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Three Deaths After 1,000-Foot Fall in Miami Are Latest of More Than 130 Tower Fatalities

“Reckless Actions” by Employers Have Cost Scores of Lives, Say Local and
National Safety Groups

Investigation Underway; Tower King Cited for 5 Previous “Serious” Safety Violations

MIAMI – Local and national safety advocacy groups said today that the tragic deaths of three workers after a fall from a 1,000-foot television tower in Miami on September 27th show the need for rigorous enforcement of safety laws and regulations – especially in the communications tower industry.

Since 2003, more than 130 workers have lost their lives working on communication towers. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says this loss of life is entirely preventable if employers follow the law and proper safety procedures.

“Our prayers are with the families of the victims of this terrible tragedy,” said Jeanette Smith, executive director of South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice, a founding member of the South Florida Council on Occupational Safety and Health (South Florida COSH). “We will remember Brachton Barber, Benito Rodriguez and Marcus Goffena and honor their lives by insisting on the highest safety standards for all workers.”

Tower King, the company that hired Barber, Rodriguez and Goffena to replace a television antennae high above Miami, has been cited on five previous occasions in 2008 and 2011 for “serious” safety violations by OSHA.

OSHA is now investigating last week’s deaths in Miami.

“These fatalities in Miami are the most recent needless deaths in an industry where reckless actions by employers have cost the lives of scores of workers,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH.) “We need answers and a full investigation – including an analysis of steps the employer took – or failed to take – to provide a fall protection system and to assess the structural integrity of the tower and related equipment.”

“We know from experience that in almost all cases, workplace fatalities can be prevented,” said Goldstein-Gelb. “It’s crucial that employers be held accountable for safety program lapses. Workers who die on their job and their families deserve no less – and workers who face similar risks in the future must be protected.”

Since 2003, 132 workers have fallen to their deaths while working on communication towers, according to WirelessEstimator.com, an industry website.

In 2014, following an “alarming increase in worker deaths” due to falls from communication towers OSHA sent a memorandum to employers, stating, “every single one of these tragedies was preventable.” The agency reminded employers of their responsibility under federal safety laws to provide proper training and fall protection systems to anyone working on communications towers.

In 2012, PBS Frontline and ProPublica cooperated on an investigation featuring the high incidence of fatalities on communication towers. Investigators found that major cell phone companies, installing new towers to meet expanding demand for cell service, used “a complex web of subcontracting” to “avoid scrutiny” of deadly, preventable events that have cost workers their lives.

Workplace Safety Groups Head To Houston To Train Reconstruction Workers

After Harvey, Immigrant and Labor Rights Groups Team Up to Provide Ongoing Health and Safety Training for Reconstruction Workers 

Harvey Flood and Damage by Jill Carlson (jillcarlson.org) FLIKR CC

Fe y Justicia Worker Center, National COSH, Chemical Workers Union and National Day Laborer Organizing Network deliver “Train-the-Trainers” sessions and prepare Reconstruction Works campaign to support recovery workers facing severe toxic health and safety hazards in the workplace 

HOUSTON, TX:  With recovery efforts underway from the devastating effect of Hurricane Harvey – and new storm damage now confronting Puerto Rico, Florida and the Caribbean – health and safety trainers as well as workers and immigrant rights advocates from local and national safety groups will be in Houston this week to train workers and community members on safe clean up procedures and their rights to a safe workplace.

Ongoing efforts are currently underway to expand and build upon past “Reconstruction Works” campaigns that have played a critical role in supporting reconstruction workers after Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Rita and other disasters.

During previous cleanup efforts recovery workers exposed to flood waters suffered skin infections, lesions, asthma attacks, allergic reactions and other conditions. Workers are also exposed to the risk of lead poisoning and asbestos exposure when working in damaged or collapsed buildings.

This week, experienced health and safety trainers from National COSH and other COSH affiliates from around the country will join local advocates from the Houston-based COSH affiliate Fe y Justicia (Faith and Justice) Worker Center to provide “Train-the-Trainer” classes for workers and advocates, who will in turn provide awareness training in workplaces and communities throughout Houston.

“The response from COSH groups and our allies to the emergency on the Gulf Coast has been amazing,” said National COSH co-executive director Jessica Martinez, who is joining the “Train-the-Trainer” session in Houston. “Groups are sending people, sharing information and resources and helping to raise funds so that recovery workers can stay safe while rebuilding their communities.”

“Most Houston neighborhoods were somehow impacted, so workers and neighbors are cleaning up a wide range of water and wind damage that can get people seriously hurt,” said Marianela Acuña Arreaza, executive director of Faith and Justice Worker Center (Centro de Trabajadores Fe y Justicia), the premier worker center in the Houston area coordinating local efforts.

“Day laborers, construction workers, utility workers, domestic workers, as well as neighbors and volunteers, are already going into flooded and damaged buildings, where they will encounter mold, sewage, and air and water that may have been contaminated with toxic pollutants,” said Acuña Arreaza. “Our goal is to equip them with the tools and information they need to reduce the risk of getting sick, injured or killed while taking on these difficult assignments.”

“Gulf Coast communities face a massive, urgent rebuilding job, as will Florida, Puerto Rico and Caribbean islands,” said Frank Cyphers, President of the Akron, Ohio-based International Chemical Workers Union Council (ICWUC). The ICWUC, a council of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, is assisting the worker and community training effort in Houston, with support from federal grants from the National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences (NIEHS).

“This is no time to cut corners on worker safety,” said Cyphers. “We need to build on lessons learned during recovery from 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy and other disasters: Workers must know their rights – and know how to assess and prevent potential hazards.”

BACKGROUND: The three-day, bilingual “Train-the-Trainer” sessions, in English and Spanish, begins today, September 13th at the Dominican Sisters of Houston campus. The curriculum will develop trainers to teach safety awareness, workplace safety rights, and information about mold, sewage, airborne and waterborne contaminants, and other hazards associated with disaster recovery.

In addition to upcoming training sessions, National COSH has partnered with NYCOSH to provide a series of fact sheets on safe clean up procedures. The fact sheets describe known hazards experienced during previous recovery efforts, including asphyxiation, building collapse, electrocution, explosion, mold, sewage, toxic contaminants and other conditions.

As recovery efforts continue in the coming weeks and months, Fe y Justicia Worker Center will operate a hotline for affected workers and provide ongoing safety awareness training at worksites and community centers.  A donation page at youcaring.com gives concerned citizens a way to support safe and sustainable recovery efforts.


Fe y Justicia (Faith and Justice) Worker Center, based in Houston, campaigns for justice and dignity for day laborers, domestic workers and other vulnerable workers.

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. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org

The International Chemical Workers Union Council (ICWUC), based in Akron, Ohio, represents workers in the chemical industry and other occupations in the U.S. The ICWUC has six worker health and safety federal grants and collaborates with 10 other union partners, including National COSH, to conduct a range of worker safety and health programs and develop rank and file worker trainers.

The National Day Laborer Organizing Network works to improve the lives of day laborers in the United States. NDLON works to unify and strengthen its member organizations to be more strategic and effective in their efforts to develop leadership, mobilize and organize day laborers.

Trump’s Repeal Of Beryllium Protections Puts Tens Of Thousands Of Workers At Risk

Once again the Trump administration is using their power to steamroll workers and the health protections those workers have fought and died for.  This week, they announced they want to roll back the proposed OSHA rule on Beryllium exposure.

“More working people will die if the Trump administration rolls back OSHA’s beryllium rule,” said AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka. “It also will mark the first time in history for the government to roll back worker safety protections against a cancer-causing toxin. The entire labor movement will work together to fight any proposal that takes away standards that keep us safe at work.”

(Tweet from RoseAnn DeMoro, President of the National Nurses United.)

“Once again, the Trump administration’s Labor Department is taking us backwards and undermining the core principle that no worker should have to sacrifice his or her life for a job,” said Christine Owens, Executive Director, National Employment Law Project.  “Today, at the behest of corporate special interests, the Labor Department issued a proposed rule to loosen health protections for workers exposed to the chemical beryllium.”

Beryllium is a toxic metal known to cause fatal diseases such as chronic beryllium disease of the lungs and lung cancer, even when very low levels are inhaled.

“No matter where they work, U.S. workers deserve protection from exposure to hazardous – and potentially lethal – toxic materials,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director, National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. “The proposal announced today by the U.S. Department of Labor to weaken standards that limit exposure to beryllium for shipyard and construction workers is a step backwards.”

The proposal would eliminate the “ancillary provisions” of the beryllium rule that would have extended specific new protections to construction and shipyard workers, including exposure assessments, personal protective equipment, medical surveillance and protected work areas. These provisions were included in OSHA’s rule in response to pressure from labor unions and public health groups, including Public Citizen.

“Like other beryllium-exposed workers, construction and shipyard workers deserve to go to work without risking their lives,” said Dr. Sammy Almashat, researcher for Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “By eliminating lifesaving protections for workers in these specified industries, the Trump administration is recklessly putting corporate interests above workers’ lives.”

“It is well documented that shipyard and construction workers can be exposed to beryllium.  They need the same protections as other workers – including monitoring and assessing exposure to potential harm and taking steps to eliminate hazards which can lead to life-threatening diseases,” said Martinez.

In a rulemaking process that lasted more than a decade, OSHA asked stakeholders to comment on whether its final beryllium rule should extend protections to workers in the construction and shipyard industries. After careful consideration, the agency determined that it needed to cover these workers with a lower permissible exposure limit of 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air. That limit is preserved in today’s proposal. But the agency also recognized the need to mandate specific protections for construction and shipyard workers. These ancillary provisions have been revoked in the administration’s proposal.

“To protect workers, consistent with its legal authority, OSHA set the lowest exposure standards that were technologically and economically feasible. But because beryllium is highly toxic, the Labor Department knew that workers could still get sick at these exposure limits. So it put into place additional protections—such as medical surveillance of workers near but below the exposure limit—to ensure that any diseases were caught at the early stages. The Labor Department initially projected that these additional protections would save 96 lives per year and prevent 46 new cases of disease,” explained Owens.

OSHA was right to safeguard these workers in its final rule, Public Citizen maintains. According to the agency, beryllium threatens 62,000 workers. OSHA’s own inspection data show that 70 percent of the 11,500 construction and shipyard workers who come into contact with beryllium while performing open-air abrasive blasting are, in fact, exposed to airborne beryllium that can result in debilitating lifelong illnesses and early deaths.

“If this proposal to weaken the beryllium rule goes into effect, construction and shipyard workers will die and be permanently disabled as a result,” said Emily Gardner, worker health and safety advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The final beryllium rule issued at the end of the Obama administration must be reinstated immediately.”

National COSH Backs Legislation to Prevent Employers From Hiding Workplace Injuries

 Identifying Workplace Hazards Crucial to Improving Safety Conditions; Employers Who Keep Accurate Records Deserve a Level Playing Field 

SAN DIEGO, CA – The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) said today that new legislation to prevent employers from hiding workplace injuries is crucial to protecting the health and safety of America’s workers.

“You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it exists,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “It’s critical to support legislation that will hold employers accountable when they try to hide crucial information about workplace hazards.”

The Accurate Workplace Injury and Illness Records Restoration Act was introduced today by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representatives Joe Courtney (D-CT), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA). The bill will reinstate the longstanding authority of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to sanction employers in hazardous industries who repeatedly fail to accurately report injuries and illnesses.

“Tens of thousands of Americans die every year from preventable illnesses and injuries in the workplace, and millions more are hurt on the job,” said Marcy Goldstein Gelb, also a co-executive director of National COSH. “If we let employers get away with failing to report safety problems, we’re putting workers at risk. It’s also unfair to responsible companies who keep accurate records; they deserve a level playing field.” 

The legislation introduced today responds to recent action under the Congressional Review Act, which severely limits OSHA’s ability to enforce existing laws that require employers to keep accurate records about employees who are injured or become ill in the workplace.


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. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org. Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter. 

Workers Pay The Price: National COSH Releases 2017 “Dirty Dozen” Employers

SAN DIEGO, CA – The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) announced today “The Dirty Dozen” employers of 2017, highlighting companies that put workers and communities at risk due to unsafe practices. The Dirty Dozen 2017 report is being released in observance of Workers’ Memorial Week, honoring workers who lost their lives on the job, as well as those who suffered workplace injuries and illnesses.  

“Every day in the United States, workers are getting hurt, getting sick and dying from preventable causes,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “We know how to make our workplaces safer. We’re calling on these companies to implement effective health and safety programs including, which must include worker participation. These firms need to eliminate workplace hazards and take action so that every worker can return home safely at the end of his or her shift.”

The “Dirty Dozen” for 2017 are:

  1. Atlantic Drain Services Roslindale, MA: Two workers died in a trench; manslaughter indictments; new Boston ordinance to revoke permits for companies with poor safety records.
  2. California Cartage Long Beach, CA: Death of a driver; serious violations in GA and CA; lack of machine safeguards, faulty brakes and other hazards.
  3. Dedicated TCS Lansing, IL: Worker died inside a confined space; company cited three times for similar violations; $226,000 in OSHA fines.
  4. Dollar General Goodlettsville, TN: “A fire disaster waiting to happen”; over 100 citations and $1 million in fines for blocked exits; former Labor Dept. official calls for criminal prosecution.
  5. Environmental Enterprises, Inc. Spring Grove, OH: Worker killed in a chemical explosion; OSHA describes a “complete disregard for employee’s safety”; indictment for involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide.
  6. Fuyao Glass America Dayton, OH: Workers exposed to broken glass without proper protection; 23 serious OSHA violations; extensive complaints from workers, who are exposed to risk of amputation.
  7. Nissan USA Franklin, TN: Five workers dead in five years; $99,000 in proposed OSHA fines; workers say they fear losing their jobs if they report injuries.
  8. Pilgrim’s Pride Greeley, Colorado: Death in a poultry processing plant; worker loses fingers because management “did nothing” to address amputation risk; exposure to toxic ammonia.
  9. PrimeFlight Nashville, Tennessee: Exposure to blood borne pathogens; 22 OSHA violations in three years; OSHA cites conditions “likely to cause death or serious harm.”
  10. TransAm Trucking Olathe, Kansas: “Frozen Trucker” fired for protecting his own safety; company wages seven-year court battle; Worker wins $280K in back pay.
  11. Samsung Seoul, South Korea: 200+ serious illnesses, 76 deaths; refusal to disclose information, claiming “trade secrets”; secret plan to “dominate employees” and “punish leaders.”
  12. Valley Garlic Coalinga, CA; X-Treme AG Kerman, CA: Four migrant workers dead after crash of illegal transport van; U.S. Dept of Labor lawsuit; contractor enjoined from transporting agricultural workers.

“The dangerous conditions at these “Dirty Dozen” companies show why we need more enforcement of our safety laws, not less,” said Jordan Barab, former deputy assistant secretary for occupational safety and health at the U.S. Department of Labor. “Proposed budget cuts for OSHA and other safety agencies are penny wise and pound foolish. Preventing injuries, illnesses and fatalities in the workplace not only reduces a terrible toll of human suffering – it also saves billions of dollars for employers and taxpayers.”

Data presented in the National COSH “Dirty Dozen” report show that the decline in deaths from workplace trauma since the original Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed in 1970 are reducing costs to employers and taxpayers by over $200 billion a year. If workers were still dying at the rate experienced in 1970 – 18 per 100,000 full-time workers, as opposed to 3.4 per 100,000 in 2015 – the U.S. workforce would experience more than an additional 23,000 deaths per year. Each workplace death costs a projected $8.7 million in legal and medical expenses, lost productivity and other costs.

During the last two years, however, deaths from workplace trauma have increased significantly, from 4,585 deaths in 2013 to 4,836 deaths in 2015, demonstrating the urgent need for stronger and more effective safety measures. In addition, Latino/a workers continue to suffer a higher rate of workplace fatalities than other ethnic groups, with four deaths for every 100,000 full-time employees.

Intimidation by employers is a major obstacle to accurate reporting injuries and workplace safety hazards, making it more difficult to correct unsafe conditions. “At Nissan, I’ve seen workers hurt so bad they are crying, but they are afraid to report their injuries,” said Everlyn Cage, a former employee at Nissan USA in Canton, MS. “They saw what happened to other workers and they are afraid of losing their jobs.”

The tragic events outlined in the “Dirty Dozen” report can also be a catalyst for action, said Jeff Newton, Membership and Communications Coordinator at the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH). “We’re going to remember Kelvin Mattocks and Robert Higgins during Workers’ Memorial Week,” said Newton. “And we’ve also taken action to prevent further tragedies. From now on in Boston, construction firms with poor safety records are not just putting workers at risk – they’re at risk of losing their building permits.”

Mattocks and Higgins drowned in a trench in Boston last October when their employer, Atlantic Drain, failed to follow basic safety precautions. The city of Boston responded with a new ordinance tightening requirements for construction firms. The state of Massachusetts is considering legislation to increase penalties for work-related fatalities and Atlantic Drain and its owner, Kevin Otto, have been indicted for manslaughter.

The Dirty Dozen report includes recommendations to make U.S. workplaces safer, including:

  • Implementation of comprehensive workplace health and safety programs
  • Ensuring all workers the right to freely organize
  • Stronger protections for workers of color, immigrants, temporary workers and other vulnerable populations
  • Thorough investigation of workplace safety and health incidents and stronger enforcement mechanisms to hold employers accountable and deter future violations.

The “Dirty Dozen 2017” report is available on the National COSH website here and below.

Workers Memorial Week infographics are available in English here and in Spanish here.

Workers’ Memorial Week is a global event to honor workers who lost their lives on the job and their families, and also recognizing those who suffer from occupational injuries and illnesses. In the United States, dozens of activities in 35 states will remember fallen workers. A listing of events is available on the National COSH website.  

DirtyDozenFINAL 04_26

National COSH Announces Action Agenda: “Protecting Workers’ Lives and Limbs”

90+ Groups Endorse New Workplace Safety Protections
to Save Thousands of Lives, Billions of Dollars

Advocates also call for action in local communities and workplaces

San Diego – Today the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) announced a new action agenda: “Protecting Workers’ Lives and Limbs.”

Advocates say the comprehensive platform for strong worker safety protections can save thousands of workers’ lives and reduce costs to employers by billions of dollars. Delegations of safety advocates from 12 communities will schedule visits to present the platform to members of Congress in ten states in the coming weeks. 

“Out-of-touch politicians are misreading the results of the last election,” said Jora Trang, managing attorney at San Francisco-based Worksafe and president of the National COSH board of directors. “Nobody voted to get sick or die at work. We need stronger safety protections and tougher enforcement – not weaker laws and fewer life-saving regulations.”

On a typical day, 13 U.S. workers die from preventable hazards in the workplace.  Among those who have lost their lives in March 2017 are:

·      Construction worker David Williams, 36, killed when a trench collapsed at a building site in San Antonio, TX

·      Roberto Cortez, 36, died after a fall from an unmanned tree service truck in Bell Canyon, CA

·      Timothy Dragon, 42, lost his life at the Granite City Steelworks in Granite City, MO

 Recent Congressional actions have put workers at risk by taking steps to reverse longstanding recordkeeping rules and eliminate sanctions against federal contractors who violate safety laws. Delegations led by local COSH groups will schedule visit to Congressional offices as safety activists prepare to observe Workers Memorial Week. The observance, marked in communities around the world from April 23 through April 30, honors workers who have died on the job.

“Protecting Workers’ Lives and Limbs” has been endorsed by 92 local, regional and statewide organizations representing workers, unions, environmentalists and civic groups. Key elements of the platform include: ensuring health and safety protections for all workers, reducing and working to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals; ensuring injured workers access to quality medical care; accurate counting of all occupational injuries and illnesses, and measures to adapt to – and reduce – further climate change.

“Every day in this country, workers are dying from conditions we know how to prevent,” said Joseph Zanoni, PhD, director of continuing education at the Illinois Health and Safety Education and Research Center and chair of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA). The OHS Section of APHA is one of the endorsers of “Protecting Workers’ Lives and Limbs.”

“There’s no reason for a worker to drown in a trench or get crushed to death by a machine without proper guarding,” said Zanoni. “We can prevent these tragedies by engaging workers in training and applying proven safety practices – and if we do, we’ll save lives, increase productivity and reduce the high cost of caring for sick, injured and fallen workers.” 

More than 4,500 U.S. workers die every year from preventable workplace trauma and an estimated 95,000 die from long-term occupational illnesses. Millions more are injured after exposure to preventable safety hazards. The cost to U.S. employers for workers’ compensation alone was $91.8 billion in 2014, representing a fraction of the total cost of workplace deaths injuries and illnesses.

In addition to meeting with members of Congress, health and safety activists plan to push for better safety practices in U.S. workplaces and enhanced protections in state and municipal law.

For example, following a recent tragedy, the Boston City Council passed a new ordinance giving city officials authority to deny construction permits to companies with a record of poor safety practices. Boston construction workers Kelvin Mattocks and Robert Higgins drowned to death in a trench in October 2016 because their employer, Atlantic Drain Services, failed to follow required safety precautions by shoring up the excavation site. Atlantic Drain had a long history of safety violations; the company and its owner, Kevin Otto have been indicted for manslaughter. The Massachusetts legislature is considering a bill to increase penalties against employers when a worker is killed on the job.

In Dallas, after construction worker Roendy Granillo died of heat exhaustion in 2015 during a triple-digit heat wave, his family joined a successful campaign to pass a new city ordinance requiring mandatory rest and water breaks on building sites.

We can’t wait for tragedy to strike before we take action,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “We have to improve our safety laws and insist on tough enforcement before workers are hurt or killed on the job.”

“We’re going to make it clear to public officials, if you stall on safety legislation or cut back on regulations, you are putting people’s lives at risk,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, also a co-executive director of National COSH. “If a worker dies from a cause you failed to prevent, that’s on your watch – so you better start thinking about what you will say to that person’s family.”

“Protecting Workers’ Lives and Limbs” is available in English and Spanish on the National COSH website here and below.

A list of the 92 organizations endorsing the platform is here and below. 

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Protecting Workers' Lives and Limbs Endorsements_0

 

National COSH Says 4,800 Workplace Deaths In 2015 Is A “National Disgrace”

National COSH on 4,800+ Workplace Deaths in 2015:  A “National Disgrace” That Demands Tougher Regulation and Enforcement

Nominee for Labor Secretary Must Address Safety Issues During Confirmation Hearings

San Diego, CA – The toll of 4,836 deaths in 2015 due to traumatic workplace injuries, released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows the need for tough regulations and strict enforcement of safety laws, says the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH).

“It’s a tragedy – and a national disgrace – that almost all of these deaths could have been prevented, using safety protocols that are well-known across the industries and workplaces where workers lost their lives,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, co-executive director of National COSH. “These numbers are horrible, but even more heartbreaking are the stories of the workers and their families who will suffer from lapses in health and safety. This is no time to roll back safety regulations. Instead, we need tough enforcement, including criminal prosecution of employers who willfully ignore safety laws. And the best practice – by far – to improve workplace safety is to empower workers to recognize and prevent occupational hazards.” 

The number of deaths due to workplace trauma was the highest recorded since 2008. In addition, more African American workers died on the job than in any year since 2008, and more Hispanic or Latino workers were killed at work than in any year since 2007.

The continued epidemic of preventable deaths in the workplace, said National COSH co-executive director Jessica Martinez, must be addressed during upcoming confirmation hearings for secretary of labor nominee Andrew Puzder.

“Mr. Puzder is chief executive of a fast food company, and we know that fast food is an industry with a very high rate of worker injuries,” said Martinez. A survey of fast food workers, conducted by National COSH in March 2015 showed that 79 percent of fast food workers had suffered burns on the job, with 73 percent suffering multiple burns.

One-third of fast food workers surveyed reported inappropriate treatment for their injuries, including suggestions from managers to use condiments such as mustard, ketchup or mayonnaise instead of a burn cream. 

“It’s important to hear from Mr. Puzder about what action he has taken to reduce workplace injuries and fatalities during his tenure in the fast food industry,” said Martinez. “American workers and families are counting on strong protections, so every worker can come home safely at the end of his or her shift. We’d like to hear a specific plan from the nominee for secretary of labor about steps to reduce workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities.” 

The next secretary of labor, when confirmed, will appoint a new chief for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 

The annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), compiled by the BLS, includes workplace deaths from across the United States resulting from traumatic events such as falls from height, roadway incidents, workers struck by objects and equipment, and homicides.  It does not include workers who die from long-term exposure to workplace hazards, such as toxic chemicals that cause fatal diseases of the lung, kidney, heart and other organs.

According to one recent estimate, more than 98,000 U.S. workers died in 2012 from long-term illnesses linked to hazardous working conditions.

National COSH maintains the U.S. Worker Fatality Database at www.nationalcosh.org.  It features data on workplace deaths from 2014 and 2015, with some information not included in the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. This includes –where available – names of fallen workers and circumstances of their deaths.

 

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. Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter.

National COSH Honors Fallen Worker And Wants To Know What DOL Nominee Will Do To Protect Workers

BALTIMORE –At a meeting with hundreds of health and safety activists just outside Baltimore, Maryland, The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) last night honored the family of Roendy Granillo, a construction worker who died from heat exhaustion during a heat wave in Dallas in July, 2015. 

Today, National COSH called on President-elect Trump’s expected nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, to address critical job safety issues as his nomination is reviewed by the U.S. Senate.

National COSH presented the Family Activist award to Roendy’s sister Jasmine and his father Gustavo during the National Conference on Worker Safety and Health (#COSHCON16).  Following Roendy’s death, his family led a campaign to win a new ordinance guaranteeing the right to rest breaks for construction workers. The new law passed the Dallas City Council in December 2015, less than six months after Roendy died on the job.   

“My son is in heaven now,” Gustavo told attendees at #COSHCON16.  “I’m sure he is happy to know other workers will not have to suffer the same way he did.” 

More than 250 family members, union safety representatives, members of COSH groups and workers’ centers and occupational safety and health professionals gathered at #COSHCON16 over the past three days to discuss the need for better safety protections for U.S. workers. Each year, more than 4,500 U.S. workers die at work due to traumatic events, and up to 100,000 more lose their lives from occupational diseases caused by long-term workplace exposures. 

“President-elect Trump has identified protecting U.S. jobs as one of his top priorities,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, co-executive director of National COSH. “We believe safety on the job is also crucial, so that every worker can go home safely at the end of his or her shift. If Andrew Puzder is nominated as secretary of labor, it’s important that Americans hear about his plans to reduce workplaces illnesses, injuries and fatalities.”

Puzder is CEO of CKE Restaurants, a major fast-food employer. In March 2015, National COSH – in partnership with the Fight for $15 campaign –conducted a survey of fast food workers which revealed that 4 out of 5 fast food workers had suffered burns on the job during the previous 12 months. More than half of fast food employees suffered multiple burns.

“If Mr. Puzder is nominated as secretary of labor, we’d like to hear what he’s learned about workplace safety during his tenure in the fast food industry,” said National COSH co-director Jessica Martinez, who currently serves on the national advisory committee for U.S. OSHA.

 During this week’s three-day conference, activists worked on developing a long-term platform for workplace safety. Top priorities include enforcement of existing regulations, new protections to prevent known hazards, and additional research on causes of workplace injuries, illness and fatalities.

“We’ve heard a tremendous range of ideas this week from people who are fighting every day to improve conditions in their workplaces,” said Martinez. “We’re eager to share this information with the new secretary of labor and other nominees for federal office with responsibility for safety on the job. We’re also inspired by the courage of the Granillo family to take action in states, cities and local communities.” 

In addition to honoring the Granillo family last night, National COSH also recognized:

  • Jordan Barab, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health: Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • Lee Clark, Special Assistant to the President of Local 1549, District Council 37, AFSCME: Tony Mazzochi Award, named for the legendary health and safety activist who helped pass the original OSH Act.
  • Randy Rodriguez, Occupational Safety and Health Committee Chair, CWA Local 6222, Houston Texas: Health and Safety Trainer Award.
  • Nicole Marquez and Jora Trang, Worksafe: Social Justice Award.

1 In 6 Workers That Die On The Job In US Are Temporary Or Contract Workers

Hazards of the Gig Economy:
Temp Industry Trade Association Whitewashes Safety Issues, Says National COSH

SAN DIEGO, CA – The American Staffing Association, trade group for the fast-growing temporary and contract worker industry, has ignored critical safety issues at “Staffing World 2016,” a national conference taking place this week in San Diego.

“One out of every six workers who dies on the job in the United States is a temporary or contract worker,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), which advocates nationwide for workplace safety. “Saving lives and reducing injuries should be at the top of the industry’s agenda. But with thousands of attendees and dozens of conference sessions, the American Staffing Association is paying scant attention to safety, training, employer responsibility and other issues that can make workplaces safer.”

More than 800 temporary or contract workers died on the job in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Earlier this week, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) renewed a safety partnership with ASA, with the goal of “protecting temporary employees from workplace hazards.”  But with almost no content on safety at their annual conference, and no worker representatives on the organization’s safety committee, it is unclear whether ASA is fulfilling the terms of its partnership.

A review of the three-day conference agenda – more than 60 workshops, plenaries and panels – shows just one session at Staffing World 2016 devoted to safety – a walkaround of the San Diego Convention Center.

“Temp workers often don’t get the training they need and constantly face hazards on the job,” said Dave DeSario, a former temp employee and producer of “A Day’s Work,” an award-winning film about the death of temporary worker Day Davis. “Unfortunately, the industry seems more interested in cleaning up its image than in cleaning up the workplaces where temp workers are exposed to injuries, illnesses and sometimes life-threatening conditions.”

“ASA’s Employee Safety Committee includes only management representatives and zero employees,” DeSario said, “although OSHA alliances require union or worker participation.”

“We’ve learned time and again that the way to make workplaces safer is to empower workers,” said Lou Kimmel, executive director of New Labor, a New Jersey-based workers’ center that assists temporary workers, immigrants and undocumented workers in organizing to improve their working conditions. “Workers know where the problems are and they know how to fix them. When we organize, workers can win their right to a safe workplace, so everyone can go home safely to their families.”

 According to the American Staffing Association, more than three million workers are on assignment for U.S. staffing companies during a typical work week. A multi-state investigation of the hazards of temporary work by ProPublica found workplace injury rates 36 to 72 percent higher for temporary and contract workers than for full-time employers.  

National COSH Hosts Webinar On Chemicals In Food Manufacturing Facilities

Join National COSH on Thursday, October 13 at 12 Noon ET for a free webinar on flavoring chemical hazards for workers in manufacturing facilities. 

webinar-graphic1-1Attorneys Anne McGinness Kearse and Scott Hall of Motley Rice are helping workers learn more about these potential dangers. They also represent workers who may have developed diseases as a result of harmful exposure. They will discuss how workers who work in facilities that process coffee, candy, microwave popcorn, and other products can be exposed to flavoring chemicals linked to dangerous lung diseases. 

Robert Harrison, MD, MPH, director of the University of California, San Francisco Occupational Health Services and director of the worker tracking investigation program for the California Department of Public Health will discuss the medical issues involved in flavoring exposures and his involvement in the development of California’s regulations for flavoring chemicals.” 

Mark Nicas, PhD, MPH, CIH, is an adjunct professor and director of the Industrial Hygiene Program in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California Berkeley. He will discuss some of the specific job tasks and conditions that expose workers to flavoring chemicals. 

The flavoring industry has stated that flavoring ingredients have the potential to be respiratory hazards due to their possible volatility and irritant properties. Despite this, workers are exposed to flavoring chemicals on a daily basis with few or no safeguards in place.

To date, there are no federal regulations in place to protect workers who are exposed to these chemicals. This is a unique opportunity to learn the risks and how workers can protect themselves on the job.

More information is available here: bit.ly/FlavoringChemicals

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