 60, of Oak Lawn, was very aware of the dangers of delivering pizzas at night, having worked for various pie shops for 25 years, his widow, Barbara, said Tuesday. Still, he liked the job of bringing hot pies to people's homes and workplaces, and those who worked with him at Beggars Pizza in Oak Forest liked him, said his boss, Manny Minetti.

Crash kills motorcycle officer

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA San Bernardino County sheriff's motorcycle officer died Tuesday afternoon after crashing into a car while on his way to the scene of a traffic accident. The car pulled out of a driveway and into the path of three sheriff's vehicles -- a cruiser and two motorcycle officers -- headed east on Arrow Highway at about 3:25 p.m., sheriff's officials said. The officers were headed to a collision at Arrow and Etiwanda Avenue. The cruiser and the first motorcycle avoided the car, which stopped in the midst of its left-hand turn, said Robin Haynal, a department spokeswoman. The second motorcycle officer, [Motorcycle Deputy Daniel Lobo, 35] was unable to swerve. He hit the back of the car and was flung into a tree by the side of the road.

Lobo is survived by a wife and three daughters, ages 13, 10 and 11 months

Metal worker killed on his coffee break

Bronx, NY - A metal worker on a coffee break died in a freak accident in Brooklyn yesterday when a steel boom slid off the back of a truck, hitting him and narrowly missing three others, police said. Marco Hernandez, 66, of the Bronx, was standing among co-workers at a food service truck on Lombardy St. in Greenpoint just before 11 a.m. An eastbound flatbed truck rolled by and the boom, a heavy metal pole used for lifting, dislodged. "I don't believe it," said Kaylee De Mera, 14, the victim's stepdaughter. "It's like a lie. I keep waiting for him to come home."

Duke Student Killed In San Francisco Traffic Accident

DURHAM, N.C. -- The allegedly drunken driver of a pickup truck involved in a crash that killed two people Sunday night is being charged with two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of manslaughter, according to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. Authorities said suspect Kevin McGuinness, 43, of San Francisco, has three prior drunken driving convictions — two in Sonoma County in 1996 and 1997 and one in San Francisco in 2001. McGuinness, driving a Toyota Tundra truck, allegedly ran a stop sign at the corner of Broadway and Webster streets just before midnight Sunday night, broadsiding a Yellow Cab taxi that was already in the intersection. The crash killed Zareh Soghikian, the 76-year-old driver of the cab, and Tyler Brown, a 21-year-old Duke University student riding in the passenger seat. Two other passengers, Brown’s older brother Adrian and friend Michael Giedgowd, survived the accident and were treated for injuries.

OKC officer dies following crash during chase

Oklahoma City, OK -- A police officer died Thursday after his patrol car careened into a tree while chasing a stolen motorcycle in northwest Oklahoma City.

Sgt. Jonathan Dragus, 32, was transported to the OU Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 11:15 a.m., police said.

Dragus was pursuing the motorcycle eastbound on the Northwest Expressway about 3 a.m. when a pickup truck entered an intersection in front of the officer, who swerved to avoid the truck and crashed into a pole, then a tree, police said.

Plumber Dies in Collapse

Jefferson City, MO - A St. Louis plumber has died in a trench collapse. 43-year-old Clarence Allen was at the bottom of a hole eight to ten feet deep, and about four feet wide when it collapsed and covered him in several feet of dirt. Allen had been installing a sewer pipe in a backyard of a home north of Forest Park. A co-worker saw the dirt walls begin to give way and hollered at Allen, but Allen turned the wrong way and couldn't escape.

Investigator: Killing during robbery was unprovoked

GRIFTON, NC - A Yemani national killed Monday during an armed robbery at a convenience store was preparing to go home and cook dinner minutes before his death, his cousin said Tuesday. Yahya Albraidi, 25, was killed during a 10:30 p.m. robbery of the Kash and Karry store where he worked on East Hanrahan Road, Chief Lee Moore of the Pitt County Sheriff's Office said.

OSHA Investigating Death of Worker at New Mall Site

JONESBORO, AR - Federal safety officials are investigating the death of a worker at the new Mall at Turtle Creek in east Jonesboro. Fire officials say Omar Pizana Morales died from injuries sustained Friday when Morales and a co-worker were operating a "scissor-lift" that tipped over. The men fell 30 feet onto the mall's interior concrete floor. Morales died at a hospital on Sunday. He was 19, and was from Tamulipas, Mexico. Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Todd says the agency is investigating the circumstances of the death.

Man dies in fall at Munson firm

Cleveland, OH -- A worker died Wednesday after falling from the roof of the loading dock at Best Sand in Munson Township. Geauga County Sheriff's Department spokesman John Hiscox said the department received a call at 11:23 a.m. that the 37-year-old man had fallen 15 to 20 feet from the loading dock's roof, in front of the bag plant.


Allentown, PA -- A Columbus truck driver died Monday near Allentown in eastern Pennsylvania after he was pinned between a loading dock and a tractor-trailer, Berks-Lehigh Regional police said.

Abdirahman Sahrdid, 43, died after his driving partner backed the rig to the dock at DHL Worldwide Express about 8:15 p.m. The driver, Yussuf Abdi, 37, of Columbus, didn't see Sahrdid, police said.

The men worked for the Select Carrier Group of Groveport, a company spokesperson said.

Village employee dies on job

Glenview, IL - The on-the-job death of a 37-year-old Wheeling public works employee is shocking in its suddenness and its circumstances. The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office listed the cause of Christopher Brown's death as carbon monoxide intoxication from a malfunction in sandblasting equipment. Brown was found by a co-worker in the Public Works Department's South Pumping Station on Willow Road around 10:45 a.m. Oct. 3. Brown was performing routine maintenance in the building at the time of his death, officials said. Chuck Spratt, Wheeling's public works director, said Brown was doing routine work he had done at the station since he joined the department in 1997.

Worker dies in explosion at pork plant, Blast injures 14 on company’s opening day.

ST. JOSEPH, MO - On the day this community’s biggest new development in decades was to celebrate its opening, investigators were being called in today to find out what caused an explosion that killed a local man and injured 14 others a day earlier. A heavy-equipment operator was killed and three other workers critically injured yesterday after the explosion at the $130 million Triumph Foods pork-processing plant, which was expected to go into production on Nov. 1. Andrew Bauer, 24, of St. Joseph was killed in the blast, which occurred around 2:45 p.m. in an industrial area on the south side of town. Another worker who was clinically dead after the explosion was revived by emergency medical personnel, officials said. "There was a lot of blood and gore," said St. Joseph Fire Department Battalion Chief Russell Moore. "We see that in the case of wrecks and stuff, and it’s not something we can’t deal with. But under circumstances like this, it was a little different."

Worker last seen 3 weeks ago found dead in cotton field

Bakersfield, CA - A 55-year-old Bakersfield man who was last seen July 24 feeling ill in a cotton field was found dead Wednesday in the same field, the Kern County coroner’s staff reported. Alfred Leroy Weems was weeding a cotton field with other people off 7th Standard Road east of Main Drain Road in rural Buttonwillow when he felt ill and walked away, the coroner’s staff said. The other workers didn’t see him at quitting time and they left the area. But on Wednesday at about 5:30 p.m., workers operating cotton pickers found his body in the same field, the coroner’s staff said. The cause of death is unknown pending an autopsy.

Worker dies after pinned by truck axle

RUTHVEN, Iowa - A man working on a truck at a repair shop in Ruthven in northern Iowa is dead after the rear axle fell on top of him. The Palo Alto County sheriff's office says Matthew Coleman of Ruthven was killed yesterday morning at the Coleman and Sons Truck shop. Officials say he was working on a straight when the axle fell, pinning him underneath. His co-workers lifted the axle off, and he was taken to the hospital, where he later died.

Did loutish guards cause heart attack that killed prison cafeteria worker?

Philadelphia, PA - BEWARE grief-stricken women, for they are a force to be reckoned with. Think of Cindy Sheehan, whose son perished in Iraq. Think of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who channeled grief into political action. And, if she has her way, in a few years you might think of Annamarie Powell when you think of prison reform. Powell's husband, James, died of a coronary in July after a shakedown of the cafeteria at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, where he worked. Annamarie is convinced that the prison guards' behavior during the shakedown brought on the massive heart attack that killed James the next morning.

Belton Officer Dies In Motorcycle Wreck

BELTON, Mo. -- A police officer was killed on his way to work Wednesday night. Cpl. Ron Foster, 41, was riding his motorcycle to the Belton Police Department before his midnight shift started. Officials said Foster came across a stopped car on Highway 58 in Raymore, but he couldn't stop his bike in time. He crashed into the car and became wedged underneath the vehicle, authorities said. He was conscious when paramedics arrived, but later died at a research hospital. No one else was injured.

Drilling rig worker fatally injured

FORT WORTH, TX -- A 39-year-old man working on a drilling rig in far northwest Tarrant County was fatally injured Friday morning, a spokesman for the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department said. A 911 call was made shortly before 9 a.m. from a site near the 6500 block of Peden Road. The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Web site identified the worker as Roy Massey of Gainesville. The cause of death was not listed. "It was an individual accident," spokesman Terry Grisham said. "It was not a catastrophic event on the well." The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was notified, Grisham said

One killed, one injured in wood plant explosion, fire

SCHOFIELD, Wis. - One factory worker died and another was hospitalized with burns after an explosion and fire tore through a wood products manufacturing plant Friday, rocking the neighborhood. Three of eight buildings in American Wood Fibers' complex were destroyed and another was partially damaged, said Tom Frank, company vice president. He said losses would exceed $1 million but should be covered by insurance. About 15 workers were ending an overnight shift at the plant, which employs about 60 people, when the explosion occurred about 5:30 a.m., Frank said. Schofield Fire Chief Doug Jennings said investigators were trying to determine what ignited the blast. He said he heard the explosion from his home four miles away. A building filled with wood chips was engulfed in flames when the first firefighters arrived, he said. "It is my belief it was a dust explosion. That is what it seems like initially," he said as firefighters continued to pour water onto smoldering piles of wood chips and sawdust amid twisted and collapsed steel.

Construction worker dies after falling 30 feet

Birmingham, AL - A 60-year-old construction worker has died after investigators say he fell from a lift bucket while working at the Charleston Air Force Base. Bobby Smalls of Summerville died after falling 30 feet Saturday morning, Charleston County Deputy Coroner Dottie Lindsay said. Smalls worked for Bonitz Contracting, which is building dormitories on the base in North Charleston, Lindsay said. He was wearing a safety harness, but it was not hooked to the lift bucket he was standing in. Smalls was stapling some material under the ceiling of a walkway when he apparently lost his balance and fell out of the bucket, Lindsay said. The company notified the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration about the incident, the agency's area director Suzanne Street said.

Stevedor killed in Camden accident

Philadelphia, PA - A stevedore was killed on a Camden dock when he was struck by a large container being unloaded from a cargo vessel, authorities said today. Lewis Seals, 57, of Philadelphia, was working 10:30 a.m. yesterday on Pier 5 at the Broadway Terminal as a crane was unloading fruit containers from the Lombok Strait, a Dutch-registered ship. One of the containers, which held fruit destined for the DelMonte Co., rose from the ship unevenly, swung, and hit Seals in the head, said Bill Shralow, spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor's office. Emergency workers rushed to Pier 5 of the South Jersey Port Corp.-operated facility but were unable to revive Seals. Federal occupational safety officials will conduct a followup investigation of the accident, Shralow said. The Broadway Terminal is located at the former New York Ship Yard in South Camden.

Store clerk fatally shot while fighting off robber

Phoenix, AZ - A clerk at a Phoenix convenience store who was filling in for another employee was fatally shot early Sunday during a struggle with a man who apparently wanted to rob the business. Surveillance video at the Water and Ice Car Wash, 4601 E. Chandler Blvd. in Ahwatukee Foothills, shows Marvin Walters, 38, being shot shortly after midnight while trying to grab the man's gun. "This is a very tragic case," said Sgt. Lauri Williams, a Phoenix police spokeswoman.

Grain bill wall collapses, kills Mediapolis man

OAKVILLE, Iowa n A Mediapolis man was killed Monday afternoon after being trapped between a ruptured grain bin and a truck. According to a Louisa County Sheriff’s Office press release, emergency personnel were called to an accident at Tri Oak Feeds in Oakville around 1 p.m. Oct. 17. Scott Stamper, 42, of Mediapolis was assisting in off-loading a grain truck when a wall of the grain bin collapsed, trapping him. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The accident remains under investigation by the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office confirmed this morning that Stamper was an employee of Tri Oak Feeds. Although the Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation, an official said that his department could be working with representatives of the Des Moines-based Iowa Occupational Safety and Heath Administration (OSHA) at a later date. Louisa County deputies were assisted at the scene by personnel from Wapello Ambulance and the Oakville Fire Department.

Two die in Colusa County silo

Marysville, CA - Two Colusa men died in a rice dryer accident Monday morning when the silo in which they were standing began releasing rice and trapped them, a Colusa County sheriff's lieutenant said. Julio Cesar Villanueva, 27, and Omar Romero Aguilar, 22, were standing in the partially filled silo at Farmers' Rice Cooperative on Highway 45 south of Princeton in Colusa County, according a press release from Lt. Doug Turner. Several workers were standing or sitting with the victims when the silo began releasing rice. As the two began to sink, co-workers attempted to pull them out but stopped when they also began to be pulled down.

Metro Worker Dies After Being Hit By Train-Employee Death Is Transit Agency's First Since 1997

WASHINGTON, DC -- A Metro worker hit by a train earlier this month has died. Michael Waldron of Riverdale, Md., was doing some track work near the Braddock Road Metro Station on Oct. 1 when he was hit by a train. Waldron died of his injuries on Saturday. Metro is investigating the accident. Waldron had been a Metro employee for the past three years. He worked on bridges, tunnels and other structures. It was the first death of an employee on the job since 1997, when a track worker was accidentally electrocuted.

Racetrack employee's death called 'suspicious'

Muskegon, MI - Fruitport Township Police this morning were investigating what they called the "suspicious death" of a 60-year-old employee of Great Lakes Downs whose body was found Monday morning in his dormitory room at the racetrack. The man's name was being withheld pending notification of family members in the Detroit area. He worked as a horse exerciser and had worked seasonally at Great Lakes Downs for a number of years, Detective James Schultz said.

Clayton police lose officer in line of duty

Jonesboro, GA -- Perhaps Clayton County Police Sgt. Michael Davis was speeding to the aid of his fellow officers when he became the first county officer in over 50 years to give his life in the line of duty. At around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, 40-year-old Davis was in his patrol car going north on Tara Boulevard when he hit the back of a Ford F-150 pickup truck driven by 24-year-old Dave Thomas Harvey of College Park near Valley Hill Road, according to Clayton County Assistant Police Chief Jeff Turner. Davis' car flipped several times before crashing into a ditch in the median. Davis, a 17-year veteran of the department, was rushed to Southern Regional Medical Center after being cut free of the mangled police cruiser, but he died from the wounds he suffered in crash. Harvey was not badly injured.

Second Sunesis death examined - Company under federal scrutiny

Cincinnati, OH - A Sunesis Construction employee was killed on the job Monday, the company's second fatal accident in three months, drawing scrutiny from the federal agency that oversees worker safety. "We're very concerned," said Dick Gilgrist, area director for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration office in Sharonville. Greg Miller, 32, of Milford died Monday when a piece of a steel plate fell on him at a work site in Hillsboro in Highland County, according to Gilgrist. (More on Sunesis here.)

OSHA Investigating Deadly Industrial Accident

Murray, Ky -- Federal investigators are looking into an industrial accident in West Kentucky that left one man dead.

Frank Burkeen was in a work related fork lift accident on September 26th at Briggs and Stratton in Murray, Kentucky.

The McCracken County coroner tells NewsChannel 6 that Burkeen later died of a head injury from that accident.

The Murray Ledger and Times reports that OSHA workers are investigating the accident as a typical procedure after a work place death.

Employee Killed After Walking In On Robbery At Lumber Yard

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Police are searching for a gunman who shot and killed a man believed to be trying to stop a robbery of a Westside lumber yard Tuesday evening. Christopher Aligada, 40, of Orange Park, died after the shooting at the Builders First Source on Roosevelt Boulevard. Homicide investigators said the robber shot Aligada, a manager at the business, when he walked in as another employee was being held at gunpoint just before 9 p.m. According to the police report, the gunman fired at least twice, then stole the first employee's SUV. "I'm sure he was trying to get help for the guys that were with," Aligada's sister-in-law, Becky Aligada said Wednesday.

Construction worker airlifted after severe trauma

Atmore, AL - An Atmore man remains in the intensive care unit at Baptist Hospital in Pensacola following a construction accident that occurred at United Bank in Atmore Wednesday. Berry Nall, 30, of Atmore suffered severe injuries after the rough terrain Lull forklift with a telescopic boom he was working from, tipped over and sent him plummeting to the parking lot from 30-feet in the air just before 6 p.m. "The contractors are investigating," United Bank president and CEO Robert R. Jones said. "It's really not anything we're involved in. It was their employee and their equipment, so they're doing the investigation into it."

Window-washer killed in fall off PDX building

Portland, OR - A window-washer fell about 50 feet to his death while working on a building in downtown Portland early Wednesday, authorities said. The worker was part of a two-person team that was supposed to be hooked to safety harnesses while cleaning the high-rise windows. But the safety equipment somehow failed and the man fell immediately after stepping off the rooftop at 100 SW Market Street, according to Alan Oswalt, with the Portland Fire Bureau.

North Codorus farmer dies in tractor rollover

Hanover, PA - An elderly farmer died Tuesday afternoon when the farming equipment he was hauling rolled down a hill in North Codorus Township, Southwestern Regional police said. Roy Daugherty, 76, a township resident, was harvesting corn about 4:30 p.m. in a field he leased at 3734 Tunnel Hill Road. His John Deere tractor or the combine or grain wagon he was pulling slid sideways down a hill, police said. Daugherty was ejected and found in the corn field, about 40 yards from the tractor, police said. He died instantly of multiple blunt force trauma to the head and chest, according to York County Deputy Coroner Claude Stabley.

Farmer killed when tractor flips over

WEST HARRISON, Ind.-- A tractor flipped over on a steep hillside, killing the 79-year-old farmer who was driving it, police said.

The accident happened Wednesday evening near West Harrison, close to the Indiana-Ohio state line about 75 miles southeast of Indianapolis, the Franklin County Sheriff's Department said.

Omer Hicks was trying to climb a steep hill on his farm to pull a tree to his house for fire wood when he lost control of the tractor as it rolled backward and flipped over, police said.

Charles County Man Killed While Cutting Trees

Charlotte, Hall, MD - On Oct. 19 at 10:53 a.m., Charles County Sheriff's officers responded to the 14100 block of Federal Hill Place in Charlotte Hall for the report of an injured person. Investigation revealed a tree logging company was cutting trees. While Jacob D. Hertzler, an employee, was cutting a felled tree, another tree that he had pre-cut fell on him and killed him. Hertzler was pronounced dead at the scene shortly thereafter and his body was transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for an autopsy. A representative from the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Administration responded to the scene for its investigation. There are no signs of foul play. Det. T. Miner is investigating.

Workers killed by 18-wheeler in I-35 construction zone

Eddy, TX - DPS investigators are looking into re-creating an accident scene from Tuesday night in which a truck driver crashed into a construction zone on I-35, killing two workers and injuring two others. It happened between Waco and Temple near the Woodlawn exit on I-35. The Department of Public Safety says Vorise Jeansonne of McGregor and Paul Hadac of Columbus were killed when an 18-wheeler swerved into a closed left lane of I-35 near Bruceville-Eddy Tuesday night. DPS troopers say the 73-year-old truck driver, hauling cattle, swerved into the construction area, hitting two parked flat bed trucks with construction workers and equipment on board. The 18-wheeler also slammed into a parked dump truck, a moving pick-up truck and one construction worker on the ground.

Two detention officers killed in fiery crash on Rosedale Highway

Bakersfield, CA - Two detention deputies, including the son of high level Kern County sheriff's deputies, were killed in a fiery crash early Thursday morning on Rosedale Highway at Coffee Road, the Kern County sheriff's staff reported. The driver of the vehicle which struck the detention officers was arrested on charges of murder and vehicular manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol, Bakersfield police said. The driver has a prior drunken driving conviction, court records show. A Mustang occupied by detention deputies Josh Stancliff and Corey Wahl was traveling westbound on Rosedale Highway but skidded and stopped at Coffee Road where it was rear-ended by a pickup truck, the sheriff's staff and Bakersfield police reported. The 2001 Mustang, which was backing up when it was struck, burst into flames and both its occupants were killed in the 12:42 a.m. crash, police Lt. Gary Moore said. Stancliff was the driver, Moore said. The victims were Wahl, 23, whose father is Chief Deputy Willy Wahl and stepmother is Commander RoseMary Wahl, and Stancliff, 22, whose father is Detentions Deputy Marty Stancliff, sheriff's spokeswoman Cmdr. Shelly Castaneda reported.

Cops: Clerk fatally stabs his boss

Island, NY - An employee at a Syosset restaurant supply business stabbed his boss in the chest with a steak knife during an argument Friday, Nassau police said. A stock clerk at Tassone Equipment was arguing with his supervisor about 11:40 a.m. During the fight, the clerk stabbed the supervisor and then drove away from the building on Eileen Way, Homicide Squad Det. Sgt. Richard Laursen said. The supervisor, Robert Sisia, 51, of Syosset, stumbled bleeding into the showroom, about 50 feet from the stock room, and collapsed, Laursen said. Sisia was pronounced dead at North Shore University Hospital at Syosset about 12:30 p.m.

Construction worker dies of injuries

Redding, CA - A construction worker crushed by the street sweeper he was driving died of his injuries late Thursday night. Ronald Joe Toney, 45, of Redding, died just before midnight, a spokeswoman for the Shasta County Coroner’s office said this morning.

Dunlap farmer killed in collision

DUNLAP, MO – Richard Grote, A 72-year-old Dunlap farmer was killed late Thursday afternoon when a semi-tractor trailer attempting to pass his tractor struck the vehicle.

Roofer falls to death at Bob's Furniture

NORWICH-- A construction worker was killed Friday when he fell from a building under construction at Bob's Discount Furniture distribution center at 70 Jewett City Road.

Dump truck driver dies in collision with fuel truck

BATON ROUGE, La. - The driver of a dump truck died when he slammed into the back of an 18-wheeler hauling 8,000 gallons of fuel Monday, state police said. The accident happened at a railroad crossing near downtown Baton Rouge. Thick black smoke billowed from the scene and could be seen for several miles. Louisiana State Police said the tanker truck stopped at a railroad crossing to check for oncoming trains when it was hit by the dump truck.


Brooklyn, NY -- A Brooklyn bouncer working a party for Abercrombie & Fitch staffers yesterday was fatally shot after refusing to let in a man who balked at being patted down for weapons, cops said. The club's bouncer, 26-year-old Seyoum Thompson, of Prospect Lefferts Gardens, was working the door, checking patrons, police said. At some point, a small group of men tried to get into the club, but one of them refused to be patted down by Thompson. The men then left, cops said. A short time later, Thompson walked out of the club to get some air. An unknown gunman then shot Thompson once in the head, killing him, police said. Another shot hit a second person, an 18-year-old man, in the right knee. Police suspect that the shooter was the same person who left the club rather than be checked for weapons.

Funeral services set for S.A. police officer

San Antonio, TX - San Antonio Police Officer John Wheeler will be buried Wednesday at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. Wheeler, a 12-year veteran, died Friday morning when his patrol car was rear-ended by a speeding Chevrolet Caprice. Wheeler's Crown Victoria exploded and set both cars on fire. Wheeler and the driver of the Caprice, Ishmael Herrera, died at the scene. Visitation for Wheeler will be held Monday and Tuesday at Porter Loring Mortuary, 1101 McCullough Ave., beginning at 9 a.m., according to police.

Killed in Wis. Bus Crash

OSSEO, Wis. -- A beloved high school band director was among five people killed when a busload of students and chaperones returning from a marching band competition crashed into an overturned tractor-trailer. Douglas Greenhalgh, 48, his wife Therese, 51, and their 11-year-old granddaughter, Morgan Greenhalgh, were killed, along with bus driver Paul Rasmus, 78. Brandon Atherton, a 24-year-old student teacher, also was killed.

Young sisters cope with second parent's death

Kansas City, KS - Things were beginning to turn around for James Kampert. It had been almost two years since lung cancer claimed the life of his former wife, Lori. That twist of fate made the 39-year-old Winnetonka High School graduate the primary care provider to their two daughters, Sara and Lacie. The challenge did not deter Kampert, his father, Bob Kampert, said recently. Kampert, 39, of Kansas City, North, often worked six days a week, sometimes 12 hours a day. He had a simple goal of one day saving enough money to buy a house for his family. That dream will never be realized. Kampert died Sept. 28 in the crash of a tanker truck he was driving at a Northland rock quarry. Police said the accident occurred at the end of a roughly 1,500-foot incline at the Stamper Quarry in the 14400 block of Northwest Interurban Road, a few miles northeast of Kansas City International Airport. Police think Kampert was driving too fast down the slope when he lost control and crashed. Investigators were looking into whether mechanical or health problems played a role.

Cart death inquiry begins

ROTTERDAM, NY - Federal inspectors are investigating the death of a Schenectady International mechanic who was crushed when a golf cart he was working on fell on top of him, authorities said. Dave Hughes, a 52-year-old Johnstown man, died Wednesday as he was trying to repair a brake line on the electric cart, according to company officials. The vehicle, used to shuttle employees around the chemical-maker's plant, was up on jack stands but fell, crushing him, they said. the handling of equipment, chemicals and storage.

$12 million to sign-workers' kin; Lawsuit filed after brothers died in billboard collapse

Atlanta, GA - Richard and Juanita Fowler decided they would not keep the settlement amount quiet. The parents of Josh and Anthony Fowler, the two billboard workers killed when a 35,000-pound sign collapsed on them in Snellville three years ago, wanted the settlement made public, their lawyer said. They sought a figure large enough, attorney Gerald Davidson said, "that hopefully it would send somebody a message in the billboard business that nothing like this could ever happen to any other family."

Man killed at Hingham Blue Cross job site

Quincy, MA - An ironworker from Medford was killed in a construction accident in Hingham. Adam Simon, 32, was strapped to an I-beam with a safety harness when the beam collapsed and he fell about 45 feet at about 10:30 a.m. yesterday. Simon was taken by ambulance to South Shore Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Simon was working at a new Blue Cross Blue Shield office building at 25 Technology Park Place, off Route 228 near Route 3. The developer of the project is A.W. Perry. Turner Construction of Boston is the construction manager. Simon worked for James S. Stearns Co. of Hingham company, a subcontractor hired by Issacson Steel Fabricators Inc. of New Hampshire