In 2015, 150 workers died from preventable work-related injuries and illnesses every day in the United States, on average, according to a report released recently by the AFL-CIO; 4,836 workers died due to workplace injuries, and another 50,000–60,000 died from occupational diseases. The number of immigrant workers killed on the job reached a nearly 10-year high.
The report, titled Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, marks the 26th year the AFL-CIO has reported on the state of safety and health protections for workers in the United States. The report shows the highest workplace fatality rates are in North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and West Virginia.
According to the report, Latino workers have an 18% higher fatality rate than the national average. Deaths among Latino workers increased to 903, compared with 804 in 2014. Overall, 943 immigrant workers were killed on the job in 2015—the highest number since 2007.
The report also finds that construction, transportation, and agriculture remain among the most dangerous sectors. Nine hundred thirty-seven construction workers were killed in 2015—the highest in any sector. Older workers also are at high risk, with those 65 or older 2.5 times more likely to die on the job. Workplace violence continues to be a growing problem for workers, resulting in 703 deaths.
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Judge Rules that Massachusetts Companies Operated as Single Employer at Worksite Where 3 Workers Fell
An administrative law judge with the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has ruled that two Massachusetts contractors—A.C. Castle Construction Co., Inc., and Daryl Provencher, doing business as Provencher Home Improvements—were operating as a single employer at a Wenham worksite when three employees were injured in October 2014.
The employees were performing residential roofing work on a ladder jack scaffold when the wooden plank on which they were standing snapped, causing them to fall 20 feet to the ground. An investigation by OSHA found that the wooden plank was not graded for scaffold use and its invoice made clear it was not for scaffold use. Other hazards included deficiencies with the scaffold's components and structure and lack of fall protection for the employees.
OSHA cited A.C. Castle and Provencher as a single employer in April 2015 due to the highly integrated nature of their work operations, including common worksites and common management and supervision. A.C. Castle and Provencher contested their citations and penalties to the review commission. A.C. Castle contended that, as general contractor, it was not responsible for the safety of the workers on the jobsite, asserting that they were employed by Provencher. A trial was held before Administrative Law Judge Sharon D. Calhoun in June 2016. Judge Calhoun ruled on February 28, 2017, that A.C. Castle and Provencher were operating as a single employer at the time of the inspection. A.C. Castle sought review of the decision, which the commission declined. On April 17, 2017, Judge Calhoun's decision became a final order. A.C. Castle has 60 days from the date of that order to seek review in the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.
The decision cited a number of factors including A.C. Castle's checking to ensure that workers were tied off, its responsibility for safety on its worksites, its ability to fire or discipline workers, its directions to Provencher concerning the size of the crew, the presence of A.C. Castle signs and the lack of Provencher signage at worksites, and A.C. Castle's representing that it had no subcontractors when applying for building permits. Judge Calhoun's decision upheld the bulk of the citations and determined that A.C. Castle is responsible for paying $173,500 in penalties. The claims against Provencher were extinguished due to his death in December 2016.
"The judge's decision, now a final order of the commission, upholds OSHA's findings that A.C. Castle exercised a degree of control and oversight over Provencher's operations sufficient to render the two a single employer under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, making them responsible as one entity for their employees' safety," said Michael Felsen, regional solicitor of labor for New England.
The full decision can be viewed here.
OSHA's Andover Area Office conducted the original inspection. Senior Trial Attorney James Glickman of the Boston regional solicitor's office litigated the case for OSHA.
Employers Urged to Protect Outdoor Workers from Heat Illness
With California’s heat season quickly approaching, Cal/OSHA recently hosted a news conference to remind employers that prevention is the best defense for outdoor workers against heat-related illness and death.
A key component of Cal/OSHA’s prevention model includes annual trainings statewide in both English and Spanish. The training highlights the need to protect outdoor workers from heat illness and the requirements under California’s heat illness standard.
“Cal/OSHA continues to enforce the nation’s most comprehensive heat illness prevention regulation, and we will continue our outreach, consultation and training for workers and employers to ensure that workers are protected from the heat,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum.
The risk of heat illness is generally highest for people who work outdoors. Therefore, Cal/OSHA’s prevention approach includes targeted enforcement inspections at outdoor worksites in industries such as agriculture, landscaping and construction during heat season. These inspections ensure compliance with the heat illness prevention standard and the injury and illness prevention standard, which require employers to take the following basic precautions:
- Train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention.
- Provide enough fresh water so that each employee can drink at least 1 quart per hour, or four 8-ounce glasses of water per hour, and encourage them to do so.
- Provide access to shade and encourage employees to take a cool‐down rest in the shade for at least 5 minutes. They should not wait until they feel sick to cool down. Shade structures must be in place when temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit, or upon request.
- Closely observe all employees during a heat wave and any employee newly assigned to a high heat area. Lighter work, frequent breaks or shorter hours will help employees who have not been working in high temperatures adapt to the new conditions.
- Develop and implement written procedures for complying with the Cal/OSHA heat illness prevention standard, including plans on how to handle medical emergencies and steps to take if someone shows signs or symptoms of heat illness.
The most frequent violation that Cal/OSHA cites during targeted heat inspections is for failure to have a proper written heat illness prevention plan specific to the worksite. Serious violations are often related to inadequate access to water and shade, and to a lack of supervisor and employee training.
To remain in compliance with the standard, Cal/OSHA encourages employers and worker supervisors to learn more about the standard, which was amended in 2015. Please refer to the Cal/OSHA guidance on the new requirements and the Heat Illness Prevention Enforcement Q&A for more information on the updates.
Additional information about heat illness prevention, including details on upcoming training sessions throughout the state are posted on Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention page. Cal/OSHA also has extensive multilingual materials for employers, workers and trainers on its Water. Rest. Shade. public awareness campaign website.
NRL Breakthrough Enables Safer Alternative to Lithium-Ion Batteries
Researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory's (NRL) Chemistry Division have developed a safer alternative to fire-prone lithium-ion batteries, which were recently banned for some applications on Navy ships and other military platforms.
Joseph Parker, Jeffrey Long, and Debra Rolison from NRL's Advanced Electrochemical Materials group are leading an effort to create an entire family of safer, water-based, zinc batteries. They have demonstrated a breakthrough for nickel-zinc (Ni-Zn) batteries in which a three-dimensional (3-D) Zn "sponge" replaces the powdered zinc anode traditionally used. With 3-D Zn, the battery provides an energy content and rechargeability that rival lithium-ion batteries while avoiding the safety issues that continue to plague lithium.
Their research appears in the April 28th, 2017 issue of Science, the premiere journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Additional contributors to this research article include former NRL staff scientist, Christopher Chervin, National Research Council postdoctoral associate, Irina Pala, as well as industry partners Meinrad Machler and CEO of EnZinc, Inc., Michael Burz.
"Our team at the NRL pioneered the architectural approach to the redesign of electrodes for next-generation energy storage," said Dr. Rolison, senior scientist and principal investigator on the project. "The 3-D sponge form factor allows us to reimagine zinc, a well-known battery material, for the 21st century."
Zinc-based batteries are the go-to global battery for single-use applications, but are not considered rechargeable in practice due to their tendency to grow conductive whiskers (dendrites) inside the battery, which can grow long enough to cause short circuits.
"The key to realizing rechargeable zinc-based batteries lies in controlling the behavior of the zinc during cycling," said Parker, lead author on the paper. "Electric currents are more uniformly distributed within the sponge, making it physically difficult to form dendrites."
The NRL team demonstrated Ni-3-D Zn performance in three ways: extending lifetime in single-use cells; cycling cells more than 100 times at an energy content competitive with lithium-ion batteries; and cycling cells more than 50,000 times in short duty-cycles with intermittent power bursts, similar to how batteries are used in some hybrid vehicles.
With the benefits of rechargeability, the 3-D Zn sponge is ready to be deployed within the entire family of Zn-based alkaline batteries across the civilian and military sectors. "We can now offer an energy-relevant alternative, from drop-in replacements for lithium-ion to new opportunities in portable and wearable power, and manned and unmanned electric vehicles," said Dr. Long, "while reducing safety hazards, easing transportation restrictions, and using earth-abundant materials."
Hoosier Entities Partner with State Workplace Safety and Health Agency for Fall Prevention Initiative
INSafe, the Indiana Department of Labor’s workplace safety and health consultation division, will partner with Hoosier entities statewide to offer fall prevention training, free of charge, in conjunction with the 2017 National Safety Stand-down to Prevent Falls in Construction.
Falls are the leading cause of death for construction workers. In 2015, fatal injury from falls accounted for 350 of the 937 construction fatalities recorded (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Falls are preventable, and that is the goal of the annual awareness and prevention campaign organized by OSHA.
Four Hoosier entities have partnered with INSafe to provide this opportunity to learn, discuss, and take action to prevent falls and protect Hoosier workers. The City of Michigan City has partnered with INSafe to host the event in their City Hall building on Tuesday, May 9th. Out of their Indianapolis location, Garmong Construction Services will house the central Indiana event on Thursday, May 11th. Meanwhile, University of Southern Indiana in Evansville will host attendees for the training event. Vincennes University Construction Technology is partnering with INSafe on Friday, May 12th to offer the fall prevention event.
“The Indiana Department of Labor is very grateful for these organizations that have stepped up to help positively impact the safety and health of working Hoosiers across the state,” said Commissioner of Labor Rick J. Ruble. “Together, we can remind our Hoosier workers that they’re valued and should go home safely every day.”
Workers' Memorial Day Renews Commitment Safety
OSHA recognized Workers' Memorial Day on April 28 by holding events throughout the country. OSHA renewed its commitment to making safety a priority through education, training, and collaboration with American workers, businesses and state partners.
At events nationwide, OSHA honored those who have been injured or lost their lives in the workplace, helping to support and strengthen our nation.
For more information, see OSHA's Workers' Memorial Day webpage.
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Brain tumors are a devastating disease that inflicts nearly 700,000 Americans and millions more worldwide. About 20–40% of all other cancers develop brain metastases, and almost 80,000 Americans are diagnosed with brain cancer every year. One of those is my niece. Over 16,000 people die from brain tumors every year, and we are fighting to keep her from contributing from that statistic.
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