Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mine Safety Bill 'Paused For Improvements' In the House

Well, things are getting curiouser and curiouser in the United States Congress. Last week the Senate unanimously passed a mine safety bill. Unanimous? Mine Safety legislation? Who would have thought that would ever be possible?

And now Republicans in the House, who have spent the past several months resisting mine safety hearings and not introducing legislation, apparently hoping this whole mine safety kerfuffle would just fade away, are now falling all over each other demanding that that a bill be passed now, NOW rather than hold it up even a few days for a few "extreme" improvements that an "irresponsible" Democratic Congressman wants to make. And the United Mineworkers are joining in the chorus to get the bill passed as quickly as possible and on the President's desk.

But Congressman George Miller (D-CA), apparently not wanting to waste a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pass really good mine safety legislation, has called for three major improvements in the Senate bill. In a letter to Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA), Miller called for the House to amend the Senate bill to:
  • mandate no less than a two-day supply of oxygen for trapped miners; (The Senate bill doesn’t provide a minimum number of hours or days of air supply that must be provided in these circumstances)

  • mandate, within 15 months, communications and tracking devices to find and communicate with trapped miners;(The Senate bill delays implementation of the devices for three years, despite the fact that countries around the world already provide their miners with devices) and

  • require the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration to regularly inspect miners’ individual oxygen devices, known as self-contained self-rescuers.(The Senate bill would not require MSHA to conduct regular field tests to ensure they are reliable.)
Miller has been doggedly pursuing the mine safety issue since the Sago disaster. Last January, he issued a report accusing the Bush administration of putting "mine workers’ lives at greater risk by putting the of mining company executives ahead of the enforcement of critical workplace health and safety rules." In February, Miller put together a "forum" of mine safety experts and families of mining disasters -- when Republicans were still refusing to even hold a hearing. When Committee Chairman Charlie Norwood (R-GA) was finally embarrassed into holding a hearing in early March, he shut it down early after only 90 minutes, despite Miller's angry objections.

Miller has taken a quite a bit of flack over the past few days for his effort to improve the Senate bill. McKeon, who has yet introduced any mine safety legislation, is suddenly in a major rush, claiming that Miller
would be irresponsible to halt solid, widely-supported legislation that is one step away from arriving on President Bush's desk as Congress moves to recess for the Memorial Day holiday.
Republican West Virginia Congresswoman Shelly Moore Caputo called Miller's amendments "totally unreasonable," and even West Virginia Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller, upset that the bill was being stalled, stated that "Rep. Miller's opposition to this carefully created, bipartisan legislation is nothing short of an American tragedy." The United Mineworkers, saying that they "appreciate Congressman Miller and all he has done and continues to do on behalf of America’s coal miners" and admitting that the Senate bill did not include everything they wanted, still urged Miller to drop his objections to move the House bill along as quickly as possible.

And to top it all off, Congressman Charlie Norwood (R-GA), who plans to add a drug testing requirement to the House bill responded that
Miller has continuously criticized Republicans for "delaying" mine safety legislation, in spite of Enzi and Norwood's diligent oversight work through multiple House and Senate hearings held since the Sago tragedy. Now that bipartisan legislation is ready for passage into law, Miller is opposing a fast-track approach while insisting on provisions that are unworkable, extreme, and not supported by mine operators or union leaders.
But Miller was standing his ground, releasing a letter from the families of three of the miners killed in the Sago disaster and former state and federal mine safety official Tony Oppegard supporting Miller's improvements. According to Oppegard, "It would be better to wait 10 days for the right bill than to act now on an incomplete one."

Miller's arguments received further support today with the release of a report by a West Virginia Mine Safety Technology Task Force that called for underground refuge chambers that can supply 48 hours of breathable air for trapped miners and that mine companies finalize plans, within 15 months, to install communications and tracking devices for finding and communicating with trapped miners.

According to Miller:
The task force included representatives from the coal mining industry and from the United Mine Workers union, so it has tremendous credibility. It shows that industry itself agrees that my proposals on breathable air and communications and tracking equipment are reasonable, practical, and achievable. The task force recommendations should be incorporated as minimum requirements for federal legislation.


The task force came up with the 48-hour minimum after reviewing accidents that occurred between 1940 and 1980 in which miners were trapped and finding that, in most of those cases, miners remained trapped for 20 to 30 hours. (At Sago, only one of the 12 miners who died was killed in the initial explosion. The others died during a 40 hour wait for rescue.)
The West Virginia Mine Safety Technology Task Force was created by West Virginia state law earlier this year and was made up of six representatives – three from labor and three from the industry.

Miller also announced that his third amendment, requiring MSHA to regularly inspect miners' self-contained self-rescuers, received support from former MSHA head J. Davitt McAteer, who is leading the investigation into the cause of the Sago mine disaster:
"We need to ask miners to go in, on a random basis, to don the devices and walk out with them so we get a real useful sampling of how they do work,” McAteer told the Associated Press. Miller proposed this amendment in light of reports – including one from the sole survivor of the Sago tragedy – that self-rescuers had failed in emergencies.
“It’s not whether they work in the lab, it’s whether they work in the mine, where they’re needed,” McAteer said.

Stay tuned. More to come.

Doing Squat To Protect Nurses In A Pandemic Flu Epidemic

Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA) and Congressman Steven LaTourette (R-OH), co-chairs of the Congressional Nursing Caucus, along with 70 other Congressional represenatives sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao "expressing serious concern about the lack of adequate planning and preparation for protecting public health workers in the event of a pandemic flu outbreak. "

Their primary concern the continued confusion over whether surgical masks are being recommended to protect nurses:
Specifically, the HHS Pandemic Influenza Plan released in November 2005 recommends that health care workers and emergency responders wear surgical masks for personal respiratory protection. However, surgical masks are not designed to protect the wearer from contaminants, but rather to prevent the wearer from spreading contaminants when sneezing or coughing. Surgical masks will not protect wearers from exposure to respirable airborne droplets that contain pandemic flu virus. In addition, surgical masks do not provide a seal against a wearer’s face to prevent leakage of contaminated air into the breathing zone as respirators do.
The bi-partisan group points out that the use of surgical masks would violate OSHA standards which require workers to receive respirators, certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and mandate that the workers be trained and fit-tested.

They also point out that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Interim Recommendations for Infection Control in Health Care Facilities Caring for Patients with Known or Suspected Avian Influenza also calls for the use of a fit-tested respirator, at least as protective as a NIOSH-approved N-95 disposable respirator.
“A surgical mask is going to do squat to protect nurses and emergency responders, and it is well documented that respirators that fit are needed,” LaTourette said. “We are asking these federal leaders to follow recommendations to safeguard nurses and other health care workers.”
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and several other labor organizations petitioned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last January for an emergency temporary standard to protect health care workers against pandemic flu.
"Hurricane Katrina exposed the devastation and misery that is created when our government is unprepared for and does not adequately respond to a major disaster," said AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee "This administration has proposed a pandemic flu plan that would leave health workers, first responders and all Americans woefully unprotected."

“As a Nurse, I am particularly concerned by the lack of adequate planning and preparation to address the serious threat of a pandemic flu,” said Capps. “We depend on Nurses and other health care workers to care for us when we face a critical emergency whether it is a terrorist attack like 9-11 or health threat like the avian flu. We shouldn’t fail these health care professionals and first responders by providing them with unsafe masks that don’t adequately protect them from exposure to airborne hazards.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Blogging At Firedoglake

Head on over to Firedoglake, a great blog run by Jane Hamsher, who has appointed me their official labor blogger. I'm up every Tuesday at 9:00 (EST).

Today's contribution:Union Organizing In the 21st Century: Card Check and Roach Motels

I Was Wrong: Enron Did Kill Workers

I wrote a toungue-in-cheek article last week (Poor Enron Execs. It's Not Like They Killed Anyone) about the convicted Enron execs Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling could end up spending the rest of their lives in jail even though they didn't kill anyone, unlike workplace killers in this (and other) countries who kill and get away with only a modest fine.

Turns out I was wrong. Two commenters from across the ocean, Alex Harrowell of the Yorkshire Ranter blog and Rory O'Neill, editor of Hazards, wrote to remind me that Enron actually did kill three workers in Great Britain in 2001. Hazards editor Rory O'Neill was even kind enough to send the link:
Inquest into Enron deaths

The families of the three men killed in the Enron explosion have heard for the first time details of the routine maintenance work that ended in tragedy (Risks 14). Operator technicians Darren Higgins, 28, and Andrew Sherwood, 36, died from horrific burns at the scene of the blast at Teesside Power Station in August 2001 an inquest was told. Engineering and maintenance manager Paul Surtees, 40, died in hospital the following morning. The inquest closed this week, having reached a verdict of 'accidental death.' Detective Sergeant Ian White, of Langbaurgh CID, said he had found no evidence of corporate manslaughter and the investigation had been handed over to the HSE. Ian Waugh, HSE head of operations for the North, said: 'Until the inquest was over we couldn't finish our investigations. We have got to consider what we already know and what we have heard before we can consider whether any legal proceedings are appropriate.' The company had been prosecuted on two previous occasions for serious safety breaches. In 2001 the plant was given the RoSPA gold award for safety.
The point I was making, however, remains the same. Lay and Skilling are on their way to jail for financial crimes. They were never touched by the deaths of Darren Higgins, Andrew Sherwood or Paul Surtees.

So, Alex and Rory -- a tip of the old Confined Space hat to you for keeping us honest.

Mississippi: "A Tempest of Long-term Health Danger"

This is upsetting on so many different levels.

First, there's employers' refusal to comply with safe practices and federal regulations when demolishing asbestos containing building in the hurricane damaged gulf states:
Workers descend on the area with heavy equipment like backhoes and debris trucks. They tear the buildings apart and load debris, creating clouds of pulverized construction materials they breathe in and that scatters with the wind throughout the neighborhood.

Public health, according to the employees, was further compromised by open-air debris trucks hauling and scattering along the roads potentially asbestos-containing refuse to landfills meant only for safe construction and demolition waste.

The contractors who came forward said workers are not wearing the proper equipment on structures that may contain asbestos. They said workers should be wearing face masks and full body suits.

Other workers said regular dust masks were not good enough for buildings that may contain asbestos and contractors should be handing out dual cartridge respirators to employees.

They said the disposable face masks commonly used on sites were as useful at blocking asbestos fibers as wearing no protection at all.

Victoria Cintra, a spokeswoman for Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, said she also knows of widespread violations and the immigrant laborers her group represents are being put at unacceptably high risk.

"These violations are terrible," Cintra said. "People are going into houses and removing God knows what and they are doing it at best with Latex gloves. (The companies and regulators) have no regard for the future that the immigrant community will be going through in 15 or 20 years."
And the federal agencies that are supposed to be overseeing the safety of the operations are not doing their jobs.
According to spokesmen with both Mississippi's Department of Environmental Quality and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, neither agency is sending enforcement officers to make sure that employers are complying with asbestos regulations.

"Specifically, in regards to asbestos, we do not have OSHA compliance officers south of I-10 with that as an assignment, no," said Jesse Baynes, OSHA assistant area director in Jackson.

"We are not in an enforcement mode south of I-10 unless there is an investigation of a fatality or a complaint. It is still an area under a federally declared disaster."

Baynes said OSHA had received asbestos complaints but none with locations of ongoing violations that they needed to investigate.

"We have heard that employers are not always reaching standards but not with the specificity that we can go out and check to see whether they really are or not," Baynes said.

Both agencies maintain that complying with asbestos regulations is the responsibility of the companies doing the work and not that of the government. They say they will enforce the laws when a company is caught shirking its duties under regulation.

"Everything we do involves (companies) self-reporting," said Dwight Wylie, with DEQ's air division. "They file stuff with us. We don't check."

"We are not in an enforcement mode south of I-10....It is still an area under a federally declared disaster." Which employers can get away with blatent violations of health and safety laws?

"Complying with asbestos regulations is the responsibility of the companies doing the work and not that of the government." So is driving safely, but that doesn't stop me from getting a ticket.

"Everything we do involves (companies) self-reporting," said Dwight Wylie, with DEQ's air division. "They file stuff with us. We don't check." Um, are we still in the United States. Last I checked, we were supposed to actually enforce the law, not wait for the evildoers to turn themselves in.

Anyone from federal EPA, OSHA or Congress home? Hello?

And then there's this little loophole:
"Debris on the ground is not subject to regulation," Wylie said.

Work site supervisors said the law defines a structure with two walls and a roof as a structural demolition project while a house that has been flattened is debris.

That distinction has opened up a de facto incentive to call structures debris and get it into unspecialized landfills as quickly as possible.

The employees who came forward said they knew of incidents in which structures with easily identifiable asbestos siding that were standing were destroyed and were treated as debris.

The employees said the companies doing that were in the business of hauling debris and anything that slowed them down meant less profit.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Is Fatigue Contributing to Miners' Deaths?

The record high price of coal is encouraging mine companies to drive miners to work overtime, according to this AP article. And resulting fatigue may be a contributing factor in the 31 coal mining deaths this year.
With coal prices at record highs, mining companies have been pushing to increase production, adding overnight and weekend shifts and generating more overtime hours for miners who have some of the most physically grueling jobs in the country.

Industry groups and mine regulatory agencies are wondering if fatigue could be a common factor in the sharp increase in coal mining deaths this year.


"It is something that needs to be looked at," said Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky Coal Association. "If we're cranking out more production with the same number of employees, miners may be working six or seven days a week, instead of five, and potentially not getting enough rest."

Companies went in search of experienced miners about three years ago when prices for Appalachian coal skyrocketed. The region's coal is now selling for as much as $64 a ton on the spot market, a threefold increase in three years.
Mining is hard, dangerous work, and some miners are working significant amounts of overtime. Carlos Cracraft, a labor market analyst in the Kentucky Department for Workforce Development said that:
The miners, who earn an average $18.35 an hour, are working an average of 49.5 hours a week in Kentucky. That, he said, suggests that while some may have a typical 40-hour work week, others may be on the job for 60 hours or more.

The work is far from easy, said James Jarrett, 43, of DeBord in eastern Kentucky.

"I would say this is about one of the toughest jobs in the country," he said. "Ain't nobody else ever been where we've been, with a mountain over top of them. About every mine is working six days a week. I may get 60 to 70 hours a week, or I may go home in 48."

Still, most miners are glad to get the overtime pay, Jarrett said.

Joe Main, a mine safety consultant and former safety director for the United Mine Workers of America, said industry representatives and regulators should look at overtime when considering ways to improve safety.

Coal operators are so focused on the bottom line that they're using overtime instead of hiring additional workers, Main said.
Last October, the Appalachian News Express released a memo from Massey Energy president Don Blankenship that told all of the company's deep mine superintendents to focus only on coal production:
If any of you have been asked by your group presidents, your supervisors, engineers or anyone else to do anything other than run coal (i.e. - build overcasts, do construction jobs, or whatever) you need to ignore them and run coal. This memo is necessary only because we seem not to understand that the coal pays the bills.
A week later Massey sent out another memo saying "nevermind," safety is really the first priority. Really.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Weekly Toll

A partial listing of workers killed over the past couple of weeks. Sometimes it seems like they came in groups. Six workers were killed in convenience store killings, eight from falls, five migrant workers were killed in van accidents and seven coal miners died.

Construction Worker Dies On Mosaic Site

A construction worker was killed Friday after he was trapped in a bulldozer that sank under water on Mosaic Co. property in Southwest Polk County, the Polk Sheriff's Office reported.

John Frymire
, 58, of Bartow, was inside the bulldozer, filling in dirt in a phosphate pit when the bulldozer sank under water in the pit, said sheriff's spokeswoman Carrie Rodgers. Frymire was trapped inside, Rodgers said.

Frymire was working for the Lakeland-based McDonald Construction Corporation, which specializes in excavation and phosphate mining.

Man dies when tractor overturns

LODI, CA - A man died Saturday when the tractor he was driving overturned into a ditch filled with water west of Lodi, authorities said.

The unidentified man was pronounced dead at the scene on Glasscock Road just north of Highway 12, Woodbridge Rural Fire District officials said.

Worker killed in hit-and-run in Modesto

Modesto, CA -- A man tying to tie down gear on a work trailer died Friday afternoon when he was hit by a sport utility vehicle, whose driver then fled, Modesto police said.

Co-workers identified the victim as 52-year-old Jeff McKinney of Manteca. He was taken to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, where he was pronounced dead.

McKinney was part of an eight-man work crew that had just finished cleaning a home in the 600 block of Fourth Street, said Jerry King, a member of the cleaning crew.

Truck driver killed walking across exit along Interstate 580

DUBLIN, CA — A truck driver was struck and killed while walking across the Fallon Road exit along westbound Interstate 580 early Tuesday morning, the California Highway Patrol reported.

Pedro Aldaco, 31, of Porterville parked his big rig on the shoulder of the off-ramp shortly before 3:30 a.m. and walked into the roadway, officials said. He was struck and killed by a 2006 GMC Silverado traveling at about 50 mph.

Aldaco died from multiple blunt force injuries, according to the Alameda County Coroner's Office.


Muhammad "Mo" Barsar tried to make a living for 14 years as a convenience store manager. It was hard getting clerks to work the late shift, so the 51-year-old spent many nights behind the register of Circle K on the corner of Military Trail and Purdy Lane in suburban West Palm Beach.

He was there shortly after 2 a.m. Tuesday when a man in a ski mask demanded money.

The robber got the cash register drawer, but pulled the trigger of his handgun anyway. He shot Barsar at close range. The native of Faisalabad, Pakistan, who was raising his 15-year-old daughter in a Boynton Beach mobile home, died at the scene.

Man slain at Hwy. 101 bridge site identified

Oxnard, California --A welding inspector found stabbed to death near an underpass of the Santa Clara River Bridge was identified Thursday as Steven Knapp, 54, of Apple Valley.

When co-workers arrived for work around 6 a.m. Wednesday, they found Knapp lying on the ground by several large bridge pillars near the intersection of Wagon Wheel and Ventura roads. Knapp's 1996 red Toyota 4Runner SUV, which he often slept in at the job site, was missing, Oxnard Police Department Sgt. Jim Seitz said Thursday.

Farmer, 41, killed after being caught in auger

DEFIANCE, OH — A 41-year-old man was killed yesterday when he was pinned in a piece of farm equipment at his family's farm in Adams Township northeast of here, authorities said. David Wiemken was pronounced dead at the scene, Defiance County Sheriff David Westrick said. He and his brother were working in a grain silo on the farm in the 30000 block of Adams Ridge Road about 2:30 p.m. when he became entangled in the auger, the sheriff said.

Harrisburg convenience store clerk killed in holdup

HARRISBURG Pa. -- A man shot and killed a Harrisburg convenience store clerk during a holdup early Thursday, city officials said.

Hitender Thakur, 23, died after he was shot in the chest during the 1:15 a.m. robbery at City Gas and Diesel Mini Mart, Mayor Stephen R. Reed said in a news release. Police were called to the scene after a customer walked in a few minutes later and found Thakur's body, Reed said.

Video from the store's surveillance cameras showed the gunman pointing a handgun at Thakur through an open window, which the victim tried to slam shut before he was shot, Reed said.

Legal secretary killed outside law firm; suspect also dead

Kansas City, MO - Someone shot a legal secretary to death as she arrived at work this morning in Kansas City. Police hoped security video from a nearby business would lead them to her killer. But a man whom police considered a suspect died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound later in the morning in Kansas City, Kan., police said. The woman, whom co-workers identified as Lisa Slaughter, was approaching the front door of the law offices at 410 West 89th St. when she was shot.

Father Of Slain Officer Speaks Out

Norfolk, VA -- Ronald Williams said his son died doing the job he loved. Sunday night, Norfolk Police Officer Seneca Darden was shot and killed by another officer. "I wish he wasn't in police work, but he loved it," said Ronald. "He loved his job. Ronald said his son wasn't just a good officer, but a good person with a loving heart. The 25-year-old officer left behind a wife and three-year-old daughter.

Havana men laid to rest, 24-year-olds died in well accident Friday

Havana, IL - The two Havana men killed in a well accident on Friday were laid to rest Tuesday. Funeral services for 24-year-olds Aaron Pettet and Jay Dye were held at the Hurley funeral home in Havana. The two men were working on a well when they were overcome by a strong substance when they collapsed and died on Friday. The EPA did air and water tests which didn't reveal anything. The Illinois Department of Public Health is monitoring the well water until its deemed safe to drink. OSHA is also investigating.

Clerk Killed During Store Robbery

San Antonio, TX -- Two suspects gun down a northwest side convenience store clerk, and it's all caught on surveillance video. Police say two men are wanted on capital murder charges after killing 33-year old Sundeep Singh early Wednesday morning.

Investigators say this isn't the first time that store was robbed. In the past year alone, it was hit twice. The second time, the clerk fought back his attackers, who took off on foot.

Family of man who fell seeks answers

Tarpon, Springs, FL - The mother of a Tarpon Springs man who fell to his death at a St. Petersburg construction site wonders how safe conditions were. The family of a 25-year-old Tarpon Springs man killed on a construction site this week is questioning whether working conditions were safe. Jarrad R. Sussman was not wearing a safety harness or protective gear when he fell 33 feet Tuesday afternoon through roof panels at the Valpak construction site in St. Petersburg.

Cargo worker found dead at LAX

Los Angeles, CA - Paramedics discovered man lying on loading machine's tracks with a chest bruise. Co-workers say they didn't see what happened. A freight handler was found dead Monday in a cargo facility at Los Angeles International Airport, possibly crushed to death by a heavy lifting machine. The 54-year-old Los Angeles man, whose identity was not released, had no obvious crushing injuries except for a bruise across his upper chest. But he was bleeding heavily from the nose and mouth when firefighters and paramedics arrived, and was declared dead soon after at Centinela Freeman Regional Medical Center in Inglewood.

Details Emerge in Shooting Death of Police Officer

Dearborn Heights, MI - The Dearborn Heights community is mourning the loss of a police officer that was shot and killed in the line of duty. Officer Jason Makowski came from a long line officers, and he knew what it meant to protect and serve. 31-year-old Officer Jason Makowski, an 11 year veteran, was among several area law enforcement officials responding to 911 calls about an out of control gunman Wednesday. When the wife of 61-year-old Jeffery Wolf returned home Wednesday night, her husband told her that someone was going to die, or someone was going to get shot.

Construction worker dies in fall from 2nd story on N.J. job

SPARKILL, NJ - Family and friends of a man killed in an accident on a construction job in River Vale, N.J., were mourning their loved one yesterday.

On Monday, 65-year-old Marco DeJesus Lemus Galdamez was working on a new home at 203 Hoiem Court, when he fell from the second story, according to reports.

Worker dies in fall off warehouse roof

INDIANAPOLIS, IN -- A demolition crew supervisor died after he fell off the roof of a warehouse near the site of the new Indianapolis Colts stadium.

Fifty-eight-year-old Chuck Parker of Brownsburg was working on the roof yesterday when he fell about 25 feet, the Marion County coroners office says. An attorney for the company Parker worked for says Parker was wearing a safety harness. He was pronounced dead at Wishard Memorial Hospital.

Parker worked for Environmental Assurance Company, which specializes in environmental demolition and asbestos removal.

Painter dies after fall from tower at Culkin

Jackson, MS - An Indiana man died after falling about 50 feetWednesday from a cell phone tower he was painting off Culkin Road. Jack Pellow, 48, of Dale, Ind., was pronounced dead at University Medical Center in Jackson at 2:56 p.m., said UMC spokesman Thyrie Bland. Exact cause of death has not been determined, said Warren County Coroner John Thomason. An autopsy, required by state law for on-the-job deaths, is set to be performed today or Friday by state pathologist Steven Hayne at Mississippi Mortuary Services in Pearl.

Crucen killed in industrial accident

Las Cruces, NM -- A 65-year-old Las Cruces man was killed Friday in an industrial accident in the 1000 block of West Amador Avenue, according to police. Gilbert Arellano, 65, was flown to Thomason Hospital in El Paso, where he later died.

Ironworker snagged, killed while working on elevator

Cambridge, MA - Rescuers had to climb at least 70 feet above Cambridge yesterday to retrieve the body of an ironworker who died while working on an elevator. The 47-year-old victim, whose name was withheld until family could be notified, was dead when fire rescue crews arrived at 500 Technology Square. The man was found wedged in the elevator's external mechanisms
, Cambridge Deputy Fire Chief Edward Mahoney said. "He got caught and he was trapped up there," said Mahoney, who assisted in the delicate hours-long process. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Cambridge Inspectional Services were on the scene last night along with police and fire officials.

Highway worker killed in accident south of St. Louis

FESTUS, Mo. - A highway worker was killed and two others injured when they were struck by a pickup truck on Interstate 55 in Jefferson County, south of St. Louis. The accident happened at 2:38 p.m. Wednesday near Festus. Jeffrey Staley, 40, of Caseyville, Ill., was killed when a southbound Dodge Ram pickup driven by Kent Saddler, 64, of Ste. Genevieve, crossed into the work zone and onto the shoulder, striking all three men, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said. Staley was knocked over a guardrail and fell 15 to 20 feet. Staley was an employee of Collins & Hermann Inc., of St. Louis, said Missouri Department of Transportation spokesman Chris Sutton. The men were replacing guardrails at the bridge.

Worker Found Dead At Wallingford Plant

WALLINGFORD, Conn. -- The man, who was in his 60s, was found dead by a co-worker at the Covanta Plant just after 6:30 a.m. The plant turns trash to energy and sells the power to Connecticut Light and Power. According to the company Web site, it generates about 11 megawatts of energy and serves about 200,000 people in the towns of Cheshire, Hamden, Meriden, North Haven, and Wallingford. An autopsy is planned.

Worker dies in Powell industrial accident

Powell, KY - Kentucky State Police are investigating an industrial accident that killed a man Tuesday evening when he was pinned by a front-end loader
. The accident occurred at Natural Bridge Stone on Ky. 11 in Powell County, according to a state police statement. Benny J. Creech was on a front-end loader that was lifted up in the air while he changed a drum on a conveyor belt. The drum shifted, pinning Creech between the loader and the conveyor. The Powell County Coroner pronounced Creech dead at the scene at 7:30 p.m. State police continue to investigate.

Trucks collide, killing driver, injuring another

SC - A garbage truck driver was killed last week when a fast-moving cement truck struck his vehicle from behind while it was stopped in the southbound lane of U.S. 17. Edward Heath Jr., 38, of Ash, died at approximately 7 a.m., May 17, when his Waste Industries truck was hit as he was depositing residential garbage in the truck's hopper about half a mile south of the Highway 904 intersection, according to the North Carolina Highway Patrol. The North Carolina Highway Patrol determined that Heath was loading the truck at the front when it was struck in the rear by the oncoming cement mixer driven by Thomas David Hayes, 35, for Southern Equipment Co., of Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Worker killed in Metairie: Scaffolding touches overhead power line

New Orleans, LA -- A construction worker was electrocuted Friday morning in a Metairie back yard when the metal scaffolding he was holding made contact with an overhead power line carrying 8,000 volts of electricity, authorities said.

Ignaceio Quiroz, 25, no address available, lay on the ground, his foot still touching the energized scaffolding, for more than 30 minutes in the back yard of a home in the 4500 block of Carthage Street. Emergency medical personnel waited for Entergy crews to shut down the power line, according to an incident report from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office. Quiroz was taken to the Charity Trauma Center in Elmwood, where he was pronounced dead at 8:55 a.m.

Industrial Accident Kills Woman in Auberry

Auberry, CA - There was a deadly accident Wednesday in the Fresno County foothills. A woman was killed when she was buried under ten tons of sand
. It happened at Outback Materials in Auberry. The sheriff's department worked to dig her body out of the sand. It's still unclear how the accident happened. The coroner's office identified the victim as 49-year-old Jeniene Borchardt of Auberry.

Volunteer firefighter dies at scene of accident

Cambria, ny — A Cambria Volunteer Fire Co. firefighter died while working at the scene of a multiple victim motor vehicle accident Sunday.

Gerald A. Machajewski collapsed in the line of duty, Fire Coordinator James C. Volkosh reported. Machajewski was transported to Lockport Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

Day laborer in River Vale dies in fall

RIVER VALE, NJ -- Police were investigating the accidental death Monday of a day laborer who fell from the second story of a house while he was carrying a door, authorities said. Lt. Michael McCann said the man was working on a new Hoiem Court house. About 8:20 a.m., after carrying the door to the second floor, he either tripped or was overcome by a medical condition and lost his balance -- plunging about 15 feet to the first floor. He died as paramedics were taking him to Pascack Valley Hospital in Westwood.

Idaho truck driver dies in Iowa crash

Appleton, WI -- An Idaho truck driver and a Wisconsin couple were killed in a fiery crash that shut down a stretch of Interstate 80 for several hours.

The Iowa State Patrol said Anthony Rizzo, 58, of Meridian, Idaho, and Wesley Frederick, 61, and his wife Jeanette, 61, both of Neenah, Wis., died in the accident on Saturday night on I-80, about 20 miles east of Des Moines.

Officials with the state patrol said Rizzo's semitrailer merged into a lane occupied by Frederick's Corvette. The semi collided with the car, and both vehicles crashed into the guardrail, plunged over an overpass and burst into flames, Trooper Kirk Lundgren said.

Convenience Store Clerk Killed in Overnight Robbery

Culebra, TX - A convenience store clerk is dead, after he was gunned down in an apparent robbery Tuesday night. Police say two men walked into the Road Runner Food Mart, on the 4500 block of Culebra, just before midnight. They allegedly shot the 33-year-old clerk in an attempt to rob the store. A second employee was stocking shelves in a back cooler when the robbery occurred. He told police he heard gunshots, then found his co-worker's body on the floor. Police have not made any arrests in this case, but hope the store's surveillance tape will help them to identify the suspects.

Highways worker killed

Charleston, WV -- A Division of Highways worker was killed Tuesday afternoon in McDowell County, when a co-worker accidentally backed a dump truck over him.

Killed in the accident was Luke Simplicio, 61, of Northfork. State Police say the work crew was cleaning some ditch lines on Route 52 in Landgraff.

A dump truck was backing up. Troopers say the worker walked behind the truck. The driver didn't see him and backed over him. Dowell County, when a co-worker accidentally backed a dump truck over him.

Farmer Drowns After Accident

Clay Township, OH - A well respected farmer in Clay Township is dead after a terrible farming accident, ONN affiliate WNWO reported. 62-year-old Paul Rothert went to drive his cabbage picker Monday night, but the machine was in reverse, and backed right into a pond
. Rothert's son jumped in to save his father and then started CPR, but Rothert couldn't be revived. Clay Township Police Chief, Roger Shultze, was shaken when he arrived on the scene to realize the victim was his good friend. "Paul was a great guy. He would do anything to help a friend. The entire community is going to be very shocked and sadended by his death. This is a tragic day," Shultze said.

Mine worker dies; sixth fatality in 4 days

FRANKFORT, KY - Another fatality has occurred at an Eastern Kentucky mine. Steven T. Bryant, 23, of Louisa, was killed today went the water truck he was driving at a Breathitt County mountaintop coal mine went over an embankment and crashed
, said Nikki Ploskonka, a spokeswoman for the state Environmental and Protection Cabinet. The accident occurred at 10:10 a.m. at Risner Branch No. 2 mine in Rousseau, she said. It is owned by Miller Brothers Coal LLC. Six men have died at a Kentucky coal mine in the last four days. Five miners died Saturday in a Harlan County underground mine. There have been 11 fatalities at Kentucky mines this year. Brett Krause, vice president of Miller Brothers, said federal and state authorities are investigating the accident and the company is "cooperating fully."

Teen dies after fall from roof;

JEDBURG, WV - A Guatemalan teenager who may have been working underage at a construction site has died after falling from a roof.

Josue Daniel Martinez Castillo, 17, was taken off a ventilator Thursday at Trident Medical Center, Berkeley County Coroner Glenn Rhoad said. Castillo had suffered head injuries Wednesday afternoon when he tumbled through a hole in the insulation of a building under construction and fell 25 feet to the concrete below.

Castillo was the second Hispanic construction worker to die in a fall in Berkeley County since April. A 32-year-old man from Columbia died April 25 when he fell two floors onto concrete at a Summerville construction site. He was working here legally, Rhoad said, and his death is still under investigation.

It is illegal to hire anyone younger than 18 to work construction, but Rhoad said a general manager of the contractor told him Castillo had an identification under another name and claimed to be 23. Castillo would have turned 18 on Friday.

The contractor, Frampton & Associates Inc., of Ladson, subcontracted with W&C Construction Inc., also of Ladson, Rhoad said. He was told that Castillo worked for the subcontractor but said he had not reached anyone from W&C Construction.

Sweeper driver dies after head-on with box truck

VANCOUVER, Wash. - On May 23 at approximately 8:15 a.m., troopers responded to an injury head-on collision on SR-502 at Northeast 22nd Avenue. Troopers who arrived at the scene saw the roadway blocked with debris from both of the trucks that were involved in the crash. Fire Department personnel were extinguishing a fire from the cab of a street sweeper truck, which had massive front-end damage. The sweeper truck was sitting sideways blocking the eastbound lane on SR-502. The other truck, a box-style delivery van with massive front-end damage, was lying on its left side in the westbound ditch.

According to a witness, the 1992 Ford F-700 Box Van truck being driven by Daniel A. Tindall, a 41-year-old resident of Kelso, was traveling westbound on SR-502 from Northeast 72nd Avenue and was having trouble keeping straight within the lane.

When the Ford got to Northeast 22nd Avenue, it crossed the center line by about four feet and collided head-on with a 1989 GMC Sweeper being driven by Mark A. Milgrove, a 48-year-old resident of Vancouver, who was traveling eastbound on SR-502.

Man killed in Port Fourchon accident

PORT FOURCHON La.--Authorities have been interviewing witnesses in an attempt to find out why a 26-year-old south Lafourche Parish man was crushed to death by a cement-filled box.

Nicholas Pitre of Cut Off, a forklift operator working at C-Port 2, reportedly walked into the path of a forklift Thursday morning.

When the operator tried to stop suddenly to avoid him, the box slid off the forks and struck Pitre, according to a report from the Greater Lafourche Port Commission.

Pitre was killed instantly, the report states.

Store clerk, 43, found dead; Hussein had wife, two children

Raleigh, NC -- When a customer arrived at the In & Out Mart on Creech Road about 8 a.m. Friday, he saw the white gate that covers the door unlocked and the door open. The man entered the store, didn't see anyone inside and left.

The same man returned about 10 a.m. and heard from bystanders that the clerk was not there. They worried that the store had been left unlocked.

The man went inside and began to search for Samuel Haj-Hussein, the 43-year-old store clerk. He found Hussein in an aisle -- dead from a gunshot wound. His 1992 blue Dodge Caravan was missing.

Driver of semi dies in a fiery I-75 crash

Gainesville, FL -- An unidentified man died Thursday afternoon after his tractor-trailer careened off Interstate 75 and crashed into trees before exploding into flames three miles north of Gainesville, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The driver, who has not yet been identified, was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after the accident occurred in the northbound lanes of the interstate at about 2:30 p.m., troopers reported.

Troopers said the semi, which was pulling an empty steel grain trailer, weaved back and forth across all lanes before it ran off the west grassy shoulder and crashed into a wooded area in the center median.

As they were driving behind the semi, Tony and Suzanne Hall of Kansas City, Mo., said they thought the driver had suffered a heart attack or fallen asleep after they saw the semi drifting back and forth across the lanes.

Suspect sought in fatal car collision; Driver of van full of farmworkers fled the scene after the crash.

Fresno, CA -- California Highway Patrol officers Wednesday were still looking for the man who ran away after a van he was driving collided with a pickup truck near Selma, killing three in the van and injuring eight other people.

According to the CHP, the van was southbound on Highway 43 when it went out of control, veered across the center line and was struck on the right rear side by a 2000 Ford F-150 pickup. The van was carrying farmworkers from Fresno to a peach orchard east of Laton.

Six of seven passengers were ejected, and three were pronounced dead at the scene.

Migrant worker van crashes, 2 dead

DECATUR, Ind. -- A van carrying migrant workers collided with a truck, killing two passengers and injuring nine, police said.

The van failed to yield at a stop sign Tuesday to the tractor-trailer, police said. Emergency officials pronounced
Wilmer Saenz-Morales, 36, and Inez Gomez, 43, of Fort Wayne, dead at the scene. The nine injured remained hospitalized today, said Indiana State Police Trooper Robert Brophy.

The driver of the van, who was not seriously injured, told police the passengers were migrant workers from Honduras, state police Sgt. Rod Russell said. The van had Ohio license plates.

Water Authority Worker Killed In Truck Crash

BAY SHORE, N.Y. -- A worker for the Suffolk County Water Authority was killed Tuesday when his truck crashed into a garage in Bay Shore, Suffolk County police said.

Keith Zeh,
40, of Bellport, may have had a medical emergency while driving that caused him to lose control of his truck, which is owned by the water authority, police said. The truck sideswiped a tree at 9:15 a.m. on Brentwood Road and then hit a garage, police said.

Miner killed at ICG mine in West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A miner was killed Wednesday in an equipment accident underground at an International Coal Group mine in Harrison County, the state Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training said.

The state was notified about 2:40 p.m. of the accident at the Sycamore II mine near Jarvisville, said administrator Terry Farley. The mine is owned by ICG’s Wolf Run Mining Co.

The victim’s name was not immediately released. The company did not have an immediate comment.

One killed by electrocution

TIFTON Ga. -- Lightning is being blamed for one death and accidental electrocution for another in south Georgia. Jessica Rae Ellis Hosmer, 46, of Tifton was electrocuted early Saturday in Metcal.

Hosmer worked for a Nashville logging company, said Thomas County Coroner Sam Brown. The owner of the company was operating a log-loading boom," Brown said.

Hosmer was apparently standing on the ground when the boom struck a high-power Thomasville Utilities wire. The current traveled from the wire through the boom and trailer to the ground. The current entered Hosmer's body through her feet. Brown said Hosmer's death was probably instantaneous.

Harness official: Driver's death was 'freak accident'

HARRINGTON, NJ — The administrator for the Delaware Harness Racing Commission said today he could not see anything that could have been done differently that would have prevented the death of Hal Belote Monday night at Harrington Raceway. Belote, 51, of Williamstown, N.J., was killed when his horse stumbled and fell during the first race. Two horses were behind him and could not avoid hitting Belote. Paramedics discovered man lying on loading machine's tracks with a chestbruise. Co-workers say they didn't see

Second Fairfax Officer Dies

Chantilly, VA -- The Fairfax police officer who was shot five times in the rampage at the Sully District Station nine days ago has died of his wounds, a spokeswoman at Fairfax Inova Hospital confirmed this morning.

Master Police Officer Michael E. Garbarino,
53, was pronounced dead this morning at 2:45 a.m., hospital spokeswoman Karen Ferguson said.

He was the second person killed by 18-year-old Michael W. Kennedy, the Centreville teenager who stormed the Chantilly station, dressed in full camouflage, and opened fire with several high-powered weapons.

Kennedy also killed
Det. Vicky O. Armel, 40, whose funeral Saturday drew thousands of grieving law enforcement officers from up and down the East Coast.

Employee Charged With Fatally Stabbing CEO

CHICAGO, IL -- An employee who received a bad performance review was charged with fatally stabbing the president of a construction company, authorities said.

Gary Poter, president and CEO of Poter Construction and Development, was stabbed Tuesday with a kitchen knife at his office, police said.

Tom Tuduj, an appraiser and bidder for the company who received a bad review Monday, was charged with first-degree murder, police Cmdr. Dean Andrews said.

Garbage truck driver killed in crash: Cement truck smashed into vehicle

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. -- A Waste Industries trash truck driver was killed instantly early Wednesday when a fully-loaded cement truck plowed into the rear of his vehicle as it was stopped in the right lane of U.S. 17 just south of N.C. 904.

First Sgt. J.O. Holmes of the N.C. State Highway Patrol said there was no indication at the scene that the cement truck tried to slow down before it hit the trash truck at about 7 a.m.

The driver of the garbage truck, 38-year-old
Edward Heath Jr. of Ash Little River Road, was emptying a container into the hopper at the front of his truck when the collision occurred, Holmes said

Tree trimmer dies after power line strikes him

TITTABAWASSEE TOWNSHIP Mich.--A tree trimmer died after a power line in a tree being cut by another trimmer snapped and struck him, police said.

Jacob Harris, 22, of St. Louis, Mich., was clearing trees for Consumers Energy on Wednesday in Saginaw County's Tittabawassee Township when he came into contact with a 4,800-volt line, The Saginaw News reported.

Harris worked for the Davey Tree Expert Co., based in Kent, Ohio. He was pronounced dead at Covenant Medical Center in Saginaw.

"This is a tragedy for the entire Davey Tree Expert Co. family," company spokeswoman Sandra Burns said in released statement. "We have dispatched a team of employees to meet with the family and our local employees."

Captain Feared Dead in S.C. Boat Accident

GEORGETOWN, S.C. -- Five boaters were rescued Thursday from a charter fishing vessel that capsized off the South Carolina coast the night before, and another was plucked from the water, officials said.

But the search continued for the 75-year-old captain, who apparently died while helping one of the survivors.
Robert Clarke had stayed with Mike Robinson, who was later found clinging to a life jacket, after both became separated from the catamaran when a wave washed them off the already overturned hull, said Coast Guard Capt. John Cameron.

Clarke "yelled back to his mate to take care of the five on the boat and that he would stay with Mr. Robinson who was having trouble swimming back to the vessel," Cameron said. At some point in the night, Robinson told officials, Clarke had "some sort of cardiac event," Cameron said.

Beeville officer dies of injuries from S.A. robbery

an Antonio, TX
- Gregory Stewart, the Beeville police officer who was shot during a robbery in San Antonio last week, was pronounced dead at 9:29 a.m. Monday, University Health System officials said Monday. He was 32. Stewart was shot at 2:16 a.m. May 7 as he and a friend were walking from a nightclub in the 4800 block of Fredericksburg Road.

Highway worker killed, woman dragged in separate accidents

San Antonio, TX -- Two unrelated accidents occurred in succession Thursday afternoon on the West Side, one killing a 32-year-old construction worker as he was cleaning a highway and the other leaving a 65-year-old Wisconsin woman in critical condition, police said.

The victims' identities have not been released, pending notification of their next of kin.

Around 2:30 p.m., a 26-year-old woman was heading west on U.S. 90 by Callaghan Road when she veered off the road and hit the construction worker, who smashed through her windshield and died, a detective said.

An explosion rocked a Riceland Foods plant in Stuttgart on Tuesday, killing one person.

STUTTGART, Ark.- Two workers were repairing an empty tank used to process soybean oil when the explosion occurred about 8:30 a.m., according to company spokesman Bill Reed. One of the workers was killed, Reed said. His name was not released, pending notification of his family.

Three dead in workplace shooting

HARRISONBURG -- An employee of the American Home Patient medical supplies retail store here fatally shot two fellow workers and then turned the gun on himself around 8 a.m. today, police said. Police Department identified the gunman as Brewer Hoover Jr., 65, of Harrisonburg, and his victims as Gary Gibson, 54, of Harrisonburg, and Bonnie Gump, 54, of Grottoes.

Denver fire lieutenant dies of injuries suffered in blaze

DENVER, CO - A veteran Denver firefighter who suffered a heart attack while fighting a house fire a week ago died Sunday morning.

Lt. Rich Montoya was only 15 shifts from retirement when he was injured May 14, fire department spokesman Lt. Phil Champagne said.He had 30 years with the department.

Montoya was trying to get his crew out of a pitch-black bedroom when he became trapped under a mattress.

2 crop-dusters collide, 1 pilot killed

Little Rock, AR -- Two crop-dusters collided above a field near DeWitt late Thursday morning, killing one pilot and injuring the other, Arkansas County Sheriff Allen Cheek said.

One plane was believed to be spreading fertilizer on a field about two miles south of the DeWitt airport at 11:30 a.m. when the other plane collided with it, sending both tumbling from the sky, Cheek said as he drove from the scene Thursday evening. The two fragmented yellow planes landed about 300 yards apart in different fields.

"It was worse than any automobile crash I'd ever seen," Cheek said. "There were pieces [of planes] scattered everywhere." The sheriff's office did not release the identity of the deceased pilot.

House painter electrocuted in Southeast

SOUTHEAST, NY — The death of a house painter who was electrocuted
when his aluminum ladder touched a power line has authorities reminding residents to take precautions when working near utility lines. Astrit Polozani, 20, of Ridgefield, Conn., was pronounced dead at Danbury (Conn.) Hospital after the accident, which happened around 2:30 p.m. Thursday, according to Brewster state police.

Latest Mine Accident Leaves 5 Dead in Ky.

Harlan County, KY - An explosion in an eastern Kentucky coal mine killed five miners Saturday, Gov. Ernie Fletcher said. A sixth miner was able to walk away from the blast and out of the mine on his own. The blast at the Darby Mine No. 1 in Harlan County occurred between midnight and 1 a.m. EDT while a maintenance shift was on duty, said Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. It was the latest in a string of mine accidents to hit U.S. coal country this year. The five dead miners were found by rescue workers, the governor said. The rescue teams initially found three dead workers and later found two more, he said. Fletcher said he had contacted the families of the killed workers. "They want answers - how, why, what caused it - that will help them deal with it a little more," he said. Authorities identified the victims as Amon Brock, 51; Jimmy Lee; Roy Middleton, 35; George William Petra and Paris Thomas Jr. The ages of Lee, Petra and Thomas were not immediately available.

Disney worker dies in collision

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL -- One Disney employee died and another suffered serious injuries when their cars collided on a Walt Disney World road Thursday. The survivor is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, the Florida Highway Patrol said. Phillip Stitzer, 24 of Orlando lost control of his westbound vehicle about 12:30 a.m. on Vista Drive and struck Kuang Wu's westbound vehicle, the FHP said.

Baltimore Officer Dies In Collision With Fellow Cop

Baltimore, MD - An eleven year veteran of the Baltimore police department has died in the line of duty. The incident took place near the intersection of Parksley and Stafford street shortly after 2:20 on May 19, 2006. According to a local Associated Press report, Anthony Byrd, 31, was broad sided
by a fellow officer's car on his return to the Southwestern District police station. The impact knocked his car into a utility pole, leading to death from impact at nearby Saint Agnes hospital minutes later. The report adds that nobody knows yet whether either officer was using emergency lights or a siren.

2 dead in Houston job shooting; suspect on run

Houston, TX - Capital murder charges were filed today in the fatal shooting of two workers at a southeast Houston manufacturing plant. Witnesses say that Miguel Soria, 25, entered Texas Steel Conversion at around 7:30 p.m. Friday night, where he confronted two co-workers before drawing a handgun and firing multiple shots. Mario Rico, 28, and Jorge Rangel, 27, both suffered multiple gunshot wounds and later died at area hospitals.

Snover man killed as a result of work accident

SANILAC COUNTY, MI — According to a press release from the Sanilac County Sheriff's Office, Aaron Brown, 21, of Snover died on Thursday after being transported to McKenzie Memorial Hospital as a result of an accident while working at Tri-County Equipment. According to the release, deputies from the sheriff's office were dispatched to the hospital at approximately 9:45 a.m. on Thursday in regards to Brown's accidental death. The investigation by the Sanilac County Sheriff's Office revealed that Brown was working on maintaining a brush hog after hours at Tri-County Equipment when he was pinned between the brush hog and the creeper he was on.

Farmer dies in tractor accident

AL - A man known by neighbors for giving away home-grown produce died tragically Wednesday, when his tractor overturnedwhile he was working in his garden. According to Coroner Gary Murphree, W. Earnest Griffin, 91, of County Road 1413, was found dead at his home by his daughter Janice Haynes early Monday afternoon.

Road worker dies after being struck by pickup truck

PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A 34-year-old road construction worker died after being hit
by a pickup truck in a construction zone on westbound Interstate 94 in Washtenaw County, police said. Steven Wayne Leelean, of Harrison, was cleaning up debris about 11 p.m. Friday when he apparently stepped out of the closed left lane underneath the northbound U.S. 23 overpass and into traffic, said Michigan State Police Sgt. Tony Cuevas.

Bouncer killed trying to break up knife fight

Miami, FL - A popular employee of the Mansion nightclub died of knife wounds when he attempted to stop a fight in the street. A popular South Beach bouncer was stabbed to death just before dawn on Saturday as he tried to break up a knife fight that erupted outside Mansion on Washington Avenue. The bouncer, identified only as John by a club spokeswoman, had been a staple of the South Beach scene for a decade. The fight broke out about 15 minutes after John's 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. shift ended. ''Tragically, he died as a result of his heroic action,'' said Vanessa Menkes of Mansion. "John stopped to help end a fight.'' Two other men involved in the fight were stabbed. One was stabbed in the neck and was listed in critical condition at Ryder Trauma Center, said Bobby Hernandez, a Miami Beach police spokesman. The other was treated for a severed finger at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Construction Worker Dies in Fall from Bridge Near Angola

Angola, IN-A construction worker fell to his death from a bridge under construction over Interstate 69 near Angola. Fifty-two-year-old James Spears of Roanoke fellWednesday about 25 feet from the bridge onto a lane of the highway that was blocked to traffic. Spears was working on metal I-beams being used to upgrade the overpass at County Road 400N near Pokagon State Park, about 40 miles north of Fort Wayne.

Man killed in industrial plant accident

Lawrenceville, GA -- A 45-year-old Athens man was killed Friday in an industrial accident at a Lawrenceville plant cited last year for workplace violations.

When firefighters arrived at Valentine Enterprises Inc. on Collins Hill Road just after 11 a.m., they found the body of Jerry Hill inside a large industrial mixer, authorities said.

It was not known if Hill worked for Valentine or for a company maintaining the 150,000-square-foot plant’s equipment.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

OSHA Recordkeeping: Who Will Audit the Auditors?

This is Part III of a series on OSHA recordkeeping by guest-bloggers ERM. Part I appeared here, and Part II appeared here.

In Part I, we explained how accurate injury and illness data are just as fundamental to making the rational decisions needed to protect workers as honest accounting is to preventing future Enrons.

In Part II we used the AK Steel case to show how OSHA may have something in common with the companies it regulates: a vested institutional interest in not carefully auditing OSHA 300 logs and allowing injuries and illnesses to stay off the books. Rigorous enforcement of the recordkeeping regulation might lead to an increase in reported injuries and illnesses, leading some to question whether OSHA is succeeding in its mission. Moreover, big fines for mere “bookkeeping mistakes,” could arouse political opposition from those who don’t understand the importance of accurate OSHA logs.

This piece uses another specific example -- the California Bay Bridge project -- to illustrate that when injuries and illnesses are not recorded real workers get hurt and sick, and to stress the need for a separate institution to audit OSHA.

The strange case of Cal-OSHA’s failure to investigate worker complaints that Kiewit/FCI/Manson (KFM) concealed worker injuries and illnesses in its Bay Bridge project offers disturbing evidence of this institutional conflict of interest. In defending its failures, Cal-OSHA implicated federal OSHA, which approved and encouraged the partnership with KFM that now seems to be a big part of the reason why Cal-OSHA was complicit in the company’s efforts to conceal safety and health problems. Worst of all, Cal-OSHA’s effort to explain away its inaction on the Bay Bridge complaints, reveals the state plan’s indifference to accurate injury and illness recordkeeping.


Before laying out the timeline of events, it is important to understand the context of the partnership agreement between Cal-OSHA and KFM, the general contractors who are rebuilding the Oakland Bay Bridge. Federal OSHA has been promoting voluntary partnerships for years, in an effort to induce companies to make safety improvements. OSHA lacks the resources to enforce everywhere, the reasoning goes, so the more it can encourage companies to comply voluntarily, the better for everyone. Being kinder and gentler to business is also in line with the political program of the Republican administration.

Although states with their own OSHA plans, like California, are supposedly independent of federal OSHA, the national office does provide funding to the states and can influence policies. Moreover, Cal-OSHA has been losing inspectors for years, so it had reason to try to husband its scarce inspection resources by entering into partnership agreements, especially when it comes to large projects.

Finally, KFM had compiled an exemplary safety and health record - on paper – with a history of injury and illness rates below the industry average. This track record helped the company win the Bay Bridge contract and the partnership agreement with Cal-OSHA.


Published reports reveal the following:
  1. An April 7, 2005 article in The Oakland Tribune indicated that in October of 2004 a worker complained of excessive manganese and other toxic welding fumes at the Bay Bridge project. According to the same article, Cal-OSHA defended the Bay Bridge project’s great safety record.

  2. The same newspaper reported in an editorial that 20 workers had said KFM uses fear, cash rewards, and punishments to conceal safety and health problems and minimize problems.

  3. Len Walsh, acting chief of Cal-OSHA, in an April 13, 2005 letter to the editor of the Oakland Tribune, defended KFM’s safety record and denied having received worker complaints about safety violations.

  4. One month later, on May 20, dozens of workers sue KFM over exposure to manganese fumes and other toxins. A recent lawsuit in Illinois had established for the first time a link between exposure to welding fumes and Parkinson’s Disease.

  5. Thanks to the publicity generated by the Oakland Tribune about workers complaining of injuries and illnesses, that KFM is hiding them, and that Cal-OSHA is doing nothing about it, in June 2005, California state auditors decided they would investigate worker safety issues on the Bay Bridge project.

  6. In February of 2006 the state auditors issued a damning report of their findings. “California’s worker-safety watchdog failed to properly monitor and act upon injury reports and safety complaints on the $1.7 billion replacement of the Bay Bridge eastern span.”

    • For example, Keith Bates has a stack of records documenting how he was hurt on the site, but it took Cal-OSHA more than a year to acknowledge the injury and inform the job’s contractor the injury should be on its annual injury reports.

    • In its response to the auditor’s report, Cal-OSHA finally “acknowledges that errors were made in responding to two of the complaints” at the project. One raised a safety issue and the other raised an issue of inadequate protection from manganese exposure after it was believed that problems with protection from manganese exposure had been resolved. “These complaints should have been responded to with an enforcement site inspection.

    • By way of explanation, Cal-OSHA stated that the partnership with KFM is a pilot program, begun with the participation and approval of federal OSHA. Despite evidence to the contrary, the agency also states: “It was clear KFM was not hiding hazards and equally clear that they were willing to abate hazards promptly when they were discovered.”
The facts speak for themselves: Cal-OSHA does not care about enforcing its rules requiring accurate OSHA 300 logs. Just as KFM hid injuries and illnesses, Cal-OSHA ignored worker complaints. Cal-OSHA showed it cared more about having a successful partnership than investigating worker complaints and ensuring accurate OSHA logs.

But in case there is any doubt, the agency itself clearly admits this, in the most damning comment of all those made about the state auditor’s report:
Identifying those instances where Form 300 logs have not recorded all recordable injuries may not be viewed as having a direct relationship to prevention of the most significant accidents that occur at high-hazard worksites like large-scale construction projects.
The California Bay Bridge episode is therefore a perfect example of how at least one state plan and federal OSHA have a vested interest in not requiring the accurate recording of injuries and illnesses. It also illustrates the need for a separate institution to audit OSHA. And finally, it illustrates that when injuries and illnesses are not recorded, it’s not a case of a meaningless bookkeeping error. Real workers get hurt and sick.

One piece of good news: having an independent institution audit Cal-OSHA has worked. Cal-OSHA is finally investigating the underreporting of injuries on the Bay Bridge project and a report is due June 2. The word is that this enforcement action could be a big one.

Does anybody think this would have happened without the state auditor’s investigation? Nor would the auditors have gotten involved without the result of the tireless reporting of the Oakland Tribune.

The conclusion is simple, clear, and logical. If we really want to protect workers and if we really want to know what’s going on in the nation’s workplaces, we not only need OSHA to investigate company records, we need auditors to investigate OSHA.

Unless and until that happens, don’t believe it when OSHA brags about what a great job it’s doing cutting injuries and illnesses.

Related Stories

OSHA Recordkeeping Series by ERM

Part I: Learning From Enron: Why Accurate OSHA Recordkeeping Matters, May 15, 2006
Part II: At AK Steel, as at Enron, the Numbers Don’t Add Up, May 23, 2006

Confined Space Bay Bridge Stories

Cal-OSHA Blasted By Auditor for Bay Bridge Illnesses and Underreporting. Understaffing Blamed
, February 9, 2006
More KFM Flu: Neglected Workers and a Suffering Safety Agency, April 19, 2005
Behavioral Safety Out of Control and The KFM Flu, April 12, 2005

Friday, May 26, 2006

Immigrant Worker Fatalities Lead To Deportation?

I don't even know where to start with this one.

An immigrant worker was killed seriously injured last in Middletown, Connecticut Monday after falling off a roof. He had no fall protection, even though OSHA requires guard rails and harnesses when working more than six feet off the ground.

Now it gets weird. First, "the man's co-workers, also described as Hispanic males, tried to provide first aid." Thirty minutes after he fell, neighbors called 911.

Do we think the thirty minute delay in calling an ambulance had anything to do with the Hispanic co-workers' fear of being snatched up by immigration authorities?

Nah, that would never happen. Or?
Some of the males working at the site ran when police arrived.

"Three of the individuals ran into the woods to avoid detection," said [Middletown Police Department spokeswoman, Lt. Peggy] Liseo.

Liseo said federal immigration authorities were called when the workers did not produce identification.

The federal authorities, who could not be reached for comment, took the men into custody.

Poor Enron Execs. It's Not Like They Killed Anyone

Exposing your boob on national television: $550,000

Being convicted of conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud, making false statements, losing $60 billion of your investor's money and your employees's jobs and pensions: Spend the rest of your life in prison.

Killing workers after willfully violating safety standards: Priceless (and blameless)

(Update here.)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

EPA Scientists Accuse Agency of Exerting Political Pressure To Continue Use of Harmful Pesticides

Shocked, shocked that the pesticide and chemical industries are directing EPA rulemaking.

Environmental Protection Agency scientists are accusing EPA managers of exerting political pressure to allow the continued use of harmful pesticides, and that decisions are being made only with the approval of the regulated industries. In a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, union leaders wrote:
Our colleagues in the Pesticide Program feel besieged by political pressure exerted by Agency officials perceived to be too closely aligned with the pesticide industry and former EPA officials now representing the pesticide and agricultural community; and by the USDA through their Office of Pest Management Policy. Equally alarming is the belief among managers in the Pesticide and Toxics Programs that regulatory decisions should only be made after reaching full consensus with the regulated pesticide and chemicals industry.
Three unions representing 9,000 scientists, risk managers and other specialists (the American Federation of Government Employees, National Treasury Employees Union and Engineers and Scientists of California)object to the imminent approval of 20 organophosphate and carbamate pesticides.

According to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which released the letter:
Organophosphates, derived from World War II-era nerve agents, are banned in England, Sweden and Denmark. In the 1990’s the National Academies of Science criticized EPA’s regulation of these pesticides. The Clinton administration began moves to ban the agents but the Bush administration changed course. In the past few months, the Bush administration approach has been faulted by both EPA’s own Scientific Advisory Panel and its Office of Inspector General.
The letter notes that the EPA's Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP)
has expressed concern that the Pesticide Program’s current approaches may not be sufficiently conservative, may underestimate the risks to infants and children, and do not adequately identify individuals that may be inherently sensitive to neurotoxicants.
The letter also cites an EPA Inspector General report that states that
EPA’s risk assessments cannot state with confidence the degree to which any exposure of a fetus, infant or child to a pesticide will or will not adversely affect their neurological development.
The letter makes three requests:
  • That decisions be based on the "Precautionary Principle" where data is inadequate. (The Precautionary Principle calls for government intervention before harm occurs.)

  • That the agency retain a "10-fold safety factor" where there are no studies on the effect of the pesticides on the brain development of fetus's and infants.

  • That maximum protections - engineering controls for handlers and longer re-entry intervals for postapplication labor- be put into place for agricultural uses of these pesticides; where this is not feasible, cancel these registrations, as EPA promised before.
The Wall St. Journal calls the letter "unprecedented and a professional rebuke to Mr. Johnson, himself a scientist and former assistant administrator in charge of the agency's program to test the harmful effects of pesticides." The Journal reports that,
EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood said the agency "has been reviewing all pesticides in question and applying new, stricter standards as required under the Food Quality Protection Act, with a specific focus on their effects on children's health." The agency had no specific response to the union leaders' assertions. Spokesmen for groups representing the pesticide industry didn't immediately return phone calls.

Disposable Workers

Bob Herbert has a column in the NY Times today where he discuss a recent book by economist Louis Uchitell, The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences. Uchitelle argues corporate leaders have overdone it with layoffs:
Mr. Uchitelle's thesis is that corporate layoffs have been carried much too far, that they have gone beyond a legitimate and necessary response to a changing economy.

"What started as a necessary response to the intrusion of foreign manufacturers into the American marketplace got out of hand," he writes. "By the late 1990's, getting rid of workers had become normal practice, ingrained behavior, just as job security had been 25 years earlier."

In many cases, a thousand workers were fired when 500 might have been sufficient, or 10,000 were let go when 5,000 would have been enough. We pay a price for these excesses. The losses that accrue to companies and communities when many years of improving skills and valuable experience are casually and unnecessarily tossed on a scrap heap are incalculable.
Look at that last highlighted sentence again. Now, think about how employers justify their arguments that we don't really need OSHA to be an enforcement agency that cites and fines companies.

No, no, no:
Aside from being like families, employees are our most important resource. If they get injured or killed, we have lost an enormous investment in their skills and experience and must then find and train new workers. That's quite enough incentive to encourage us to provide a safe workplace. (So we don't need no stinkin' regulations or fines.)
So employees who are trash (despite their skills and experience) when the bottom line calls for it, suddenly become their most valuable resource when it comes to avoiding regulations and enforcement.

Anyway, just thinking....