You are here

COSH Network News 2013

 

December, 2013

ProPublica: How to improve temp worker safety - 12/27/13

In November, the National Staffing Workers Alliance and the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health published a list of 15 recommendations. One idea was for OSHA to target high-hazard industries like warehousing and recycling that use a lot of temp workers and to identify the biggest temp agencies in those sectors to look for repeat offenders having problems at multiple worksites. Another proposal would have OSHA fine temp agencies for any violations they find at a company to which it has sent workers.

“The temp agency needs to be held accountable,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health.

New Jersey Star-Ledger: Amazon.com worker's death sheds much-needed light on worker safety: Opinion - 12/27/13

By Marien Casillas Pabellon and John Pajak

We may not know for several months exactly how a temporary worker died this month at Amazon.com’s distribution center in Avenel, but there is already a lot we know about how companies like Amazon exploit temps and too often fail to protect them from physical danger.

Ronald Smith, a father of four and grandfather of seven, was killed when he was crushed by equipment in the Avenel center.

Bloomberg BNA: Worker Advocates Aim at State Legislatures to Strengthen Safety Laws - 12/19/13

There are opportunities for progress among state and municipal governments that are lacking at the national level, where legislative movement can be much more difficult, they said.

The safety advocates convened a strategy session on model legislation during the National Worker Safety and Health Conference. Tom O’Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, asked attendees at the session for help picking among priorities and setting the agenda for his organization. Speakers described recent action at the state and local levels as providing lessons for future efforts.

IndyBay.org: David Michaels of OSHA and John Howard Of NIOSH Speak At National COSH Conference - 12/15/13

David Michaels Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Health and Safety Administration OSHA and John Howard, director of the National Institute of Health NIOSH both spoke and took questions at the 2013 National Worker Safety and Health conference that was held on December 11, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland.

They were also questioned about the retaliation against health and safety whistleblowers as well as what they are doing about the dangers of biotechnology and nanotechnology for workers.

Bloomberg BNA: Political Leaders Should Care as Much About Workers as Chickens, OSHA’s Michaels Says - 12/13/13

Occupational Safety and Health Administration chief David Michaels asked Dec. 11 a crowd of more than 200 health and safety specialists, advocates, and union officials and members for help identifying which workplaces the agency should inspect.

"From the point of view of OSHA, we look to you as our closest allies," Michaels said during an address at the National Worker Safety and Health Conference in Baltimore. "You are, on a daily basis, working with workers we haven’t reached to make sure they’re safe."

In These Times: A new day, a new danger: Temporary workers face safety hazards at work - 12/1/13

With this in mind, the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health, an independent advocacy organization, together with various labor and safety groups, recently issued suggested guidelines to OSHA, emphasizing that temporary workers are frequently thrust into jobs that demand comprehensive safety training but given little support. The group called on the agency to issue rules that clearly delineate the responsibilities of "host employers"—the corporations using the workers supplied by labor brokers—and temporary staffing agencies that do the hiring and to establish clear standards for workplace-safety training. Another recommendation was to establish a more comprehensive workplace inspection process and do outreach to inform workers about their right to report safety problems. OSHA, for its part, has announced plans to ramp up its regulatory action in the temp industry.

November, 2013

ABC11 (WTVD): North Carolina worker safety fines go uncollected - 11/14/13

"I think for it to really have an impact on workplace safety, the program's penalty structure needs to be fundamentally overhauled," said Tom O'Connor, Executive Director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health - a worker advocacy group based in Raleigh.

O'Connor says fines are too low to be a deterrent.

"It's sort of a sad comment if you had to tell the family member of somebody who was killed on the job ... in North Carolina that we think your loved ones life was only worth $5,000 or whatever it is," he said. "We'd like to see a little more balance, a little more value given to the lives of the workers."

Bloomberg BNA: Worker advocates meet with Michaels, urge tougher protections for temp workers - 11/7/13

During the meeting, Michaels was generally receptive to the recommendations and engaged the advocates in a discussion about challenges OSHA faces in protecting temporary workers, Tom O'Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, said during a Nov. 4 conference call with reporters.

Canadian Occupational Safety: Worker safety groups release recommendations on temporary worker safety - 11/7/13

Temporary workers are even more vulnerable to on-the-job hazards than permanent employees, said Tom O’Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. Many receive insufficient training or are inexperienced with how to protect themselves on the job site, but are reluctant to mention that to employers, he said.

"At the same time, temporary workers are employed in some of the country’s most hazardous jobs, including waste recycling, fish processing and construction. Unfortunately, this has led to several temporary workers being killed on the job in recent months.”

Bloomberg BNA: After Extended OMB Review, OSHA Cut Silica Rule Price Tag By Half, Lowered Benefits - 11/7/13

Tom O'Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 4 that he's not surprised that the price tag varied so greatly between versions, because calculating the costs involves so much guess work.

But O'Connor maintained that it was political pressure not to release any substantial regulations rather than conducting additional analyses that led to the silica proposal being delayed at by two and a half years.

Occupational Health & Safety: OSHA Urged to Launch Temp Worker Emphasis Program - 11/5/13

"Temporary workers are even more vulnerable to on-the-job hazards than permanent employees. Many receive insufficient training or are inexperienced with how to protect themselves on the job site, but are reluctant to mention that to employers so that they aren't replaced," O'Connor said. "At the same time, temporary workers are employed in some of the country's most hazardous jobs, including waste recycling, fish processing, and construction. Unfortunately, this has led to several temporary workers being killed on the job in recent months."

Safety + Health Magazine: Safety coalition issues temp worker safety recommendations - 11/4/13

A coalition of workplace safety groups has released a set of recommendations for OSHA to help improve safety for temporary workers.

The coalition is made up of APHA, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, and the National Staffing Workers Alliance.

October, 2013

TruthOut: The Price of Fashion - 10/21/13

Commentary by Tom O'Connor:

The price of fashion is on the rise as the death toll in Bangladesh’s garment factories grows.

Another fire in another garment factory – this one about 25 miles from the garment factory whose April collapse killed more than 1,100 workers – took the lives of at least 10 more workers on Tuesday, October 8, 2013.

Most of the workers who perished in this week’s fire were so badly burned they could not be identified. Approximately 50 other workers were injured in the fire, which took firefighters nearly 10 hours to overcome.

To readers who think these tragedies have nothing to do with American consumers – think again. The price of fashion is always close to home.

South Jersey Times: Opinion: Toxic brews at chemical plants could trigger another Paulsboro-like incident - 10/20/13

By Natasha Lavard and Debra McFadden, Assistant Director of the NJ Work Environment Council

A highly toxic cloud of cancer-causing chemicals moves into neighborhoods where local residents live and work. People are sent to the hospital in droves. More have to evacuate their homes. Parents are told not to let their children out of the house to go to school. Businesses are shut down.

It may sound like a bad Hollywood movie, but this worst-case scenario happened lastNovember in Paulsboro, when a train carrying more than 12 tons of vinyl chloride derailed and spilled its hazardous load. The full impact of the exposure people suffered may not be known for years.

What we do know is that in the State of New Jersey, there are 90 facilities with large enough amounts of highly hazardous chemicals to cause similar — or worse — disasters to the one that occurred in Paulsboro. All it would take would be a major toxic release, superstorm or terrorist attack to put millions of people in danger in southern New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

New Jersey Star-Ledger: Will Gov. Chris Christie act to prevent a toxic disaster?: Opinion - 10/13/13

By John Pajak, president of the New Jersey Work Environment Council

"It can’t happen here.” That’s what most of us think when we hear about toxic chemical disasters. It’s a comforting thought — except that if you live in New Jersey, it unfortunately is just not true.

Take the people who live in Paulsboro. Last November, without warning, a cloud of highly toxic vinyl chloride filled the air for miles when a train transporting 23,000 pounds of it derailed.

Exposure to vinyl chloride can cause cancer and mutations in a person’s DNA.

EHS Today: OSHA Fines West Fertilizer $118,300 for Explosion that Killed 15, injured 200 - 10/10/13

Tom O’Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, commented, “In issuing a strong fine against the parent company of the West, Texas, fertilizer storage facility whose April explosion killed 15 workers, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sends a message that neglecting worker safety – particularly around the handling of highly toxic chemicals – will not be tolerated. But the West incident also pointed to many direly needed reforms.”

EHS Today: Families of Workplace Fatality Victims Struggle to Pay Funeral Costs - 10/9/13

“We hear stories of husbands, wives, fathers and mothers, who on a moment’s notice are suddenly thrust in the position of needing to find several thousand dollars to ensure that they can bury their family member,” testified Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health. “This bill will ensure that no family has to shoulder the financial burden of a burial. The increase adds up to very little for the workers’ compensation insurance system – and will mean a huge difference for families in mourning across the commonwealth.”

NJToday.com: Free Class Shows Workers and Homeowners How to Deal With Mold After Sandy - 10/4/13

That’s why the New Jersey Work Environment Council is offering free training classes targeted for workers, volunteers and homeowners.

“The takeaway for all of this is that we want people to do the work that they’re doing with clean-up and removal and rebuilding, safely,” said New Jersey Work Environment Council Communications Coordinator Janice Selinger.

September, 2013

The Boston Globe: Let's get beyond the management vs. labor approach - 9/30/13

Letter by Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, MassCOSH

After seeing [Boston mayoral candidate] Marty Walsh repeatedly questioned about his ability to be both pro-labor and a mayor who can effectively negotiate with municipal employees (“Path carries Walsh closer to his dream,” Sept. 25), I felt compelled to rebut the notion that this is a contradiction. As executive director of an underfunded agency, I am responsible for ensuring that our organization remains fiscally sound so that we can continue to achieve our mission.

Our unionized staff see the big picture as well. They also know that their ability to be gainfully employed depends upon our ability to manage the budget well. At the same time, the rest of our management team and I are well aware of the need to provide decent pay and benefits to ensure that staff can live a quality life, to maintain morale, and, frankly, because it’s the right thing to do. We achieve this by maximizing transparency so that staff and management are well aware of our fiscal circumstances and by engaging in a productive and open dialogue about the best way to maximize our scarce resources.

Employing a management vs. labor approach hasn’t worked so well in the past, so how about we put that business model to rest?

The New York Times: Improving Respirator Masks to Put Fresh Air in Reach - 9/10/13

“There have been clear advances in design and certification” of equipment used in response to attacks, said David M. Newman, an industrial hygienist with the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health. But he added, “In terms of the respirators most commonly used on a day-to-day basis and most commonly used in disaster response, I don’t see any significant changes on the ground yet.”

August, 2013

Occupational Health and Safety: OSHA Proposes Lower PEL for Crystalline Silica - 8/23/13

Tom O'Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), welcomed the rule, saying in a statement that the proposed construction standard suggests specific control methods, such as wet cutting and ventilation in certain situations. "America's workers could not wait any longer for the White House to issue a rule to protect them from over-exposure to silica dust," he said. "When this rule goes into effect, hundreds of thousands of workers will benefit from increased protections from entirely preventable silica-related disease. Workers in industries exposed to silica dust include some of the country's most vulnerable workers. Low-wage immigrant workers and temporary workers are disproportionally represented in the industries with silica exposure -- and are the most vulnerable to retaliation should they report potential hazards, injuries or illnesses. This new rule will help to pull them out of the shadows and make them safer at work. Everyone, regardless of immigration status, deserves a safe workplace."

The Pump Handle: Really? Industry group launches campaign against worker centers, low-wage workers - 8/16/13

Tom O’Connor, executive director of National COSH, told me he thinks the anti-worker center campaign will ultimately backfire.

“Far from being high-paid union operatives, the people working at these worker centers are just people dedicated to getting a fair deal, fair wages and safe working conditions for workers, and I don’t think they have anything to fear from having more light shed on them,” O’Connor said. “In fact, I think it might help them.”

Bloomberg BNA: Wal-Mart Agrees to Upgrade Safety Policies at 2,900 Stores to Settle OSHA Charges - 8/8/13

While calling the deal progress, National Council for Occupational Safety and Health Executive Director Tom O'Connor marked the occasion by pointing out other concerns with the giant retailer.

“From its overreliance on temporary labor to its failure to prevent workplace violence or sign an international labor accord to improve working conditions in Bangladesh, Wal-Mart continues to jeopardize workers' safety both here and abroad,” O'Connor said.

EHS Today: Wal-Mart Agrees to Improve Workplace Safety and Health in 2,857 Stores - 8/7/13

“While this settlement with the Labor Department is progress, there are still several areas we’re concerned about regarding health and safety among Wal-Mart workers and suppliers,” said Tom O’Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH). “From its overreliance on temporary labor to its failure to prevent workplace violence or sign an international labor accord to improve working conditions in Bangladesh, Wal-Mart continues to jeopardize workers’ safety both here and abroad.”

In These Times: Obama Issues Much-Needed Executive Order on Chemical Safety - But Is It Enough? - 8/1/13

“To adequately respond to the dangers posed by chemical facilities and other dangerous workplaces, further federal regulatory action is needed,” says Tom O’Connor, Executive Director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. 

O'Connor pointed to a series of recommendations from the Chemical Safety Board calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] to adopt new rules to prevent workplace accidents. Just last week, the Chemical Safety Board, frustrated with the slow pace of OSHA rulemaking, took the unprecedented step of designating a “most wanted chemical safety improvement." The first item on the list is better regulations for combustible dust, something which the Chemical Safety Board first asked OSHA to implement in 2002.

July, 2013

Public News Service: New Partnership Aims to Reduce Workplace Fatality Rate - 7/31/13

Everyone should arrive home safely at the end of the workday. That's the premise as the Wyoming Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health joins the National Council - called NCOSH.

Wyoming has long had a deplorable job fatality rate, said NCOSH executive director Tom O'Connor, and this new partnership will reinforce the right to a safe workplace.

Dan Neal, executive director of the Equality State Policy Center, said state leaders have taken note of the worker death and injury rate, adding that this project will help spread the word to employees.

In These Times: Disaster Unpreparedness: Wildfire Tragedy Sheds Light on Dangerous Budget Gaps - 7/8/13

Tom O’Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety & Health, says that the government can truly honor firefighters through systemic thinking, not accolades. "There's a tendency to sort of romanticize the macho culture of the firefighters and to think, 'Well, hey, there's a tough guy, they can do anything,' ” he says, “but not to think, they're workers like anybody else. And what is it, systemically, that needs to be done, to ensure their safety?"

June, 2013

The Indianapolis Star: Grain bin deaths are preventable, but not enough precautions are taken - 6/27/13

By Tom O'Connor: The recent deaths of two workers in Indiana grain bins, at the Union Mills Co-op and in Veedersburg, are even more tragic because they could have been prevented.

In These Times: Why Safer Food Workers Mean Safer Food - 6/14/13

Tom O’Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, says the safety implications for the food produced in these plants should concern everyone. "It stands to reason that in a workplace where there's a high level of pressure on workers to work as fast and to not report hazards, the same thing can happen in terms of quality control or food quality."

May, 2013

IndyWeek: New AFL-CIO report evaluates worker health and safety - 5/20/13

Latinos accounted for about 28 percent of workplace fatalities in 2011—2012, but they make up about 9 percent of the state’s population, notes a recent report on North Carolina worker fatality by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NCOSH).

In These Times: In Wake of West, Texas Explosion, Safety Advocates Recommend Harsher Fines - 5/9/13

Such small fines are all too common, according to a new report released by the non-profit National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH), entitled 2013: Preventable Deaths: The Tragedy of Workplace Fatalities. The report shows that the average fine for serious safety violations under federal OSHA law is a mere $1,680 dollars. After factoring in OSHA’s severely limited resources--under its current budget OSHA would need 129 years to inspect every workplace in the country--many employers are willing to take the risk that they may have to pay small fines, as in the case of Orestes Martinez’s death.

Canton Daily Ledger: West Texas accident: For all intents and purposes... - 5/9/13

“This tragic explosion points to the need for more resources allocated to OSHA,” said Tom O’Connor of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. “With adequate funding for more OSHA inspectors, more potentially dangerous sites can be inspected and hazards abated.”

Las Vegas City Life: Five questions about worker safety and Nevada's OSHA woes - 5/9/13

According to Tom O’Conner, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, a coalition of labor unions, health and technical professionals, “Nevada OSHA’s problems with filling inspector positions and retaining an adequate number of those positions pose a very real risk to the state’s workers. Even when OSHA offices around the country are ‘fully’ staffed at the bare-bones levels required by federal OSHA, they are still vastly undermanned in their efforts to reach the huge number of workplaces they are tasked with overseeing. When a state like Nevada is so understaffed that they can only perform a small number of planned inspections every year, that means that unscrupulous employers know that they are very unlikely to ever see an OSHA inspector.

“As one commentator noted recently, an employer is, on average, as likely to see an OSHA inspector as often as they see Haley’s comet. So, yes, we do believe that Nevada OSHA’s staffing problems pose a real danger of more workplace injuries and deaths in the state.”

KJZZ: New federal study critical of Arizona workplace safety inspectors - 5/1/13

Tom O’Connor is executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, a non-profit labor advocacy group. He said Arizona inspectors also cannot keep up with the demanding workload.

“That means that workers are not protected. Employers know that they are about as likely to see an OSHA inspector as they are to see Haley’s comet on average…once every thirty years or something," O'Connor said.

Arizona Daily Star: GAO: High turnover among AZ safety agents - 5/1/13

It is hard to know how many inspectors Arizona needs in order to inspect each business within a reasonable amount of time, but the number is far higher than the total now, said Tom O'Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.

"This has been a problem throughout the history of OSHA, particularly at the state level," he said.

AARP Blog: Is Your Job Killing You … Literally? - 5/1/13

“The Texas plant explosion is the kind of catastrophe that really grabs the public’s attention,” Tom O’Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, told the Center. “But that’s about the same number of people who die every day in the United States in ways that are much quieter and hidden from public view. … Looking through the BLS data, you see some really simple, easily preventable causes of death: people falling off roofs, people dying in trench cave-ins, people falling off ladders, people dying in confined spaces.”

GIMBY.org: West, Texas fertilizer plant failed to disclose risks to federal regulators - 5/1/13

"The more we learn about the situation, the more complex it seems to become," says Tom O'Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, a federation of local and state groups advocating worker safety. "There are a lot of different regulatory agencies that come into play — or more accurately, didn’t come into play — that probably should have."

April, 2013

ABC News: Workplace Deaths Increase for Hispanics and Blacks - 4/30/13

Overall, more than 4,600 workers were killed on the job in 2011 down from nearly 4,700 fatalities in 2010. Most deaths occurred in construction, transportation and warehouse jobs, according to an analysis by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH).

Although the total number of workplace fatalities has steadily declined from a high of more than 6,600 deaths in 1994, Tom, O'Connor, executive director of National COSH, said those deaths could be avoided.

"Each worker killed is a tragic loss to the community of family, friends and co-workers – and the worst part is, these deaths were largely preventable," O'Connor said in a statement.

ThinkProgress: North Carolina Under-Reported Worker Deaths And Ignored Multiple Workplace Safety Violations - 4/30/13

The number of North Carolinians who died at work in 2012 is likely more than three times the original number reported by the state Labor Department. While the state estimated 35 worker fatalities last year, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) put the number at 150.

Released in the wake of the deadly Texas fertilizer plant explosion enabled by massive regulatory failure on the state and federal levels, COSH’s report holds North Carolina’s weak workplace regulations accountable for these 150 deaths. While the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration covers workplace safety in about half the states, North Carolina uses a far more lenient state program.

The Charlotte Observer: NC job deaths undercounted, study finds - 4/29/13

While the N.C. Department of Labor reported that just 35 workers were killed on the job in 2012, the report by the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health estimates that the true number is more than three times higher.

That’s chiefly because the state doesn’t count deaths due to vehicle accidents and workplace violence, or fatalities among the self-employed.

“Clearly the absolute number of deaths has gone down…,” said NCOSH Executive Director Tom O’Connor, who wrote the report. “But there are still way too many people dying in easily preventable deaths.”

NPR: On-The-Job Deaths Continue At Steady, Grim Pace - 4/26/13

"These deaths were largely preventable," says Tom O'Connor, executive director of National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH), an advocacy group formed by organized labor and workers safety advocates. "Simply by following proven safety practices and complying with [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] standards, many of these more than 4,600 deaths could have been avoided."

EHS Today: Workers’ Memorial Day: Report Urges Safety Reforms to End Preventable Deaths - 4/26/13

In a report detailing the personal stories of workers who lost their lives on the job in recent years, The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) pairs personal stories with government data to highlight the need for worker health and safety reforms.

The Center for Public Integrity: Workplace Deaths Up Slightly in 2011 - 4/25/13

“The Texas plant explosion is the kind of catastrophe that really grabs the public’s attention,” said Tom O’Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, an umbrella organization for a network of nonprofit groups around the country. “But that’s about the same number of people who die every day in the U.S., in ways that are much quieter and hidden from public view.”

The Rick Smith Show: Why was the President so timid in Texas? - 4/25/13

Tom O'Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, discusses.

In These Times: Texas Explosion: Gov't Shared Info for Anti-Terrorism, But Not Workplace Safety - 4/25/13

“Workplace incidents cause far more deaths every year in the U.S.—some 13 a day—than terrorist acts, yet our government agencies spend untold millions on terrorism prevention, while largely ignoring the risks of industrial catastrophes,” says National Council for Occupational Safety and Health Executive Director Tom O’Connor. “I would hope that the West Fertilizer plant explosion will cause us to reconsider those priorities.”

La Opinion: Mide los riesgos en el empleo - 4/25/13

"La mayoría de los que sufren esos incidentes son trabajadores inmigrantes", apuntó Shirley Alvarado, directora de SoCalCOSH. "En Los Ángeles ellos componen más de la mitad de la fuerza laboral y son los que realizan los trabajos más peligrosos y peor pagados. Pero no reportan las malas condiciones laborales por temor a ser deportados", explicó.

WyoFile: Wyoming should recognize Workers Memorial Day - 4/25/13

“Our position here is we think the culture will never really change until we move toward the MSHA approach, which is to put more inspectors on the ground. … (Wyoming) OSHA, they need more resources,” said Dan Neal, executive director of the Equality State Policy Center, which represents some 30 organizations, including several unions.

Neal was a speaker in a recent conference call for the press, organized by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NCOSH). This week, NCOSH released a new report, “Preventable Deaths: The Tragedy of Workplace Fatalities,” identifying a general failure to meet existing workplace safety rules and regulations as the primary cause for the 4,600 workers killed on the job nationwide in 2011.

“Each worker killed is a tragic loss to the community of family, friends and co-workers – and the worst part is, these deaths were largely preventable,” Tom O’Connor, executive director of National COSH, said in a press statement. “Simply by following proven safety practices and complying with OSHA standards, many of these more than 4,600 deaths could have been avoided. But as companies decry regulations and emphasize profits over safety, workers pay the ultimate price.”

Wyoming Tribune Eagle: Groups call to enhance workplace safety - 4/24/13

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health released a report on Tuesday that includes a recommendation for states to adopt stricter workplace safety regulations.

Tom O’Connor, executive director of the group, said many of the 4,600 worker deaths that were reported nationwide in 2011 were preventable.

He said states that are reliant on energy jobs are especially vulnerable to avoidable accidents.

“The booming energy industry has created a lot of jobs. But it also created intense pressure for production that often leads to unsafe working conditions,” he said.

TruthDig: Terror in the West, Texas, Night - 4/24/13

April 28 is Workers’ Memorial Day, commemorating the 4,500 workers who die on the job annually in the U.S. Thirteen workers, on average, go to work each day and never come home. Tom O’Connor, executive director of National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, said, “As companies decry regulations and emphasize profits over safety, workers pay the ultimate price.”

WBAI Radio: Preventable Deaths: The Texas Explosion and the Tragedy of Workplace Fatalities - 4/22/13

Tom O'Connor joins the show to discuss the latest work place tragedy, the explosion last Wednesday at Texas’ chemical and fertilizer plant that has left at least 14 people dead and more that 160 injured. In the last year, on average 4,500 people died in workplace accidents. But, while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has jurisdiction over 7 million workplaces the U.S. spent only $558 million a year on OSHA, as increasing numbers of workers died. With a gutted agency it’s not uncommon for some companies to go years without inspection. The Texas plant hadn’t been inspected since 1985 and even then despite being cited for serious violations for storage of anhydrous ammonia was fined a mere $30.

CropLife: West Fertilizer Disaster Could Mean Trouble for Entire Industry - 4/22/13

Not surprisingly, the calls for tighter regulations on fertilizer plants are now making the rounds in the popular press. “This tragic explosion points to the need for stricter regulations of plants that store and use large quantities of hazardous chemicals,” said Tom O’Connor of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health in an interview with NBC. “We need a system in which facilities that are inherently dangerous are required to develop detailed disaster prevention plans before they’re allowed to operate.”

NBC News: Texas fertilizer plant also stored explosive chemical used in Oklahoma City bomb - 4/19/13

"Last night’s tragic explosion points to the need for stricter regulations of plants that store and use large quantities of hazardous chemicals," said a statement from Tom O’Connor, executive director of a union safety group, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. "We need a system in which facilities that are inherently dangerous are required to develop detailed disaster prevention plans before they’re allowed to operate."

LiveScience/Discovery News: Could your town explode? - 4/19/13

The recent "tragic explosion points to the need for stricter regulations of plants that store and use large quantities of hazardous chemicals," Tom O'Connor of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health told NBC.

"We need a system in which facilities that are inherently dangerous are required to develop detailed disaster prevention plans before they're allowed to operate," O'Connor said.

In These Times: Major workplace safety issues at non-union Texas fertilizer plant - 4/18/13

Despite the dangers posed by the plant evident in the explosion, in 2006 the company told the EPA that the plant posed no risk of explosion. As Tom O'Connor, Executive Director of the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health told In These Times earlier today, "It looks like in the plant's application for a permit, it checked 'no' in the box asking whether it was a fire or explosion hazard." At a minimum, someone at the EPA ought to be looking a little more carefully at these permits to verify their accuracy. Any plant with a large volume of explosive chemicals is clearly a fire/explosion hazard.

The Charleston Gazette: Tom O'Connor: Upper Big Branch miners deserve congressional action - 4/11/13

It has been three years since 29 miners perished in a Raleigh County mine explosion, and what do we have to show for it? Not much.

In the wake of the Upper Big Branch disaster, Congress has yet to enact legislation that would protect miners who plunge into the depths of the Earth -- and it's the miners who are suffering the consequences.

EHS Today: Explosion at Bartlett Grain Co. Flour Mill Repeat Experience for Company - 4/10/13

“Combustible dust is known to be a huge explosion hazard, yet safety regulators have done little to protect workers from exposure to it,” said Tom O’Connor, executive director of the National Council of Occupational Safety and Health, a federation of local and statewide organizations; a private, non-profit coalition of labor unions, health and technical professionals, and others interested in promoting and advocating for worker health and safety. “OSHA has been sitting on a combustible dust standard since 2009. Given the prevalence of explosions caused by combustible dust, the agency should promulgate a rule that protects workers from it immediately.”

WSOC TV: Dust potential factor in Statesville flour mill explosion (with video) - 4/9/13

Tom O'Connor is the executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, a nonprofit that advocates for more safe and healthy work environments. 

The cause of the explosion still hasn't been determined, but O'Connor said he is worried it could have been combustible flour dust.

"A plant like a flour mill may not seem like a dangerous place, but those kinds of facilities, where there can be a large amount of dust, is easily explosive if there's any kind of electric spark," said O'Connor.

WCNC: Safety Council: Statesville flour mill explosion preventable - 4/9/13

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health says the explosion at the Bartlett Milling Company in Statesville over the weekend is "even more tragic because it appears to have been entirely preventable."

Cal/OSHA Reporter: Controversial Study Says Hotel Housekeeping is Not an MSD Threat - 4/5/13

“Just because NIOSH says there shouldn’t be a problem doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem,” commented Dorothy [Wigmore], occupational health specialist for Worksafe. 

Jessica Martinez, assistant director for the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, based in Los Angeles, urged Cal/OSHA to “lead the nation” with a standard for hotel housekeepers. 

The New York Times: Rules on Worker Health - 4/6/13

By Tom O'Connor: “As OSHA Emphasizes Safety, Long-Term Health Risks Fester” (front page, March 31) highlights a very real and rarely discussed issue in worker safety: occupational illness.

While nearly 5,000 workers die on the job each year, an estimated 50,000 more develop an occupational illness. Yet despite this toll, the federal government sits on rules that could help prevent workers from developing occupational illnesses. A proposed rule that would prevent workers from being exposed to dangerous levels of silica dust on the job has remained mired at the Office of Management and Budget for more than two years 

Additionally, the article points to the critical importance of strict oversight by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to ensure that state OSHA programs be “at least as effective” as federal OSHA, as required by law. In the case depicted, North Carolina OSHA — not the federal agency — failed the workers.

February, 2013

ISHN: Texas safety culture puts profits above safety, says National COSH - 2/21/13

Texas Governor Rick Perry’s recent assertion that his state’s high on-the-job fatality rate is due to the dangerous nature of the energy industry is being contradicted by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH).

The Charleston Gazette: Tomblin mine safety rules delayed again - 2/21/13

"Yes, after a slew of on-the-job fatalities in any industry, it is beneficial to take time to review safety standards to prevent further injury, but governor Tomblin's work doesn't stop there," said Tom O'Connor, a spokesman for the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.

"What is really needed is for the Tomblin administration to take action on the critically important mining safety measures mandated by the 2012 legislation," O'Connor said. "What is not needed is further watering down of the rules under pressure from the mining industry.

"The rules are already overdue, and miners clearly are paying the price, as we have seen with the latest series of deaths."

The Charleston Gazette: Two years old, Silica Rule remains mired at OIRA - 2/14/13

By: Tom O'Connor

Two years. 730 days. Thousands of workers' lives. However you choose to look at it, that's how long the proposed Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica rule has been sitting at the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). OIRA is supposed to review proposed rules within 90 days.

Share/Save