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Prosecution, Penalties and Prevention Needed to Address Annual Toll of 54,000 Workplace Deaths

Construction Workers Houston Tx (FLIKR Bill Jacobus)

Construction Workers Houston Tx (FLIKR Bill Jacobus)

Upcoming Trial of ex-Coal Company Exec a “Wake-Up Call”
Say Safety Experts; Tougher Penalties, Prevention Can Save Lives

LONGMEADOW, MA – The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, responding to the annual toll of more than 50,000 on-the-job deaths in the United States, said today that an aggressive NCOSH 300X250program of prevention strategies in the workplace can reduce exposure to hazards and save lives in U.S. workplaces.

“54,000 deaths a year is way too many,” said National COSH Executive Director Mary Vogel.  “We need tougher penalties. We need prosecutions for criminal violations.  And we need to listen to workers, and use proven strategies that protect all workers, reduce injuries and save lives.”

Marking the beginning of Workers Memorial Week, which will be observed around the country and around the globe from April 25th through May 2nd, National COSH released “Not an Accident: Preventable Deaths 2015.”

Key information from this year’s report:

  • 4,585 U.S. workers died on the job due to unsafe working conditions in 2013 the most recent data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • An estimated 50,000 workers die each year from long-term exposure to hazardous substances such as asbestos, silica and benzene.
  • Hispanic workers continue to be at greater risk than other groups, showing a nine percent increase in sudden workplace fatalities between 2012 and 2013.  During the same period, the incidence of fatalities decreased for African-American, Asian and white workers.
  • Proven prevention strategies are available for all the major categories which result in worker deaths, including transportation incidents, contacts with objects and equipment, falls to a lower level, workplace violence, exposure to harmful substances and environments and fires and explosions.
  • Making Work Safer:  Local COSH groups around the country are responding to fatalities and injuries on the job through advocacy, research, training and organizing; we highlight actions taken by organizations across the country during the past year.

The report also presents case studies of seven workers who died on the job in 2014, from different industries and different parts of the country, with each case illustrating how workplace hazards can be reduced and lives saved if proper safety protocols are followed.

During a media briefing to announce the release of today’s report, Celeste Monforton, DrPH, a public health consultant and professorial lecturer at George Washington University, discussed the upcoming trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. He has been indicted for conspiracy to violate mine safety laws, following the death of 29 miners at the Massey-owned Upper Big Branch mine in 2010.

 “This trial will be a wake-up call for corporate America,” said Monforton. “If you cut corners, if you operate unsafely and people get hurt as a result, you can be held accountable in a court of law. I’m not sure many companies understood that before; I hope they understand it now.”

Three former Massey executives are currently serving prison terms after pleading guilty or being convicted on charges stemming from the Upper Big Branch disaster.

Mary Jane Collins of Sheridan Wyoming, who lost her 20-year old grandson Brett on a construction site 2012, talked about her efforts to increase penalties for safety violations in the state of Wyoming.  Brett Collins died when struck by an excavator while working in a trench. After penalties for Brett’s death were reduced to less than $3,000, family members were outraged.

 “My grandson died just a few days before he was going back to school,” said Collins. “We don’t want anyone else to suffer a loss like we have.  Our thinking is, if employers have to pay a real fine when something goes wrong, they’ll make sure to the job right in the first place.”

Wyoming legislators, working with the Collins family, have introduced a bill that would require a $50,000 fine for safety violations that lead to the death of a worker.

 “In 2015, there’s no reason for a worker to die in a trench or due to a fall from a building or any other workplace hazard,” said Peter Dooley, a project consultant for National COSH. He has investigated dozens of workplace fatalities during a decades-long career as a workplace safety specialist.  “I’ve seen every hazard you can think of in every kind of workplace.  I haven’t seen one yet that can’t be controlled or eliminated – if you establish health and safety programs with proven components such as worker participation.”

Workers Memorial Week will be observed this year in 80 local communities in 29 states with vigils, rallies, marches and other events to honor fallen workers and advocate for better safety protections. A listing of events is available on the National COSH website.

On April 28th, National COSH will release the U.S. Worker Fatality Database, the most comprehensive effort to date to gather specific information about workplace deaths.  It will cover some 1,500 fatalities, about one-third of all workers who died on the job in 2014, with an interactive map feature to show where the incidents took place.  The new database, linked from the National COSH website, will be available to the public, policy makers and news media.


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. Audio of today’s National COSH press call is available here.

McDonald’s Workers File OSHA Complaint After 79% Report Being Burn On The Job

Mcdonalds ‘Put mayonnaise on it, you’ll be good’ 

McDonald’s Workers Nationwide File OSHA Complaints Alleging Hazardous Work Conditions

Understaffing and pressure to work too fast lead to serious injuries;
Workers call on DOL to investigate

Faced with widespread hazards on the job, including bubbling hot oil, white hot grills, and greasy, slippery floors, McDonald’s workers who have suffered severe burns announced Monday that they have filed 28 health and safety complaints against the fast-food giant in 19 cities.

They allege that understaffing and pressure to work too fast – hazardous conditions often created by the company’s computer system that dictates staffing levels and the pace of work – are the main drivers responsible for the injuries. The complaints further reveal that many McDonald’s stores lack basic first aid or protective gear necessary to ensure workers’ safety, and that managers often tell workers to treat burns with condiments like mustard rather than burn cream.

“My managers kept pushing me to work faster, and while trying to meet their demands I slipped on a wet floor, catching my arm on a hot grill,” said Brittney Berry, who has worked at McDonald’s in Chicago, Ill., since 2011, and who suffered a severe burn on her forearm and nerve damage from the accident. “The managers told me to put mustard on it, but I ended up having to get rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. This is exactly why workers at McDonald’s need union rights, so we have a voice to make the company take responsibility for the dangers it creates in its stores.”

The complaints, filed with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration as well as state safety and health authorities, point to a wide range of serious dangers at the workplace, including: pressure to clean and filter the fryer while the oil is hot; lack of proper protective equipment; floors that are greasy or wet; and missing or empty first aid kits. Complaints were filed at both corporate and franchised locations.

“One of my coworkers and I have to empty the grease trap without protective gear, and since we were never given the proper equipment or training, we just dump the hot grease into a plastic bag in a box of ice,” said Martisse Campbell, who works at McDonald’s in Philadelphia, Penn., whose hand was severely burned by boiling grease from a fryer. “Once, my coworker got badly burned, and our manager told him ‘put mayonnaise on it, you’ll be good.’ McDonald’s needs to be held accountable, and that’s why workers around the country are joining together.”

Burns have been reported as a widespread problem since fast-food workers started organizing in New York City more than two years ago: “In our first meeting, there were 50 workers in a room in New York City who held up their arms covered in burns and said ‘this is what it means to be a fast-food worker,’” said Kendall Fells,Organizing Director of the Fight for $15. “As this campaign has spread to cities across the country, it’s become painfully clear that unsafe conditions go hand in hand with the industry’s low wages.”

McDonald’s sets minimal health and safety standards for all franchisees, but even these modest measures are not properly enforced. The company watches like a hawk nearly every aspect of its franchisees’ business operations via regular inspections, but it too often ignores health and safety problems. Moreover, workers in corporate-owned stores report the same health and safety hazards as workers in franchised restaurants.

“It’s a problem that only McDonald’s can fix, and the time to fix it is now,” Mr. Fells added.

The announcement comes as a new national survey finds that a staggering share of fast-food workers have been burned on the job: 79% of fast-food workers in the U.S. have been burned in the past year, most repeatedly, according to a survey conducted by Hart Research Associates and released Monday by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. Workers cited understaffing and pressure to work too fast as the top reasons they are getting burned on the job.

The survey found that 36% of workers report that first aid kits are missing, inaccessible, or empty, and one-third of fast-food workers in the U.S. had been told to treat burns with condiments like mustard or mayonnaise rather than burn cream.

The Fight for $15 announced Monday the launch of a petition calling on the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate widespread health and safety hazards in the fast-food industry. And it launched a video and website, burnedbyfastfood.org, to call attention to the prevalence of severe burns in the industry.

Workers announced that they would be holding protests at McDonald’s stores across the country Tuesday to demand that the company be held accountable for the widespread dangers at its stores.

The 19 cities where complaints were filed include Kansas City, Mo., Miramar, Fla., Nanuet, N.Y., New York, N.Y., New Orleans, La., and Philadelphia, Penn. The announcement comes as McDonald’s faces mounting challenges domestically and abroad over working conditions, tax avoidance, and racial discrimination.

Safety Groups Call for OSHA Reforms

Workers and Public Should Have Enhanced Access

to Review Commission, says National COSH

NCOSH 300X250LONGMEADOW, MA – The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) has filed a petition before the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC), calling for greater worker and public participation in Commission proceedings.

“Workers know best how to prevent the hazards that cause injuries, illnesses and death on the job,” said Mary Vogel, Executive Director of National COSH. “To make sure our workplaces are safer, workers’ voices must be heard loud and clear. And we need to shine as much light as possible on what is too often hidden from view – the unsafe practices that put workers at unnecessary risk on every shift, day and night, every day of the week.”

“For 44 years, the OSH Act has explicitly given workers the clear right to be involved when employers appeal OSHA citations,” said Eric Frumin, Health and Safety Director for the labor union coalition Change to Win. “As conditions change and employers try to narrow worker participation, the Commission must keep its rules current and preserve this fundamental right.”

“When employees appear before the Review Commission, they should get a fair shake and be full participants,” said Randy Rabinowitz, Co-Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Law Project.

According to preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 4,400 workers died in 2013 following on-the-job incidents. BLS data shows more than 3 million non-fatal workplace injuries in 2013, and a University of California study estimates more than 50,000 U.S. deaths annually from long-term illnesses related to workplace exposure.

The Review Commission, created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, hears appeals of OSHA violations and penalties issued against employers following OSHA inspections. With OSHA doing nearly 40,000 inspections annually, the Commission hears some 2,700 employer appeals every year. Many of these cases involve critical issues for the workers affected. The outcome can literally determine whether workers will suffer serious injury or die if employers don’t fix the violations.

The OSHRC is currently considering revisions to its procedural rules. In a petition filed Friday, Jan. 23rd by the Occupational Safety and Health Law Project, National COSH joined North America’s Building Trades Unions, Change to Win and the United Steelworkers, calling for specific changes to enhance worker and public participation.

National COSH and its partners in this petition filing are calling for:

An expanded definition of “affected employee”

As of now, only a worker who is directly employed by an employer with a case before the Review Commission can participate as a party to OSHRC proceedings. With more and more companies using temporary and contract workers — who may be “directly” employed by a different company such as a staffing agency– National COSH and fellow petitioners argue that OSHRC should allow full participation by any worker at a multi-employer worksite who is affected by the hazard or violation under appeal.

This is similar to the existing standard used by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) when assessing safety hazards at construction sites, which typically involve multiple employers.

A consistent right for workers to select their own representatives at Review Commission hearings

Although the OSH Act allows employees the right to select individuals or organizations to represent them during Commission proceedings, this provision of Federal law is not always honored in practice. “OSHRC judges,” the petition states, “have expressed skepticism, if not downright hostility, to the individuals who have sought to represent workers before OSHRC, or have imposed unreasonable limits on a representative’s participation.”

The petitioners seek to clarify that the Review Commission’s existing rules allow a worker to choose an attorney, pastor, community organization, union or other representative to act on their behalf, with no limits placed on participation by chosen representatives.

More sunlight on Review Commission proceedings:

Under current Commission rules, any statement or information offered during settlement talks regarding major cases before the Review Commission is treated as confidential, regardless of the source of the information.

This overly restrictive confidentiality rule, petitioners point out, is narrower than Federal Rules of Evidence.  It has the unfortunate side effect of preventing workers from using information obtained outside of Review Commission proceedings as part of ongoing efforts to improve workplace conditions. As petitioners argue, employees

“[L]earn about everyday working conditions, hazards employees face and violations during their daily work activities. They… have a right to demand improvements in working conditions and to bargain with employers to gain safer workplaces. They also have a right to communicate with the public in their efforts to improve their working conditions.”

“No worker should be silenced just because his or her employer tries to hide unsafe practices behind a cloak of so-called ‘confidentiality’ while trying to settle an OSHA citation,” said Vogel. “As the Review Commission seeks to update its procedures, the common sense reforms we are suggesting will help it function more effectively for all parties and uphold the public’s interest in creating safer workplaces.” 

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

Worker Safety Activists Honored At American Public Health Annual Meeting

Wyoming COSH Founder Dan Neal and SoCalCOSH Board Member Linda Delp
win Awards from American Public Health Association 

NCOSH 300X250NEW ORLEANS – Two veteran worker safety activists, Dan Neal and Linda Delp, were recognized today with prestigious awards at the American Public Health Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

Neal, executive director of the Casper-based Equality State Policy Center and founder of the Wyoming Coalition on Occupational Safety and Health (Wyoming COSH) was honored with the APHA Lorin Kerr award, which recognizes outstanding public policy advocacy.

Delp, director of the UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program and a board member of the Southern California Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (SoCalCOSH), was honored with the Alice Hamilton Award.

“Dan Neal and Linda Delp are exactly the kind of people who deserve these high professional honors,” said Mary Vogel, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH). “Both of them work tirelessly to advocate for workers’ rights and safer workplaces – and to build strong organizations like WYCOSH and SoCALCOSH, which ensure that workers have a voice in winning safer working conditions.”

Neal became executive director of the Equality State Policy Center (ESPC) in 2005 after a decades-long career as a reporter and editor at the Casper Star-Tribune. For many years, Wyoming has been one of the most dangerous states for workers, as measured by the rate of on-the-job fatalities. In 2013 Neal spearheaded creation of Wyoming COSH as a project of ESPC, and affiliation of the state group with National COSH.

In 2014, Neal authored a state-wide report featuring stories of worker fatalities to illustrate how Wyoming families are devastated by these deaths, and outlining concrete steps to improve the state’s dismal safety record. ESPC and Wyoming COSH are currently leading efforts to require stiffer penalties against employers for violations of workplace safety regulations.

“Dan’s leadership and coalition-building skills have made him an effective advocate,” said Marcia Shanor, the executive director of the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association, who serves as the chair of the ESPC Board of Directors. “His vision and hard work have changed the political landscape in Wyoming.  Worker safety is now on the agenda and our elected leaders know it must be addressed. We’re thrilled that leading public health professionals are recognizing the impact of Dan’s work on the lives of Wyoming workers and families.”

Linda Delp has been a leader and innovator in the field of worker health and safety for nearly 30 years, beginning as Western Region Health and Safety Director for the Service Employees International Union. As director of UCLA’s Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program since 1990, she has created bilingual education and participatory research programs in both the U.S. and Mexico and developed union and labor-management health and safety initiatives in industries ranging from manufacturing to meatpacking to healthcare.

As a volunteer board member at SoCalCOSH, Linda has played a key role in strengthening the organization’s advocacy and education programs. An author of numerous peer-reviewed occupational health studies and a participant in academic, government and community advisory committees, Linda is also known for her ongoing efforts to mentor young scholars and activists seeking to enter the field of public health and worker safety.

“Linda is a high-energy, committed and pragmatic leader who inspires a collective vision and the ability to transform that vision into reality,” said Jessica Martinez, deputy director of National COSH, who is based in California and has worked closely with Delp. “She is devoted to expanding worker safety by identifying resources and offering opportunities to up and coming leaders of diverse backgrounds. Her dedication to create safer and healthier workplaces has been a major contribution to the labor movement.”

Wyoming COSH and SoCalCOSH are part of the COSH Network, which includes 20 groups across the United States advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. National COSH links the efforts of local coalitions and coordinates a national policy agenda on worker health and safety.

Ebola Outbreak Shows Need for Stronger Protection for Health Care Workers, Says National Safety Group

With OSHA unable to inspect all hospitals, workers must have a voice in addressing workplace hazards

NY Committee for Occupational Safety and Health
Has Fact Sheets for workers facing Ebola risks 

Longmeadow, MA:  Reports that a second Dallas hospital worker has been infected with the Ebola virus show the need for stronger and more comprehensive on-the-job protections for health care workers, says the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH).

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Nina Pham, Amber Vinson and their families,” said National COSH executive director Mary Vogel.  “We’re also thinking of all the health care workers across America who are exposed, every day, to serious risks to their own health and safety.”

“The Ebola virus can be fatal – and so can many other hazards faced by health care workers,” said Vogel.  To ensure a safe working environment, “health care employers must implement comprehensive workplace health and safety programs.”

That means workers receive adequate training, access to the right protective equipment – and most important, a voice in developing workplace standards so hazards can be prevented before workers are harmed.  Workers must also be protected from retaliation, Vogel said, when reporting hazardous conditions and violations of safety standards.

The New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), an affiliate of National COSH, has a fact sheet available for any workers at risk of exposure to the Ebola virus, and a specific fact sheet for aircraft cabin cleaners and cargo handlers.

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the health care and social assistance industry reported more than 653,900 on-the-job injuries and illnesses in 2010, the highest for any private sector industry in the United States. By comparison, workers in the manufacturing sector reported slightly over 500,000 injuries and illnesses that same year – 152,000 fewer than health care workers.

“It’s a common assumption that a hospital or clinic must be a safe place to work, but the fact is that health care is a hazardous occupation,” said Vogel. “Every day, while taking care of others, health care workers face serious risks to their own health and safety.”  Just a few of the many problems they face, said Vogel, include contamination from infectious disease; exposure to radiation and hazardous chemicals; sticks from needles and other sharp objects; repetitive strain injuries from heavy lifting; and the threat of workplace violence.

Despite the known hazards associated with working in health care, U.S. OSHA inspected just 138 out of thousands of U.S. hospitals in FY 2011.  State safety agencies inspected an additional 233 hospitals.

“OSHA has just one inspector for every 66,000 covered employees in seven million workplaces,” said Vogel.  “Certainly, the agency needs more person power and stronger enforcement authority.  But in health care and other settings, the surest way to limit workplace hazards is for workers themselves to have a strong voice in setting – and enforcing – workplace standards.”

  

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health is a federation of local and statewide organizations; a private, non-profit coalition of labor unions, health and technical professionals, and others interested in promoting and advocating for worker health and safety.

To learn more about the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, visit: http://www.coshnetwork.org

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

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

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

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

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

Events Nationwide Honor Workers Who Lost Their Lives on the Job

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

Regional Reports on Workplace Deaths Released in

CA, MA, NY, TN, WY and Houston TX 

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

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

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

Facts and figures:

 Reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Workers’ Memorial Week Events

Nationwide listing, please see the National COSH Website here:

coshnetwork.org/workers-memorial-week-events

State-by-state events

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

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

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

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

Maryland:  Event today, 4-28, in Cumberland

Massachusetts:  Event today, 4-28 in Boston

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

Nebraska:  Event today, 4-28, in Lincoln

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

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

Ohio:  Event today, 4-28 in Evendale

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

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

Texas:  Event today, 4-28, in Houston

Washington:  Event tomorrow, 4-29, in Tumwater

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

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

Wyoming:  Event today, 4-28, in Cheyenne

National COSH Releases New Report On 50,000+ Annual Preventable Workplace Deaths

Report: 50,000+ Fatalities Annually from Workplace Injuries and Illnesses:
Deaths Can Be Prevented, Safety Experts Say

Study Highlights High Risks Faced by Hispanic Workers;
Calls for More Spanish-Language Outreach and Enhanced Whistleblower Protection 

Mexican Worker (image by Wiki Commons)

Mexican Worker (image by Wiki Commons)

SAN DIEGO,CA – More than 50,000 U.S. workers die each year due to occupational injuries and illnesses, says “Preventable Death 2014,” an upcoming report from the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH). NCOSH

“No one should have to risk their life simply to earn a living,” said Jessica Martinez, deputy director of National COSH. “Many of the injuries and illnesses that are killing American workers can be prevented.  We know the safety systems, equipment and training that can stop people from dying on the job, and it’s absolutely urgent that we take action to protect workers and their families.”

“After what I saw and lived through,” said Joyce Gilliard “I want to advocate for safety and prevent any other tragedies or injuries in the workplace.” Gilliard, a hair stylist, suffered a compound fracture when she survived a tragic incident on a train trestle which claimed the life of cinematographer Sarah Jones, 27, during a feature film shoot in Georgia on Feb. 20th.

“Preventable Deaths 2014” will combine data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on fatal workplace injuries with projections from peer-reviewed data on fatalities resulting from workplace illnesses such as cancer, respiratory, cardiovascular and renal disease.

The report from National COSH is being released in advance of Workers’ Memorial Week, a global event which commemorates workers who lost their lives on the job.  In the United States, more than 50 local communities in 27 states will honor fallen workers.   A listing of events is available on the National COSH website.

“Preventable Deaths 2014” will document the high rate of workplace fatalities due to injury experienced by Hispanic workers  — 4.2 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2012, compared to 3.7 deaths per 100,000 for the U.S. population as a whole.  This pattern of high risk for Hispanic workers, the report shows, has continued for at least the past five years.

“We know that Hispanic workers are in high-hazard jobs and training and communication make a huge difference, so we need to make sure training is available for all workers in a language they understand,” said Martinez. “That includes informing workers of their rights during any safety inspection that takes place in their workplace.”

“Preventable Deaths 2014” will also identity specific strategies to reduce workplace hazards in the six areas identified by BLS as leading causes of workplace fatalities:  Transportation incidents, contacts with objects and equipment, falls to a lower level, workplace, violence, exposure to harmful substances and environments, and fires and explosions.

Attempts by individual states to weaken safety standards – such as legislation in Arizona which weakens fall protection for construction workers – are moving in exactly the wrong direction said Peter Dooley, a Tucson-based senior consultant for National COSH.

“More than 100 workers fell to their deaths in Arizona during the past decade,” said Dooley. “Instead of weakening any rules, we should be implementing and enforcing the procedures that we know can save lives, like mandated use of safety protections systems to prevent falls.”

In addition to “Preventable Deaths 2014,” released on April 23rd by National COSH, local health and safety coalitions in California, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming will also release reports on workplace fatalities in their individual states next week, in conjunction with Worker Memorial Week activities.

* * *

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.

NH Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health To Honor Workers On Workers Memorial Day

WMD+2014+poster20X14PNG

No matter how hard we work, how hard we try, and people are still going to be injured on the job.  Every day labor unions are pushing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to create a safer workplace for all workers.

For over 40 years, unions have been working with OSHA to identify workplace hazards and identify employers who are cutting corners that put workers safety at risk.

New Hampshire has always taken pride in the fact that we are one of the safest states to work in.  Over the last few years, New Hampshire has led the country with the least number of on the job deaths.  With only seven workplace deaths this year will be no different.

Workers memorial day

Once a year America’s unions and safety organizations, like the NH Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, honor these workers who lost their lives on the job.  The day, dubbed Workers Memorial Day, honors workers while renewing our effort to make our jobs safer.

This year the NH Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health will be holding their annual Workers Memorial Day dinner.

Worker’s Memorial Day will be held on April 28th, at 5:30 at the Plumbers and Steamfitters Hall, 161 Londonderry Turnpike, Hooksett, NH.

This year we have identified 7 individuals who lost their lives on the job in New Hampshire in 2013.  We will be adding their names to our perpetual memorial plaque.  There will be a buffet dinner and guest speakers.  There is no registration fee for this event.

The focus of the meeting is to remind everyone that, despite the passage of the OSH Act over 40 years ago, thousands of workers are injured or killed on the job every year, some of whom may never return to work.

The event is open to everyone, but space is limited.  For more information Brian Mitchell contactnhcosh@nhcosh.org and (603) 232-4406.

 

For more information on Workers Memorial Day go to the AFL-CIO Website where you can find a WMD celebration in your area.

LIUNA Pushes for Action on Silica

LIUNA - The Laborers' International Union of North America

LIUNA – The Laborers’ International Union of North America

Washington, D.C. – As the U.S. Department of Labor concluded its final day of public hearings on a proposed rule to prevent exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica in the workplace, officials from the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America, LIUNA Training and other LIUNA affiliates testified on the new proposed standard. Their testimony follows several weeks of testimony by various representatives of labor, industry and associations.  The new proposed standard, announced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), aims to limit American workers’ risk of lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease caused by Silica dust inhalation.

At the hearing, LIUNA officials urged the department to act fast in finalizing the silica rule since this dangerous dust is already causing millions to suffer unnecessary death and diseases like silicosis and lung cancer. During the more than 16 years spent developing this proposal, there have been no requirements to train workers on silica or monitor exposure levels. If approved, this new rule could save thousands of lives by limiting dust exposure with control methods, such as water and ventilation, and providing medical exams for workers who have been exposed.

Excerpts below:

“Last year, my doctor advised me to stop work. He had diagnosed me with silicosis and advised me to avoid job sites where I could be exposed to silica… It may be too late to prevent my illness, but my fellow sandhogs and young workers who are just starting to do tunnel construction deserve better protection.” – EDDIE MALLON, MEMBER of LABORERS’ LOCAL #147

“Some of the potential for our most severe exposures are in tunnel work where the confined nature of the work, the often limited ventilation and the ability of tunnel boring machines and other tunnel equipment to generate dust from excavating large amounts of material can lead to substantial silica exposures.” – JAMES MELIUS, MD, DrPH, ADMINISTRATOR of NY STATE LABORERS HEALTH AND SAFETY TRUST FUND

“OSHA’s proposed Silica in Construction standard should take a stronger stance in providing the training and information workers need… it is imperative that workers directly engaged in dust-generating operations receive task and equipment specific training.” – TOM NUNZIATA, LIUNA TRAINING AND EDUCATION FUND

“We recommend that OSHA include and strengthen the competent person provisions in the final rule. We believe the competent person is one of OSHA’s most vital and effective safety and health tools in the construction industry and must be a part of the new rule.” – TRAVIS PARSONS, SENIOR SAFETY & HEALTH SPECIALIST of LABORERS’ HEALTH AND SAFETY FUND OF NORTH AMERICA

There are thousands of workers every day in the U.S. exposed to similar conditions on the job, and we need this new standard to offer better protection to these men and women for silica exposures in construction… we urge OSHA to quickly publish a final rule.” – KEN HOFFNER, MSPH, CIH, CSP, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR of NEW JERSEY LABORERS’ HEALTH AND SAFETY FUND

“[W]e see that states and municipalities are passing laws to protect their citizens and workers from silica containing dust… it is imperative that OSHA move forward with the standard… Greater production, use and protection would be ensured.” – WALTER JONES, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH of LABORERS’ HEALTH AND SAFETY FUND OF NORTH AMERICA

“We believe a new OSHA standard with a lowered PEL will spur innovation in the construction industry… By changing the culture through a new standard, we can preserve worker health, help construction workers lead longer and healthier lives and, based on much of the testimony to date, likely make work more productive in the process.” – SCOTT SCHNEIDER, DIRECTOR OF OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH of LABORERS’ HEALTH AND SAFETY FUND OF NORTH AMERICA

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