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

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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

After Nurse Tests Positive For EBOLA, Nurse’s Union Calls For Higher Safety Standards And Training

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Ebola – RNs Call for Highest Standards for Protective Equipment, including Hazmat Suits, Hands-On Training Following  Report of First Nurse Infection in Dallas

2,000 RNs Across U.S. Say Hospitals Still Lagging

Following news Sunday that the first U.S. nurse has now tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, National Nurses United called for all hospitals to have in place the highest standard of optimal protections, including Hazmat suits, and hands-on training to protect all RNs, other hospital personnel to confront Ebola.

“There is no standard short of optimal in protective equipment and hands-on-training that is acceptable,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, the largest U.S. organization of nurses.

“Nurses and other frontline hospital personnel must have the highest level of protective equipment, such as the Hazmat suits Emery University or the CDC themselves use while transporting patients and hands on training and drills for all RNs and other hospital personnel, that includes the practice putting on and taking off the optimal equipment,” DeMoro said Sunday.

NNU will host a national call-in conference call Wednesday with nurses across the U.S. to discuss concerns about U.S. hospital readiness for Ebola.

“Our call was set before today’s announcement based on steady reports from nurses at multiple hospitals who are alarmed at the inadequate preparation they see at their hospitals. The time to act is long overdue,” DeMoro said.

On the Wednesday (10-15-14) call, National Nurses United, which has been surveying nurses across the U.S. has been calling on U.S. hospitals to immediately upgrade emergency preparations for Ebola — including proper hands on training for RNs and other hospital personnel and keep proper protective equipment fully supplied for immediate use.

Hundreds of RNs are expected to call in on Wednesday for a discussion, and to ask questions, about U.S. hospital preparedness. The call is at 3 p.m. EST, 12 noon PST.

(Note to media: You may listen in to the call via webcast, at https://www.webcaster4.com/Webcast/Page/731/6167 or via phone, from U.S. or Canada, 1-877-384-4190 or international, 1-857-244-7412. Participant Code 26306511#. The call will be open to media questions after nurses’ questions.)

As of Sunday mid-day, 2,000 RNs at more 750 facilities in 46 states and the District of Columbia have responded to the NNU national survey. 

Current findings show:

  • 76 percent still say their hospital has not communicated to them any policy regarding potential admission of patients infected by Ebola
  • 85 percent say their hospital has not provided education on Ebola with the ability for the nurses to interact and ask questions
  • 37 percent say their hospital has insufficient current supplies of eye protection (face shields or side shields with goggles) for daily use on their unit; 36 percent say there are insufficient supplies of fluid resistant/impermeable gowns in their hospital
  • 39 percent say their hospital does not have plans to equip isolation rooms with plastic covered mattresses and pillows and discard all linens after use; only 8 percent said they were aware their hospital does have such a plan in place

NNU is calling for all U.S. hospitals to immediately implement a full emergency preparedness plan for Ebola, or other disease outbreaks. That includes:

  • Full training of hospital personnel, along with proper protocols and training materials for responding to outbreaks, with the ability for nurses to interact and ask questions.
  • Adequate supplies of Hazmat suits and other personal protective equipment.
  • Properly equipped isolation rooms to assure patient, visitor, and staff safety.
  • Proper procedures for disposal of medical waste and linens after use.

NNU is also calling for significant increases in provision of aid, financial, personnel, and protective equipment, from the U.S., other governments, and private corporate interests to the nations in West Africa directly affected to contain and stop the spread of Ebola.

Workers’ Compensation Medical Costs in NH Significantly Higher

Image of Catholic Medical Center, not mentioned specifically in post. (Wiki Commons)
Image of Catholic Medical Center, not mentioned specifically in post. (Wiki Commons)

Image of Catholic Medical Center, not mentioned specifically in post. (Wiki Commons)

Concord, NH ­– In the world of workers’ compensation, the fees charged by the health care community are significantly more expensive on average in New Hampshire than in other states, according to the New Hampshire Insurance Department.

“Medical costs in New Hampshire have grown to almost 75 percent of total workers’ compensation dollars in New Hampshire, compared to about 60 percent countrywide,” said Deb Stone, actuary and director of market regulation at the Insurance Department. “It’s my belief, based on actuarial analysis, that the lack of limitation on what can be charged by medical providers and facilities is a major contributor to this trend.”

New Hampshire went from being listed as the 14th most expensive state for workers’ compensation coverage in the country in 2008 to the 9th most expensive in 2012, according to the Oregon Workers Compensation Rate Ranking Study.

Physicians’ services

On average, workers compensation surgical procedures in New Hampshire are 83 percent more expensive than those in the region* and more than twice as expensive as they are nationally, according to data from the National Council on Compensation Insurance. In total, the data included four categories of physician services: surgical, radiology, physical and occupational therapies, and doctors’ visits. Insurance Department actuaries found that medical costs in New Hampshire exceeded those in surrounding states and the nation by a substantial margin in all four categories. For radiology, the costs were 35 percent more expensive than in the region and 66 percent more expensive than nationally; for physical and occupational therapies, the costs were 95 percent and 64 percent more expensive, respectively; and for doctors’ visits, costs were 36 percent and 47 percent more expensive.

The data represent the most common procedures comprising at least 50 percent of the total dollars spent by workers compensation insurance companies on physician services.

“New Hampshire is more expensive, not only on average, but for every single individual physicians’ services procedure reviewed, save one,” said Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny. “We are among the most expensive states for workers’ compensation, and it makes it more costly for businesses to operate here.”

*The region is defined as Maine, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Data from Massachusetts were not available: Massachusetts does not contract with NCCI. In the study, 35 states were used as the national comparison.

Facilities

On average, the costs for surgical procedures at ambulatory surgical centers in New Hampshire are 37 percent more expensive than the surrounding region and 77 percent more expensive than countrywide. Also, on average, hospital outpatient surgical procedures cost 15 percent more in New Hampshire than in the region and 25 percent more than countrywide. Further, in cases where the same procedure may be performed either as a hospital outpatient procedure or in an ambulatory surgical center, the data show that the cost in the ambulatory surgical center is generally more – in some instances as much as twice as expensive, or even higher. For hospital outpatient non-surgery procedures, NH is 51 percent more expensive than both the surrounding region and countrywide on average.

Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that employers are required by state law to provide for their employees. This is to ensure, in part, that people who are injured or disabled on the job are not required to cover medical bills related to their on-the-job injury or illness. New Hampshire is one of just six states that do not have legal guidelines in place to cap the amount that health care providers can charge workers’ compensation insurance companies for services. In addition, current state law (RSA 281-A:24 I) mandates that workers’ compensation insurance “shall pay the full amount of the health care provider’s bill.”

The National Council on Compensation Insurance is an advisory organization that provides information to the insurance industry and to regulators. It provides services to the workers compensation industry in most states. In New Hampshire, it develops rates and advisory loss costs, administers the Residual Market, and provides data for analysis of issues such as the pricing of proposed state legislation and research. It provides similar services to all the New England states except Massachusetts.

Following today’s meeting of the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council’s Subcommittee on Medical Cost Containment, Governor Maggie Hassan issued the following statement:

“As workers’ compensation medical payments soar higher for Granite State businesses, New Hampshire has become one of the most expensive states in the nation for workers’ compensation. Employers and workers have done their part to increase workplace safety, but high workers’ compensation costs remain a burden on our businesses.

“I have supported legislation that would have created a commission to examine these issues and recommend solutions. But that legislation recently died, and I do not believe that we can wait until the next legislative session to begin working on solutions. That is why I will be creating a task force of workers, businesses, insurers and members of the health care community to make recommendations to reform the workers’ compensation system in order to reduce costs for our workers and businesses and to support their efforts to keep our economy moving forward.”

The New Hampshire Insurance Department’s mission is to promote and protect the public good by ensuring the existence of a safe and competitive insurance marketplace through the development and enforcement of the insurance laws of the State of New Hampshire. For more information, visit www.nh.gov/insurance.

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

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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

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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

Mexican Worker (image by Wiki Commons)

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

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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

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

Hispanic Immigrant Workers To Testify For Stronger Regulations On Silica Dust Exposure At Safety Hearing

Silica Dust Worker Mask Thumb

New Limits Needed on Workplace Dust, Say Those Who Breathe it Every Day 

Washington DC –Hispanic immigrants from the construction and foundry industries who are directly affected by silica dust, a widespread industrial hazard, will testify today before an administrative law judge of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“We are exposed to the poison,” said José Granado, a construction worker from Houston who came to the United States from El Salvador 15 year ago. “I came to the U.S. looking for a better life. However due to risky and unsafe work that I’m doing in the construction industry, it’s looks like that instead of getting a better life, I came to give mine away.”

At issue is a landmark new regulation, the first proposed by OSHA in many years, which would limit exposure of workers to silica dust. Hearings on the proposed rule, which began at the U.S. Department of Labor on March 18th, will continue through April 4th. Dust from building materials and other industrial processes is common in construction, foundries, glassmaking, hydraulic fracking and other industries.

Experts from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have testified that exposure to silica dust can cause silicosis, lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis, airways diseases, and autoimmune disorders.  OSHA is proposing a new limit of 50 micrograms of silica dust per cubic meter of air space, a standard that was first recommended by NIOSH in 1974.

Seven immigrant workers from Houston, Milwaukee, New Jersey and Philadelphia and will testify in Spanish today with the aid of an interpreter. Today’s testimony is a rare opportunity for top government officials to hear from workers directly impacted by proposed safety regulations.

The workers are affiliated with local worker centers and health and safety groups, including Fe y Justicia Workers’ Center in Houston, Voces de la Frontera in Milwaukee, New Labor in New Jersey and the Philadelphia Area Project on Occupational Safety and Health.

“Immigrant workers often have few options but to take dirty, dangerous jobs that lack proper safety precautions,” said Jessica Martinez, deputy director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, a worker advocacy coalition. “These men and women typically work outside the standards of a union contract, which can make it especially difficult to access training and protection from silica dust and other workplace hazards. They are breathing in dangerous dust every day. Their voices must be heard when considering how to make our workplaces as safe as possible.”

According to Granado, contractors routinely ignore safety precautions.

“They only care that the construction project will be completed on time. They don’t care that we work long hours, and we are exposed all those hours, they don’t give us any protective equipment, do not use water or any equipment to vacuum away the dust.

Some coworkers are afraid to report what happens, because the first thing the company tells us that if we do not want to work in that conditions, if we do not like, we have to go to work elsewhere.”

Also testifying today is Jonas Mendoza, a construction worker from New Jersey who is a safety liaison for New Labor. He plans to tell OSHA:

“In the construction industry contractors do not provide the workers with the basics to do the job. In many instances if you ask for protective equipment they give you a mask from the 99 cents store to shut you up… All the contractors should be more considerate with their workers. There are feasible ways to control dust, to prevent contamination of the environment and without hurting the people that perform these jobs.

We are also exposed to dust and we have a high probability of getting lung related diseases as a result of inhaling hazardous dusts.  We don’t even know that is affecting us. Many times we do these jobs without any protection. We are exposed to hazards on demolition jobs in unsafe conditions, in places that are not cleaned, places where there is not even a place to wash your hands before eating. Places where everything is cover in dust.”

In addition to today’s witnesses, who are directly affected by dust exposure, National COSH workplace safety experts will testify before OSHA next Tuesday, April 1st.
ALSO

USW panels to testify in OSHA hearings on proposed standard for workplace exposure to crystalline silica

Panels representing the United Steelworkers (USW) who are job safety specialists will each present testimony this morning at public hearings being held by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) in support of a OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) proposed standard to protect workers from silica exposure.

The two USW panels will include workers from facilities where job exposure to respirable crystalline silica occurs daily. USW members are exposed to silica in foundries, glass making, refractory manufacturing and shipyards. The hearings begin each day at 9:30 am and run Mar. 18 – Apr. 4 in the Cesar Chavez Auditorium at the USDOL (200 Constitution Ave., NW).

Silica dust is a killer. It causes silicosis, a disabling lung disease that literally suffocates workers to death. It also causes lung cancer, respiratory and kidney diseases.

The proposed rule would cut permitted dust exposure levels in half; require exposure monitoring; medical exams for workers and implementation of dust control methods. The updated standard would protect more than two million workers exposed to deadly silica dust.

Panels representing the United Steelworkers (USW) who are job safety specialists will each present testimony this morning at public hearings being held by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) in support of a OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) proposed standard to protect workers from silica exposure.

The two USW panels will include workers from facilities where job exposure to respirable crystalline silica occurs daily. USW members are exposed to silica in foundries, glass making, refractory manufacturing and shipyards. The hearings begin each day at 9:30 am and run Mar. 18 – Apr. 4 in the Cesar Chavez Auditorium at the USDOL (200 Constitution Ave., NW).

Silica dust is a killer. It causes silicosis, a disabling lung disease that literally suffocates workers to death. It also causes lung cancer, respiratory and kidney diseases.

The proposed rule would cut permitted dust exposure levels in half; require exposure monitoring; medical exams for workers and implementation of dust control methods. The updated standard would protect more than two million workers exposed to deadly silica dust.

103 years later: profits are STILL more important than people

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Cartoon refers to the Triangle fire and depicts a woman weeping over a grave, and asks the reader: "How soon will they be all forgotten?"Today marks the 103rd anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, when 146 garment workers were trapped behind locked doors.  Some of the young women burned to death; others died of smoke inhalation; still others jumped out of windows to certain death.

The good news is: this year even some mainstream media outlets are remembering the anniversary.

The bad news is: workers are still dying on the jobBangladeshChina … Pakistan … Nigeria… Italy

… even, still, here in the United States.  About 150 American workers die each day from workplace accidents or occupational illness.  (Yes, you did read that right: 150 each day.  But since they don’t die in the same place, from the same thing, these deaths don’t make the headlines.)

When will we stop thinking of profit margins as more important than people?

[Be warned: this video is graphic and may be disturbing]

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