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NY State Workers' Comp System: "A World of Hurt" for Injured Workers

The New York Times has done an in-depth investigation of the New York state workers' compensation system and what it found isn't pretty. The Times reports that the state puts injured workers through a seemingly never-ending gauntlet of obstacles before agreeing to pay what turns out to be a miserly benefit. Citing just a few cases of injustices faces by injured workers, the Times pointed out that:

Las Vegas Sun calls for State OSHA Overhaul

In a strongly worded editorial, the Las Vegas Sun called today for an overhaul of the state's OSHA program:

"The state has to send a strong signal that business as usual isn’t acceptable anymore. With more people and resources, Nevada OSHA could institute better training, more programs to help employers improve their safety records and tougher enforcement to ensure compliance. Nevada OSHA, as well, has to maintain the will to impose fines when warranted and not bow to pressure from companies to reduce penalties.

$1.2 Million OSHA Fine proposed for chemical violations

A St. Louis-based chemical repackaging and distribution company was cited for numerous willful and serious OSHA violations for the handling of dangerous chemicals. OSHA proposed fines totally $1.2 million, noting that employees were exposed to the chemical para-nitroaniline (PNA),a poison that causes methemoglobinemia, a condition that reduces the blood's ability to transport oxygen.

Read more here.

Labor Department Wage and Hour Investigators Asleep at the Wheel

A new report by the GAO, Congress's watchdog agency, found that U.S. Department of Labor investigators frequently failed to investigate properly reports of non-payment of wages and other labor violations. The report found that in an astonishing 90 percent of cases, DOL investigators failed to respond appropriately to cases raised by undercover agents of the GAO. In one particularly egregious case, DOL investigators failed to respond to a complaint that teens were working during school hours at a meatpacking plant around dangerous machinery.

Nevada bill seeks to limit industry influence on OSHA

Senator Maggie Carlton, chairwoman of the Nevada Senate Labor Committee, has introduced legislation to take the state OSHA program out of its home in the Business and Industry Department, in an effort to strengthen the agency. Nevada's OSHA program has been under scrutiny due to a rash of construction deaths in the past year. Carlton said that she was hoping to distance OSHA inspectors from political pressure, allowing them to do their job of protecting worker safety.

OSHA to fast-track Popcorn Lung Reg's

The Department of Labor announced this week that it is withdrawing an "Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" for diacetyl, the flavoring chemical that has caused lung disease among popcorn workers. The Advanced Notice was seen by advocates as a delaying tactic. The new Department of Labor leadership took quick action to remove the proposal in order to move directly into issuing a standard.

Popcorn flavoring victims dies as jury awards $7.5 million

Andrew Schneider of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, who has done a fabulous job of covering a variety of worker safety and health issues, reports that Ronald Kuiper, a victim of diacetyl exposure, died a day before a jury awarded him $7.5 million. But, Schneider argues, government agencies including the FDA and OSHA have done little to protect the public from the harmful effects of diacetyl.

Schneider reports that Kuiper had contacted him and thanked him for getting public attention to the issue, but said he was frustrated at the lack of federal action. As Schneider explains:

House Energy and Commerce Committee Announces Investigation into Bayer CropScience Explosion

Representative Henry Waxman announced that his Energy and Commerce Committee would hold a hearing on April 23 to investigate the August explosion at Bayer CropScience that killed two workers. See the committee announcement here.

Read commentary by Ken Ward of Sustained Outrage a blog at the Charleston (WV) Gazette:

GAO Report Criticizes OSHA's Handling of Whistleblower Law

A new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that whistleblowers who point out illegal activities under a wide range of federal laws are often unprotected from retaliation. OSHA is responsible for investigating whistleblower complaints under 17 federal laws. The GAO report found that inadequate tracking of complaints and insufficient resources resulted in weak protections for whistleblowers, with only one in five complaints upheld.

Bill introduced in Nevada to require construction safety training

Responding to a spate of construction deaths in Las Vegas over the past two years, Nevada legislators are considering a bill to require all construction workers in the state to take the "OSHA 10"--the ten hour training course that provides the basics of construction safety. Supervisors would be required to take a 30 hour course Both labor and industry representatives have come out in support of the bill. Nevada OSHA would be required to issue certification cards for those who have received the training.

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