Last month was the hottest July on record for several cities across the southern United States, thanks to a heat wave that brought extreme temperatures to most of the country. But even when temperatures aren't record-breaking, extreme heat can be dangerous and potentially fatal if proper precautions aren't taken. Between 2003 and 2012, more than 30 workers died annually from heat-related illnesses and injuries, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In 2014, 18 workers died and another 2,630 workers suffered injuries or illnesses related to excessive heat exposure. Yet OSHA has repeatedly declined to adopt a national standard, instead offering guidance to employers on preventing heat-related illnesses.
Excessive heat exposure is a widely recognized occupational hazard for outdoor and indoor workers that can cause illnesses ranging from cramps to death. Heat can also raise the risk of injuries due to variations in working conditions like fogged-up safety glasses and cognitive impairment. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) first recommended OSHA adopt an occupational heat standard in 1972. Since then, NIOSH has twice updated its recommendations, first in 1986 and again in 2016.
Despite these recommendations, OSHA has repeatedly declined to develop a national …
UPDATED (8/10/2016): On August 9 and 10, Center for Progressive Reform Policy Analyst Katie Tracy delivered remarks at two Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stakeholder meetings on risk evaluation, prioritization, and the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
Thank you for the opportunity to present today. My name is Katie Tracy. I am a policy analyst with the Center for Progressive Reform. I would just like to share a few brief comments with you today, which will be followed by written comments submitted to the docket.
Scientific Uncertainty and Variability
The first point I'd like to make is that the way EPA treats scientific uncertainty in its risk evaluations is critically important. Chemical risk assessment is inherently uncertain. Individual variations in exposure pathways, durations, physiological responses, and numerous other factors prevent researchers from establishing a precise estimation of chemical risks …
This morning, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report finding that hazardous working conditions across the meat and poultry industry put workers at risk of on-the-job injuries and illnesses. While injury and illness rates reportedly declined in the decade from 2004 to 2013, GAO emphasizes that the decrease might not be because of improved working conditions in the industry. Rather, the drop is likely due to data-gathering challenges at the Department of Labor and underreporting across the industry.
GAO last looked at working conditions in the meat and poultry industry in 2005, when it found "that the meat and poultry slaughtering and processing industry was one of the most hazardous in the United States. . . ." GAO's new report reiterates its 2005 findings about common hazards found in the industry, including "hazards associated with musculoskeletal disorders, chemical hazards, biological hazards from pathogens and animals, and …
Back in March, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finalized its long-awaited silica standard, requiring employers to reduce workers' exposure to the toxic, cancer-causing dust so common to construction and fracking sites, among other workplaces. OSHA estimates that the new standard will prevent more than 600 deaths and 900 new cases of silicosis annually. That is certainly commendable, but the kudos would be more heartfelt if the new standard had been adopted decades earlier and if it fully addressed the significant health risks to workers.
The unconscionable delays and unjustified concessions awarded to industry at the expense of workers' health and safety are hardly unique to the silica standard; rather, they are the product of our broken regulatory process, which is riddled with analytical requirements designed to generate business-friendly outcomes.
In the case of the silica standard, OSHA set the permissible exposure level (PEL) at 50 …
Can you imagine working for a boss who refuses you the dignity of taking a bathroom break? According to a revealing new report published today by Oxfam America, denial of bathroom breaks is a very real practice at poultry plants across the country, and line workers at these plants often "wait inordinately long times (an hour or more), then race to accomplish the task within a certain timeframe (e.g., ten minutes) or risk discipline."
If you've never worked on an assembly or production line, you may wonder why workers need approval to use the bathroom in the first place. The processing line at a poultry plant moves rapidly, which means when one worker leaves the line, another must take his or her place to keep up with production. Typically, the employer will have a system in place for workers to signal when they need a …
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has informally announced that it is unlikely to finalize its long-awaited rule to limit workers' exposure to respirable crystalline silica by the month's end, as the agency had expected. OSHA's deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, Jordan Barab, told Politico on Friday, Feb. 18, that he "can pretty much guarantee" the rule will be delayed, but he expects "it will be out soon."
The silica rule, which OSHA proposed in Sept. 2013 after 20 years of development, cannot come soon enough for workers and their families. Exposure to these tiny dust particles can cause an incurable and fatal lung disease called "silicosis," and other debilitating health effects. But will the final rule demand that employers' take genuine responsibility for workers' health by implementing effective controls to reduce hazardous silica exposures? Or will OSHA have …
As the year draws to a close and the New Year approaches, people all around the world will be contemplating what they can resolve to do better in 2016. This year, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seem to be celebrating the tradition as well. In a move akin to a “New Year’s Resolution” to do better by workers, the two agencies have just announced that they will be expanding their “worker endangerment initiative” to bolster criminal prosecutions against employers responsible for endangering workers’ health and safety.
The new initiative is an encouraging step toward punishing employers who make decisions that put profits over people and toward deterring others from violating federal labor laws. But the initiative—while it’s a beneficial supplement to the weak criminal penalties applicable to many labor violations—is also limited in scope …
Late last week, the White House released its fall 2015 Unified Agenda—the semi-annual report on regulations under development or review by each federal agency. As usual, and therefore of little surprise, this latest agenda spells delay for a laundry list of critical safeguards at several agencies.
According to CPR senior analyst James Goodwin’s review of the regulatory agendas for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and several other agencies, several new protections will be delayed anywhere from two months to over a year.
A look at the Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda also signals extensive delays for some long-anticipated worker protections. Here is the status of rules under development at DOL classified as “major” or “economically significant” rules:
Pre-rulemaking: expected to initiate small business review panel by 02/2016 …
A startling new report by Oxfam America reveals just how dangerous it is to work inside a poultry processing plant. The report is packed full of alarming statistics and heart-breaking personal stories from brave workers, exposing an industry that fails to protect workers from well-known hazards and that discourages workers from reporting injuries when they occur.
Despite the underreporting of injuries and illnesses, the poultry industry’s safety record is dismal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry had 4.5 total recordable cases per 100,000 full-time workers in 2013, compared to the national average for private industry of 3.3 total recordable cases. Among the common injuries in the industry, poultry workers suffer a high incidence of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), like carpal tunnel syndrome and shoulder injuries, from repetitive and forceful twisting, cutting, and chopping movements.
Recognizing these hazards, the federal Occupational Safety …
Lawrence Daquan “Day” Davis, 21, died tragically on his first day of work at his first job, as a “temp worker” at a Bacardi bottling facility in Jacksonville, Florida. He began his shift within 15 minutes of arriving at the facility, after completing some paperwork and watching a very brief safety video. Although working in a bottling facility is a dangerous job, Davis and his coworkers received no real training about the potential hazards or proper safety procedures. Within hours, Davis was asked to help clean up some broken bottles caused by a machine malfunction. While he was under the machine picking up the glass, the equipment was turned back on, and he was crushed to death.
Davis’ story is a poignant example of an eager and hard-working individual killed on-the-job because no one cared to train him, despite legal requirements to do so, before placing him …