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Millions Of Workers Are Still In Danger From Asbestos

  Mesothelioma Awareness Day Is September 26th

Nearly 20 million people will develop Mesothelioma in their lifetime due to exposure to asbestos

 

For over forty years workers’ health and safety groups have been fighting to ban asbestos in the United States and throughout the world. Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, has been proven to cause substantial harm, even death to workers. Only 30% of countries have outright banned asbestos even after it was proven to cause mesothelioma, a deadly disease that has a one year mortality rate of nearly 64%.

History of Asbestos

For many years, asbestos was used in building construction mainly for its fire retardant properties. Internal structures were coated with asbestos fibers making them almost fire proof. It was not until many years later that the dangers of using asbestos began to surface. Materials containing asbestos are easily damaged and causes the microscopic, fibers to become airborne. Inhaling or ingesting these fibers, cause serious damage to the body, eventually developing into cancer or other diseases.

Though the first official case of a worker’s death stemming from asbestos exposure was in 1924, it would not be until 1976 before Congress would take action by passing the Toxic Substances Control Act to reduce asbestos exposure. In 1989, Congress went one step further and outright banned the use of asbestos. The ban was subsequently overturned, but asbestos use has been limited to less than 1% of the overall product. In spite of their good intentions, workers are still at risk from asbestos and an estimated 20 million people will develop mesothelioma within their lifetime.

Asbestos Exposure At Work

Though the United States has limited asbestos use, those in the construction industry are especially still at risk for exposure. Asbestos is still commonly used in cement, insulation, caulking, and roofing shingles. It’s estimated that over 1 million construction workers are exposed to asbestos-containing materials each year and according to the NIOSH work-related lung disease report, nearly 15% of all malignant mesothelioma deaths in 1999 were workers in the construction industry.

Shipyard workers are also at high risk for developing mesothelioma due to a high exposure to asbestos. During WWII as America was building warships as fast as they could, asbestos became a key ingredient, finding use in gaskets and within boiler components. Nearly 4 million individuals working in naval yards or on ships during World War II were exposed to asbestos. However, construction and shipyard workers are not the only ones with an elevated risk of developing mesothelioma. Others include firefighters, mechanics, plant workers, railroad workers, sheet metal workers, hairdressers and many more. More information on what industries pose a greater risk for mesothelioma and occupational asbestos exposure can be found here.

Recently, reconstruction was halted at the Schiller Power Plant in Portsmouth, NH when OSHA received an anonymous tip that workers exposure to asbestos and mercury. OSHA quickly responded to the Manaford Brothers Inc employee who tipped them off. Manaford was then required to “immediately investigate the allegations and make any necessary correction.” Unscrupulous employers do not care about the health and welfare of their employees, they only care about reducing their costs and increasing their profits. Therefore, it is up to us to ensure that our employers are following OSHA regulations for asbestos exposure.

Mesothelioma

This year, September 26th has been designated as Mesothelioma Awareness Day.

On Mesothelioma Awareness Day, groups like the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) are working to get people involved in the discussion, hosting a Twitter Chat on September 26th to discuss asbestos and raise awareness of this rare disease. Join in and spread the word to help advocate for a ban on asbestos in the United States and around the world.

Please use the Twitter hashtag #ENDmeso 

President Obama Should Veto Funding Cuts That Would Harm American Workers

FY 2016 Budget Cuts and Riders Targeting
Worker Health and Safety Are Poison Pills
 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama should veto the proposed fiscal year 2016 funding cuts to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), said Public Citizen, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) and 74 worker safety, labor, good government, public health, environmental and community groups. Combined, the 76 groups represent more than 6.4 million U.S. members and supporters

 

Versions of the bill in both chambers of Congress contain funding cuts targeting OSHA and MSHA, as well as poison pill policy riders that would put American workers at further risk of death and injury. The U.S. Senate bill (S. 1695) would cut each agency’s funding by approximately $19 million, while the U.S. House bill (H.R. 3020) would cut OSHA funding by 3 percent.

 

“These are devastating cuts that will make it harder to protect workers exposed to dangerous hazards on the job,” said Mary Vogel, executive director of National COSH. “Today, there is only enough capacity for the average workplace to see an inspector once a century thanks to low staffing and incessantly inadequate budgets. It’s unacceptable that Congress is trying to make the problem even worse.”

 

Each year 4,500 workers are killed on the job. Over 3 million workers suffer serious occupational injuries, and 50,000 die of occupational illnesses attributable to workplace exposure to hazardous substances. The cost of job injuries and illnesses to the American economy is estimated at $250 billion to $360 billion a year.

 

One of the harmful riders included in the Senate bill would block the use of funds to promulgate or implement regulations relating to occupational exposure to silica without additional studies, even though OSHA’s proposed rule is based on decades of extensive, peer-reviewed research on the hazards of silica exposure. Approximately 2.2 million workers currently are exposed to silica, which, in addition to causing lung cancer, has contributed to 1,437 silicosis-related deaths between 2001 and 2010. OSHA estimates that the new standard will save nearly 700 lives and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis per year once the full effects of the rule are realized.

 

Additionally, language added to the House bill committee report would defund OSHA’s Susan Harwood Training Grant Program, which provides grants to nonprofit organizations to train employees and employers on the recognition, avoidance and prevention of health and safety hazards in their workplaces. The program targets audiences who might not otherwise receive training, including small business workers and employers, hard-to-reach or low-literacy workers, and workers in vulnerable and high-hazard industries. Since 1978, over 1.8 million workers have been trained through this program.

 

“If the proposed budget cuts are enacted, we will undoubtedly lose the worker safety and health improvements we’ve made over the years, as well as the opportunity for new achievements,” said Susan Harley, deputy director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Also, if the harmful policy riders are included in the bill, workers will face more injuries and deaths, and Americans will face higher economic and social costs in the long run. It’s far past time for our government to live up to its promise to ensure all workers are safe on the job.”

 

Read the letter to President Obama.

New Report Highlights Dangers To Workers In Recycling Facilities

U.S. Recycling Workers Exposed to Safety Hazards and High Injury Rates, But Cities Can Protect the Workers Who Protect the Planet

17 Recent Fatalities; Injured at More than Twice the Rate as the Average Worker

[BERKELEY, CA:] A new study, released Tuesday, June 23 by environmental, occupational safety, and community benefits experts in collaboration with researchers at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, finds that recycling work is unnecessarily hazardous to workers’ health and safety. Seventeen American recycling workers died on the job from 2011 to 2013. Recycling workers are more than twice as likely to be injured at work as the average worker.

By ensuring health and safety compliance across the industry, the study’s authors say cities can create good and safe recycling jobs, and they offer concrete policy recommendations for cities.

“Recycling is the right thing to do, but we have to do it the right way,” said Mary Vogel, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. “That means educating and empowering recycling workers, and using proven prevention strategies which we know will reduce exposure to hazardous conditions. That’s how we can avoid tragedies like the death of a recycling worker just last week in Florida.”

Key findings from the report, Safe & Sustainable Recycling: Protecting Workers who Protect the Planet, include:

●     The industry’s high injury and fatality rates are a result of unsafe working conditions around heavy machinery and exposure to hazardous items on the sort line, like hypodermic needles, toxic chemicals, and animal carcasses.

●     Many waste and recycling companies rely heavily on temporary workers, who have fewer workplace protections and are less likely to be informed of their legal right to a safe and healthy workplace.

“People put dangerous stuff in recycling bins,” said Mirna Santizo, who worked at a Casella recycling facility for 12 years, sorting recycling from Boston and other cities. “We found lots of broken glass and needles. Sometimes workers were punctured and hurt from the needles.”

“If we are serious about solving the world’s ecological crises, we need to invest in protecting the lives and livelihoods of workers whose daily efforts are reducing pollution, conserving precious resources, and mitigating climate change,” said Monica Wilson of GAIA, a contributor to the report.

To create good and safe recycling jobs, the authors recommend:

·      City governments evaluate the health and safety records of recycling companies and require these companies to have comprehensive worker safety programs,

·      The recycling industry ends the use of temporary workers, and

·      Cities enact strong community education programs for greater household separation of waste to minimize dangerous contaminants entering the recycling stream.

The report notes that unionized workers, with negotiated contracts in place enjoy more effective enforcement of legally mandated health and safety protections and also have the ability to bargain for additional safeguards to improve working conditions.

“Many cities have figured out how to collect recycling in ways that help our environment, and create good, safe jobs. It’s time to extend that approach to every city, and to every step of the recycling chain, starting with recycling sorting facilities,” said Hays Witt with the Partnership for Working Families, a report contributor.

Since this report went to press, a Florida man was crushed to death on June 15, 2015 in a cardboard compactor while working at a recycling plant in Winter Garden, outside of Orlando.

 “Safe and Sustainable Recycling” is being released today with events in 10 cities. The report notes important economic and climate benefits from expanding recycling nationally, including climate benefits equivalent to shutting down one-fifth of U.S. coal power plants and sustaining a total of 2.3 million jobs. That is more than 10 times the number of jobs than sending the same material to garbage incinerators and landfills.

Greater Transparency Can Prevent Workplace Fatalities, Says National Safety Group

Bureau of Labor Statistics Must Release Data on Where and How Workers Die on the Job

NCOSH 300X250LONGMEADOW, MA —  The release today of the preliminary Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows the need for greater transparency and full disclosure about workplace deaths, says Mary Vogel, Executive Director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH).

“We know that 4,405 U.S. workers died on the job in 2013, a tragic loss for their families and communities,” said Vogel. “We know that when final data is released, there will be even more fatalities to mourn.  We know, based on decades of research and practice, that the vast majority of these deaths can be prevented.  We also know how to prevent the tens of thousands of deaths, not included in today’s census, which result each year from long-term exposure to toxic chemicals, unsafe practices and other workplace hazards.”

 “What we don’t know – even though the Bureau of Labor Statistics collects this information – is the name of each victim, their employer, and the specific circumstances leading to their deaths.”

 “We want to have as much factual information as we can about how our loved ones lost their lives at work,” said Tammy Miser of United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities, a national organization which brings together surviving family members of workers who have died on the job. “Rather than just counting bodies, we need a complete accounting of the circumstances of each individual case. Understanding what happened in the past is crucial so we can save lives in the future.”

“We need greater disclosure and transparency to transform a data collection program into a public health tool,” said Celeste Monforton, who is a professorial lecturer at the School of Public Health and Health Services at George Washington University.

“Right now, we’re missing opportunities to prevent injuries and deaths because fatality information is hidden within inspection files,” she said. “The more we see, the more we know, the more successful we can be in preventing future tragedies.”

National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace.  “Preventable Deaths 2014,” a National COSH report, describes workplace fatalities in the United States and how they can be prevented. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org.  Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter.

Statement by AFL-CIO President Trumka on Turkish Mining Disaster

Today’s news that more than 200 coal miners in Turkey have lost their lives on the job and an untold number are still trapped in the mine is a tragedy.  The thoughts and prayers of millions of workers go out to their families and communities.

This disaster also is a stark reminder of the danger workers face every day around the world due to corporate negligence and the failure of governments to protect their citizens.

As a third-generation coal miner, I understand the risks involved in earning a living and providing for your family through such dangerous work. While there will always be risks involved in mining, and many other professions, there are steps we can and should take to ensure that no worker has to choose between a day’s pay and their life.

We await more details about the nature and cause of this tragedy.  Our concerns are grounded in reams of evidence which show that the reach of corporate irresponsibility and government incapacity knows no borders. Our own annual Death on the Jobreport, released just last week, shows too many dying on the job in the United States, including two coal miners in West Virginia only days ago. We must dedicate our efforts to ensuring every workplace is safe.  Those who lost their lives today, and the thousands more we have lost in the last year serve as a reminder of the challenge ahead to ensure that every worker can live without fear of workplace injury or death.

In 2012, the most recent year with available data, 4,628 workers were killed on the job in the United States, and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases, resulting in a loss of 150 workers each day from hazardous working conditions. America still has much work to do to protect its own workers.

Statement by AFL-CIO President Trumka on “Workers Memorial Day”

Workers Memorial Day brings us together to remember the ultimate sacrifices working people make to achieve the American Dream. No worker should die on the job. Every one of the 150 working men and women who die every day from injury or occupational disease serve as a constant reminder of the dangers too many face at the workplace.

I saw those dangers myself as a third-generation coal miner, and I know the heartache that ripples through entire communities when one of our own dies.

As we keep those who have died in our thoughts and prayers, we should rededicate ourselves to holding companies accountable for putting profits over people, and we must demand stronger safety standards in the workplace.

Much has been done over the years to improve worker safety, but until every worker, from the farm to the factory, is guaranteed the peace of mind of a safe workplace, our job will never truly be done.

Events Nationwide Honor Workers Who Lost Their Lives on the Job

New National Data Shows More Than 4,600 Deaths Due to Injuries;

Regional Reports on Workplace Deaths Released in

CA, MA, NY, TN, WY and Houston TX 

SAN DIEGO,CA – Today marks the beginning of Workers’ Memorial Week. Events across the United States and across the globe will honor workers who have lost their lives on the job, and continue the fight for safe working conditions.

“Today, we honor the dead and fight for the living,” said Jessica Martinez, deputy director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. “We know that many of the injuries and illnesses that are killing American workers can be prevented. Employers must be held accountable when they fail to observe well-established well established safety practices.  And workers must have the education, training, resources and protection against retaliation they need to stand up for workplace safety.”

Resources to highlight the importance of Workers’ Memorial Week include:

Facts and figures:

 Reports:

National COSH:  2014 Preventable Deaths, documents tens of thousands of deaths due to workplaces injuries and illnesses; identified proven approaches to prevention; seven case studies of workers who died on the jobs, and specific recommendations for action by employers, OSHA and Congress.

California:  WORKSAFE, “Dying at Work in California: The Hidden Stories Behind the Numbers.”  Details the stories of temporary workers, transit workers, and food processing workers. Outlines the industries with highest rate of fatalities, profiles the cost of workplace injuries and illnesses, and summarizes steps health and safety agencies need to take to prevent workplace injuries and fatalities.

Massachussetts: MASSCOSH, “Dying for Work in Massachusetts: Loss of Life and Limb in Massachusetts Workplaces.” Details, background and recommendations on the 48 Massachusetts workers who died on the job; the estimated 480 who died from occupational diseases; the estimated 1800 who were newly diagnosed with cancers caused by workplace exposure, and the 50,000 more who were seriously injured at work.

New York:  NYCOSH, Examining New York’s Workplace Deaths and the Construction Industry.” Focuses on the twenty-three workers who died in New York’s “deadliest industry” in 2013, and provides recommendations on the state and federal level to prevent such tragedies in the future.

Tennessee, Knox Area Workers Memorial Day Committee, “Tennessee Workers: Dying for a Job – A report on worker fatalities in Tennessee, 2012 & 2013.” Focuses on unnecessary deaths on public works projects, the high fatality rate among immigrant and Latino workers, and lack of enforcement.

Texas, Houston Area Workers Memorial Day Report, “Deaths at Houston Workplaces in 2013.”  Reports on 47 workplace deaths in the Houston area; profiles several individual cases, details local health and safety initiatives.

Wyoming:  WYCOSH, “Preventable Deaths: Safety & Health in Wyoming.” Provides 12 steps for the state and its private employers to improve worker and safety health, including, expanding Wyoming OSHA’s capacity to enforce its rules, jailing repeat violators, protecting workers from exposture to silica, and improving legal protections for whistle-blowers.

Workers’ Memorial Week Events

Nationwide listing, please see the National COSH Website here:

coshnetwork.org/workers-memorial-week-events

State-by-state events

California:  Events, today, 4-28 in in Concord, San Francisco, and San Jose

Connecticut: Events today, 4-8 in Groton, Hartford and New Britain

Illinois:  Events today, 4-28 in Alton, Bloomington, Chicago, Decatur, Peoria, Rockford and Springfield

Indiana:  Event today, 4-28, in South Bend

Maryland:  Event today, 4-28, in Cumberland

Massachusetts:  Event today, 4-28 in Boston

Michigan:  Event today, 4-28, in Detroit.

Nebraska:  Event today, 4-28, in Lincoln

New York:  Events today, 4-28 in Hauppauge, New York City, Syracuse and tomorrow, 4-29 in White Plains

North Dakota: Event today, 4-28, in Bismarck

Ohio:  Event today, 4-28 in Evendale

Oregon:  Events today, 4-28, in Portland and Salem

Tennessee:  Events today, 4-28, in Chattanooga and Nashville

Texas:  Event today, 4-28, in Houston

Washington:  Event tomorrow, 4-29, in Tumwater

West Virginia:  Event today, 4-28, in Wheeling

Wisconsin:  Events today 4-28, in LaCrosse, Madison and Milwaukee

Wyoming:  Event today, 4-28, in Cheyenne

Hispanic Immigrant Workers To Testify For Stronger Regulations On Silica Dust Exposure At Safety Hearing

New Limits Needed on Workplace Dust, Say Those Who Breathe it Every Day 

Washington DC –Hispanic immigrants from the construction and foundry industries who are directly affected by silica dust, a widespread industrial hazard, will testify today before an administrative law judge of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“We are exposed to the poison,” said José Granado, a construction worker from Houston who came to the United States from El Salvador 15 year ago. “I came to the U.S. looking for a better life. However due to risky and unsafe work that I’m doing in the construction industry, it’s looks like that instead of getting a better life, I came to give mine away.”

At issue is a landmark new regulation, the first proposed by OSHA in many years, which would limit exposure of workers to silica dust. Hearings on the proposed rule, which began at the U.S. Department of Labor on March 18th, will continue through April 4th. Dust from building materials and other industrial processes is common in construction, foundries, glassmaking, hydraulic fracking and other industries.

Experts from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have testified that exposure to silica dust can cause silicosis, lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis, airways diseases, and autoimmune disorders.  OSHA is proposing a new limit of 50 micrograms of silica dust per cubic meter of air space, a standard that was first recommended by NIOSH in 1974.

Seven immigrant workers from Houston, Milwaukee, New Jersey and Philadelphia and will testify in Spanish today with the aid of an interpreter. Today’s testimony is a rare opportunity for top government officials to hear from workers directly impacted by proposed safety regulations.

The workers are affiliated with local worker centers and health and safety groups, including Fe y Justicia Workers’ Center in Houston, Voces de la Frontera in Milwaukee, New Labor in New Jersey and the Philadelphia Area Project on Occupational Safety and Health.

“Immigrant workers often have few options but to take dirty, dangerous jobs that lack proper safety precautions,” said Jessica Martinez, deputy director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, a worker advocacy coalition. “These men and women typically work outside the standards of a union contract, which can make it especially difficult to access training and protection from silica dust and other workplace hazards. They are breathing in dangerous dust every day. Their voices must be heard when considering how to make our workplaces as safe as possible.”

According to Granado, contractors routinely ignore safety precautions.

“They only care that the construction project will be completed on time. They don’t care that we work long hours, and we are exposed all those hours, they don’t give us any protective equipment, do not use water or any equipment to vacuum away the dust.

Some coworkers are afraid to report what happens, because the first thing the company tells us that if we do not want to work in that conditions, if we do not like, we have to go to work elsewhere.”

Also testifying today is Jonas Mendoza, a construction worker from New Jersey who is a safety liaison for New Labor. He plans to tell OSHA:

“In the construction industry contractors do not provide the workers with the basics to do the job. In many instances if you ask for protective equipment they give you a mask from the 99 cents store to shut you up… All the contractors should be more considerate with their workers. There are feasible ways to control dust, to prevent contamination of the environment and without hurting the people that perform these jobs.

We are also exposed to dust and we have a high probability of getting lung related diseases as a result of inhaling hazardous dusts.  We don’t even know that is affecting us. Many times we do these jobs without any protection. We are exposed to hazards on demolition jobs in unsafe conditions, in places that are not cleaned, places where there is not even a place to wash your hands before eating. Places where everything is cover in dust.”

In addition to today’s witnesses, who are directly affected by dust exposure, National COSH workplace safety experts will testify before OSHA next Tuesday, April 1st.
ALSO

USW panels to testify in OSHA hearings on proposed standard for workplace exposure to crystalline silica

Panels representing the United Steelworkers (USW) who are job safety specialists will each present testimony this morning at public hearings being held by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) in support of a OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) proposed standard to protect workers from silica exposure.

The two USW panels will include workers from facilities where job exposure to respirable crystalline silica occurs daily. USW members are exposed to silica in foundries, glass making, refractory manufacturing and shipyards. The hearings begin each day at 9:30 am and run Mar. 18 – Apr. 4 in the Cesar Chavez Auditorium at the USDOL (200 Constitution Ave., NW).

Silica dust is a killer. It causes silicosis, a disabling lung disease that literally suffocates workers to death. It also causes lung cancer, respiratory and kidney diseases.

The proposed rule would cut permitted dust exposure levels in half; require exposure monitoring; medical exams for workers and implementation of dust control methods. The updated standard would protect more than two million workers exposed to deadly silica dust.

Panels representing the United Steelworkers (USW) who are job safety specialists will each present testimony this morning at public hearings being held by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) in support of a OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) proposed standard to protect workers from silica exposure.

The two USW panels will include workers from facilities where job exposure to respirable crystalline silica occurs daily. USW members are exposed to silica in foundries, glass making, refractory manufacturing and shipyards. The hearings begin each day at 9:30 am and run Mar. 18 – Apr. 4 in the Cesar Chavez Auditorium at the USDOL (200 Constitution Ave., NW).

Silica dust is a killer. It causes silicosis, a disabling lung disease that literally suffocates workers to death. It also causes lung cancer, respiratory and kidney diseases.

The proposed rule would cut permitted dust exposure levels in half; require exposure monitoring; medical exams for workers and implementation of dust control methods. The updated standard would protect more than two million workers exposed to deadly silica dust.

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