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House Democrats Introduce Bill to Reform OSHA

House Democrats, led by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, re-introduced today the Protecting Americas Workers Act. The bill contains many provisions recommended by the National COSH and allies in the Protecting Workers Alliance's policy platform entitled Protecting Workers on the Job: Seven Priorities for Federal Action in 2009."

Among other provisions, the bill would:

  • Apply federal safety standards to workers who are not currently covered, including federal, state, and local employees, and some private sector employees;

Jordan Barab Named Acting OSHA Chief

Longtime health and safety activist Jordan Barab was named acting head of OSHA by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. Barab has been working for the last two years as a senior policy adviser for the House Education and Labor Committee, where he has played a key role in bringing workers' health and safety concerns to the forefront.

The National COSH is very pleased to see this appointment which indicates a strong commitment to worker safety and health on the part of the new administration.

Unions Call for New OSHA Law at Sentencing of McWane, Inc. Executives

Responding to the sentencing of the first of four NJ executives of the Birmingham, AL-based McWane Corp. in Federal District court, Change to Win Health and Safety Coordinator Eric Frumin urged Congress to make "fundamental changes in the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act" that created OSHA in 1970.

"Like too many other heartless and negligent employers, McWane managers believed they could kill their workers, lie to inspectors, obstruct federal investigations - and get away with it," said Frumin. "At least for McWane's managers, those days should finally end today."

Solis vows tougher enforcement, Safety emphasis in Green Jobs

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, in an appearance on Capitol Hill, told reporters that her priority for the agency was hiring more inspectors to beef up enforcement of OSHA and Wage and Hour laws. The Las Vegas Sun quoted Secretary Solis as stating that “We’ve seen large numbers of fatalities, injuries — that could be prevented — particularly in the construction industry. My priority right now is that we have seen where there is a great deal of concern of lack of enforcement over the last few years at work sites — at worker safety and Wage and Hour.”

Long Prison Terms for Managers of McWane Subsidiary

A federal judge sentenced three former managers of Atlantic States Pipe Foundry to lengthy prison terms for their roles in covering up safety violations that led to the death of a worker and for environmental violations. Plant manager John Prisque was sentenced to 70 months for making false statements to federal investigators after three accidents at the plant, including a forklift fatality. In another incident, a worker lost three fingers in a cement mixer, and in the third accident, a worker lost an eye when a saw blade broke.

Imperial Sugar Warned about Danger Two Days Before Fatal Explosion

The Augusta Chronicle reports that consultants hired by Imperial Sugar warned the company's management several times about defects in its sugar dust control system prior to the catastrophic blast there that killed 14 people and injured many others last February 7. The last warning came just two days before the explosion.

"One consultant described the dust collection systems as "state of the art" - for the early 1960s," reported the Chronicle.

Read the full article here.

"Popcorn Lung" Shows up in Candy Makers

Investigative journalist Andrew Schneider writes that a cluster of former candy factory workers has been diagnosed as suffering from the lung disease caused by exposure to the flavoring agent diacetyl. Schneider notes that

Fall Hazards: OSHA Proposes $118,650 in fines for Stucco Contractor

OSHA has proposed $118,650 in fines against 4 Brothers Stucco Co., a Cleveland, Tenn.-based stucco contractor, for 15 alleged repeat and serious violations of safety standards. OSHA's inspection found employees working on scaffolding, in an aerial lift, and on the roof at a worksite in Torrington, Conn., were exposed to falls of up to 22 feet. The inspection also identified electrical, overhead, and chemical hazard communication deficiencies at the worksite.

Safety focus needed in Stimulus Projects: AIHA

The American Industrial Hygiene Association sent a letter to the President, urging him to direct OSHA to ensure that the jobs created by the stimulus package have adequate workplace protections. The AIHA's position echoes that of the National COSH and its affiliates, which have expressed serious concerns about the lack of provisions for mandatory safety training in the federal stimulus bill.

Audit tells OSHA to Return $681,379 to Dubious Consultant

The Department of Labor's Inspector General has criticized payments by federal OSHA to consultant Randy Kimlin, a former chemical company executive. Kimlin was closely connected to former OSHA Director Edwin Foulke, an appointee of former President Bush. The Washington Post reports that:

His work was illegally authorized without competition or proper authority from the Labor Department, the audit added. "There is potential criminal activity related to the audit findings," said Jeffrey Lagda, a spokesman for the inspector general.