Archives for September, 2010

In the words of Myron Levin at Fair Warning: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) once again has ripped the whistleblower protection program. ….[It] blames glaring weaknesses on chronic inattention from OSHA leaders.” This latest GAO assessment, “Sustained management attention needed to address long-standing program weaknesses,” is an update on a more comprehensive review the oversight…

Preventing Public Health Disasters

Earlier this week, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg presented Frances Kelsey with the first in what will be a series of awards bearing Kelsey’s name. Fifty years ago, as a new medical officer with the FDA, Kelsey refused to approve US sale of Kevadon, a drug widely recognized by its generic name, thalidomide. The drug was…

by Elizabeth Grossman In mid-June, while reporting from the Gulf Coast, I asked the Deepwater Horizon Incident’s Joint Information Center (JIC) who the federal on-scene coordinator had appointed to serve as site safety officer, and for a copy of the Regional Contingency Plan’s health and safety plan. Both are requirements under the National Contingency Plan…

Rohm and Haas rejects link between vinyl chloride and brain cancer, victims disagree, see you in court on Sept 20

The Center for Public Integrity’s Jim Morris reports this week on a civil lawsuit between the chemical manufacturer Rohm and Haas, and the family of Franklin Branham, 63, who died just a month after being diagnosed with a glioblastoma brain tumor. The Branham family is the first of 31 victims who lived in McCullom Lake,…

OSHA chief puts grain operators on notice, but worker deaths in grain continue

Following the suffocation death of Wyatt Whitebread, 14 and Alex Pacas, 19, in Haasbach, Inc.’s grain elevator in Mount Carroll, Illinois, OSHA asst. secretary David Michaels sent a personal letter to more than 3,300 grain storage operators. He sternly reminded them of their legal duty under OSHA’s safety standards related to grain handling, including prohibitions…

by Elizabeth Grossman On September 9th, OSHA announced the award of its 2010 Susan Harwood Capacity Building Grants. The grants will support training in industries that range from meatpacking and agricultural work to beauty salons, supermarkets, and construction – in both remote rural and urban environments. Almost all programs are designed to reach workers in…

The World Health Organization has declared that “tobacco taxes are the most effective way to reduce tobacco use, especially among young people and the poor,” but Slate’s James Ledbetter points out that in the US, there’s a portion of the smoking population that keeps on paying them: Over the last decade or so, several states…

Occupational Health News Roundup

Another oil platform caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico, but this time the crew – 13 workers – was able to escape, and no injuries were reported. No oil spill was detected, either. The Mariner Energy platform was involved in both oil and natural gas production. A Washington Post article on the fire notes…

EPA accuses chromium industry of withholding lung cancer study

EPA filed a complaint under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) against the world’s largest producer of chromium chemicals for failing to inform the agency of findings from an epidemiological study showing a “substantial risk” of injury to health among workers exposed to hexavalent chromium (CrVI). The September 2, 2010 notice alleges that Elementis Chromium…

OSHA puts employers on notice about “inherently dangerous” gas blows

In early August OSHA proposed citations and penalties to 17 employers involved in the explosion at the Kleen Energy plant that killed six workers. (See previous post here.) The deadly blast was caused by ignition of natural gas being used to clean out debris from pipes, a process called a “gas blow.” OSHA Assistant Secretary…