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NATIONAL COSH Has Concerns Over New Nominee To Lead OSHA

National COSH on Nomination of Scott Mugno to Lead OSHA: Congress and Agency Must Focus on Terrible Toll of Workplace Deaths, Injuries and Illness 

Advocates identify key questions for nominee on silica, safe clean up and workplace violence prevention

SAN DIEGO: With the nomination of Scott Mugno, a vice president of FedEx, to head the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Congress and the agency must focus on the terrible toll of preventable injuries, illnesses and deaths that take place every year in U.S. workplaces, say leaders of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH).

“More than 4,500 workers die on the job every year and millions more are injured or become ill,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “It’s clear that nearly all of these painful events can be prevented by getting workers involved in identifying and preventing safety hazards, stopping retaliation against workers who come forward with safety complaints and rigorous enforcement against employers who ignore our safety laws and put workers at risk.”

“Senate review of this nomination must be rigorous and thorough, because so much is at stake for American workers and families,” said National COSH co-executive director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb. “The work of OSHA is about people. It’s about workers’ lives and limbs. It’s about reducing risks and hazards so everyone can go home safely at the end of his or her shift.”

National COSH identified several critical issues that deserve thorough review during the nomination process, including:

  • Industry groups have urged Congress to block a new OSHA standard limiting exposure to silica, a deadly dust that is present in workplaces with millions of American workers. The standard was issued after years of careful research, with thousands of pages of testimony from scientists and labor and industry stakeholders and is expected to save up to 700 lives a year. What is Mr. Mugno’s view of this life-saving regulation?
  • After disasters such as the World Trade Center in 2001 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, tens of thousands of workers were killed, became sick or were injured as a result of exposure to hazardous conditions and/or toxic substances during clean up efforts. What are Mr. Mugno’s ideas on how OSHA can prevent these safety failures from being repeated during ongoing recovery efforts from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria?
  • In January, OSHA began a rulemaking process to create a standard for workplace violence prevention for health care and social service workers. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that workplace violence for these workers increased by 64 percent between 2004 and 2015. What are Mr. Mugno’s plans for supporting this critical effort to assist health care and social service workers and employers in making their workplaces safer?

“We look forward to hearing from Mr. Mugno about how he will listen to workers’ concerns, enforce the law, and make our workplaces safer,” said Goldstein-Gelb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Workplace Safety Groups Head To Houston To Train Reconstruction Workers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org

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

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

Millions Of Workers Are Still In Danger From Asbestos

  Mesothelioma Awareness Day Is September 26th

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

 

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

History of Asbestos

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

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

Asbestos Exposure At Work

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

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

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

Mesothelioma

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

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

Please use the Twitter hashtag #ENDmeso 

Trump Threatens The Safety Of Millions Of Workers With Cuts To Dept of Labor And OSHA

The health and safety of millions of American workers should be one of the highest priorities to Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta, but based on the department’s massive budget cuts, that does not appear to be the case.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is one of the most important areas within the federal government for ensuring that regular workers like you and me, can go to work in a safe environment. It is OSHA’s regulations, inspections, and training that protect millions of workers in every workplace, from hotel housekeepers to the ironworkers who work hundreds of feet in the air.

Despite the hard work the of OSHA and the Department of Labor approximately 4,500 US workers die each year from traumatic events in the workplace, such as falls from a height, drowning in trenches, getting crushed by machinery, and roadway collisions.

However now, OSHA is in serious peril as the Trump administration looks to slash the Department of Labor’s budget as well as many other “workplace safety” divisions within the government.

Every day, thirteen US workers are killed on the job. Instead of providing resources to prevent these tragedies, the proposed Department of Labor budget for FY 2018:

  • Projects 2,300 fewer inspections of U.S. workplaces by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA);
  • Cuts $6 million for safety inspections from the US Mine Safety and Health Administration which has already seen more coal miner deaths (9) in the first half of 2017 than in all of 2016 (8); and
  • Eliminates the successful Susan Harwood training grants, which have a proven track record of helping workers in dangerous industries avoid workplace hazards that can lead to illnesses, injuries and fatalities.

“Workers in New Hampshire can’t afford cutbacks in safety inspections or workplace training,” said Brian Mitchell, Director of New Hampshire Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NH COSH). “The price we pay for unsafe working conditions can’t be measured in dollars and cents. We pay with our lungs, our limbs – and sometimes our lives.”

Trump’s budget proposal took an axe to the Department of Labor’s funding cutting away $9 billion dollars, a 21% decrease. Trump praise how he would save taxpayers $11 million dollars by cutting the Susan Harwood grant program.

Just to be clear, President Trump spent more golfing in Florida this spring than this program, that serves tens of thousands of workers annually, needs to operate.

The Harwood Grant program provides “training and education for workers and employers on the recognition, avoidance, and prevention of safety and health hazards in their workplaces, and to inform workers of their rights and employers of their responsibilities under the OSH Act.” These programs are specifically targeted to “underserved, low-literacy, and workers in high-hazard industries.” Over the 40 years since the Harwood grants began over 2.1 million workers across the country have utilized this training program.

The New Hampshire COSH, Interfaith Worker Justice, and the National Safety Council are just a few of the many organizations that helped to train over 88,000 workers in 2016.

Outside the 21% cuts to the USDOL budget, other key agencies tasked with protecting workers and communities face drastic cutbacks, including elimination of the US Chemical Safety Board. The Nation magazine explained in a recent article why the Chemical Safety Board is so vitally important.

“If the small agency is indeed defunded, the results could be catastrophic—and we might be left wondering, as the bodies are counted after some large chemical disaster, why nobody was angry when the CSB went away.”

Along with OSHA and the CSB, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is facing at a 40% cutback ($139 million) in Trump’s budget. NIOSH is the leading workplace safety research that leads to many of the new OSHA safety standards.

Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta

Secretary Acosta Defends Budget Cuts

This week, Secretary of Labor, Alex Acosta, went before the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies committee to talk about the DOL’s proposed budget cuts.

Sec. Acosta began his testimony by saying:

“Too many Americans struggle to get by. Too many Americans have seen good jobs in their communities disappear. Too many Americans see jobs that are available, but require skills that they do not possess. We at the Department look forward to working with you in the Legislative Branch to fulfill the Department of Labor’s critical mission: to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of our Nation’s workers, job seekers, and retirees.”

This well crafted statement makes it appear that Acosta is fighting for working people who need retraining to find better jobs and continued training for those who already possess a job. This is in complete contrast to the budget cuts Acosta is supporting within the DOL.

Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo), called Sec. Acosta out for his cuts to worker training programs.

“I have serious concerns with the worker training program reductions – particularly the proposals to cut state grants by 40 percent and close Job Corps Centers. The President has recognized that there are millions of vacant jobs in this country and I hear about the difficulty finding work in the sectors impacting building trades all the time. We need to make certain that our workforce training programs and apprenticeships equip individuals with the skills they need to meet the workforce needs of today and tomorrow.”

Sec Acosta tried (and failed) to explain away the $10 million dollar cuts to the Harwood grant program by saying that a “$4 million dollar increase to OSHA’s federal compliance assistance budget” eliminated the need for the grant program. The blog, Confined Space, explains in great detail how the compliance assistance program is completely different from what the Harwood grants provide.

New Hampshire has long been one of the safest states to work. Last year Brian Mitchell from the NH COSH, identified 16 workers who died on the job in 2016. However in May of 2017, three workers died on the job in one week.

“After the deaths of three New Hampshire workers in one week in May, this is no time for a budget that makes job sites less safe for working men and women who have a right to come home safely to their families at the end of their workday,” Mitchell stated.

It is time to take action!

Now is the time to contact your Senators and Representatives and tell them that you oppose these cuts to worker safety programs as well as the elimination of the Susan Harwood Grants.

You can take action by signing the petition from the National COSH reminding Congressional members about how failing to properly train workers led to the death of Ricardo Oliveira in Boston, Massachusetts last year.

You can also take action by sending a letter directly to your Senator created by Interfaith Worker Justice, urging them to keep funding for the Susan Harwood Grants.

We cannot stand by while the Trump administration attempts to desimate worker safety programs and the Department of Labor.


Read more about the cuts to OSHA and workplace safety programs from ISHN.

Read more about Acosta’s testimony to the Senate from Confined Space.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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