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Safety Groups Team Up to Protect Workers During Ongoing Disaster Cleanup in Puerto Rico

 

Train the Trainers” Event Includes Team from Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Texas and Washington DC 

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: Four months after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, millions of island residents still face daily threats to their safety and health. More than 2 million people live in areas at risk of water contamination, large parts of the island are still without electricity and 60,000 homes are without roofs.

With reconstruction efforts still underway, the International Chemical Workers Union Council (ICWUC) and the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) have brought together a team of senior trainers and worker educators this week at the Universidad de Puerto Rico to boost local skills and help protect workers on the island from preventable illnesses, injuries and possible fatalities.

The weeklong “Disaster Train-the-Trainers” event, presented in Spanish and continuing through Sunday, January 28, will help develop trainers to protect day laborers, construction workers and others at risk of exposure to mold, toxic chemicals, damaged buildings and other hazards.

“Millions of people in Puerto Rico are still suffering from the damage caused by Hurricane Maria,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH, who helped coordinate the training. “That’s why it’s so important that experienced trainers from the COSH Network are on the ground to provide help where it’s needed the most.”

“This program is possible now because we’ve already conducted Spanish-language “Disaster Train the Trainer” events with National COSH and other partners,” said Luis Vazquez, education coordinator at ICWUC, who coordinated this program and is in San Juan this week to train students and workers. “The work we’re doing in disaster areas makes a real difference, giving workers the tools they need to stay safe. This event is personal for me – I have many family and friends in Puerto Rico. There are all kinds of dangers lurking in homes and buildings after a hurricane.”

Trainers from Fe Y Justicia Worker Center in Houston, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) and the Cincinnati-based ICWUC are conducting in-depth sessions this week with graduate students in public health from the Universidad de Puerto Rico, as well as AFSCME members from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Topics include how to recognize disaster-related workplace hazards, safe clean up procedures and workers’ rights to a safe workplace. New trainers are practicing these modules and presenting them to their fellow new trainers.

In turn, these graduate students and workers will soon be out in the field to share this information at temporary shelters, recovery worksites and other locations where workers are affected by hazards associated with disaster recovery.

“We know that in previous cleanup efforts, workers exposed to flood waters have suffered skin infections, lesions, asthma attacks, allergic reactions and other conditions,” said Lida Orta-Anés, professor of environmental health at the Universidad de Puerto Rico (UPR).

“This an opportunity for future public health professionals to confront real world problems – and to help solve them,” said Sergio Caporali-Filho, also a professor of public health at UPR, who coordinated the training team there.

This week’s “Train-the-Trainers” session builds on a similar program presented by National COSH, ICWUC and local partners in Houston last September, after Hurricane Harvey devastated that city.

“It’s just plain wrong that people are living without power or clean water four months after Hurricane Maria,” said Milagros Barreto, worker center organizer at MassCOSH. A native of Puerto Rico, she is part of the training team on the island this week. “There’s so much work still to do here – and we have to make sure it is done safely.”

“Our mission is to educate as many as possible to be better prepared to recognize and remove hazards,” said Roberto Garza, a LCLAA trainer from Michigan who is also in Puerto Rico this week. ”We’re helping workers to be prepared to reduce these risks during future severe weather events.”

This week’s training is made possible, in part, by support from the U.S. National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences (NIEHS).

GAO Report Confirms Dangers in Poultry Processing Plants

USDA Multimedia by Lance Cheung.

As Chicken Council Pushes for Fewer Regulations, Investigation Reveals Lax Enforcement of Existing Rules

Earlier this year, the National Chicken Council petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture to eliminate the processing line speed limits imposed on poultry processing plants.  This request sparked outrage from Mark Perrone, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) who represents workers inside these processing plants.

“With the health and safety of over 250,000 thousand hard-working poultry workers in mind, 70,000 of whom are members of our union family, we write to urge you to reject a petition submitted by the National Chicken Council (NCC) to run food processing lines with no speed limits,” wrote Perrone in a letter to Acting Deputy Undersecretary Rottenberg. “For the sake of keeping hard-working families safe – whether they’re preparing, buying, or eating chicken – the USDA must reject this petition.”

“According to U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) data, in 2015 the meat and poultry industry had the 8th-highest number of severe injury reports of all industries. In 2016, we reported that workers in meat and poultry slaughter and processing plants continue to face hazardous conditions, including sharp knives used in close quarters, slippery floors, and chemical exposures. In the 2016 report, we found that additional data are needed to address these hazardous conditions and recommended that DOL improve its data on musculoskeletal disorders and sanitation workers in the meat and poultry industry,” wrote the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Today, GAO released their findings related to the health and safety of workers in poultry processing plants and the results show significant problems for workers in these facilities.

“The hard-working people who work in poultry plants have some of the most dangerous and physically demanding jobs in America,” said Perrone. “This report sadly confirms that many of these skilled professionals who keep our food safe are struggling to keep themselves safe at work. They have earned and deserve better.”

  • This GAO report confirms the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t consider worker safety when allowing new and dangerous chemicals to be used in poultry plants, and that OSHA can’t or won’t adequately protect poultry workers from injury.
  • The GAO also found a pattern of poultry companies repeatedly denying access to federal safety and health inspectors, leaving workers in at least 15 plants across the South working in potentially dangerous environments.
  • This report supports findings by Oxfam that poultry workers struggle to get adequate bathroom breaks, even to the point of endangering their health.
  • Other GAO reports in 2005 and 2016 also found significant problems with safety and health in the poultry industry.
  • In addition to worker risks, countries with higher line speeds have higher rates of foodborne contamination in poultry plants.

“The dangers endured by poultry workers that are highlighted in this report also underscore why a recent request by the National Chicken Council to increase line speeds defies common sense and is being clearly driven by greed. We urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take this report seriously and reject that request so that poultry workers and the food we all consume can be kept safe,” Perrone concluded.

 

Read the full GAO report here.

NH COSH: A Deadly Week For NH Workers

Hooksett, NH – Two New Hampshire workers were killed this week in unrelated incidents bringing the number of NH work related deaths to at least 10 for 2017. Eric LaFramboise, 35, of Epsom was killed on Sunday when a gust of wind blew down a tree he was harvesting, crushing him. Dakota LaBrecque, 23, of Loudon was pulled into a conveyor and killed at the Springfield Power LLC, in Springfield, NH late Monday. Both incidents are under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Eric LaFramboise is the second tree service fatality in New Hampshire this year. Frederick Wilhelmi, 32, of Hudson died May 23rd while working for a tree service company. The tree service industry is a high-risk industry with NH worker deaths almost every year. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the fatality rate for the landscape services industry, about 80 deaths per year nationally, is similar to that for more recognized high-risk industries such as agriculture and mining.

Dakota LaBrecque was on 23 years old which would qualify him as a “young worker”. Young workers, ages 14-24, are at higher risk of workplace injury because of their inexperience at work and their physical, cognitive, and emotional developmental characteristics. They often hesitate to ask questions and may fail to recognize workplace dangers. According to NIOSH, in 2014 the rate of work-related injuries treated in emergency departments for workers, ages 20–24, was 1.76 times greater than the rate for workers 25 years of age and older.

“Workplace fatalities are rarely random accidents,” said Brian Mitchell of the New Hampshire Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, “Most of these incidents can be prevented with proper safety training and protective equipment. Two worker deaths is a terrible way to begin the holiday season and we mourn the loss of our fallen brothers.”


Editors note: This Tuesday was #GivingTuesday and I started a fundraiser on Facebook for the NH COSH.  If you missed Giving Tuesday and would like to make a donation, please consider donating to the NH COSH.

Ironworkers And Stockton Steel Sets Monumental Safety Record

Stockton Steel Reaches Over 4 Million Work Hours Without Any Incidents 

Washington – Stockton Steel, a subsidiary of Herrick Corporation and one of the largest steel fabricators in the country, celebrates an impressive milestone. The company reached 4.5 million work hours, over 3000 days, free of lost-time incidents. The company marked the impressive milestone with a celebratory barbecue last Friday.

Stockton Steel’s Corporate Safety Manager Tom Davies credits the achievement to effectiveness of the company’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program and culture of safety. “We work hard with our workforce to create a culture of safety, where everyone looks out for themselves and others,” said Davies. “Our philosophy is one of continual improvement. Our safety commitment is backed by strong organizational policies, procedures and incentives to ensure all employees have a safe and healthy workplace. Our workforce is our greatest asset.”

Stockton Steel’s safety committee meets monthly and the company conducts weekly safety training and meetings as well as regular special training for overhead cranes, rigging, fall protection and forklift safety. Its Code of Safety Practices serves as a guide for high-risk work activities to prevent injuries.

Stockton Steel employs around 150 workers from various trades. The employees are encouraged to suggest safety improvements and take an active role in managing safety in the workplace. “We have empowered all employees with the ability to stop work when they recognize a safety issue and address it,” said CEO of Herrick Corporation Doug Griffin. “When you have employees, who feel free to point out hazards and prevent injuries, you know you have succeeded in creating a culture of safety.”

Stockton Steel is one of Iron Workers’ (IW) partner contractors. The IW is proud of its skilled, safety-conscious ironworkers who made this achievement possible. The ironworkers contributed over 3.5 million incident-free work hours to Stockton Steel’s outstanding accomplishment. Considering the highly hazardous nature of the ironworking trade, it is an exceptional contribution.

“The great relationship between the employer and workers and the safety committee comprised of representatives from both made it possible,” said IW District Representative Erik Schmidli.

Stockton Steel looks forward to growing its culture of safety and many more days free of incidents. 


The Herrick Corporation has established itself as one of the largest steel fabricators and erectors in the United States over the past 95 years.  

IMPACT is an ironworker-contractor partnership designed to provide a forum for ironworkers and their contractors to address mutual concerns and encourage reasonable balanced solutions. 

The Iron Workers (IW) represents 130,000 ironworkers in North America who work in construction on bridges; structural steel; ornamental, architectural, and miscellaneous metals; rebar; and in shops.

Concerns About Workplace Safety Needs To Be Addressed At Amazon Warehouses

Two Deaths in September at Amazon Warehouses Show Need for Accountability as Company Chases Incentives for New HQ  

SAN DIEGO and WASHINGTON, DC – Two recent deaths within a single week at Amazon.com. warehouses in Pennsylvania and Indiana show the need for strict accountability in exchange for public subsidies, say workplace safety and economic development experts.

  1. Devan Michael Shoemaker, age 28, was killed on September 19th, when he was run over by a truck at an Amazon warehouse in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
  2. Phillip Terry, 59, was killed on September 24th, when his head was crushed by a forklift at an Amazon warehouse in Plainfield, Indiana.

Amazon is currently chasing a mammoth taxpayer-funded incentive package for its proposed “HQ2,” or second headquarters building, with an October 19th deadline for proposals from metro areas.

Including the recent deaths of Shoemaker and Terry, six workers have died in Amazon warehouses since 2013. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited the company and temporary agencies it uses to staff its facilities on multiple occasions for safety violations.

“Getting consumer goods dropped right on your doorstep is nice, but who is paying the price?” asked Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH). “There is a disturbing pattern of preventable deaths at Amazon. Two workers have been crushed to death by forklifts, one dragged into a conveyor belt, another crushed by a pallet loader and one run over by a truck. The company monitors every move of both permanent and temporary employees to meet intense demands for high-speed delivery. But is it paying enough attention to workplace safety?”

“Taxpayers should not subsidize low-road employers with dangerous working conditions, high turnover and poverty wages,” said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First. “Governments considering whether to bid for white-collar jobs at Amazon should first look at how the company and its temp agency subcontractors treat blue-collar workers.”

Amazon CEO and 17 percent owner Jeff Bezos is ranked the third richest person on earth, with a fortune worth over $80 billion. According to an analysis by Good Jobs First, the company has received a minimum of $1.1 billion in subsidies from U.S. taxpayers to build its warehouses and data centers since 2000. The actual figure is certainly higher, since more than a dozen cities and states have not disclosed the amount of taxpayer subsidies provided to Amazon.

There is little or no net job creation associated with these facilities. Amazon captures sales and revenue from retail competitors, resulting in large-scale layoffs from existing businesses. The Institute for Local Self Reliance estimates that as of 2015, Amazon’s operations have caused net loss of some 149,000 U.S. jobs.

Amazon’s projection of 50,000 jobs at its new second headquarters has set off an intense bidding war, with the state of New Jersey considering a $5 billion incentive package. The current largest corporate subsidy on record is an $8.7 billion giveaway to Boeing by the state of Washington in 2013, intended to secure aircraft production jobs. After receiving the tax breaks, however, Boeing reduced employment in the state by 12,000 jobs.

“Taxpayers need to watch their wallets,” said LeRoy. “Any tax giveaway must be measured against the increased costs – in transportation, housing, schools and other services – that will be induced by an influx of thousands of new workers.”

“When Amazon lobbies for lucrative tax breaks, it is asking the public to become partners in its business – to the tune of billions of dollars,” said Martinez. “If we’re partners, we have a right to demand the highest standards for workplace safety.”

In addition to the recent deaths of Devan Michael Shoemaker and Phillip Terry, other workers who have lost their lives while working at Amazon include:

  • Jeff Lockhart, 29, a temporary employee, found collapsed and dead from a cardiac event after an overnight shift at an Amazon warehouse in Chester, VA on January 19th, 2013.
  • Ronald Smith, 57, a temporary employee, killed after being dragged and crushed by a conveyor belt at an Amazon warehouse in Avenel, New Jersey on December 4th, 2013.
  • Jody Rhoads, 52, crushed and pinned to death by a pallet loader at an Amazon warehouse in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on June 1st, 2014. (This is the same facility where Shoemaker was killed in September).
  • Name unknown, crushed to death by a forklift at an Amazon warehouse in Fernley, NV on November 4th, 2014.

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.

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.

National COSH Backs Legislation to Prevent Employers From Hiding Workplace Injuries

 Identifying Workplace Hazards Crucial to Improving Safety Conditions; Employers Who Keep Accurate Records Deserve a Level Playing Field 

SAN DIEGO, CA – The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) said today that new legislation to prevent employers from hiding workplace injuries is crucial to protecting the health and safety of America’s workers.

“You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it exists,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “It’s critical to support legislation that will hold employers accountable when they try to hide crucial information about workplace hazards.”

The Accurate Workplace Injury and Illness Records Restoration Act was introduced today by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representatives Joe Courtney (D-CT), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA). The bill will reinstate the longstanding authority of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to sanction employers in hazardous industries who repeatedly fail to accurately report injuries and illnesses.

“Tens of thousands of Americans die every year from preventable illnesses and injuries in the workplace, and millions more are hurt on the job,” said Marcy Goldstein Gelb, also a co-executive director of National COSH. “If we let employers get away with failing to report safety problems, we’re putting workers at risk. It’s also unfair to responsible companies who keep accurate records; they deserve a level playing field.” 

The legislation introduced today responds to recent action under the Congressional Review Act, which severely limits OSHA’s ability to enforce existing laws that require employers to keep accurate records about employees who are injured or become ill in the workplace.


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. 

Workers Pay The Price: National COSH Releases 2017 “Dirty Dozen” Employers

SAN DIEGO, CA – The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) announced today “The Dirty Dozen” employers of 2017, highlighting companies that put workers and communities at risk due to unsafe practices. The Dirty Dozen 2017 report is being released in observance of Workers’ Memorial Week, honoring workers who lost their lives on the job, as well as those who suffered workplace injuries and illnesses.  

“Every day in the United States, workers are getting hurt, getting sick and dying from preventable causes,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “We know how to make our workplaces safer. We’re calling on these companies to implement effective health and safety programs including, which must include worker participation. These firms need to eliminate workplace hazards and take action so that every worker can return home safely at the end of his or her shift.”

The “Dirty Dozen” for 2017 are:

  1. Atlantic Drain Services Roslindale, MA: Two workers died in a trench; manslaughter indictments; new Boston ordinance to revoke permits for companies with poor safety records.
  2. California Cartage Long Beach, CA: Death of a driver; serious violations in GA and CA; lack of machine safeguards, faulty brakes and other hazards.
  3. Dedicated TCS Lansing, IL: Worker died inside a confined space; company cited three times for similar violations; $226,000 in OSHA fines.
  4. Dollar General Goodlettsville, TN: “A fire disaster waiting to happen”; over 100 citations and $1 million in fines for blocked exits; former Labor Dept. official calls for criminal prosecution.
  5. Environmental Enterprises, Inc. Spring Grove, OH: Worker killed in a chemical explosion; OSHA describes a “complete disregard for employee’s safety”; indictment for involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide.
  6. Fuyao Glass America Dayton, OH: Workers exposed to broken glass without proper protection; 23 serious OSHA violations; extensive complaints from workers, who are exposed to risk of amputation.
  7. Nissan USA Franklin, TN: Five workers dead in five years; $99,000 in proposed OSHA fines; workers say they fear losing their jobs if they report injuries.
  8. Pilgrim’s Pride Greeley, Colorado: Death in a poultry processing plant; worker loses fingers because management “did nothing” to address amputation risk; exposure to toxic ammonia.
  9. PrimeFlight Nashville, Tennessee: Exposure to blood borne pathogens; 22 OSHA violations in three years; OSHA cites conditions “likely to cause death or serious harm.”
  10. TransAm Trucking Olathe, Kansas: “Frozen Trucker” fired for protecting his own safety; company wages seven-year court battle; Worker wins $280K in back pay.
  11. Samsung Seoul, South Korea: 200+ serious illnesses, 76 deaths; refusal to disclose information, claiming “trade secrets”; secret plan to “dominate employees” and “punish leaders.”
  12. Valley Garlic Coalinga, CA; X-Treme AG Kerman, CA: Four migrant workers dead after crash of illegal transport van; U.S. Dept of Labor lawsuit; contractor enjoined from transporting agricultural workers.

“The dangerous conditions at these “Dirty Dozen” companies show why we need more enforcement of our safety laws, not less,” said Jordan Barab, former deputy assistant secretary for occupational safety and health at the U.S. Department of Labor. “Proposed budget cuts for OSHA and other safety agencies are penny wise and pound foolish. Preventing injuries, illnesses and fatalities in the workplace not only reduces a terrible toll of human suffering – it also saves billions of dollars for employers and taxpayers.”

Data presented in the National COSH “Dirty Dozen” report show that the decline in deaths from workplace trauma since the original Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed in 1970 are reducing costs to employers and taxpayers by over $200 billion a year. If workers were still dying at the rate experienced in 1970 – 18 per 100,000 full-time workers, as opposed to 3.4 per 100,000 in 2015 – the U.S. workforce would experience more than an additional 23,000 deaths per year. Each workplace death costs a projected $8.7 million in legal and medical expenses, lost productivity and other costs.

During the last two years, however, deaths from workplace trauma have increased significantly, from 4,585 deaths in 2013 to 4,836 deaths in 2015, demonstrating the urgent need for stronger and more effective safety measures. In addition, Latino/a workers continue to suffer a higher rate of workplace fatalities than other ethnic groups, with four deaths for every 100,000 full-time employees.

Intimidation by employers is a major obstacle to accurate reporting injuries and workplace safety hazards, making it more difficult to correct unsafe conditions. “At Nissan, I’ve seen workers hurt so bad they are crying, but they are afraid to report their injuries,” said Everlyn Cage, a former employee at Nissan USA in Canton, MS. “They saw what happened to other workers and they are afraid of losing their jobs.”

The tragic events outlined in the “Dirty Dozen” report can also be a catalyst for action, said Jeff Newton, Membership and Communications Coordinator at the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH). “We’re going to remember Kelvin Mattocks and Robert Higgins during Workers’ Memorial Week,” said Newton. “And we’ve also taken action to prevent further tragedies. From now on in Boston, construction firms with poor safety records are not just putting workers at risk – they’re at risk of losing their building permits.”

Mattocks and Higgins drowned in a trench in Boston last October when their employer, Atlantic Drain, failed to follow basic safety precautions. The city of Boston responded with a new ordinance tightening requirements for construction firms. The state of Massachusetts is considering legislation to increase penalties for work-related fatalities and Atlantic Drain and its owner, Kevin Otto, have been indicted for manslaughter.

The Dirty Dozen report includes recommendations to make U.S. workplaces safer, including:

  • Implementation of comprehensive workplace health and safety programs
  • Ensuring all workers the right to freely organize
  • Stronger protections for workers of color, immigrants, temporary workers and other vulnerable populations
  • Thorough investigation of workplace safety and health incidents and stronger enforcement mechanisms to hold employers accountable and deter future violations.

The “Dirty Dozen 2017” report is available on the National COSH website here and below.

Workers Memorial Week infographics are available in English here and in Spanish here.

Workers’ Memorial Week is a global event to honor workers who lost their lives on the job and their families, and also recognizing those who suffer from occupational injuries and illnesses. In the United States, dozens of activities in 35 states will remember fallen workers. A listing of events is available on the National COSH website.  

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