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.

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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  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


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  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.

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.

National COSH Announces 2015 Safety Award Winners

National COSH Announces 2015 Health and Safety Awards:
Walmart Worker, Scientist Sleuths and Others Honored for Grass-Roots Activism

NCOSH 300X250Longmeadow, Massachusetts – Activists, researchers and worker advocates from across the United States won National COSH and COSH Network awards at the National Conference on Worker Safety and Health at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, Maryland.

The 2015 National COSH Awards, based on nominations from local COSH and other worker health and safety groups around the country, were presented on Wednesday, June 3.  COSH Network awards, recognizing grass roots activists in local COSH groups, were presented at a COSH Network awards dinner on Monday, June 1.

“These health and safety heroes are making a difference,” said Mary Vogel, executive director of National COSH.  “We’re proud to recognize their efforts on behalf of workers and families all across the country.”

“Workers deserve a voice, and workplaces don’t become safer by themselves,” said Jessica Martinez, deputy director of National COSH. “These awardees are setting an example for all of us, showing how together we can reduce and eliminate preventable injuries and deaths in the workplace.”

This year’s National COSH Health and Safety award winners include:

  • Bethany Boggess of the Workers Defense Project in Austin, Texas won the Health and Safety Innovation Award for her work on the U.S. Worker Fatality Database, a volunteer-led program that amassed data on over 1800 worker deaths from 2014. Bethany and a team of citizen scientists have created the most comprehensive listing ever about women and men who have lost their lives on the job in the United States. The Worker Fatality Database team also included Gavin West, Tammy Miser, Katelyn Parady, Anne Marie Gibson, Celeste Monforton, and Rebecca Reindel.
  • Barbara Gertz of Denver, Colorado, received the Health and Safety Organizer Award for creating and spearheading the OURWalmart safety and health committee. Barbara has worked at Walmart for over six years.  Two and a half years ago, she joined OURWalmart, an employee group working to improve labor standards at the retail giant. Barb, who herself suffers from work-related tendonitis due to her job at Walmart, has helped co-workers raise their voices to advocate for better working conditions.
  • Rod Hitchler of United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities is the recipient of the Health and Safety Community Activist Award. The Grand Island, Nebraska resident lost his son Ryan in May of 2009 to a preventable work-related incident. Ryan and a co-worker were working to repair a roof at the Nebraska Air National Guard when a makeshift platform they were standing on collapsed. Since then, Rod and his wife have advocated for safer workplaces and worked closely with victims’ families at annual events such as Workers’ Memorial Day and the Harvest of Harmony Parade.
  • Alejandro Zuñiga, who heads the health and safety program at the Fe y Justicia Worker Center in Houston, Texas, won the Health and Safety Trainer Award.  As an immigrant worker and survivor of workplace carbon monoxide poisoning, Alejandro knows personally how a family suffers when employers ignore workers’ rights. Alejandro sees training as a strategy for expanding awareness and engaging new players in the broader struggle for systemic change to benefit immigrant workers.
  • Roger Cook, co-founder of Western New York COSH (WNYCOSH), received the Tony Mazzocchi Award, named in honor of legendary health and safety pioneer Tony Mazzocchi.  A leader of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (now part of the United Steelworkers) Tony helped pass the original Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) in 1970.

Roger Cook served as the director of WNYCOSH for three decades, and has spent his life devoted to organizing campaigns for social, economic, racial, and environmental justice. He currently co-chairs the New York State Zero Lift Task Force and serves on the WNYCOSH Worker Center Advisory Board and the executive boards of the Western New York Working Families Party and his local Sierra Club.

Winners of the COSH Network awards include:

  • Germain Harnden, executive director of WNYCOSH, received the COSH Legacy Award. She has been with WNYCOSH for over 25 years, working on Workers’ Comp reform, the EPA Tools for Schools program, advocacy and training on indoor air quality issues, safe patient handling, and hazard abatement. As executive director, she has expanded the organization’s reach to low-wage workers and helped to establish the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine in Buffalo.
  • Fran Ansley of the Knox Area Workers Memorial Day Committee received the New COSH Activist Award. An emeritus professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law in Knoxville, Fran has worked with the Committee to author two Workers’ Memorial Day reports, highlighting preventable workplace deaths in Knoxville and surrounding communities.
  • Nicole Marquez, Staff Attorney for Worksafe in Oakland, California, and a National COSH board member, won the COSH Board Activist Award. Nicole has worked to assist low-wage Latina workers, helping to ensure compliance with labor laws and health and safety standards. For National COSH, Nicole was a leader in creating the new Board committee on Inclusiveness and Diversity, with a commitment to expand the organization’s reach to underserved communities.
  • Educator and Trainer Awards were given to members of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network: Levis Torres of WeCount!; Betzy Rega of El Sol; Ignacio Paramo of VOZ; Mark Day of the San Diego Day Laborers and Household Workers Association; and the Union Latina de Chicago.

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

RALLY June 5th: Activists to Call on U.S. Chamber of Commerce to Stop Blocking Life-Saving Silica Rule

Silica Dust Worker Mask Full

WASHINGTON DC – A delegation of health and safety activists will deliver a NCOSH 300X250petition to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Friday, June 5th, calling on the Chamber to drop its opposition to OSHA’s proposed rule limiting worker exposure to silica dust.

“Workers are getting sick and dying every day from exposure to silica dust,” said Mary Vogel, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, a non-profit advocacy group that will lead the delegation. “It’s long past time to put an affordable, practical rule in place that can protect workers and save lives.

Who:        Health and Safety Activists

What:       Delegation to U.S. Chamber of Commerce

When:      Friday, June 5th at 12:15 p.m.

Where:    Lafayette Park, H St. and Connecticut Avenue  

Dust from silica, widely used in construction, masonry, foundries, fracking and other industries, is a known carcinogen and can also cause tuberculosis, silicosis, lung infections and other potentially fatal disease.

OSHA proposed final rule requiring use of currently available and affordable technologies to limit exposure to silica dust in 2013. The new standard, based on years of research and sound science, could save an estimated 700 lives a year. It has been stalled for two years in large part due to efforts of business lobbyists, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“Workers and their families have waited long enough,” said Barbara Rahke, executive director of PhilaPOSH and board chair of National COSH. “The U.S. Chamber is putting workers at risk – and turning its back on responsible employers who are using currently available technology to limit silica dust.”

Friday’s delegation will present hundreds of signatures gathered at the National Conference on Worker Safety and Health, which is taking place through June 4th at the Maritime Training Center in Linthicum Heights, Maryland.

Activists will hear keynote speeches from Jordan Barab, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health at the U.S. Department of Labor and Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO. The National Conference also features dozens of workshops by leading organizers and health and safety practitioners on Basic Health and Safety Rights; Building Capacity for Disasters; Bilingual Worker Education; Lessons from Fatality Cases; Making OSHA Work; Whistleblower Protections, and other critical topics.

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

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