The Mine Safety and Health Administration has been in the news again lately. The Labor Department’s Inspector General released a report stating that the agency failed to conduct required inspections at more than one in seven of U.S. underground coal mines last year (budget constraints and a lack of management emphasis on worker safety by the Bush administration get the blame). In a separate audit, the IG also found that the U.S. Department of Labor’s procedures for counting mining deaths are inconsistent and don’t follow the agency’s own written rules.
Charles Thomas, a 16-year veteran of the agency, has just been selected for MSHA’s newly established Office of Accountability – and he’ll evidently have his work cut out for him.
Mining is under scrutiny in other countries, too. A new report documents poor conditions at a Mexican copper mine and links them to workers’ respiratory disease, and in China, last year’s official coal mining death toll was 4,746.
In other news:
LA Times: Following a jury award of $3.2 million compensatory damages to former banana plantation workers who became sterile after pesticide exposure, the jury has decided that Dole must also pay an additional $2.5 million in punitive damages.
Chicago Sun-Times: Celebrity chef Paula Deen is sponsored by pork producer Smithfield; workers want her to learn about inhumane working conditions at Smithfield and reconsider the deal.
The Press of Atlantic City: An extensive survey of New Jersey nurses finds that they’re exhausted by their workloads and feel they’re unable to provide the level of care patients need.
NPR: Since the U.S. invaded Iraq, Army commanders have discharged almost 40 percent more soldiers for “personality disorder” and 20 percent more for “misconduct” than they did before the conflict began. Some mental health professionals fear that many of these soldiers are actually suffering from PTSD, but discharging them for other causes frees the Army from paying them disability benefits.
Associated Press: Experts estimate that about 70% of the world’s electronic waste ends up in China, which spells disastrous consequences for the workers who sort and process it and lasting contamination for the environment.