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Gas Purging Causes Another Multi-Fatality Explosion

Less than 48 hours after the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) approved "Urgent Recommendations" about the need for precautions when purging gas lines, a huge explosion rocked a power plant in Middletown Connecticut. The CSB's recommendations came on the heels of the tragic explosion at the Con-Agra plant in Garner, NC, which resulted in four worker deaths and many injuries. The intent of the recommendations was to alert industry personnel around the country in order to prevent further tragedies and worker deaths.
 
It seems that the word didn't reach Connecticut.
 

Jury Orders BP to pay $100 Million in Toxic Exposure Case

When BP was hit with a record-breaking OSHA fine of $87 million in October for failure to comply with the settlement agreement signed following the 2005 Texas City refinery explosion, little did they know that their troubles were just beginning. A jury has just awarded ten contract workers for BP $10 million each in punitive damages for exposure to toxic substances at the refinery. Attorneys for the workers successfully argued that the workers were made ill not from the catastrophic explosion, but from a series of leaks that occurred at the refinery. 

David Michaels on Green Jobs-Safe Jobs

Attendees at this week's NIOSH conference on Green Jobs reported that new OSHA chief David Michaels gave an excellent speech on worker safety and health in "Green Jobs."  I found this statement particularly compelling:
 

Black lung on the rise

Remember Black Lung disease? That was that nasty illness that coal miners used to get back in the bad old days when the mines were shrouded in dangerous dust, before the Mine Safety and Health Administration came along to clean things up. Or so most of us thought--but it turns out that not only has Black Lung not been eliminated, it actually appears to be increasing. NIOSH has found that the rate of Black Lung for miners with 20 years or more in the mines doubled between the late 1990s and 2005-06.  New MSHA Director Joe Main is on a mission to reverse this trend.

Wyoming Task Force Calls for Tougher OSHA Penalties--Enzi Disagrees

No, you didn't read that headline wrong. Wyoming, a state not exactly known for advocacy of strong government intervention in business, is getting religion on worker safety. Its Worker Fatality Prevention Task Force recently recommended higher OSHA fines to create a stronger deterrent to unsafe conditions in the workplace. The task force formed after a spate of fatalities left Wyoming with the nation's highest worker fatality rate, over four times the national average. 
 

"Repeat, Willful, and Egregious": BP Slapped with Biggest Fine in OSHA History

Federal OSHA is set to announce recordbreaking fines of $87 million against BP for its inadequate response to the tragic 2005 refinery explosion that killed 15 workers in Texas City, TX, the New York Times reports today.  If accurate, the total fine will be four times as large as any previous penalty assessed by OSHA.   The Times story points out a critically important aspect of this story--that overwork was a major culprit:

Federal OSHA Report Slams Nevada State Plan

After a spate of construction fatalities in Nevada that resulted in what many observers considered a timid and ineffectual response by state regulators, federal OSHA conducted a thorough review of the state's safety program. The bottom line: 
 

Criminal Prosecution for Imperial Sugar Execs?

The Augusta Chronicle reports that executives of the Imperial Sugar Company could face criminal prosecution for their role in an explosion at the plant that killed fourteen workers and injured dozens. The article points out that while the company expresses confidence that they can prevail in over 40 civil lawsuits filed against them following the explosion, this success could come at a high price--it could prompt federal OSHA to refer the case to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution.
 

Franken introduces Safe Patient Handling Bill in Senate

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) has introduced S. 1788, a bill that would direct OSHA to issue a safe patient handling and injury prevention standard. The bill is a companion bill to HR 2381, the Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2009  introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI.)
 
“Nurses and health-care workers shouldn’t have to sacrifice their safety and their livelihood to help others,” Franken said in a statement. “Especially when many of these injuries could be prevented.”

Miraculously Low Injury Rates in Poultry Plants

All is well at the poultry plants run by the House of Raeford in the Carolinas, at least according to an investigation by the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission. A year and a half ago, the Charlotte Observer published an exposé on the company, uncovering a series of abuses in its treatment of injured workers and failure to report job injuries. In a recent follow-up story, the Observer reported on the results of the Commission's audit of the company, which cleared House of Raeford of nearly all the allegations contained in the Observer's in-depth investigation. 
 

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