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Chemical Plant Where 4 Workers Died Hadn’t Had Workplace Safety Inspection In 7 Years

By Bryce Covett - Think Progress, November 17, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

On Saturday morning, four workers died at a DuPont chemical plant that manufactures the pesticide Lannate in La Porte, Texas after a leak of the poisonous gas methyl mercaptan. A fifth was hospitalized but later released. The plant hasn’t been visited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 2007.

Such a deadly accident without an explosion or fire is unusual, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Methyl mercaptan is subject to a number of federal environmental and safety regulations. But those regulations did not ensure that the plant was a safe place to work. It was last inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) seven years ago, when it was issued two serious violations for the safe management of highly hazardous chemicals, which could result in toxic or explosive risks. It was fined $1,700 for one and $1,800 for the other, although the latter was later reduced to $1,700.

The plant is also out of compliance with hazardous waste management and air emissions standards from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to records reviewed by the Wall Street Journal. The agency brought formal enforcement actions against it for violations in 2012 and 2014, resulting in $117,375 in penalties. DuPont is also in discussions with the EPA and Justice Department about these issues at the La Porte plant, which began after a 2008 inspection.

And over the last five years, the plant was cited for violating state law at least two dozen times by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, according to a review of state records by the Texas Tribune, for failures related to performing routine safety inspections, keeping equipment in working order, and preventing pollution leaks. Most recently, it released 36,500 pounds of sulfur dioxide over the course of three hours in September, well above the allowed limit, and in August last year it leaked 40 pounds of chlorine. Some of the more serious citations resulted in fines of a few thousand dollars.

Work Is Killing Workers: Americans Are Working So Hard It’s Actually Killing People; The jobless recovery means massive speedups for many workers you depend on

By Esther Kaplan - The Nation, November 2, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Jessica Wheeler works the night shift as an oncology nurse at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital in northeastern Pennsylvania—but her patients are usually wide awake. “When they have a new cancer diagnosis or they’re going to have a biopsy in the morning, they don’t sleep,” says the 25-year-old Wheeler (which is not her real name). “They’re scared.” Other patients are in their final hours of life, surrounded by grieving family. What she wants is to be there to comfort them, to talk them through those difficult hours, to hold their hands and attend to their pain. But, mostly, she can’t.

According to hospital policy, night nurses on her floor should care for no more than six and a half patients, but they typically have ten. When things go bad with one or two, the floor quickly tips into chaos.

Wheeler recalls one night when she had a patient who couldn’t breathe and several others under her care. “I called the supervisor to ask for anybody—a nursing assistant, anybody! And I didn’t get it, and my patient ended up coding.” Another night, Wheeler had a post-op patient who required constant attention; the patient was confused and sick, and she soon escaped her restraints and pulled out her drains, spraying fecal matter all over the wall. Early the next morning, her heartbeat became irregular just as another patient was dying. “Those nights are scary,” Wheeler says. “I think I’ve seen everybody on our floor cry.”

Another young nurse describes a shift when she had only been on the job a few months and was saddled with ten patients, including one whose incision was leaking badly, requiring her to administer blood all night long. “I was drowning,” the nurse says. She called for help multiple times, but it never came. At the 7 am shift change, she confused two patients’ blood-sugar numbers and medicated the wrong one.

Wilkes-Barre was not always this out of control. For decades, it was a nonprofit community hospital serving the onetime coal town. It was bought in 2009 by what is now the nation’s largest for-profit healthcare chain, Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, which operates 207 hospitals in twenty-nine states. The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP), the nurses’ union, counts fifty-one fewer nurses since the CHS acquisition, a reduction of more than 10 percent—and that’s on top of the elimination of dozens of nursing aides and secretaries. The nurses are not only juggling more patients, says Fran Prusinski, a critical-care nurse who’s been at the hospital for thirty years, but “they have to change the linens, empty the garbage and answer the phones.”

Some of the job’s intensity is due to broad national trends in healthcare. The rise of HMOs and cost-cutting in the 1990s mean patients who are stable and ambulatory—some nurses call them “walkie-talkies”—are now quickly released, so those left in the hospital tend to be sicker and harder to care for. “The patients we’re taking care of on a general medical floor now were the patients twenty years ago we took care of in an ICU [intensive-care unit] with a 2-to-1 patient-to-nurse ratio,” says Elaine Weale, an ER nurse who’s been at the hospital for thirty-three years. “Now that nurse may have five patients, six patients, seven patients.” And as technology has advanced, gravely ill patients who once would have died are now being kept alive, requiring constant care.

But the crush of work these nurses face also exemplifies a hidden side of the recent economic recovery: in industry after industry, speedups are turning work into a hazard, with increasing numbers of injuries and dangerous levels of stress. While 18.6 million people remain underemployed, millions of others are working more hours, and more intensely, than ever. This is especially true in certain industries, from oil refineries to retail to publishing, where federal data shows labor productivity has risen at double or more the national rate. A 2010 survey of people registered with Monster.com found that 53 percent of respondents had taken on additional duties since the start of the recession because co-workers had been laid off—almost all of them without any additional compensation. A 2010 report from the Center for American Progress and the Hastings Center for WorkLife Law found that overwork was a particular problem among professionals: 14 percent of women and 38 percent of men were working more than fifty hours a week. But it has become common in industrial occupations as well. “When time and a half for overtime was established by federal law, that was really a job-creation measure, so it would cost less to hire a new worker,” says Mike Wright, the United Steelworkers’ director of health and safety. “But starting in the late 1970s, the cost of benefits exceeded that extra pay cost, and it became cheaper to work your existing workers harder.”

* * *

American workers do work longer hours than we did a generation ago, according to some analyses, and hundreds more per year than our counterparts in France or Germany—the equivalent of six to eight extra weeks a year. We top the Eurozone nations in productivity by 18 percentage points. “Every month the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] releases its worker-productivity numbers, which measure output per labor hour worked,” says Celeste Monforton, a former Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) staffer. Montforton, now at the George Washington University School of Public Health, points out that the numbers “go up every month. And that’s because businesses are not hiring new workers; they’re just expecting the old workers to work more, and spitting them out after they get injured.” Some of these gains come from the adoption of new technologies, but others just come from pushing workers harder.

A 2013 survey of its own union reps by the United Steelworkers, which represents such blue-collar industries as oil and steel, found that production pressures, the increased pace of work and increased workloads topped workplace health concerns—outstripping more obvious risks such as poorly maintained equipment. When the reps were asked to give an example of a health or safety problem that had gotten worse over the past year, understaffing led the list. The jobless recovery, in other words, is sustained in part by aggressively overworking those with jobs.

Take the meatpacking industry. By age 39, Juan Martinez, who worked at a Cargill beef processing plant near Omaha, had hands so disfigured from making repetitive cuts that he could no longer work; he is now surviving on disability. He still experiences pain so intense it feels like nails are being hammered into his fingers. His crew had to slice up 4,600 twenty- to thirty-pound pieces per shift. In the four years he was at the plant, from 2003 to 2006, the number of people at his station dropped from eight to six or seven, while the parts kept coming. Since they couldn’t keep up with the line when someone took a bathroom break, supervisors responded by simply denying break requests. “There are people who would pee in their pants,” he told me, “because they didn’t give them permission to go.”

Another meatpacking worker, whom I’ll call Porfirio, worked on the kill line at XL Four Star Beef (now JBS) in Omaha for twenty-seven years. When he started, he says, they killed 1,000 cattle in a ten-hour shift; now they kill 1,100 in eight and a half hours. At night, when he goes to bed, his hands hurt so much that he has trouble falling asleep; when he wakes up in the morning, he can’t move them at all. Everyone talked about popping enormous doses of Tylenol; some talked about pressure so intense it left them depressed. “The Speed Kills You,” a 2009 report from the nonprofit organization Nebraska Appleseed, was based on a survey of 455 meatpacking workers; it cataloged a range of injuries, from cuts, falls and fractures to musculoskeletal and repetitive-strain injuries, attributed mainly to “uninterrupted line speed.” Three-quarters of respondents said line speed had increased in their plant over the past year.

Line speeds in meatpacking and poultry are federally regulated for food safety only, not worker safety. Last year, the USDA proposed to raise the cap on poultry line speeds from 140 to an almost unimaginable 175 birds a minute, even though hand and wrist injuries were already rampant in the industry. A government study of one poultry plant in March of this year found that 41 percent of the workers already exceed safe limits for hand activity, and 42 percent showed evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Poisoned by the shale? Investigations leave questions in oil tank deaths

By Mike Soraghan - EnergyWire, featured on Dakota Resource Council, October 23, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

KILLDEER, N.D. — Dustin Bergsing was 21 and six weeks a father when he arrived here at Marathon Oil Corp.’s Buffalo 34-12H well pad, a square of red gravel carved into a low hill.

By dawn, he was dead.

A co-worker found him shortly after midnight, slumped below the open hatch of a tank of Bakken Shale crude oil. It was Bergsing’s job to pop the hatch and record how much was inside. An autopsy found he died of “hydrocarbon poisoning due to inhalation of petroleum vapors.”

An environmental engineer in Marathon’s Dickinson, N.D., regional office heard about it a few days later. He’d been warning his bosses they were creating a dangerous buildup of lethal gases in their tanks. But, he said, they ignored him.

“With that excessive gas, you get lightheaded,” he said in a deposition with the attorney for Bergsing’s family, Fred Bremseth. “It would be just like carbon monoxide. You’re gonna doze off, and Katy bar the doors, man — you’re dead.”

An investigation of the drilling industry’s worker safety record and what it means for those living amid the boom. Click here to read the series.

Bergsing died in January 2012. At least three other men have died this way during the Bakken Shale boom, found lifeless on steel catwalks, next to the hatches they’d opened to measure the bounty of the shale.

Will Wyoming companies get higher fines for workplace deaths? When a worker died on the job, the company paid a $6,700 penalty, inciting new discussion on the issue

By Dustin Bleizeffer - Wyofile, October 4, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Web editor's note: This story bears an uncomfortabvle resemblance to the death of Louisiana-Pacific mill worker, R Fortunado Reyes, on September 14, 1989, detailed here.

Brett Samuel Collins, 20, was working his last few days at a construction job near Sheridan before heading back to college classes when a trackhoe bucket struck him in the head. He died Aug. 20, 2012.

“He was finally settling down and thinking school was the answer,” said his grandmother, Mary Jane Collins, of Sheridan. Up to that point, Brett Collins had worked several seasons for the U.S. Forest Service, requiring him to miss fall semesters. He’d attended two spring semesters at Sheridan College. “The construction company job was so he could go to school for the whole year,” Mary Jane Collins said.

The employer, COP Wyoming LLC, initially received five citations related to the accident that caused Brett Collins’ death. Two citations were dismissed, and the Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed $13,860 in fines for the remaining three. About a year later, the company and Wyoming OSHA settled on a much smaller fine; $6,773.

For the Collins family, the fine was an insult. They began to ask how a $6,773 fine was supposed to motivate companies to avoid violating critical workplace safety regulations.

Workers at Fracked Wells Exposed to Benzene, CDC Warns Amid Mounting Evidence of Shale Jobs' Dangers

By Sharon Kelly - DeSmog Blog, September 18, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

For years, the oil and gas industry has worked to convince Americans that the rush to drill shale wells across the country will not only provide large corporations with lavish profits, but will also create enormous numbers of attractive and high-paid jobs, transforming the economies of small towns and cities that greenlight drilling.

The industry's numbers are often picked up by policy-makers and politicians who back drilling, in part because talk of job growth is an especially alluring idea in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse.

But numerous independent studies have conclude that the industry vastly overstated the number of jobs that fracking has created, and that the economic benefits have been overblown.

A growing body of research suggests that not only does the industry create fewer jobs than promised, the jobs that are created come with serious dangers for the workers who take them.

Research made public late last month suggests that some of those jobs may be even more hazardous to workers than previously believed, calling into question the true benefits of the boom.

Chapter 27 : Murdered by Capitalism

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

“They intimidate the workers by fear and that’s why they have him there. Everybody around here is so afraid that if something gets crossed up…lumber gets crossed up…they will try to fix it without stopping the machine for fear of being yelled at by the foreman if they do not stop the machine. It’s a constant environment of fear, totally.”

—Randy Veach, L-P Millworker, interviewed by Judi Bari, August 1992 [1]

“Management doesn’t care about our feelings—it’s insignificant to them. OK? Basically we’re nothing but a paid robot. And we’ve been told…our jobs are graders…both of us we’ve been told graders are a dime a dozen.”

—Don Beavers, L-P Millworker, interviewed by Judi Bari, August 1992 [2]

Earth First! – IWW Local #1 knew about the state of affairs in G-P’s and P-L’s mills, thanks to the efforts of its members, but what were conditions like at L-P? Local 1 had tried, unsuccessfully, to try and get one of their members, Allen Anger—who had relocated from Washington, hired at an L-P mill in order to try and organize the mill from within. [3] Without a willing organizer in the plants, IWW Local #1 had to settle for using information supplied by underground dissidents within the mill to provide a picture of what took place on the inside. Luckily, thanks to the coalition being forged in opposition to L-P’s outsourcing, at least two, Don Beavers (a grader who had once worked in the Potter Valley Mill before it closed) and Randy Veach, were able to reveal that if safety and working conditions were bad enough in the nominally union Georgia-Pacific mill in Fort Bragg, they were substantially worse in Louisiana-Pacific’s nonunion mills. Yet, the L-P workers were least likely to openly declare their opposition to such repression. As Judi Bari explained in 1991, it wasn’t difficult to understand why:

“How does a company as cold and crass as (L-P) keep their workforce so obedient? A look behind the barbed wire fence that surrounds their Ukiah mill might yield some clues.

“‘It’s their little world, and when you step through the gate you do what they say or you don’t stay in their little world,’ says one millworker. The work rules are designed to turn you into an automaton. There’s a two-minute warning whistle, then the start-up whistle. You have to be at your work station ready to go when the start-up whistle blows, or you can be written up for lateness (three white slips in a year for the same offense and you’re fired). You stay at your work station doing the same repetitive job over and over for two and a half hours (two hours in the planing mill and a half hour in the sawmill) until the break whistle blows. Then you get a ten-minute break, except that it takes you two minutes to walk to the break room and two minutes to walk back, so you only get to sit down for six minutes. And don’t get too comfortable, because there’s a two-minute warning whistle before the end of break time, then you have to get back to your station ready to go when the start-up whistle blows again. If you ever wondered what they were training you for with all those bells in public school, here’s the answer—life at L-P.

“In the Land of the Free, democracy stops at the plant gates. The Bill of Rights is supposed to protect against unreasonable or warrantless searches. But not at L-P. Their drug policy reads like the Gestapo: ‘entry onto company property will be deemed as consent to inspection of person, vehicle, lockers or other personal effects at any time at the discretion of management. Employee refusal to cooperate in alcohol and other drug testing, or searches of other personal belongings and lockers are subject to termination [sic].’ And, before you even get hired you have to submit to a urine test and sign a consent form to let them test your urine any time ‘for cause,’ again at the discretion of management.” [4]

Such rules were obviously designed to maximize production and quell dissent, particularly about the lax safety standards, which—had they been stronger—would have threatened Harry Merlo’s “log-to-infinity” profit-oriented forestry.

“Loss of life or limb is a constant danger at L-P, but it doesn’t happen every day. What does happen every day is the mind numbing tedium of the job, and L-P’s constant rush for production. Take the job of lumber grader. Rough cut lumber, 2x12 and up to 20 feet long, comes up on the chain, and the grader has to scan it, turn it over, decide the best way to trim it for length and split it for width, and put the grade marks and trim marks on the board. You have two to three seconds to perform all these tasks, while the chain keeps moving and the next board comes up. All night long. Back injuries, tendonitis, and shoulder strains, common among graders and other millworkers, are caused by turning over the heavy lumber. But the company just wants its production quotas. ‘We broke a production record in our section,’ said one of my sources. ‘We used to get pizzas and beer for that, but this time they just got us one of those six-feet submarine sandwiches. We probably made them $200,000 in L-P’s pocket that night and they gave us a sandwich.’

“...In such a petty, dictatorial atmosphere, some petty dictators are bound to arise. And there is none better known at L-P than Dean Remstedt, swing shift foreman in the planing mill. Remstedt runs his shift with threats and favoritism and is known as a racist. A few years ago he passed out a flyer making racist jokes about Jesse Jackson. It offended some of the millworkers so much they took it to the Ukiah Daily Journal (anonymously of course). Remstedt denied that there was a problem. ‘It was something laying in the break room that we was laughing about,’ Remstedt told the Journal. But Hispanic workers, who make up about one-third of the shift, were not laughing. ‘To me, when I got that, that was from the company,’ One of them told the Journal reporter. And of course, L-P’s upper management did nothing to change that impression. [5]

This wasn't just a case of a petty dictator throwing his weight around however. Evidently such behavior was rampant throughout L-P. For instance, in April 1989, African-American sawblade filer Cigam Nam X sued L-P for five years of racial discrimination he experienced while working at the Samoa mill. In his complaint, he stated that he was routinely called “nigger” and even subjected to images of lynched blacks with the slogan “KKK all the way!” at his workstation. His supervisor dismissed his concerns by telling him that KKK was “just letters of the alphabet.” He was also demoted from his job and told that the company “would make it hard on him” if he complained. [6] Remstedt was the rule rather than the exception, and he did not especially set a good example either:

“Millworkers say Remstedt is ‘a fanatic about production’ and that he ‘intimidates people into taking chances [with safety] for fear of being disciplined or of losing their job.’ He sets the example with his own reckless behavior, which has led to him having several on-the-job accidents himself. He once climbed onto an automatic lumber stacking machine that was not properly turned off, and he was knocked to the ground when the auto-cycle started up and the lumber moved forward, sending him to the hospital with minor injuries. Another time he stood on the forks of the forklift raised to a high position so he could reach something overhead. He fell off and knocked himself out cold. They wrote up the forklift driver for that one, but they never write up Remstedt, even though the injuries to others on his shift have been a lot more serious than his own, including a woman who lost her leg walking between roller cases on a machine that bands lumber.” [7]

Randy Veach and Don Beavers elaborated further a year later when they finally openly criticized the company. According to Veach,

“…A board got crossed up on what’s called the landing table that comes out of the planer. We had to stop the landing table chains to get this cross up fixed. Well, one of the workers was trying to do it, the chains were turned off and he was trying not to get up on the landing table, he was trying to do it from his work station so he wouldn’t have to lock everything out...because he was safe from where he was. (Remstedt) came along and started yelling at that particular employee. He told him, ‘We don’t have all night to run this stuff.’ And that intimidated that employee to jump up there and fix it immediately. And that’s what happened. The employee jumped up on the landing table. Nothing was shut down.” [8]

Under such conditions it was inevitable that someone would eventually be killed, and sure enough, that is exactly what happened.

Scrap Metal Facility Where Worker Died Had Never Been Inspected By Safety Regulators

By Alan Pyke - Think Progress, September 8, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

An Illinois scrap metal recycling company has been fined nearly half a million dollars for various safety violations after a worker was killed when his arm got trapped in a conveyor belt that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says should have been turned off.

But despite a pattern of violations at other facilities run by the same company, OSHA had never inspected the South Beloit, IL facility prior to the March accident that killed Alfredo Arrendondo, an OSHA spokesman told ThinkProgress after reviewing records for the region.

The newly announced penalties come atop previous violations at other Behr & Sons facilities elsewhere in the state and in neighboring Iowa. The company has received six separate inspections at its facilities in the past 5 years, according to an OSHA press release on the $497,000 fine issued to Behr’s South Beloit, IL facility. As part of that citation, OSHA has deemed the company a severe violator for its pattern of neglect toward worker safety.

“There’s a culture of unsafe work practices at not only this facility but throughout the whole company,” OSHA regional spokesman Scott Allen said in an interview. “So we’ve put these folks into the severe violator program so right now we can inspect any of the plants, not just this particular facility. And they’ll stay on that program until we feel that they’ve not only corrected all those problems but shown a culture change in their safety procedures.”

But OSHA has been starved of the resources it would need to apply that kind of rigorous scrutiny more broadly and proactively. Thanks to budget cuts, there were fewer OSHA inspectors to ensure compliance with federal rules in 2011 than there were in 1981 — even though there are twice as many workplaces to supervise.

Chapter 26 : They Weren’t Gonna Have No Wobbly Runnin’ Their Logging Show

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Now Judi Bari is a union organizer,
A ‘Mother Jones’ at the Georgia-Pacific Mill,
She fought for the sawmill workers,
Hit by that PCB spill;
T. Marshall Hahn’s calling GP shots from Atlanta,
Don Nelson sold him the union long ago,
They weren’t gonna have no Wobbly,
Running their logging show;
So they spewed out their hatred,
And they laid out their scam,
Jerry Philbrick called for violence,
It was no secret what they planned…

—lyrics excerpted from Who Bombed Judi Bari?, by Darryl Cherney, 1990

Meanwhile, in Fort Bragg, the rank and file dissent against the IWA Local #3-469 officialdom grew. Still incensed by Don Nelson’s actions over the PCB Spill, and not at all satisfied with a second consecutive concessionary contract, the workers now had yet another reason to protest: a proposed dues increase. Claiming that the local faced a financial crisis, the embattled union leader proposed raising the members’ dues from $22.50 per month to $29, an increase that amounted to more than a 25 percent rise. Ironically, IWA’s Constitution limited the monthly dues rate to 2½ times the wages of the lowest paid worker. The local’s financial shortage had resulted from a decrease in the wages and the loss members due to G-P’s outsourcing logging jobs to gyppos and automation of jobs in the quad mill. [1] The usual suspects readied themselves to blame “unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs” once again.

Nelson presented his proposal in the form of a leaflet posted on the employee bulletin boards and distributed in the employee break rooms throughout the G-P Mill in Fort Bragg. The leaflet stated, “we are voting to maintain the ability of our union to function.” A group of rank and filers, however, led by a mill maintenance janitor, named Julie Wiles and her coworker Cheryl Jones, as well as some of the eleven workers affected by the PCB spill and others who had been most dissatisfied with the recent round of contract negotiations, responded by producing a leaflet of their own opposing the dues increase. Their leaflet stated, “Last year Union officers’ wages plus expenses were $43,622. This year they were $68,315. That’s a whopping 69 percent increase! Considering our lousy 3 percent pay raise, how can the Union ask us for more money?” The rank and file dissidents’ leaflets were quickly removed from the employee bulletin boards. [2] This wasn’t to be the worst of it, though.

FEDERAL AUDIT SLAMS CAL/OSHA PERFORMANCE - California Below National Average in Several Key Worker Health & Safety Measures

By Kirsten Stade - Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, August 25, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Washington, DC — The latest federal review of California’s worker health and safety program found critical understaffing and other major deficiencies. The findings reinforce the substance of a complaint filed this February against the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The latest U.S. Department of Labor “Comprehensive Federal Annual Monitoring and Evaluation (FAME) Report” for Cal/OSHA covering the period ending September 30, 2013 was released this month. Paralleling the issues raised by the PEER complaint, this new review concludes:

  • “Cal/OSHA remains understaffed and, as a result, is challenged to fulfill its important mission”;
  • “The lack of staffing affects the citation lapse time, the number of inspections conducted, and the response time to complaints. In particular, the number of inspections conducted by current Cal/OSHA staff is well below the federal average. To compound this problem, there has been a steady decrease in inspectors since FY 2011”; and
  • “Cal/OSHA inspections result in a rate of serious, willful or repeat violations significantly lower than the federal average [26.73% vs. 57.0% for safety and 9.09% vs. 53.7% for health]. This suggests that the agency’s limited resources are not being applied most efficiently and effectively.”

Among the effects cited in the report are workers exposed to hazards longer due to “a long citation lapse time, the time between the start of an inspection and the issuance of a citation.” The state’s new budget does provide for a handful of new compliance officers but still leaves Cal/OSHA at staffing levels below those at the end of Schwarzenegger administration in 2011.

“California workers are paying the price for a cratering Cal/OSHA.” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose complaint to the U.S. Department of Labor seeks financial and other sanctions unless improvements occur. “California needs to be jolted out of its occupational death spiral.”

Dangers Inherent In Fracking Jobs

By Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment - Popular Resistance, July 24, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Yesterday many of Southern Illinois’s elected officials, and representatives of the fossil fuel industry, held a one-hour press conference to complain about the fact that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has still not completed the rule-making process in order for fracking to begin in Illinois. Fracking is a controversial process used to drill for oil & gas. Millions of gallons of water, mixed with toxic chemicals and sand, are injected into mile-long horizontal wells at high pressure to fracture rock layers and release oil and gas.

It is important that the public is aware of the dangers inherent in fracking jobs. Within one year in Texas 65 oil & gas workers died, 79 lost limbs, 82 were crushed, 92 suffered burns & 675 broke bones.  The fatality rate among oil and gas workers is nearly eight times higher than the all-average rate of 3.2 deaths for every 100,000 workers across all industries.

A National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study revealed that worker exposure to crystalline silica—or “frac sand” —exceeded “relevant occupational health criteria” at all eleven tested sites, and the magnitude of some exposures exceeded their limits by a factor of 10 or more. “Personal respiratory protection alone is not sufficient to adequately protect against workplace exposures.” Inhalation of crystalline silica can cause incurable silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney disease and autoimmune diseases.

Representative Brandon Phelps stated at the press conference that North Dakota should be a model for Southern Illinois. A report by the AFL-CIO found that the fracking boom has made North Dakota the most dangerous state for U.S. workers—with a fatality rate five times higher than the national average—and that North Dakota’s fatality rate has doubled since 2007. The AFL-CIO called North Dakota “an exceptionally dangerous and deadly place to work.”

Statistics provided by THE COMPENDIUM OF SCIENTIFIC, MEDICAL, AND MEDIA FINDINGS DEMONSTRATING RISKS AND HARMS OF FRACKING (UNCONVENTIONAL GAS AND OIL EXTRACTION)

http://concernedhealthny.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/CHPNY-Fracking-Compendium.pdf

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