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Proper protections could have saved four DuPont workers killed by gas

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from www.dol.gov

OSHA News Release

Federal safety investigators find serious failures in 2014 toxic release in Texas

LAPORTE, Texas —Four workers killed by a lethal gas in November 2014 would be alive today had their employer, DuPont, taken steps to protect them, a U.S. Department of Labor investigation found.

The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration today cited DuPont for 11 safety violations and identified scores of safety upgrades the company must undertake to prevent future accidents at its Lannate/API manufacturing building in La Porte. The company employs 313 workers who manufacture crop protection materials and chemicals there.

"Four people lost their lives and their families lost loved ones because DuPont did not have proper safety procedures in place," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "Had the company assessed the dangers involved, or trained their employees on what to do if the ventilation system stopped working, they might have had a chance."

The fatal incident occurred as one worker was overwhelmed when methyl mercaptan gas was unexpectedly released when she opened a drain on a methyl mercaptan vent line. Two co-workers who came to her aid were also overcome. None of the three wore protective respirators. A fourth co-worker — the brother of one of the fallen men — attempted a rescue, but was unsuccessful. All four people died in the building.

Methyl mercaptan is a…

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Preventing Heat-Related Illness

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from blog.dol.gov

HEAT-1

Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States.

Each year, hundreds of people die due to heat-related illnesses and thousands become ill. Many of us can go inside and turn on the air conditioning, but for outdoor workers in very hot environments, it isn’t that simple. Outdoor workers are particularly vulnerable to heat stress. To encourage heat-related safety precautions, the National Weather Service teams up with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration every year to educate workers about excessive heat and ways to prevent heat illness.

NOAA’s Watch, Warning and Advisory products for extreme heat are based on a number of factors, including the heat index, which is calculated by combining the air temperature with humidity to determine how hot it feels. In direct sunlight, it is advised to add approximately 15 degrees to the heat index since it may feel even hotter in the sun. These products help employers and workers prepare for the heat by planning work schedules, acclimatizing, ensuring there is plenty of water and shade/air conditioning available, and time for breaks.

If you’re not sure how to calculate the heat index, or what the humidity is at a certain time, you can download the OSHA Heat Safety Tool. OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool is a smartphone application that calculates the heat index based on your current location, and provides a risk level and precautions to take. It was recently updated for iOS to be more…

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Pride Month is Time to #ThankFrank

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from blog.dol.gov

Frank Kameny (Photo credit: Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)
Frank Kameny (Photo credit: Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

Where would I be without the work I love?

There is nothing more rewarding to me than working on behalf of American workers. Serving U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez is both an honor and a joy, and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished as a public servant in the Clinton and Obama administrations. The work is exhilarating, and it has become a central part of who I am.

But there was a time when it could’ve been taken from me in a heartbeat. Just because of another, equally central, part of who I am.

What is now unthinkable for me was a bitter reality for Frank Kameny. A Harvard-educated astronomer and war hero, Kameny was fired from his U.S. Map Service job in 1957 simply because he was gay. He never worked for a paycheck again.

Many know Frank’s story here in Washington, where he made his home and ran as the first out congressional candidate for the district’s seat in 1971. But he is less celebrated in other parts of the country. Here at the Labor Department, we’re going to change that. On June 23, we are inducting Frank into our prestigious Hall of Honor.

Like Cooperstown for our national pastime, our Hall of Honor immortalizes the giants renowned for the highest achievements in the counterweight to our pastimes – that is, our work. The names of these inductees inspire the same awe in those of us who are passionate about working families as Babe Ruth and Ernie…

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Union, Environmental Group Say Dozens of Nuclear Workers Suffering from Toxic Materials Exposure

Today’s post is from In These Times via our colleague Jon Gelman.

Evidence “strongly suggests a causal link between chemical vapor releases and subsequent health effects" at a Washington facility, according to a recent report. (Ellery / Wikimedia Commons)  

Since March 2014, nearly 60 workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state have sought medical attention for on-the-job exposure to chemical vapors released by highly toxic waste stored at the site, some as recently as August. At a public meeting held Wednesday in Pasco, Washington, Hanford workers described symptoms that include chronic headaches, respiratory problems, nerve damage and bloody urine.

The meeting, hosted by the United Association (U.A.) of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 598 and Hanford Challenge, a Seattle-based environmental watchdog group, was convened following the February 10 release by Department of Energy contractor Washington River Protection Services (WRPS) of a “corrective action implementation plan.” This plan was developed in response to recommendations in a report from the Savannah River National Laboratory released in October 2014.

Commissioned in response to worker exposures at Hanford’s tank farms, the Savannah River report found ongoing emissions of toxic chemical vapors from waste tanks, inadequate worker health and safety procedures and evidence that “strongly suggests a causal link between chemical vapor releases and subsequent health effects.”

The underground storage tanks—known as…

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Higher Wages is Smart for Business

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from blog.dol.gov

As President Obama and Secretary Perez have said, raising the minimum wage isn’t just the right thing to do for working families it’s the smart thing to do to grow our economy.

And business leaders of all kinds agree, saying that they see higher wages as a sound business investment. They know that higher wages boosts productivity and reduces the high costs associated with turnover. They also know that consumer spending drives our economy; more money in people’s pockets means more customers for them. Add it up, and reduced training costs and more customers can grow a business, and create jobs.

That’s why these businesses, large and small, have all taken steps to raise their starting wages.

While progress is happening with more and more businesses raising their starting wages, and states and localities are taking action, the national minimum wage still needs to be raised. For too many workers in too many states the harsh reality is that the minimum wage has languished and lost ground for more than 5 years. It’s important that Congress take action so that we don’t leave them behind.

Share these graphics if you agree it’s time to #RaiseTheWage.

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The workers’ compensation system is broken — and it’s driving people into poverty

Today’s post comes to us from the Washington Post via our colleague Jon Gelman.

There’s a good news/bad news situation for occupational injuries in the United States: Fewer people are getting hurt on the job. But those who do are getting less help.

That’s according to a couple of important new reports out Wednesday on how the system for cleaning up workplace accidents is broken — both because of the changing circumstances of the people who are getting injured, and the disintegration of programs that are supposed to pay for them.

The first comes from the Department of Labor, which aims to tie the 3 million workplace injuries reported per year — the number is actually much higher, because many workers fear raising the issue with their employers — into the ongoing national conversation about inequality. In an overview of research on the topic, the agency finds that low-wage workers (especially Latinos) have disproportionately high injury rates, and that injuries can slice 15 percent off a person’s earnings over 10 years after the accident.

“Income inequality is a very active conversation led by the White House,” David Michaels, director of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, said in an interview. “Injuries are knocking many families out of the middle class, and block many low-wage workers from getting out of poverty. So we think it’s an important component of this conversation.”

There are two main components to the financial implications of a workplace injury. The first is the legal…

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The High Road: Investing in Your Workers

Today’s post comes from the United States Department of Labor.

Congress still hasn’t answered President Obama’s call to raise the national minimum wage. But states and localities are acting on their own, through legislative action and ballot measure. And across the country, forward-thinking businesses are leading by example. In community after community, I’ve visited with employers who know that paying workers a fair wage isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s also good for business.

boston beer collage
boston beer collage

Nobody would argue that Boston Beer Company founder and chairman Jim Koch doesn’t know what he’s doing. He produces America’s most successful craft beer, Sam Adams, served in bars, restaurants, stores and entertainment venues nationwide. His brewery has won more awards in international beer-tasting competitions that any other. I had the pleasure of meeting with Jim earlier this week, touring the Boston brewery, and learning about how he treats his 1,200 employees. “You can’t have engaged employees if you don’t invest in them,” he says. That’s why Jim offers his employees paid sick leave and starts everyone, including part-time workers, well above the minimum wage.

letter logic
letter logic

Later in Nashville, I met with a handful of small business owners who similarly value their employees, recognizing that the high road is the smart road. Among
them is Sherry Stewart Deutschmann who founded and runs LetterLogic, a company that processes statements, letters and checks for…

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Employer Fraud and Recommendations from New York State Supreme Court’s Grand Jury Report

Today’s post was shared by Jon L Gelman and comes from legaltalknetwork.com

A recent Grand Jury Report from the New York State Supreme Court brought recommendations of change to handle Employer Fraud in Workers’ Compensation. Among the recommended areas of change are the application process, criminal statutes, and the method of collecting data. On this episode of Workers Comp Matters, host interviews Gilda Mariani of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Together they discuss the results of the Grand Jury Report and the subsequent victims of premium fraud. Tune in to learn more about employee classifications, the involuntary insurance market, and drivers of cost for workers’ compensation insurance.

Gilda Mariani is with the New York County District Attorney’s Office, having held supervisory positions including Deputy Chief of its former Frauds Bureau as well as Chief of its former Money Laundering and Tax Crimes Unit. She has had a significant role in drafting legislation, including the New York Money Laundering Statute and the misdemeanor crime of Providing a Juror with a Gratuity. She has conducted several investigations that have led to issuance of Reports by the New York County Grand Jury, including the Grand Jury Report released in March 2014  on workers’ compensation reform. Mariani is also a recipient of the Robert M. Morgenthau Award by the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York.

Special thanks to our sponsor, PInow.

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