Category Archives: Health & Safety

Corporate Impunity – “Tough on Crime” Trump Is Weak on Corporate Crime and Wrongdoing

Source: Rick Claypool, Taylor Lincoln, Michael Tanglis and Alan Zibel, Public Citizen, July 2018

From the press release:
During President Donald Trump’s first year in office, enforcement against corporate crime and wrongdoing declined dramatically, with total penalties for such violations plummeting from the final year of the Obama administration, according to a new report from Public Citizen.

In almost every federal agency under control of a Trump appointee – and most notably at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the nation’s lead law enforcement agency – enforcement against corporations dropped, often plunging to just a small fraction of what it had been.

Public Citizen’s report “Corporate Impunity” tracked enforcement activities against corporate violators by 12 federal agencies overseen by a Trump administration official for the majority of Trump’s first year in office. The report was co-released with Violation Tracker, a corporate enforcement database produced by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First.

In 11 of the 12 agencies, the amount of penalties imposed on corporate violators declined, in many cases drastically. In 10 of the 12 agencies, the number of individual enforcement actions against corporate violators also declined significantly.

Related:
OSHA Broke the Law by Refusing Worker Injury and Illness Data – Timely Data Is Needed to Protect Workers From Threats to Health and Safety
Source: Public Citizen, Press release, July 25, 2018

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) broke the law by suspending parts of its electronic recordkeeping rule, Public Citizen, the American Public Health Association and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists said in a lawsuit filed today with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. To help the agency monitor and prevent workplaces injuries and illnesses, the rule requires covered workplaces to submit certain 2017 work-related injury and illness data to the agency by July 1. OSHA recently announced that it would not accept the data.

Instead of following notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures required by the Administrative Procedure Act, OSHA simply announced on its website that it was suspending the July 1 deadline, that it would neither require nor accept the data and that it intended to revise the rule. In the lawsuit, the groups explain that OSHA lacks the legal authority to suspend the deadline without first providing public notice and an opportunity to comment, and that OSHA’s stated reason for the suspension is arbitrary and capricious. The groups are asking the court to order OSHA to require and accept the workplace injury and illness data, as required by the rule.

Public Citizen’s Corporate Presidency Project

Employer liability for third‐party sexual harassment

Source: Kevin J. Smith, Lindsay C. Stone, Employment Relations Today, First published: April 25, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
While most employers understand the scope of their responsibility to prevent sexual harassment between employees, the scope of an employer’s responsibility to prevent sexual harassment by third parties is often less clear. Such third parties may include customers, clients, sales representatives, vendors, investors, or anyone in the workplace who is not a member of the employer’s workforce. Although an employer may be unable to easily control non‐employee actions, it is legally obligated to respond to any third‐party sexual harassment of its employees that is brought to the employer’s attention. With proper safeguards and remedial action, however, an employer can keep its employees safe from third‐party sexual harassment and protect itself from liability in the process. This Q&A explains employer liability for third‐party sexual harassment, describes the ramifications of an employer’s failure to properly address or prevent it, and recommends strategies to reduce an employer’s legal exposure.

OSHA Occupational Chemical Database

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2018

This chemical inventory is OSHA’s premier one-stop shop for occupational chemical information. It compiles information from several government agencies and organizations. Information available on the pages includes:
– Chemical identification and physical properties
– Exposure limits
– Sampling information, and
– Additional resources.

Fentanyls and the safety of first responders: Science and recommendations

Source: John Howard, Jennifer Hornsby‐Myers, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: 25 June 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Opioids have many beneficial uses in medicine, but, taken inappropriately, they can cause life‐threatening health effects. The increasing use of physician‐prescribed and illicit opioids, including highly potent fentanyl and its analogs, have contributed to a significant increase in opioid‐related drug overdoses in the United States, leading to a public health emergency. There have been a number of reports describing adverse health effects experienced by police officers, fire‐fighter emergency medical services providers, and private sector ambulance personnel when responding to drug overdose incidents. Several sets of exposure prevention recommendations for first responders are available from government and the private sector. Understanding the scientific basis for these recommendations, increasing awareness by responders of the potential risks associated with opioid exposure during a response, and educating responders about safe work practices when exposure to opioids is suspected or confirmed are all critical prevention measures that can keep first responders safe.

The Union Effect in California

Source: University of California, Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, 2018

From the summary:
“The Union Effect in California” is a three-part series exploring the ways in which unions affect the lives of all working people—both union members and nonunion members—in California. The studies were conducted as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to issue a ruling in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees that threatens to weaken public sector unions.  

The first study, Wages, Benefits, and Use of Public Safety Net Programs, shows that by bargaining together through unions, California workers increase their earnings by approximately $5,800 per worker annually, for a combined total of $18.5 billion. Union workers also have more access to health and retirement benefits, thereby reducing reliance on the state’s public safety net programs.
By Ken Jacobs and Sarah Thomason    

The second study, Gains for Women, Workers of Color, and Immigrants, shows that, while all workers in California have higher wages and greater access to benefits when covered by a union contract, those workers who earn the least in nonunion workplaces—women, people of color, and immigrants—gain the most.
By Sarah Thomason and Annette Bernhardt      

The third study, A Voice for Workers in Public Policy, analyzes unions as a countervailing force to corporate power in the state. It explores union-backed policies promoting the rights of workers—union and nonunion alike—and addressing broader issues facing working families in the state. Included are policies in the areas of minimum wage, worker benefits, workplace safety, wage theft, employment-based sexual harassment, whistleblower protections, education, immigration, consumer protections, infrastructure and housing, climate policy, and criminal justice.
By Jenifer MacGillvary and Ken Jacobs

Does ‘right to work’ imperil the right to health? The effect of labour unions on workplace fatalities

Source: Michael Zoorob, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Online First, June 13, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Objective:
Economic policies can have unintended consequences on population health. In recent years, many states in the USA have passed ‘right to work’ (RTW) laws which weaken labour unions. The effect of these laws on occupational health remains unexplored. This study fills this gap by analysing the effect of RTW on occupational fatalities through its effect on unionisation.

Methods:
Two-way fixed effects regression models are used to estimate the effect of unionisation on occupational mortality per 100 000 workers, controlling for state policy liberalism and workforce composition over the period 1992–2016. In the final specification, RTW laws are used as an instrument for unionisation to recover causal effects.

Results:
The Local Average Treatment Effect of a 1% decline in unionisation attributable to RTW is about a 5% increase in the rate of occupational fatalities. In total, RTW laws have led to a 14.2% increase in occupational mortality through decreased unionisation.

Conclusion:
These findings illustrate and quantify the protective effect of unions on workers’ safety. Policymakers should consider the potentially deleterious effects of anti-union legislation on occupational health.

OSHA Enforcement Activity Declines Under the Trump Administration

Source: National Employment Law Project (NELP), Data Brief, June 2018

From the press release:
Crucial lifesaving worksite enforcement activity by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is declining under the Trump administration, according to a new data brief released today by the National Employment Law Project.

Even though U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta stated at a recent hearing that “laws matter . . . and they need to be enforced,” the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is cutting back on enforcement activity, with key enforcement indicators showing declining activity from FY 2016 to FY 2017.

Moreover, the latest available data reveals that this decline in enforcement activity continued at an accelerated pace in the first five months of FY 2018. Enforcement activity, as measured by OSHA in enforcement units, is down by 1,163 units in just the first five months of this fiscal year, compared to the same time period in FY 2017…..

Prison employment and post‐traumatic stress disorder: Risk and protective factors

Source: Lois James, Natalie Todak, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Online First, June 12, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Objectives
To examine the prevalence of Post‐Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in a sample of prison employees, investigate risk factors, and explore protective factors for PTSD.

Methods
We surveyed 355 Washington State Department of Corrections employees. The survey included the PTSD checklist for the DSM‐5 (PCL‐5), the Critical Incident History Questionnaire, and the Work Environment Inventory.

Results
We found 19% of the sample met the criteria for diagnosable PTSD. Several risk factors were associated with a higher PCL‐5 score, including exposure to critical incidents, and having greater ambiguity in the job role. Being happy with job assignments and having positive relationships with supervisors and coworkers were associated with decreased PCL‐5 score.

Conclusions
Prison employees have a PTSD rate equivalent to Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and higher than police officers, suggesting the importance of developing programs for promoting resilience to stress, incorporating the knowledge gained on risk, and protective factors.

Can Mass Shootings be Stopped? To Address the Problem, We Must Better Understand the Phenomenon

Source: Jaclyn Schildkraut Margaret K. Formica Jim Malatras, Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, May 22, 2018

The mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, happened nearly two decades ago, yet it remains etched in the national consciousness. Columbine spurred a national debate — from personal safety to the security of schools, workplaces, and other locations and to broader considerations of guns and mental illness. To this day, communities still are grappling to find solutions to the complex and multifaceted nature of mass shootings.

“Human-centric lighting” may be the key to feeling better at work

Source: Lynne Peeples, Quartz, May 29, 2018

…. Indeed, it’s not the buoyancy lesson that has drawn me to this school just outside of Seattle, but those funky new lights, which are designed to mimic the shifting colors and intensities of the rising and setting sun. Scientists believe that exposure to bright, blue-rich white light during the day, and to softer, amber hues at night, helps restore the human body’s natural circadian rhythm, a deeply ingrained, physiological drumbeat that, many experts argue, has been disrupted to ill-effect by our constant exposure to standard incandescent or fluorescent lighting — and more recently, to the relentless glow of electronic screens. ….