Occupational Health News Roundup

Remember the Capitol tunnel workers who’ve been fighting for safer working conditions after years of being exposed to asbestos on the job? (They’ve been featured in previous roundups here, here, and here.) They stirred up Congressional interest in the safety hazards in the Capitol tunnels, and Congress put pressure on the Architect of the Capitol, which is responsible for the operations and maintenance of the U.S. Capitol Complex. Now, the Architect of the Capitol and the Office of Compliance (which addresses workplace safety and employment rights issues for workers in the legislative branch) have reached a settlement that requires the Architect of the Capitol to fix various safety and health hazards in the tunnels within five years. The settlement doesn’t address compensation for the tunnel workers who’ve already suffered lung damage, and crew leader John Thayer is critical of the five-year timeline.

This week (May 13 – 19) is National Police Week, “a time to honor those law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, as well as the 800,000 officers who continue to serve in federal, state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide.” At the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on Sunday, a candlelight vigil honored the 145 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. Officers.com and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund have details on events.

In other news:

New York Times: An examination of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani’s handling of the Ground Zero cleanup and recovery suggests that he failed to take sufficient steps to protect the health of workers there.

Charleston Gazette: Reports and records show that U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration officials overrode one federal law and left two important protections out of their own regulations – depriving themselves of key tools that could have prevented the Sago Mine disaster.

Houston Chronicle: In Texas between 2003 and 2006, more than $17 million in workers’ compensation benefits bypassed the relatives of as many as 140 dead workers and went back to a workers’ comp fund – and then, $10 million of it was funneled back to insurance companies.

Washington Post: A federal program designed to compensate former workers from nuclear weapons facilities for health problems related to their work has paid benefits to thousands of people but denied requests from thousands more.

Kentucky Herald-Leader: A scientist who oversaw chemical weapons storage operations claims he was fired for reporting violations, including the venting of a chemical warfare agent directly into occupied lab areas.