January 13, 2020
Temporary workers had a higher rate of workers’ compensation claims for injuries than did permanent workers, according to a large study in Ohio reported by NIOSH and published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.
As the nature of work continues to change, temporary workers are becoming more common in many workplaces. These workers may work for staffing agencies or be on-call, contract, or freelance workers.
This study looked at more than 1.3 million injury claims to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation during 2001 to 2013. Of these claims, 45,046 were from temporary employment agency workers. The rate of injury in this group of workers was 11.6 per 100 workers, compared to a rate of 4.9 among permanent workers. In terms of age, injured temporary workers were about 5 years younger than permanent workers. In addition, temporary workers had worked for the organization for a shorter time before the injury occurred. Nearly half as many temporary workers as permanent workers had worked for the organization for 3 months or longer when the injury caused them to miss 8 or more workdays.
These findings are comparable to other workers’ compensation studies in Washington and Illinois. Although the findings can help inform efforts to protect temporary workers from injury, more research is needed to understand how to prevent these injuries from occurring.
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Biogas and Human Health
California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced the availability of a report
prepared pursuant to Assembly Bill 1900 (Statutes of 2012). AB 1900 requires the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to develop standards for certain constituents found in biogas to protect human health and ensure pipeline safety. OEHHA's report updates a list of constituents of concern present in biogas at levels substantially higher than found in natural gas and that could pose a health risk to consumers, workers, or other members of the public. The California Air Resources Board will consider this new information in updating its biomethane constituent monitoring recommendations to the CPUC.
What’s in Your Shoes?
Scientists at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana University and Ecology Center have discovered that Wolverine Worldwide—maker of shoe brands like Hush Puppies and Keds—continues to add per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to some adults’ and children’s shoes despite knowing the dangers.
Wolverine has been plagued by controversy since PFAS-containing waste from its old Rockford, Michigan tannery was found to have badly contaminated the local community’s water supply. Wolverine is facing hundreds of lawsuits from harmed residents, and the company is, in turn, suing 3M for selling it the toxic PFAS chemicals without warning of the hazards. The company is spending millions of dollars on remediation and providing bottled water and whole-house water filters to affected families.
“You’d think a shoe company embroiled in lawsuits and a public-relations nightmare around PFAS would be the first to quit using it,” said Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Michigan-based Ecology Center who helped coordinate the testing. “Our results underscore how continued widespread use of PFAS in consumer products means these toxics are often right under our feet—literally.”
The team’s testing indicated the presence of PFAS in four out of the six shoes tested, including Keds Women's Camp Water-Resistant Boot with Thinsulate™, Hush Puppies Men’s Venture shoes, Hush Puppies Men’s Rainmaker shoes, and Merrell Big Kid’s Jungle Moc Frosty Waterproof shoes. In addition, very high levels were detected in Hush Puppies Weather Protector shoe spray.
The Hush Puppies Weather Protector Spray, which is labeled "made in USA," contained C6 varieties of PFAS (short-chain), including 6:2 fluorotelomer alcohols and 6:2 fluorotelomer acrylates.
The four shoes in which PFAS was detected, which are labeled “made in China,” contained C8 and C10 varieties of PFAS (long chain), including 8:2 fluorotelomer alcohols and 10:2 fluorotelomer alcohols. These long-chain PFAS chemicals have been largely phased out by U.S. manufacturers. Yet the new results show U.S. companies continue to use long-chain PFAS in imported products sold to U.S. consumers.
The actual amount PFAS found on each shoe varied (between 33 ppb and 4200 ppb) depending on the type of shoe and the location tested, suggesting suggests the application of the PFAS is uneven.
Some PFAS chemicals have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, reduced fertility, thyroid problems, asthma, low birth weight, obesity, asthma, and damage to brain development. Some have been associated with a decreased immune response to vaccines in children.
Despite health concerns, PFAS are still widely used in clothing and shoes, cookware, cosmetics, food packaging, and more. People can be exposed to PFAS from these products, as well as from contaminated food, drinking water, air, or dust. Nearly every American, including newborn babies, has PFAS chemicals in their blood.
This PFAS use continues to be unregulated by EPA. NPR affiliate WEMU (Ypsilanti, Michigan) confirmed that EPA is not restricting or monitoring the import of these PFAS containing articles. An EPA spokesperson confirmed to WEMU that “...at this time there is no restriction on importing shoe leather containing long-chain PFAS” and “EPA does not collect data on companies importing PFAS-treated shoe leather.” More information is available in the latest segment of the 5-part “Green Room” radio series on PFAS
The results are the first confirmation that Wolverine continues to use PFAS chemicals despite the controversy and litigation related to the company’s contamination of communities near Grand Rapids, Michigan. This is surprising given the company’s assurances that it is “working proactively to develop solutions.”
This discovery came just days since the premiere of Dark Waters
, a legal thriller starring Mark Ruffalo that shows how DuPont’s production and disposal of PFAS devastated a West Virginia community.
Valve Manufacturer Cited for Exposing Employees to Lead, Copper and Other Hazards at Wisconsin Facility
OSHA cited Milwaukee Valve Company Inc. – based in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin – for exposing employees to lead and copper dust at rates higher than the permissible exposure levels. OSHA has proposed $171,628 in penalties to the industrial valve manufacturing company.
Following a July 2019 inspection, OSHA cited the company for failing to implement adequate engineering and work practice controls to reduce employee exposure to lead, and train foundry employees on the hazards of lead and cadmium exposure. OSHA also cited the company for violations related to respiratory protection, and walking and working surfaces.
“Chronic exposures to lead, copper and other metal dusts can result in long-term health issues, such as lung and nervous system damage,” said OSHA Madison Area Director Chad Greenwood. “Employers must provide personal protective equipment to employees working with toxic metals, and take appropriate steps to minimize worker exposure.”
webpages provide information on the health effects from exposure to these metals, and options for controlling exposure.
Mississippi Construction Contractor Cited for Exposing Employees to Cave-in Hazards
OSHA has cited Advanced Construction & Development LLC – based in Biloxi, Mississippi – for exposing employees to excavation hazards at a D'Iberville, Mississippi, worksite. The contractor faces $79,559 in penalties.
OSHA initiated the inspection after a compliance officer observed employees installing a storm drainpipe in an excavation without cave-in protection. OSHA cited
the employer for failing to use protective systems, train employees to recognize and avoid excavation hazards, provide hard hats to employees working around heavy equipment, remove water from the excavation, and inspect the excavation and surrounding areas.
"Employers that fail to use cave-in protection when working in trenches and excavations expose workers to serious, sometimes fatal, injuries," said OSHA Jackson Area Director Courtney Bohannon. "Employers are legally obligated to slope, shore or shield trench walls to prevent a collapse."
Florida Roofing Contractor Found in Contempt After Failing to Pay $2,202,049 in Penalties for Safety and Health Violations
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has found a Jacksonville, Florida-based roofing contractor in contempt of court for failing to pay $2,202,049 in OSHA for safety and health violations at worksites in Florida.
The Department of Labor filed a petition with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals for summary enforcement against Great White Construction Inc., Florida Roofing Experts Inc. and owner Travis Slaughter pursuant to Section 11(b) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) to enforce 12 final orders of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission
(OSHRC). Those final orders include multiple egregious, willful and repeat violations for lack of fall protection and other safety and health hazards at worksites in Florida. On October 2, 2017, and June 5, 2018, the court granted the department’s petition, enforcing the final orders of the commission.
On August 28, 2019, the department filed a Petition for Civil Contempt against Great White Construction Inc. and Florida Roofing Experts Inc. and Slaughter, alleging they failed to comply with the court’s October 2017 and June 2018 orders, based on evidence that the companies failed to provide proof of abatement, continued to violate OSHA standards and failed to pay the penalties assessed.
The court held the companies and Slaughter in civil contempt on January 3, 2020, ordering the companies and Slaughter to pay the outstanding penalties of $2,202,049 plus interest and fees, and requiring them to certify that they had corrected the violations within 10 days of the court’s order. If the companies and Slaughter fail to comply, they face coercive sanctions, including incarceration and other relief the court deems proper.
“This enforcement action demonstrates that OSHA will utilize every resource available to ensure that safety and health standards are followed to protect workers,” said Solicitor of Labor Kate O’Scannlain. “Employers that ignore multiple court orders requiring correction of violations and payment of penalties will be held accountable.”
The court’s ruling comes after repeated inspections by OSHA and litigation by the Department’s Office of the Solicitor to address Great White and Florida Roofing’s violations of OSHA’s safety requirements. The court’s remedy addresses the companies’ longstanding refusal to protect workers and pay the associated penalties.
Alabama Contractors Cited After 15-Year-Old Worker Suffers Fatal Fall
OSHA has cited Apex Roofing and Restoration LLC, and WW Restoration LLC for exposing employees to fall hazards after a 15-year-old worker suffered fatal injuries after a fall at a Cullman, Alabama, worksite. The companies face $159,118 in penalties.
the companies for exposing employees to fall hazards while performing roofing activities without adequate fall protection, and for failing to provide proper training. Although Apex Roofing and Restoration LLC and WW Restoration LLC are listed as separate entities, OSHA cited the companies as a single employer because both share supervision on a common worksite, and have interrelated operations and integrated working relationships.
“Employers have a legal duty to ensure that their employees are protected at all times,” said OSHA Area Director Ramona Morris in Birmingham, Alabama. “This responsibility includes providing appropriate training and conducting assessments to make sure workers understand hazards, and supplying fall protection to minimize the risk of serious or fatal injuries.”
OSHA’s Protecting Roofing Workers
booklet explains fall protection strategies employers can use to protect workers performing roofing operations. The agency’s Fall Protection
webpage offers additional compliance assistance resources.
The department’s Wage and Hour Division is also investigating the employers for child labor provision violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
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