Category Archives: Health & Safety

Right-to-Work Laws and Fatalities in Construction

Source: Roland Zullo, Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy University of Michigan, March 2011

We compiled state-level data from four public sources to test whether union density and right-to-work laws are associated with worker fatalities in the construction industry and in construction occupations. For both measures, higher levels of unionization equate with lower fatality rates. Right-to-work laws show no association with fatality rates.

Out of the Smoke and the Flame: The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and its Legacy

Source: New Labor Forum, Vol. 20 no. 1, Winter 2011

March of this year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. For an amnesiac culture like our own, this is one of those rare moments that endure in the public memory – our readers hardly have to be reminded of it. So we are instead publishing four articles that commemorate that tragedy by examining its various legacies.

Articles include:
– Why No Fire This Time?: From the Mass Strike to no Strike
By Stephen Pimpare
Exploring the limits of resistance since the days of the Triangle Fire.

– From the Triangle Fire to the BP Explosion: A Short History of the Century-Long Movement for Safety and Health
By Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner
Is the glass half empty or half full?

– Feminism and the Labor Movement: A Century of Collaboration and Conflict
By Eileen Boris and Annelise Orleck
Is the feminization of the labor movement an indicator of its decline or a harbinger of its renewal?

Clinical Practice Guidelines by the Infectious Diseases Society of America for the Treatment of Methicillin-Resistant StaphylococcusAureus Infections in Adults and Children

Source: Catherine Liu et al., Clinical Infectious Diseases, First published online: January 4, 2011

From the abstract:
Evidence-based guidelines for the management of patients with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections were prepared by an Expert Panel of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). The guidelines are intended for use by health care providers who care for adult and pediatric patients with MRSA infections. The guidelines discuss the management of a variety of clinical syndromes associated with MRSA disease, including skin and soft tissue infections (SSTI), bacteremia and endocarditis, pneumonia, bone and joint infections, and central nervous system (CNS) infections. Recommendations are provided regarding vancomycin dosing and monitoring, management of infections due to MRSA strains with reduced susceptibility to vancomycin, and vancomycin treatment failures.

What If Executives Feared Prison Time For Health and Safety Crimes?

Source: Jenny Brown, Labor Notes, January 27, 2011

In the U.S., owners and managers of companies like BP, responsible for 11 deaths and 17 injuries in last year’s Gulf oil rig explosion, never face jail time for the workers they kill.

That’s not the case everywhere: Steelworkers in Canada are pressing a prosecution of managers after an untrained worker died on the job. Canadian law allows for a sentence of up to life in prison.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act provides only for misdemeanor penalties–six months maximum behind bars–but even such minimal criminal penalties are almost never pursued.

Allegations of Undercounting in the BLS Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses

Source: John W. Ruser, US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Survey Methods Research (OSMR), December 2010

From the abstract:
Recent external studies find that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII), based on employers’ OSHA logs, substantially underestimates the US total number of workplace injuries and illnesses. This paper describes four dimensions of the undercount allegations and summarizes the recent studies, which have largely compared aggregate or case-level data from various sources, augmented in the case-level studies with capture-recapture analysis. The paper provides an overview of on-going research conducted and funded by BLS to better understand the nature of the undercount findings. These studies include counting work-related amputations and carpal tunnel syndrome cases with multiple data sources; matching SOII to workers’ compensation records; and, interviewing employers about reporting practices on OSHA logs and to workers’ compensation.

Safety Program Codifies Risk of Hospital Violence

Source: John Commins, HealthLeaders Media, December 13, 2010

In the past two years, this column has focused much on workplace violence in the hospital–an issue that until recently received scant attention beyond the people who were immediately threatened.
A Program to Minimize ED Violence and Keep Employees Safe
Source: Susan Rees, Darci Evans, Dianna Bower, Heidi Norwick, Tami Morin et al., Journal of Emergency Nursing, Vol. 36 Issue 5, September 2010
(subscription required)

Hard Work in the Public Sector

Source: Hye Jin Rho, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Issue Brief, October 2010

Recent economic turmoil has led state and local governments to seek new paths to offset budget shortfalls. Among other things, one widely discussed policy option is state employee pension reforms. These proposals seek to cut pension benefits, and, moreover, to increase the retirement age. State and local government employees generally are able to access full retirement benefits at a lower age than most other American workers, for whom the current age for eligibility for full Social Security benefits is 66 (and which will rise to 67 by 2027). Policymakers, however, must not overlook the fact that a large share of public sector workers are in physically strenuous jobs. If the retirement age were increased, many of these workers, due to the physical challenges of their jobs, would have to leave the workforce before they are eligible for full retirement benefits.

Inspector General Rips OSHA Whistleblower Program

Source: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Press Release, October 4, 2010

The federal program to protect private sector whistleblowers does an appallingly poor job, according to a new report from the Labor Department Office of Inspector General. The vast majority of federal investigations missed basic steps, such as interviewing witnesses, and as a result whistleblowers who are fired or blackballed after reporting violations rarely win restoration.

OSHA is charged with enforcing the whistleblower protections of 19 laws covering approximately 200 million U.S. workers. These laws cover everything from job safety to pollution control to corporate fraud.

The new Inspector General report follows a scathing Government Accountability Office review of the whistleblower program administered by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) issued just last month. The two reports are bookends of a devastating, top-to-bottom critique and echo calls by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and other reform groups to remove the whistleblower program out from under inept OSHA management into its own bureau.
See also:
View the PEER lawsuit seeking OSHA documents
See how OSHA retaliates against its own whistleblowers