Occupational Health News Roundup

The Charlotte Observer’s excellent series on poultry workers began by detailing the injuries workers suffer and the way company officials dismiss their complaints (highlighted in a previous roundup), and continued with a look at the inadequate regulations, inspections, and fines for poultry-processing plants.

For the company House of Raeford Farms, which it cited for dozens of hazards, OSHA proposed fines totaling $205,000, but dropped that to $47,000 following negotiations with the company. That included penalties of just $3,500 after a chlorine gas leak killed one worker, and $13,560 after a worker died from falling into an augur that lacked a safety cover.

At the national level, workplace safety inspections at poultry plants are at a 15-year low, and the federal government has made it easier for companies to hide injuries associated with repetitive trauma. An ergonomics initiative launched by U.S. Secretary of Labor Elizabeth Dole in 1990 culminated with OSHA issuing an ergonomics standard in January of 2001 – but businesses lobbied hard against it, and Congress and President Bush repealed the standard.

In other news:

King5 (Seattle): Flight crews around the world have reported illnesses they believe stem from exposure to dangerous jet-engine fumes in aircraft cabins. University of Washington researchers are developing a genetic test to check for the biomarker of a jet engine oil additive in the blood of flight crew members.

Dallas Morning News: Nearly three years after an explosion killed 15 workers at BP’s Texas City refinery, the oil giant still has more fatal U.S. refinery accidents than any other major energy company.

New York Times: OSHA has cited two contractors for several willful and serious safety violations at the former Deutsche Bank tower where two firefighters perished in a fire last summer (via Popular Logistics).

Globe and Mail: Canada’s federal health agency has quietly begun studying the relationship between chrysotile asbestos fibers and disease risk – even though the World Health Organization and other respected international bodies have already stated that chrysotile and other forms of asbestos cause cancer. Mines in Quebec still produce asbestos, but 95% of it is exported.

Boston Globe: Firefighters have a harder time putting out ethanol fires, which require special alcohol-resistant foam.

    Current ye@r *