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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. 
 

Michaels Nomination and "Sound Science"

This is an excellent piece from the Center for Progressive Reform blog on conservative opposition to the nomination of David Michaels for the OSHA Director position: 'Sound Science' Attack on OSHA Nominee David Michaels Is Drenched in Irony
by Sidney Shapiro

Line Speed in Meatpacking Plants "Non-Negotiable"

For many years, worker advocates have been arguing that the only way to reduce repetitive strain injuries in meat processing plants is to reduce the speed of the lines. Nebraska Appleseed, a worker advocacy organization based in Lincoln, NE, is renewing that call for the state's meatpacking plants. But the Lincoln JournalStar reports that they face stiff industry opposition. See the article here.
 

Fourth of July Toll: Five Workers Dead

Martez Holland is lying in he burn unit at UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill, his body struggling to recover from third degree burns to his face, arms, and hands from a fireworks explosion on Ocracoke Island in North Carolina. He is the lucky one--four of his co-workers were killed in the July 4th incident, when the truck they were unloading exploded. Charles Kirkland died instantly. Mark Hill, Lisa Simmons, and Terry Holland were rushed to the hospital where they all perished.

OSHA Proposes $1.1 Million in Fines for Confined Space Haz's

OSHA is sending a strong signal that it takes confined space hazards seriously--proposed fines of over a million dollars on Wisconsin-based Milk Specialties Company. OSHA cited the company for willful violations of its confined space entry and control of hazardous energy requirements. OSHA alleges that untrained employees entered confined spaces and performed maintenance and cleaning on powered equipment without protection from various hazards. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

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