Occupational Health News Roundup

Earlier this year, the Charlotte Observer published an excellent and disturbing series on the dangerous working conditions at poultry plants, and employers’ efforts to keep worker injuries from being reported. Now, the Observer’s Ames Alexander reports that poultry worker Thomas Jurrissen told auditors about safety concerns at the plant where he worked – and was fired a day later.

Jurrissen has filed a complaint under North Carolina’s Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act, which prohibits employers from firing workers who report OSHA violations. (The problems he cited had to do with equipment safety guards and a broken grate, which is a possible OSHA violation.) State investigators have said that the employer, Keystone Foods, didn’t actually violate the act because Jurrissen complained to an auditor who was examining food safety, not workplace safety.

This story is part of the Observer’s continuing coverage of the poultry industry; you can follow their articles here.

In other news:

Salon.com: OSHA collects less than half the fines it levies on employers who violate safety standards, and cases sent to the occupational Safety and Health Review Commission can be delayed for several years.

News-Press (Florida): Like several fast-food retailers, Whole Foods Market has signed an agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee workers to pay a penny and a half more per pound for Florida tomatoes and to improve conditions for those who pick them. However, the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange won’t pass the increase on to workers, so the extra money is currently being held in an escrow account.

Bergen County Record (New Jersey): The President’s Cancer Panel heard testimony from 12 experts in the first of four meetings on the environment’s role in cancer; the experts warned about higher exposure levels in workplaces, a rise in childhood cancers, and a lack of information about many of the chemicals in use today.

Washington Post: A coalition of healthcare groups has developed a code of ethics designed to protect nurses who come to the U.S. from other countries from abusive employment practices.

New York Times: Before a blaze in the Deutsche Bank building at Ground Zero killed two firefighters, city investigators raised concerns to state officials about the demolition company’s record.

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