A recent fire at a Pakistani garment factory is reminiscent of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire
Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan from The Jernigan Law Firm.
The fires in two clothing factories in Pakistan on August 12, 2012, where locked exit doors and lack of safety inspections helped fuel the flames of death for over 300 people, has similarity with the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York (147 deaths) in March of 1911, and the chicken factory fire in Hamlet, N.C. (54 deaths) in 1991. Both sites had locked exit doors that trapped workers. Two brothers owned the Triangle factory and two brothers owned the factories in Pakistan. Garment workers jumped to their deaths in New York and workers in Pakistan were forced to jump out of upper-floor windows to try to escape the flames. It was reported that Punjab province safety inspections were abolished in 2003 to develop a more “business friendly environment,” and the Hamlet factory had never been inspected in 11 years of operation.
The latest news is that the factories that burned in Pakistan were allegedly inspected just weeks before the fires by Social Accountability International (SAI), a nonprofit monitoring group that gets much of its financing from corporations. Western companies (like Gap and Gucci), who make clothes in Pakistan and other countries where the labor is cheap, relied on SAI to give them some peace of mind about working conditions, but the total failure of SAI to do it the job is evident. Either it was sleep walking while doing inspections and just going through the motions, or it was just a front for major corporations.
In the United Sates, as we strive to downsize government in the years ahead, we need to keep in mind that government regulations concerning safety must be enforced. If not, safety everywhere will become an issue - on the highway, in the products we use and the food we eat – and we may similarly find ourselves, or a family member, trapped in a deadly situation, with no way out.
Wal-Mart’s low prices have led to unsafe working conditions.
Today’s post comes from guest author Tom Domer from The Domer Law Firm.
The recent Bangladesh factory fire killed over 100 workers. The factor produced goods for Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart now concedes it “needs to do more to control its supply chain.”
Wal-Mart’s Vice President of “Ethical Sourcing” (irony noted here) said the company control could “only go so far” in preventing an unauthorized factory producing its goods. Wal-Mart said its Faded Glory clothing should not have been produced in the factory, which Bangladesh officials said was not safe.
Wal-Mart’s “factory certification” program focused on Bangladesh and China was allegedly “dedicated to improving the status of foreign labor.” Tell that to the families of the workers who died.
At a meeting last year where Wal-Mart’s Vice President of Ethical Sourcing was in attendance, the Bangladeshi Garment Workers Union proposed that producers such as Wal-Mart help ensure prices are high enough to provide for safety measures for their workers.
Wal-Mart’s Vice President indicated Wal-Mart could not support such a program because of the high cost. Consider that next time you buy a cheap shirt at Wal-Mart.
Today’s post comes from guest author Kristina Brown Thompson from The Jernigan Law Firm.
In light of the horrific elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut last week it may be time to re-evaluate workplace violence, which seems to be increasing at an alarming rate. Technically, workplace violence is any act where an employee is abused, threatened, intimidated, or assaulted in the workplace. It can include threats, harassment, and verbal abuse, as well as physical attacks by someone with an assault rifle.
Two million American workers are victims of workplace violence every year. What’s worse is that workplace violence is one of the leading causes of job-related deaths in the United States. Last year, for example, one in every five fatal work injuries was attributed not to accidents but to workplace violence, and some employees are at an increased risk for harm. For example, employees who work with the public or who handle money are more at risk (i.e. bank tellers, pizza delivery drivers, or social workers). According to the 2011 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries by the U.S. Dept. of Labor, robbers were found to be the assailants in almost a third of homicide/workplace violence cases involving men, whereas female workers were more likely to be attacked by a relative (i.e. former spouse or partner) while at work.
Preventing workplace violence is a challenging task and OSHA advises employers to create a Workplace Violence Prevention Program. Creating a safe perimeter for employees is crucial. Likewise, having an emergency protocol in place should reduce the number of fatalities in an attack, and that’s exactly what happened at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut when the school’s protocol saved the lives of many children.
The AFL-CIO has released its 2012 report on worker fatalities which also examines the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) role in ensuring safe workplaces. The AFL-CIO has been producing this report for 21 years, and we hope they continue to do so.
Since Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970, workplace safety and health conditions have improved. But too many workers remain at serious risk of injury, illness or death.
In 2010, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,690 workers were killed on the job—an average of 13 workers every day—and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases. Workers suffer an additional 7.6 million to 11.4 million job injuries and illnesses each year. The cost of job injuries and illnesses is enormous— Continue reading
Today’s guest post comes to us from our colleague Tom Domer of Wisconsin.
According to a growing number of scientists and doctors the newest TSA airport body scanners, known as Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) scanners, may pose a cancer threat.*
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) insists the scanners are safe, and cites independent studies saying the radiation levels are below acceptable limits. However, according to some doctors, even a small dose of the ionizing radiation that the machines emit could pose a danger.
The TSA has installed about 250 of these body scanners at 40 U.S. airports.
*To proceed beyond mere speculation as to causation, a competent physician would have to indicate that the workplace exposure for a substantial period of time to the radiation from airport scanning was at least a material, contributory, causative factor in the onset or progression of a worker’s cancer condition.
With over 30 years of experience representing injured workers in Wisconsin, Tom Domer was recently named the 2011 Milwaukee Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year in Best Lawyers. Tom teaches the workers’ compensation course at Marquette University Law School, providing the instruction and training for many other lawyers. He lectures frequently around the nation. He also is a prolific writer, editing the national magazine Workers’ First Watch. He has co-authored over two dozen texts, including with his son and law partner Charlie, West’s Wisconsin Workers’ Compensation Law. Tom earned all his degrees in Wisconsin.
Today’s guest post comes from our colleague Tom Domer or Wisconsin.
The connection between unsafe workplaces and the increased frequency of work injuries seems like a no brainer. A study released by NCCI Holdings indicated worker’s compensation claims rose by 3% during 2010 (the first rise in frequency in over a dozen years). The study attributed the increased frequency to several factors
Because of these repeat violations, OSHA cited United Contracting and placed the firm on its “Severe Violator Enforcement Program”
including increases in employment since the onset of the recession in 2008, workers possibly being less fearful of losing their jobs for filing claims, and a lack of light duty jobs to which injured workers could return because of the poor economy.
One factor not referenced is the connection between increasingly unsafe work environments and work injuries. Two recent news stories in Wisconsin underscored this connection. OSHA fined a Wisconsin contractor $150,000
for violations while working on two bridges along highways in Wisconsin. The violation is more alarming because the contractors were working under a State contract to repaint the bridges. OSHA charged that the company did not have proper scaffolding at the bridges exposing workers to falls, and in fact one worker was injured in June after falling from a scaffold at one of the bridges. Because of these repeat violations, Continue reading
Today’s post comes to us from my colleague Len Jernigan of North Carolina.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that “falls from portable ladders are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries.” A few weeks ago a gentleman came to see me who had orthopeadic surgical wires and metal bars sticking out of his arm (for those who are not too sensitive, click here to see the photo)
He had fallen from a ladder about 15 feet and landed squarely on his hands and broke both arms. No one was holding the base of the ladder and the ladder was more than 15 years old. Wires and metal bars were now holding his bones in place, and workers’ compensation benefits were holding him financially in place. However, since he was only making $11 dollars an hour his weekly compensation benefits were small. As you probably know, the Workers’ Compensation Act does not provide money for pain and suffering, or lost income from other jobs (think about the man who takes on two jobs to maintain a higher standard of living for his family; if he is hurt while working at one job, he is only paid for the income loss at that job, not both).
The employer has a duty to train and teach its employees how to use a ladder. Many employees (particularly young ones) have no idea how dangerous ladders can be: they assume the ladder will hold the load and will be secure when placed in position, and that it is free of defects, no matter how old. OSHA has a list of safety considerations and these tips can be found at the Department of Labor’s web page (click here for a PDF version).
Click through for a graphic video of a ladder accident published by prevent-it.ca, a website run by the Province of Ontario (Canada)’s Ministry of Labor. Be warned that this mock-up video is a public service announcement intended to teach safety. It is scary and not for the faint of heart. Continue reading
This week a trial began in Florida between SeaWorld theme parks and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA). The trial is over several citations and a fine stemming from incidents in which killer whales (also known as orcas) killed or injured trainers at SeaWorld water parks. Most recently, on February 24, 2010, a giant killer whale named Tilikum gruesomely killed trainer Dawn Brancheau by grabbing her ponytail and pulling her under the water in front of a horrified audience.
In August of 2011, SeaWorld was fined $75,000 by OSHA for three safety violations, including one in connection with Brancheau’s death. The agency’s investigation “revealed that SeaWorld trainers had an extensive history of unexpected and potentially dangerous incidents involving killer whales at its various facilities,” the OSHA statement said. Continue reading