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Leo W Gerard: Trade Abuse

America is in an abusive relationship with trade-obsessed politicians and corporations.

Despite their long history of battering the U.S. middle class with bad trade deal after bad trade deal, these lawmakers and CEOs contend workers should believe that their new proposal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), will be different. President Obama and the CEO of Nike, a company that doesn’t manufacture one shoe in the United States, got together in Oregon on Friday to urge Americans to fall once again for a trade deal.

The trade fanatics say everything will be different under the TPP – even though it is based on deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that lured American factories across the border, destroyed good-paying jobs and devastated communities. They plead: “Just come back for one more deal and see how great it will be this time!” And, like all batterers, they say: “Sorry about the terrible past; trust me about the future.”

This is trade abuse.

2015-05-10-1431274691-5818652-JustDontDoIt.jpg

At the Nike world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., the chief executive officer of Air Jordans told the chief executive passenger of Air Force One that Americans should believe in the TPP because it’ll be like Santa Claus stuffing jobs down chimneys across America.

CEO Mark Parker promised that the TPP would miraculously prompt Nike, the brand that is the icon for shipping production overseas, to create 10,000 U.S. manufacturing and engineering jobs – over a decade, that is.  Not only that, Parker pronounced, the TPP will generate thousands of construction jobs and as many as 40,000 indirect positions with suppliers and service companies – again, over a decade.

Now those are some great-sounding promises! Nike employs 26,000 American workers now, a few of whom make soles in Oregon and Missouri. But presto, Parker says, the TPP will increase that number by nearly 40 percent!

The thing is, Nike could easily create 10,000 manufacturing and engineering jobs in the United States right now. No TPP required. It employs 1 million overseas, the vast majority in low-wage, high-worker-abuse countries like Vietnam, China and Indonesia. To bring 1 percent of those jobs – 10,000 – to the United States doesn’t seem like such a Herculean, TPP-requiring task, especially considering Nike’s massive profit margin.

The average cost to make a pair of Nike shoes is $30. The American sneaker consumer, who may pay $130 to swoosh, is certainly not getting the benefit of low prices from Nike’s cheap overseas production.

Instead of manufacturing in America, Nike chooses to “just do it” in countries where it knows workers are abused. In the 1990s, the media slammed the corporation for sweatshop conditions in its foreign factories. Like a typical abuser, Nike promised to reform its ways. It said in a news release last week, “Our past lessons have fundamentally changed the way we do business.”

Well, not really. The company admitted in 2011 that two Indonesian factories making its shoes subjected workers to “serious and egregious” physical and verbal abuse. Nike told the San Francisco Chronicle then that there was “little it could do to stop” the cruelty.

And it accomplished exactly that – little. Just last month, a three-part series in the Modesto Bee described sickening conditions in Indonesian factories producing Nike shoes: Workers paid $212 a month for six-day, 55-hour work weeks. Workers denied the country’s minimum wage and overtime pay. Workers paid so little they couldn’t afford to care for their children. Workers fired for trying to improve conditions.

Last week, the world’s largest athletic gear maker said, “Nike fully supports the inclusion of strong labor provisions (in the TPP) because we believe that will drive higher industry standards and create economic growth that benefits everyone.”

Promises, promises. Why doesn’t Nike simply insist on higher standards at its factories? What exactly is there in a trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim nations that is essential to Nike establishing higher standards and stopping the abuse of workers in factories making its shoes?

Oh, yeah, the American middle class, which has suffered most from past trade deals, is not allowed to know that.  The TPP is secret. Well, except to the privileged corporate CEOs who helped write the thing.

In pushing for “Fast Track” authority to shove the deal through a Congress that has abdicated its Constitutional responsibility to oversee foreign trade, President Obama admitted “past deals did not always live up to the hype.”

That’s not quite right. It’s actually way worse than that. Past deals killed U.S. factories and jobs. Since NAFTA, they’ve cost Americans 57,000 factories and 5 million good, family-supporting jobs.

Just three years ago, trade fanatics promised that the Korean deal, called KORUS, would definitely provide more exports and more jobs. Instead, U.S. goods exports to Korea dropped 6 percent, while imports from Korea surged 19 percent. So the U.S. goods trade deficit with Korea swelled 104 percent. That means the loss of 93,000 America jobs in just the first three years of KORUS.

It’s the same story with the other trade deals that followed NAFTA, including the agreements that enabled China to enter the World Trade Organization. The Commerce Department announced just last week the largest monthly expansion in the trade deficit in 19 years. The deficit with China for March was the biggest ever.

What this means is that instead of exporting goods, America is exporting jobs. Foreign workers get the jobs making the stuff Americans buy. And they’re often employed by factories producing products for so-called American corporations like Nike. They’re employed by factories that collapse and kill hundreds. Factories that catch on fire and immolate workers trapped inside. Factories where workers are ill-paid, overworked and slapped when they can’t meet unrealistic production quotas. Factories that pollute grievously.

American workers no longer are willing to engage in this abusive relationship with trade fanatics. They no longer believe the promises of change. They don’t want the federal money TPP fanatics promise them to pay for retraining as underpaid burger flippers after their middle class-supporting factory jobs are shipped overseas. They’re over trade pacts that benefit only multi-national corporations like Nike.

To Fast Track and the TPP, they say, “Just Don’t Do It!”

New AFL-CIO Report, ‘Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect,’ Shows 150 Workers Killed on the Job Every Day

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According to a report released today by the AFL-CIO, 4,585 workers were killed in the United States during 2013 due to workplace injuries. An additional estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases, resulting in a loss of nearly 150 workers each day from preventable workplace conditions.

“America’s workers shouldn’t have to choose between earning a livelihood and risking their life, yet every day too many end up on the wrong end of that choice,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Corporations are prospering while working people suffer because of corporate negligence and insufficient government oversight. We must go beyond mourning those we’ve lost, and take bold, decisive action to ensure that a day’s work brings opportunity, not the risk of death or injury.”

The report, entitled Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, marks the 24th year the AFL-CIO has produced its findings on safety and health protections for workers in the United States. The report shows the highest workplace fatality rates were found in North Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, West Virginia, and New Mexico.

While workplace deaths and injuries were high in many private sector industries, such as oil and gas extraction, the injury rate for public sector workers was 58 percent higher than for private sector workers. In fact, 8 million state and local public employees lack any OSHA protections. OSHA oversight and enforcement remains weak. Federal OSHA has the resources and staff to inspect workplaces on average only once every 140 years. The average penalty for serious violations was only $1,895, and the median penalty for worker deaths was only $5,050.

Other report highlights include the startling rise of Latino worker deaths, as the Latino fatality rate was 18 percent greater than the overall rate, and the urgent need to update OSHA silica safety standards based on near-century old research.

Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect was released after numerous Workers Memorial Day vigils, rallies, and actions were held across the country, and can be found online here: aflcio.org/death-on-the-job.

Worker Safety Groups Release New U.S. Worker Fatality Database

More than 1,780 cases identified for 2014, likely one-third of total;
Data and accompanying maps can be sorted by state and industry 

LONGMEADOW, MA Observing Worker Memorial Day, a coalition of safety groups has released the U.S. Worker Fatality Database, with accompanying maps and infographics.  

The database, which shows the names, people and stories behind statistical reports of deaths on the job, is the largest open-access data set of individual workplace fatalities ever collected in the United States.

imageU.S.Worker Deaths by Industry,2014. Available through the map and infographic function of the U.S. Worker Fatality Database. Data can also be mapped by state.

“This Worker Memorial Day, we’re launching a unique, collaborative online database, with information about the lives – and the deaths – of workers who died on the job in 2014,” said Bethany Boggess of Global Worker Watch. “To prevent future tragedies, we need to know all we can about who died on the job, and under what circumstances.”

The U.S. Worker Fatality Database identifies more than 1,780 workplace fatalities in 2014, with additional data still being collected. Based on previous data, this is likely to represent over one-third of the total cases of workplace deaths from traumatic events for that year.

The final toll for 2013, released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is 4,585 deaths on the job from sudden traumatic events. An additional 50,000 workers are expected to die each year from long-term exposure to toxic chemicals and other occupational hazards.

The database is a joint effort of workplace safety groups and advocates, including:

  • National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH
  • AFL-CIO
  • Center for Construction Research and Training
  • Fe Y Justicia
  • Global Worker Watch
  • Knox Area Worker Memorial Day Committee
  • Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health  (MassCOSH)
  • Northeastern New York Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NENYCOSH)
  • United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities (USMWF)
  • Beyond OSHA Project

The U.S. Worker Fatality Database was created when workplace safety advocates, seeking information about workers killed in their state, region or local community, found that important details about these tragic cases were not consistently available.

The resulting database offers more specific detail than the annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries from the BLS, which reports aggregate statistics. The U.S. Worker Fatality Database includes, where available, the name of the deceased, employer, circumstances of death. It contains links to sources of public documents related to the incidents on how and where workers were killed, including OSHA reports and news media accounts.

The data can be sorted by age, gender, city, state, industry and keywords such as “fall elevation,” “electrocuted,”  “explosion” and other terms linked to the cause of death.

Using the accompanying map function on the Tableau Public platform, maps showing the incidence of fatalities can be zoomed and captured by industry and by individual states. These maps are licensed under Creative Commons, and can be modified, reproduced and redistributed, with credit to: U.S. Workers Fatality Database.

Workers Memorial Day, which coincides with the day the Occupational Safety and Health Act took effect in the United States in 1971, is part of a week-long series of activities across the country to honor workers who have died on the job and advocate for better safety protections. Workers Memorial Week is being observed this year in more than 100 local communities with vigils, rallies, marches and other events. A full listing is available on the National COSH website.


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.  “Not an Accident: Preventable Deaths 2015,” a National COSH report, describes workplace fatalities in the United States and how they can be prevented. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org.  Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter.

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.

New Report Highlights Injuries Suffered By Healthcare Workers In Massachusetts

WGBH Story on Injuries to Nurses and DPH/MHA Efforts to Suppress Findings of Report on the Issue Highlights MNA-Filed Bill to Address this Crisis

 By David Schildmeier of the Mass Nurses Association

In conjunction with a major NPR story on the shocking rate of injuries to nurses and other health care workers, WGBH produced a feature on the issue here in Massachusetts (access radio and TV clips at link below).  Nurses and health care workers suffer more back/shoulder injuries than any other profession, and in Massachusetts the rate of injury among nursing personnel is twice the national average, among the highest in the nation.

The WGBH report highlights a report on this issue that documented this crisis for nurses, which called for the implementation of safer patient handling practices by the health care industry.  It also documents how the DPH, under pressure from the MHA suppressed the release of the report as the MHA is concerned about the costs of providing adequate safe patient handling equipment and practices to protect its workers.

This story highlights legislation filed by the MNA, An Act Related to Safe Patient Handling, which would require hospitals to provide the equipment and practices to prevent these debilitating injuries.  Senate Majority Leader Harriette L. Chandler, lead sponsor for the bill, provided powerful arguments for the bill’s passage and countered the MHA’s appalling rationale for opposing the measure.

Read more from WGBH 

Injured Nurses: Concerns Over Health Care Protocols (Video)

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.

Nurses Call on Federal OSHA, Other States to Follow California Mandate of Highest Ebola Safeguards for RNs, Public

Nurses Demand OSHAMassachusetts RN and NNU Co President Karen Higgins Detailed the Demands at Press Conference Outside the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. This Morning

National Nurses United today called on the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other states to follow the landmark mandatory safeguards established by California to protect nurses, other health workers, and the public from the threat of the deadly Ebola virus.

NNU held a press conference this morning in front of the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. to announce details of a stepped up effort nationally, based on the California model. 

NNU Co-President Karen Higgins, who works at Boston Medical Center, said federal officials should follow the lead of California’s occupational safety agency, which last week mandated that hospitals provide the type of equipment the union has been asking for since Ebola hit U.S. shores.

“OSHA can and must act as well,” she said.

Late Friday, California state officials released updated Ebola guidance for all California hospitals that require the optimal level of personal protective equipment, comprehensive training procedures, and other protocols that mirror the standards NNU and the California Nurses Association RNs have campaigned for in California and across the nation for two months.

In Massachusetts, the state’s hospitals are failing to provide this level of protection to its nurses and most hospitals are refusing to work with the Massachusetts Nurses Association/NNU to ensure nurses and patients are provided with the optimum level of protection.   

More than 60,000 people have signed a national on-line petition calling for the federal government to require hospitals to adopt the optimal Ebola safeguards. The petition may be viewed at http://www.nationalnursesunited.org/page/s/national-nurses-united-urges-you-to-take-action-now?utm_source=nnu&utm_medium=upperbtn&utm_campaign=petition

Just last week, 100,000 RNs and other health workers, including nurses in Massachusetts, participated in a global day of Ebola awareness, sponsored in the U.S. by NNU, to demand the highest level of protections.  MNA/NNU nurses has also testified about the state’s lack of preparedness at two hearings held by the Joint Committee on Public Health at the State House.

NNU will press for legislation and regulation in other states, and continue to demand the federal government enact mandatory guidelines all hospitals must follow for Ebola and other epidemics modeled on the California standards.

“Nurses have raised their voices, and California, under the leadership of Gov. Jerry Brown, has listened, acted, and once again set a benchmark for the nation,” said NNU and CNA Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro.

“California nurses, other health workers and the public will be safer, but Ebola and other pandemics know no borders. Federal officials and other states should adopt the same standards. If California can act, all our other elected leaders and agencies can as well,” DeMoro said.

The new California standards build on existing California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal OSHA) regulations that, as Cal OSHA acting chief Juliann Sum reports “clarify the requirements hospitals must meet to ensure hospitals and health care workers take the proper steps to safely provide care for suspected or confirmed Ebola patients” in hospitals “where the risk of infectious disease transmission is the highest.”

NNU notes the standards go well beyond the faulty procedures and protective gear employed by hospitals across the U.S., and the current, unenforceable recommendations of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

By contrast, California regulations are mandatory. If hospitals don’t comply with the new guidelines, they will face civil penalties, noted Cal OSHA’s Sum. CNA will closely monitor hospital compliance with the guidelines, and work closely with Cal-OSHA on enforcement.

“With the hospital industry dismissing the concerns of the nurses, and the federal government failing to order the hospitals to implement the optimal level of Ebola protection, California, under the stewardship of Gov. Brown, has heard the voices of nurses, and established a model that all should follow,” said CNA Co-President Zenei Cortez, RN.

“The nurses are fighting for the public. They went to the governor demanding action.  He departed from the paralysis of government and corporate inaction. He listened intently and heard the nurses reports of how deeply unprepared and resistant hospitals were and he moved to protect the public, the nurses, and other health care workers,” DeMoro said, adding, “That’s how government should work, Gov. Brown has delivered an example for the nation.”

In addition to Gov. Brown’s leadership, the nurses also praised the diligent work of Cal OSHA in developing guidance on the standards.

The California regulations embody the precautionary principle NNU has advocated in response to Ebola, that absent scientific consensus that a particular risk is not harmful, especially one that can have catastrophic consequences, the highest level of safeguards must be adopted, and a sharp contrast to the profit principle that has guided the response of most hospitals, DeMoro noted.

Among highlights, under the new standards:

  • California hospitals are now required to have full-body protective suits, that meet the American Society for Testing and Materials F1670 standard for blood penetration, F1671 standard for viral penetration, that leave no skin exposed or unprotected, and that are available for all hospital staff providing care for a suspected or confirmed Ebola patient, employees cleaning contaminated areas, and staff assisting other employees with the removal of contaminated protective gear.
  • Hospitals must provide powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) with a full cowl or hood for optimal protection for the head, face and neck of any RN or other staff who provide care for a suspected or confirmed Ebola patient. Like the suits, this requirement extends to cleaning contaminated areas or assisting staff in removal of protective gear. Both these respirators and the suits have been a key NNU demand, and as Cal OSHA noted, the respiratory protection standards “go beyond the current (CDC) recommendations.”
  • Infection by the Ebola virus can occur not just through direct contact with droplets of bodily fluids, but even through aerosol transmission of fluids from coughing or other aerosol exposure with an Ebola patient.
  • Regular training is required for any staff who are at risk of exposure, including hands on practice in teams with the ability to interact and ask questions. Computer based training does not meet the requirement.
  • Employees who report hospitals that violate the regulations are protected from retaliation by their employers with whistleblower protection.

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

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

Hazmat_suit

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)

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.

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