Occupational Health News Roundup

Celeste wrote last week about how the Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward Jr. broke the story of how a previously unpublished report sent to Congress by the Mine Safety and Health Administration two weeks before the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster warned about serious enforcement lapses, including incomplete inspections and inadequate enforcement actions.

In addition to that story, another of Ward’s Charleston Gazette articles last week highlighted another MSHA issue related to that mine disaster, which killed 29 miners at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, West Virginia:

U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration officials have not responded to public records requests for the documents and have so far refused to provide them to an independent team investigating the mine disaster at the request or former Gov. Joe Manchin.

The documents in question detail five proposed ventilation changes that Massey sought from MSHA in March 2010, but that were still awaiting federal agency action when the explosion occurred on April 5.

The records also outline more than a dozen ventilation changes that Massey proposed and MSHA denied between September 2009 and April 2010, according to a document index made public last week.

MSHA officials have not technically denied a Gazette Freedom of Information Act request for the ventilation documents, but have also not explained their reasons for not having made them public nearly a year after the disaster.

In other news:

New York Times: Three BBC correspondents report being abused and terrorized by Muammar el-Qaddafi’s security forces — and seeing many other victims of far worse torture at the military barracks where they were held.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: NIOSH is seeking healthcare workers to take an online survey, the Health and Safety Practices Survey of Healthcare Workers.

Chicago Tribune: Illinois teens Wyatt Whitebread and Alejandro Pacas were killed in an Illinois grain bin last year, two of 26 workers to die that way in 2010. OSHA has proposed a $550,000 fine for 24 violations in that case, but the facility owner is challenging OSHA’s jurisdiction because the facility is farmer-owned and has fewer than 10 employees.

The Daily Star (Bangladesh): Bangladesh’s high court decided to allow the import of toxic ships for shipbreaking on the condition that the companies involved ensure workers’ safety and environmental protection.

CTV Montreal: The Quebec labor union Confederation of National Trade Unions is poised to retract its support for the asbestos industry, citing concerns about the health of workers in countries to which Canada exports asbestos.