Occupational Health News Roundup

Over the course of three days, three miners were killed on the job in West Virginia, Illinois, and Wyoming. Ken Ward Jr. describes their deaths in the Charleston Gazette:

In the recent incidents, 62-year-old Roger R. King of Moundsville was killed Friday when he was hit in the head by part of a chain being used during a longwall machine move at CONSOL Energy’s McElroy Mine in Marshall County.

On Saturday, a miner at Alliance Coal’s Pattiki Mine in White County, Ill., was killed when an underground cart rolled over and he was pinned underneath it. Local media identified the miner as Robert Smith, 47, of Norris City, Ill.

And on Sunday, a third miner was killed when his bulldozer went over a 150-foot highwall at MidAmerican Energy’s Bridger Mine in Sweetwater County, Wyo. SNL Financial News identified that miner as Chris Stassinos, who had worked at the operation for two years.

Ward notes that during the federal government shutdown, the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s contingency plan called for furloughing 1,400 of its 2,355 employees and that the agency is conducting only “targeted inspections” of “high-hazard” mines.

In a follow-up article, Ward quotes United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts, who warned “the government’s watchdog isn’t watching,” and Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia), who expressed “deep frustration about the misguided government shutdown that has furloughed MSHA inspectors and prevented them from conducting the regular inspections that make sure coal companies are operating their mines as safely as possible.”

In other news:

EHS Today and National Council on Occupational Safety and Health: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined the parent company of the West Fertilizer Company $118,300 for 24 violations. The explosion and fire at the Texas plant killed 15 workers. National COSH notes that the government shutdown forced the US Chemical Safety Board to halt its investigation of the disaster, and urges Congress to give the CSB enforcement ability.

Dallas Morning News: Interviews with nearly a dozen firefighters and medical personnel about the fertilizer-plant explosion and fire in West, Texas reveal “the risks they faced and the horrors they experienced that night.”

Huffington Post: Many adults are exposed to dangerous levels of lead on the job, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s exposure limit hasn’t been tightened even as research has shown health risks from lower levels.

Kennebec Journal (Maine): Research shows firefighters’ exposure to toxic chemicals increases their cancer risk. A 15-year study following Maine firefighters will analyze blood levels of various chemicals and aim to identify those that affect cancer development.

Reuters: A fire in a garment factory in Gazipur, Bangladesh, killed nine workers and injured 50.

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