Occupational Health News Roundup

Last week, warehouse workers from California’s Inland Empire concluded a six-day, 50-mile march from Ontario, CA to Los Angeles with a rally at the LA City Hall. The workers are employed by NFI and Warestaff, which are contractors for Walmart.  The Huffington Post’s Kathleen Miles reports:

“The march, walking in the heat, was very easy compared to working in the warehouse,” Raymond Castillo, a 23-year-old warehouse worker who marched with the group, told The Huffington Post.

Castillo is one of about 30 warehouse workers who walked out of the large warehousewhere they were employed in Mira Loma, Calif., last week, even though their jobs are not protected by a union. On Thursday, he and about 50 other warehouse workers began a six-day pilgrimage to draw attention to working conditions that they said they can no longer tolerate.

On Monday, the workers delivered a letter, with more than 37,000 signatures, to the Walmart office in downtown LA, Elizabeth Brennan, a spokeswoman for Warehouse Workers United, told HuffPost. The letter says that workers are forced to work in 120-degree heat without a fan, that the heat and pollutants make the workers vomit and get bloody noses, and that workers are made to work without clean water or regular breaks and with faulty, dangerous equipment.

Ashley Bailey of KPCC, Southern California Public Radio, reports that California Labor Secretary Marty Morgenstern appeared at the City Hall rally to tell workers they had the support of Governor Jerry Brown. The governor is expected to sign a bill, AB 1855, that would extend additional protections to warehouse workers employed by subcontractors. Warehouse Workers United has more information on the bill and the workers’ pilgrimage.

In other news:

PRI’s The World: A reported 15% of the population of Sri Lanka’s North Central Province suffers from chronic kidney disease. Many of the victims are farmers who don’t have the usual risk factors of diabetes or high blood pressure, but who may have had damagine continuous exposure to cadmium and arsenic, which are found in some fertilizers and pesticides, respectively. (A similarly puzzling spike in kidney disease has been reported among Central American sugarcane workers.)

New York Times: The National Football League has not mandated that players wear the helmet models with the best scores for protecting against concussions, nor does it formally oversee team operations regarding helmets.

Washington Post: In 2008, Washington, DC passed a law requiring most workplaces to provide employees with paid sick leave — but it’s hard to know whether employers are complying becuase the annual assessments required by the law haven’t happened.

BBC: A blast at Pemex gas plant in northern Mexico has killed 30 workers left 25 hospitalized.

For further reading, the journal New Solutions‘ Special Issue on Worker Health and Safety Training is available on an open-source basis thanks to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.