Occupational Health News Roundup

Since today is Valentine’s Day, it’s worth remembering the conditions that floral workers have to deal with. The Associated Press reports on the Colombian flower industry, where workers are exposed to heavy doses of pesticides, and current efforts to reduce those hazards.

In other recent occupational health news:

The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) released a study on lower-back muscle fatigue in people whose work requires extensive lifting. They found that breaks alleviate the muscle fatigue that can lead to injuries, and more frequent breaks are needed after several hours of work.

NIOSH also released a draft report saying that methane explosions in mines can generate nearly 13 times more destructive force than the current federal standard for seals in underground coal mines are required to withstand.

In other mineworker safety news, MSHA announced a new requirement that underground coal mines must provide up to four days of breathable air to keep miners alive in emergencies.

After finding the chemical PFOA (which is used in making Teflon) in the blood of workers from one of its facilities, DuPont has announced it will eliminate its use of the chemical. (See the PFOA case study at DefendingScience.org for more on this substance.)

In response to an alarming spike in fatal construction accidents, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced new safety measures that include creating a new inspection team at the Buildings Department, increasing regulations and training, and sharply increasing the penalties for violations.

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism is creating a new food certification to complement kosher certification; this one would show that the food came from a safe, non-exploitative workplace.

Finally, we remember George Becker, former president of United Steelworkers of America, who died of prostate cancer at age 78.

Comments

  1. #1 Brett
    February 15, 2007

    Kudos to the USCJ- I’ve heard this murmered before though, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out

    It reminds us that our movement isn’t supposed to have a political side, and unfortunately once again, its the Jewish community remembering that, and not the Christian majority

    Shame they couldn’t get criminal provisions in the NY law, but no surprise- the fines are still… minimum at best

  2. #2 Liz Borkowski
    February 15, 2007

    It’s actually interesting to see what a major role religious groups have played in the U.S. Fair Trade movement, which works to ensure that producers earn fair prices for their coffee, chocolate, and other commodities. The website of TransFair USA, the organization that certifies fair trade products in the U.S., links to Catholic Relief Services and Lutheran World Relief (as well as secular organizations like Oxfam and Global Exchange).

    Of course, Fair Trade focuses on improving conditions for producers in developing countries. The thing that struck me about the article on the USCJ’s efforts is that it described terrible working conditions in Iowa.

    There’s also a group called Interfaith Worker Justice that focuses on wages, benefits and working conditions for low-wage workers in the U.S.

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