Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Dangers of Working with Vibrating Tools

Today’s post comes from guest author Anthony L. Lucas, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

Vibration White Finger (VWF) or “Dead Finger,” now known as Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), is a chronic, progressive disorder caused by regular and prolonged use of vibrating hand tools that can progress to loss of effective hand function and necrosis of the fingers. In its advanced stages, the obvious symptom is finger blanching (losing color). Other symptoms include numbness, pain, and tingling in the fingers, as well as a weakened grip.

It is estimated that as many as 50 percent of the estimated 2 million U.S. workers exposed to hand-arm vibration will develop HAVS. Some common industries and the tools associated with HAVS are listed below:

  • Agriculture & Forestry – Chainsaws
  • Automotive – Impact Wrenches, Riveting Guns
  • Construction – Jackhammers
  • Foundries – Chippers, Grinders
  • Metal Working – Buffers, Sanders
  • Mining – Jack-Leg Drills, Stoper Drills

The time between a worker’s first exposure to hand-arm vibration to the development of HAVS symptoms can range from a few months to several years. Prevention is critical because while the early stages of HAVS are usually reversible if vibration exposure is reduced or eliminated, treatment is usually ineffective after the fingers blanch. 

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Countertop Workers Face Silicosis Risk from Engineered Stone Countertops

Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

Engineered stone countertops, a popular fixture in today’s homes, pose a health risk to workers who cut and finish them. The danger stems from the material the countertops are made from, processed quartz, which contains silica levels up to 90 percent. Silica is linked to a debilitating and potentially deadly lung disease known as silicosis, as well as lung cancer and kidney disease.

While the countertops do not pose a risk to consumers in their homes, they do pose a risk to the workers who cut and finish them before they are installed. When the countertops are cut, silica particles are released into the air, which when breathed in by the workers can start processes leading to silicosis. Manufacturers of the engineered stone countertops assert that worker hazards can be reduced through the use of protective respirators and equipment designed to trap silica dust. Despite this assertion, many safety precautions taken by employers are often inadequate.

The first documented case of silicosis among countertop workers in the United States was reported two years ago. In countries such as Israel and Spain, where engineered stone products gained their popularity, many more countertop workers have been diagnosed with silicosis and have had to undergo lung transplants. The danger of silicosis in the construction industry led OSHA to recently issue new rules requiring construction workers’ silica exposure to be reduced by 80 percent beginning on June 23, 2017.

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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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