• Advertisement

150 People A Day Die On The Job: AFL-CIO Releases Blistering New Report

(Washington, D.C.) In 2015, 150 workers died from preventable work-related injuries and illnesses every day in the United States, on average, according to a report released today by the AFL-CIO. 4,836 workers died due to workplace injuries, and another 50,000-60,000 died from occupational diseases. The number of immigrant workers killed on the job reached a nearly 10-year high.

“Corporate negligence and weak safety laws have resulted in tragedy for an astonishing and unacceptable number of working families,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Instead of working for stronger protections, too many Republican politicians in Washington, including the Trump administration, are trying to roll back commonsense regulations that enable workers to return home safely to their families. These are more than numbers; they are our brothers and sisters, and a reminder of the need to continue our fight for every worker to be safe on the job every day.”

The report, titled Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, marks the 26th year the AFL-CIO has reported on the state of safety and health protections for workers in the United States. The report shows the highest workplace fatality rates are in North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Nebraska and West Virginia.

According to the report, Latino workers have an 18% higher fatality rate than the national average. Deaths among Latino workers increased to 903, compared with 804 in 2014. Overall, 943 immigrant workers were killed on the job in 2015—the highest number since 2007.

The report also finds that construction, transportation and agriculture remain among the most dangerous sectors. 937 construction workers were killed in 2015—the highest in any sector. Older workers also are at high risk, with those 65 or older 2.5 times more likely to die on the job. Workplace violence continues to be a growing problem for workers, resulting in 703 deaths.

The report also highlights the fact that OSHA is underfunded and understaffed to handle the 8 million workplaces across the country.

  • There are only 1,838 inspectors (815 federal and 1,023 state) to inspect the 8 million workplaces under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s jurisdiction.
  • Federal OSHA has enough inspectors to inspect workplaces once every 159 years.
  • State OSHA plans have enough inspectors to inspect workplaces once every 99 years.
  • There is one inspector for every 76,402 workers.
  • The current OSHA budget amounts to $3.65 to protect the safety and health of each worker in America.

Not only is OSHA unable to keep up with growing number of workplaces, the penalties are too weak.

The federal penalty average for the death of a worker on the job is $6,500 dollars.  The state penalties are even worse. The state penalty average for the death of a worker on the job is only $2,500.  Serious OSHA violations carry an average penalty of $2,402 for federal and $1,747 from the state.

Instead of working to strengthen worker protections the Trump administration is rolling back regulations and slashing funding to the Department of Labor.

  • Executive Order 13771, issued Jan. 24, 2017, requires that for every new regulatory protection issued, two existing safeguards must be repealed.
  • Repeal of OSHA’s rule clarifying an employer’s obligation to keep accurate injury and illness records.
  • Repeal of a rule that would have required companies to disclose safety and health and labor violations in order to qualify for federal contracts.
  • Delay in the effective date of OSHA’s new beryllium standard and delay in the enforcement of OSHA’s silica standard in the construction industry. The delay in the silica rule will allow continued high exposures that will lead to 160 worker deaths.
  • Budget proposals to slash the Department of Labor’s budget by 21%, eliminate worker safety and health training programs, eliminate the Chemical Safety Board and cut the job safety research budget by $100 million.

After decades of work, OSHA has helped to save the lives of countless workers and yet there is so much more we can do.  We need the President to take strong and swift actions to strengthen OSHA protections, increase the penalties, hire additional inspectors, and address the growing problems facing workers today.

Read the AFL-CIO’s full report here

 

Senator Hassan Presses DOL Nominee Alex Acosta on Workplace Safety

Senator Also Highlights Importance of Job Training
and New Hampshire’s Job Corps Center

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Maggie Hassan participated in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing for Alex Acosta, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Labor.

Senator Hassan highlighted the importance of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and OSHA inspections, which reduce injury rates at inspected workplaces and lower worker compensation costs.

The Senator noted that there are only seven OSHA inspectors to oversee safety and health at 50,000 worksites throughout New Hampshire, and voiced concerns with President Trump’s budget proposal to cut the Department of Labor’s budget by 21 percent. Senator Hassan asked Mr. Acosta, “Can you commit that if confirmed as Secretary that you will advocate for and seek funding that will maintain OSHA’s enforcement budget at no less than current levels?” Mr. Acosta responded, “I would be very concerned in a situation like you mentioned where there are only seven inspectors because going from seven to six has a substantial impact.” However, despite acknowledging the negative impact of a shortage of OSHA inspectors, Mr. Acosta wouldn’t commit to fighting to prevent harmful cuts that would exacerbate the situation.

Senator Hassan also pressed Mr. Acosta on his commitment to creating a more inclusive work environment for Granite Staters and Americans who experience disabilities. Citing that federal law allows employers to pay subminimum wages to workers who experience disabilities, Senator Hassan asked Mr. Acosta if he “supports individuals who experience disabilities being paid a subminimum wage.” Mr. Acosta declined to directly answer the Senator’s question or commit to supporting individuals who experience disabilities, saying, “I think this is a very difficult issue.”

In her opening statement, Senator Hassan also expressed her concern with President Trump’s proposed budget cuts that would decimate job training programs throughout the nation, and highlighted the importance of job training programs and the new Job Corps Center in New Hampshire that is helping build a stronger workforce that businesses throughout the state need to grow and compete. The Senator urged Mr. Acosta to do everything in his power should he be confirmed “to support both job training and our Job Corps Centers.”

After the Senate hearing, Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, released the following statement:

“Alex Acosta’s testimony today raises serious questions and doubts whether he is committed to making life better for working families. Mr. Acosta’s nomination was a major improvement over the previous nominee, based on his qualifications, yet he offered no indication that he would use those qualifications to stand up for workers.

 The Labor Secretary is not just another Cabinet member – his or her actions directly impact our wages, safety, retirement security and rights on the job every single day. Working people wanted to hear how Mr. Acosta would enforce and uphold labor laws to benefit us and not further tilt the balance of power toward corporate CEOs. Today, presented with the opportunity, he failed to do so and ensure America’s workers he’s on our side.”

Watch Senator Hassan question Alex Acosta below.

Watch video of Senator Hassan’s questioning here.

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. 

Protecting Workers' Lives and Limbs -3-15-17 3-30 pm(2).compressed

Protecting Workers' Lives and Limbs Endorsements_0

 

Preventing Workplace Violence: National COSH and Local Groups Join Call for OSHA Standard for Health Care and Social Service Workers

NCOSH 300X250San Diego – In solidarity with labor unions representing millions of American workers, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), the New Hampshire Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NHCOSH) and other local COSH organizations have endorsed petitions calling for a comprehensive federal standard to prevent workplace violence in the health care and social assistance sectors.

“With an issue like workplace violence, it’s easy to say, ‘Hey, how can you stop a person who wants to hurt somebody?’” said Jessica Martinez, acting executive director of National COSH. “But that’s just wrong and ignores documented best practices. If you address issues like adequate staffing and lines of communication, worksite security, proper training and safety protocols, there’s no question you can reduce the risks faced by health care and social service workers.”

Workplace violence is a problem across all sectors of the economy. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than two million workers each year report that they are victims of violent incidents on the job. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported more than 400 workplace homicides in 2014, making homicide the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States.

Health care and social service workers are among those most at risk. Fifty-two percent of victims of workplace violence, according to the BLS, are health care and social service workers.

On July 12, a coalition of unions filed petitions with the U.S. Department of Labor, calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue a “comprehensive workplace violence prevention standard to protect all workers in healthcare and social service settings.” The coalition of labor unions includes the AFL-CIO; American Federation of Teachers; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; American Federation of Government Employees; Communications Workers of America; International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Service Employees International Union; the United Steelworkers and National Nurses United.

“Like other on-the-job hazards, workplace violence can be prevented – in health care, social services and in other sectors” said National COSH Senior Organizer Peter Dooley. “To be effective, a workplace violence prevention standard must be part of a comprehensive, systems approach to workplace safety, with workers involved in every step of the process.  That includes evaluating risks, assessing remedies, reporting incidents without fear of retaliation, and design of rigorous training.”

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez and Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels, National COSH and local COSH groups point to the proven effectiveness of prevention programs. “A comprehensive workplace violence prevention program,” the letter states, “reduced rates of assault at Veterans Health Administration hospitals between 2004 and 2009.”  The letter also notes that the states of California and Minnesota have recently passed legislation requiring health care employers to implement workplace violence prevention programs.

In addition to National COSH, local groups signing on to yesterday’s letter include:

  • Connecticut Council on Occupational Safety and Health (ConnectiCOSH)
  • Fe y Justicia Worker Center (Houston COSH)
  • Maine Labor Group on Health
  • Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH)
  • Mid-State Education and Service Foundation
  • New Hampshire Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NHCOSH)
  • New Jersey Work Environment Council (NJWEC)
  • New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH)
  • NorthEast New York Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NENYCOSH)
  • Rhode Island Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (RICOSH)
  • South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice
  • Southern California Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (SoCalCOSH)
  • Western Massachusetts Coalition for Workplace Safety and Health (WesternMassCOSH)
  • Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health (WNYCOSH)
  • Worksafe

Yesterday’s letter to Secretary Perez and Assistant Secretary Michaels is available here.

* * *

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.

Unions Representing Healthcare Workers Petition for Workplace Safety

US_Dept_of_LaborWASHINGTON— Today, a coalition of unions—including the AFL-CIO; American Federation of Teachers; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; American Federation of Government Employees; Communications Workers of America; International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Service Employees International Union; and the United Steelworkers—petitioned the U.S. Department of Labor to take a significant step toward safety by promulgating a comprehensive workplace violence prevention standard to protect all workers in healthcare and social service settings. Because we represent workers in the healthcare and social assistance sectors, we all know there is an immediate need to address the preventable and often tragic workplace-related assaults and associated injuries that occur too often in these settings.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that between 2005 and 2014, the rates of injuries that resulted in lost time for private sector healthcare and social assistance facilities increased by 64 percent and rates for private sector hospitals increased by 110 percent. And 52 percent of all the incidents of workplace violence reported to the BLS in 2014 came from the healthcare and social assistance workforce. These numbers highlight the urgent nature of having comprehensive standards for workplace violence prevention.

“Workers should never face violence in the workplace, but for healthcare workers it’s a too-common reality. We are calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to create national employment standards so that workers have meaningful protections on the job. Our union and our rank-and-file activists have worked tirelessly for months raising these issues and now—in collaboration with unions that represent healthcare workers, including National Nurses United—to craft this proposal. We hope to see it enacted without delay,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

“Workplace violence is not part of the job. Our healthcare workers on the frontline of patient care in numerous hospitals and other settings need a strong federal OSHA standard to protect them from workplace violence and assaults,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

“This rule is urgently needed to stop the appalling spiral of injuries and fatalities in healthcare and social services, and to protect our members, and all workers,” said Teamsters General President James. P. Hoffa.

“The American Federation of Government Employees represents more than 100,000 nurses, doctors and frontline healthcare providers across government. Their safety, and the safety of all healthcare workers, is critically important. We strongly urge the Department of Labor to adopt a national standard for reducing workplace violence across the healthcare system and ensuring safe working conditions for all healthcare providers.” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr.

“The intensification of violence against healthcare workers is alarming because it is preventable,” said United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard. “Our union is proud to stand in solidarity calling for an enforceable OSHA standard to prevent workplace violence and protect all healthcare workers as they care for their patients.”

“Our members deserve to go to work every day and be safe. Our union strongly advocates OSHA develop a comprehensive workplace violence standard for healthcare and social assistance workers. Such a standard would provide needed protections from workplace violence and lead to improved working conditions for millions of U.S. workers,” said Chris Shelton, president, Communications Workers of America.

Under New OSHA Rule, OSHA Will Post Injury And Illness Data From Employers, On Agency’s Website

OSHA-logo

New Rule Takes Effect On Aug. 10th 2016

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration today issued a final rule to modernize injury data collection to better inform workers, employers, the public and OSHA about workplace hazards. With this new rule, OSHA is applying the insights of behavioral economics to improve workplace safety and prevent injuries and illnesses.

OSHA requires many employers to keep a record* of injuries and illnesses to help these employers and their employees identify hazards, fix problems and prevent additional injuries and illnesses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports more than three million workers suffer a workplace injury or illness every year. Currently, little or no information about worker injuries and illnesses at individual employers is made public or available to OSHA. Under the new rule, employers in high-hazard industries will send OSHA injury and illness data that the employers are already required to collect, for posting on the agency’s website.

Just as public disclosure of their kitchens’ sanitary conditions encourages restaurant owners to improve food safety, OSHA expects that public disclosure of work injury data will encourage employers to increase their efforts to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses.

“Since high injury rates are a sign of poor management, no employer wants to be seen publicly as operating a dangerous workplace,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Our new reporting requirements will ‘nudge’ employers to prevent worker injuries and illnesses to demonstrate to investors, job seekers, customers and the public that they operate safe and well-managed facilities. Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources at establishments where workers are at greatest risk, and enable ‘big data’ researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer.”

After OSHA announced the rule, Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, released the following statement:

Until now, most workplace injury records have only been available at the workplace, making it impossible to know which employers have bad or good injury records.  Employers in high hazard industries will now have to electronically submit a summary of their firms’ injuries and illnesses to OSHA each year, and large employers will have to submit more detailed injury and illness information.  OSHA, workers and the public will have access to this information.

This new transparency will assist OSHA and workers in identifying hazardous workplaces. In addition, employers will be able to compare their records with other employers in their industry and public health officials and researchers will be able to identify emerging trends. Most importantly, this data will help prevent future injuries, illnesses and deaths.

We are pleased that the new rules also include important protections to ensure that workers can report injuries without fear of retaliation. For far too long, in an effort to keep reported injury rates low, employers have retaliated against workers for reporting injuries, disciplining them for every injury or creating barriers to reporting. Now these violations will be subject to citations and penalties.  With these stronger protections, workers will be more willing to report injuries, which will help with overall prevention.

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s Acting Executive Director, Jessica Martinez, was also pleased to hear of the rule change stating, “Accurate and timely reporting of on-the-job injuries and illnesses is one of the best tools we have to learn how to make workplaces safer.” 

Martinez continued, “The new OSHA recordkeeping rule, announced today in the Federal Register, is an important step towards transparency. By requiring electronic submissions every quarter and making the data public, this common-sense regulation will help us learn more about how workers are hurt and become sick on the job. 

“The more we know, the more we can do to prevent injuries and illnesses from happening in the first place, with effective safety programs centered on worker participation,” Martinez concluded. 

The availability of this data will enable prospective employees to identify workplaces where their risk of injury is lowest; as a result, employers competing to hire the best workers will make injury prevention a higher priority. Access to this data will also enable employers to benchmark their safety and health performance against industry leaders, to improve their own safety programs.

Using data collected under the new rule, OSHA will create the largest publicly available data set on work injuries and illnesses, enabling researchers to better study injury causation, identify new workplace safety hazards before they become widespread and evaluate the effectiveness of injury and illness prevention activities. OSHA will remove all personally identifiable information associated with the data before it is publicly accessible.

To ensure that the injury data on OSHA logs are accurate and complete, the final rule also promotes an employee’s right to report injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation, and clarifies that an employer must have a reasonable procedure for reporting work-related injuries that does not discourage employees from reporting. This aspect of the rule targets employer programs and policies that, while nominally promoting safety, have the effect of discouraging workers from reporting injuries and, in turn leading to incomplete or inaccurate records of workplace hazards.

The new requirements take effect Aug. 10, 2016, with phased in data submissions beginning in 2017.

Bricklayers Union Praise New US Department of Labor Silica Dust Rule

USDOL Promulgates the Long-overdue Final Silica Rule 

U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez today announced the promulgation of the long-overdue final silica rule. The new rule will prevent about 600 deaths and thousands of illnesses related to silica exposure each year. Secretary Perez made the announcement in Bowie, Maryland at the John J. Flynn BAC/IMI International Training Center.

Bricklayers unionThe International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) has taken a leading role in working with community and industry partners, scientists and lawmakers to ensure adoption of the final rule. “This is a huge step forward for millions of workers in the U.S., including BAC members who have suffered from silica dust exposure for generations,” BAC President James Boland said. “Many thanks to all our members who helped put a human face on the loss and illness associated with this occupational peril. Together, our Union and the labor movement have and will continue to improve safety and health protections for our workers. Together, we can make workers’ lives better. And together, we will continue the fight to protect this final standard.”

To raise public awareness of the deadly consequences of silica exposure and support the final adoption of OSHA’s proposed silica rule, BAC launched a “Stop Silica from Killing Again” campaign, and its members also testified at OSHA hearings sharing their personal stories on dangers of silica exposure, among many other efforts. “We will keep fighting to ensure that working people are protected from this avoidable danger,” said BAC Executive Vice President Gerard Scarano.

“More than 80 years ago, Labor Secretary Frances Perkins identified silica dust as a deadly hazard and called on employers to fully protect workers,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. “This rule will save lives. It will enable workers to earn a living without sacrificing their health. It builds upon decades of research and a lengthy stakeholder engagement process – including the consideration of thousands of public comments – to finally give workers the kind of protection they deserve and that Frances Perkins had hoped for them.”

President Boland added, “This is why it is so important to have a ‘Collaborator-in Chief’ in the white house—someone who knows how to get things done. We thank President Obama and his Labor Secretary for making the safety of workers a priority.”

 

The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is the oldest continuous union in North America and represents roughly 80,000 skilled masonry-trowel trades craftworkers in the United States and Canada, including bricklayers, tile setters, cement masons, plasterers, stone masons, marble masons, restoration workers, and terrazzo and mosaic workers.

Is A Zero Accident Workplace Possible?

 

(Image MidtownCrosing FLIKR)

(Image Midtown Crossing FLIKR)

By Justin O’Sullivan

Achieving a zero accident workplace is something of a valency issue. No mainstream politician is ever going to argue for more accidents or fatalities at work, and so campaigning for zero accidents is something that everyone can agree with. However, whenever a public figure says that they want to promote a zero accident workplace, two questions need to be considered: One, what are they doing to achieve this? Two, is a zero accident workplace possible?

To answer the second question is yes. A zero accident workplace is possible. Saying that accidents are an inevitable part of labor is like saying that a particular disease is an inevitable part of living in a particular country. The latter is not true and neither is the former. To take one example, the WHO European Region has gone from over 90,000 cases over malaria in 1955 to just two in 2015, both of which were in Tajikistan. This means that almost all of the other countries in the WHO European Region are certified malaria free.

You may be reading this completely unaware of the fact that Europe, or anywhere close to it, ever had a malaria problem. That unawareness speaks volumes for the strides made in those European countries with zero cases of malaria. The future we should be looking towards is one that views accidents and deaths at work the same way that we now look at cases of malaria in Europe. That is to say, we should aim towards a future where accidents at work are seen as completely bizarre and borderline impossible.

It is worth mentioning at this point that the European Union’s definition of the “Zero Accident Vision” is asmore a way of thinking rather than a numerical goal”. In other words, not everybody thinks that “zero accidents” means zero accidents. For some, “zero accidents” is a way of thinking rather than a literal number. These people may argue that, while we should be aiming to have as few accidents as possible, we shouldn’t seriously imagine that we will ever live in a country where there are zero workplace accidents. Some, on the other hand, do take the goal literally: if we can rid the world of smallpox deaths, why can’t we rid the world of workplace deaths? So, while it is true that everybody would like to see a zero accident workplace, not everybody is agreed on “zero accident” actually means.

According to the US Government’s own statistics, there are twelve deaths a day from workplace injuries. They stress that this figure has fallen as a result of OSHA, but concede that “there is still much work to be done”. Precisely how much work and exactly when it will be done are two very reasonable questions that are not asked enough.

What OSHA may or may not be aware of is that a zero accident workplace may be right around the corner. With more machines entering the workforce, we will see human casualties plummet as robots do the dangerous work. The upside is that this could create a zero accident workplace. The downside is that, with machines doing so much work, humans will need to radically rethink their role in the workplace. If they don’t, they will be unemployed and, without the right skills, unemployable. To a certain degree, this has happened before. There are many jobs where machines have replaced humans because those jobs were far too dangerous for humans to be doing. To give an obvious example, you don’t see any work-related deaths from humans physically dragging heavy stones for hundreds of miles. This is because we have cars and trucks for that work.

Yet, as vlogger CGP Grey points out, what is different this time is that the scale of potential for robots replacing human work is much higher and, because of this, humans need to be much more innovative about what they want to do. At the recent SEMA Safety Conference in the UK, Steve Cowen envisioned a future where pallet racking inspections could be carried out by drones. This would give racking inspectors more time to write reports and less time in potentially dangerous situations, such as inspecting racking that is close to breaking point.

This is just but one example, in one industry, of how a zero accident workplace could be achieved. As machines become more able to do dangerous work, we should be embracing this as an opportunity to train our human labor force to be able to do safer work. The rapid development of technology and the potential for job losses as machines take unsafe work away from human labor is the stick. The carrot is the fact that this will free humans up to be able to do more technical, and safer, jobs in the future. The zero accident workplace could well be a future where human workers are put in no danger whatsoever.


About the author Justin O’Sullivan is a writer and the owner of Storage Equipment Experts. His business specialises in delivering SEMA approved pallet racking inspections and racking inspection courses in every part of the UK.

Safety Standards For Workers From Temp Agencies Are Truly Scary

Trick or Treat for Worker Safety: Rallying at Elite Staffing, Inc. on Chicago's South Side, 10/31/2015 - Courtesy Image by NATIONAL COSH

Trick or Treat for Worker Safety: Rallying at Elite Staffing, Inc. on Chicago’s South Side, 10/31/2015 – Courtesy Image by NATIONAL COSH

Activists Call For Improved Safety Standards At Elite Staffing, Inc.,
A Leading Chicago Temp Agency

CHICAGO – A delegation of workplace safety activists paid a surprise “Trick or Treat” visit to a south side office of Elite Staffing, Inc., one of Chicago’s leading temporary staffing agencies. 

The delegation, led by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) and the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative, delivered a letter addressed to Gary Cole, president of Elite Staffing.

Advocates are calling on the agency to provide appropriate safety training, provide Material Safety Data Sheets on hazardous chemicals, and recognize worker health and safety committees. The letter also states that Elite Staffing should pledge not to retaliate against any workers who raise safety, compensation, discrimination and other workplace issues.

“Workers are telling us about exposures to unknown toxic chemicals, machine hazards and other safety concerns,” said Leone José Bicchieri, Executive Director of the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative. “The time to take action is now, to prevent illnesses and injuries before they occur.”

Elite Staffing, Inc. provides temporary labor to Pactiv, a manufacturer of cups and other supplies for major national restaurant chains. Pactiv’s Bedford Park, IL, facility – with many workers on assignment from Elite Staffing – is currently under investigation by the U.S, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for alleged violations of federal safety laws.

“Temporary work can be extremely hazardous, especially when workers are assigned to unfamiliar tasks on equipment they may never have seen before,” said Jessica Martinez, Acting Executive Director of National COSH. “As one of the leading companies in the temporary labor industry, Elite Staffing is in a position to raise standards for all workers.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 800 contract workers died on the job in 2014, representing 17 percent of all workplace fatalities.

Ted Rigas, chief financial officer of Elite Staffing, Inc., is president of the Staffing Services Association of Illinois, a trade association whose temp agency members employ more than 250,000 workers a year.

“’Elite’ should be more than a brand name,” said Bicchieri. “A company that leads the temporary industry must be a leader in providing safe workplaces. Our goal is to work with Elite Staffing and other temporary agencies to improve conditions for all workers, and ensure that every worker – temporary, contract, or permanent – can go home safely at the end of his or her shift.”


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 2015,” 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.

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.

  • Subscribe to the NH Labor News via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 218 other subscribers

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement