Health & Safety NewsWire

Updated every fifteen minutes

More news items

Temp workers organize

Temporary workers at an Indiana Lear plant have voted to unionize. About 120 “temps” are paid $8 an hour by Contract Services Group to work alongside 400 Lear employees who start at $13.45 an hour. CSG workers have no insurance, sick days, vacation or other benefits.

The workers, who assemble parts for auto seats, voted 55-41 to unionize with the UAW. Roddell Sutton told The News of Northwest Indiana “I haven’t stopped smiling since they announced it.”

Michigan ergo committee continues

The Michigan advisory committee is working on a third draft of a possible state ergonomics rule. The previous draft applied only to general industry (construction, not included) required all workers to receive awareness training, all employers to establish a process to assess risk and to reduce risk where economically feasible. The rule would also require workers and employers to be jointly involved in the process of preventing ergonomic hazards.

State representative Rick Jones (R) plans to introduce a law prohibiting Michigan OSHA from establishing a standard to prevent ergonomic damage to workers. Jones told BNA OSH Reporter that he is “very concerned” that with such a rule Michigan would “stand out” and employers would be driven away. An attempt to prohibit drafting the rule failed in the legislature last fall.

Politicians honor hotel boycott

Former President Bill Clinton canceled a meeting at a Los Angeles hotel under boycott by UNITE-HERE where workers have been without a contract for over ten months. San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsome broke with a long-standing San Francisco tradition and refused to attend the annual Chamber of Commerce lunch in order to honor the boycott.

Before traveling you can check for lists of union hotels; the site provides lists of hotels being boycotted.

Hotel workers face many problems with working conditions including heavy lifting, and exposure to solvents and body fluids. UNITE-HERE safety director Eric Frumin has been a leader in using safety issues in union organizing.

Personal behavior under attack

Do you write a web log (blog or weblog)? Smoke legal substances? On your own time outside work? If so you might get fired.

Heather Armstrong had a blog with posts like “Comments hear in, around and consequent to the company Christmas party last evening”. A Microsoft contractor was fired after posting pictures of Apple computers being delivered to the giant software company. Delta Airlines fired a flight attendant for posting a picture of herself in her uniform which partially revealed her bra.

Four workers at Weyco, Inc in Okemos, Michigan were fired for refusing to take a test to determine whether they smoke cigarettes. “I don’t want to pay for the results of smoking,” Howard Weyers told the Associated Press in explaining why he established a policy to fire workers who smoke even on their non-work time.

Obviously these workers did not have the ‘just cause’ protections provided in union contracts. Employer regulation of personal behavior could logically be extended to include, for example, giving birth or living in an area with high exposure to industrial pollutants.

One more reason to form a union where you work.

Scab hockey

A three billion dollar offer has been put forward to buy the entire National Hockey League. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, “We felt we should hear them out.” Bettman has also said the plan is to resume playing in the fall with everyone of the thirty teams returning to the ice, but the union players replaced by scabs.

Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos told The Detroit News, "If push comes to shove and we're at an impasse, we're going to play this fall."

Using scabs would violate Canadian law where union members are prtoceted against job loss while on strike or locked out. US workers have no such protection but the key US hockey cities – Detroit, New York, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh – are union towns that don’t take kindly to scabs.

Simply put there are too many hockey teams – overproduction is the economists term – too little interest for television contracts for a sport that has changed from skating and skill to grabbing, spearing and fighting. So Hockey Town readers, it looks like – one ownership or thirty – if the NHL takes the ice in the fall the players will be scabs. Fix yr picket signs to yr hockey sticks and get ready to meet at the Joe.

Prisoners & staff exposed to toxics

Federal OSHA is investigating reports that workers and prisoners at a California prison are being exposed to toxics at a computer recycling operation at the prison. A prison staffperson filed an OSHA complaint alleging exposure to the heavy metals lead, cadmium, barium and beryllium.

A food service are is in the contaminated space and neither staff nor inmates were warned of the health risks of the recycling work. Seven federal prisons recycle outdated computers, televisions and other electronic devices.

Leroy Smith filed the complaint after finding that several prisoners who had not been doing the most dangerous job – smashing computers with hammers – had high levels of barium. “It’s all about the dollar,” Smith told the BNA OSH Reporter, “They had been exposing staff and inmates since 1998.”

Warning on spray on truck bed liner

NIOSH (Nat’l Institute for Occupational Safety & Health) has posted a draft alert on spray on truck bed liner applications which contain methylenebis(phenyl isocyanate) also known as MDI. Isocyanates are increasingly used in the automobile industry, autobody repair, and in building insulation materials. Spray on polyurethane products containing iscoyantes are used in a wide range of uses to protect cement, wood, fiberglass, steel and aluminum surfaces including truck beds, trailers, boats, foundations and decks. In addition to do-it-yourself uses a quarter million workers are exposed to isocyanates.

2003 illness & injury stats

A total of 1,300,000 serious injuries and illnesses were reported by US employers in 2003. Nearly a million cases – 980,000 –involved time away from work.

The three jobs with the highest number of serious injuries and illnesses were laborers and material handlers, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, and nursing aides and attendants.

State court approves punitive damages

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that punitive damages against a roofing contractor in a case involving a crane collapse that killed three workers during the construction of Miller Park baseball stadium were correct.

In 1999 three ironworkers fell from a 45 story high crane known as “Big Blue” which toppled over in high winds while lifting a roof panel onto the stadium. “Big Blue” crashed into a crane supporting the basket in which the three were working.

A jury awarded the mens widows $5 million in compensatory damages and $94 million in punitive damages.

An appeals court had thrown out the punitive damages claiming the law required the operator of the crane to intend to kill. The supreme court over-ruled, finding that the failure of the contractor to determine wind speed and its effects were disregard for the workers safety.