Elizabeth Grossman

Twelve weeks into 2014, six cell tower workers have died on the job – incidents that caused a total of 7 fatalities. OSHA has called the industry’s safety record “unacceptable” and announced increased focus on tower work safety. But this history of catastrophic and fatal incidents goes back nearly 20 years. What’s needed to effect change?

While the Senate is pressing the EPA to prevent future chemical disasters, legislation has been introduced in Congress that would, if enacted, make it harder for the public to obtain information about chemical hazards, either in industrial storage tanks or consumer products. While state and local governments – and many manufacturers – are responding to growing public is demand for safer chemicals and more information about chemicals used in products – industry trade associations are promoting legislation that appears to counter that progress.

“For us it’s personal,” said Jeannie Economos, Farmworker Association of Florida Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator. “It’s a daily issue for us. Every day with a weaker protection standard is another day a worker is exposed to pesticides,” she said. On February 20th the EPA proposed revisions to its Worker Protection Standard for agricultural pesticides. Farm worker advocates are welcoming the proposal – the first update since 1992 – but see both improvements and what some are calling “steps backward.”

More than a month after the Freedom Industries chemical spill in West Virginia, it remains unclear if Charleston’s water is truly safe to drink and what the health consequences of exposure to these chemicals may be. Legislation has been introduced that calls for more inspections, better tank construction, overflow containment and emergency response. But why not go beyond and also call for safer chemistry?

The city of Anacortes – population about 16,000 – sits on shores of Fidalgo Island, the eastern-most island in the San Juan archipelago, the string of islands clustered off the northwest coast of Washington State. Located at the western end of Skagit County, known regionally for its agriculture, Anacortes’ petrochemical plants – Tesoro and Shell…

“Millions of Americans use antibacterial hand soap and body wash products. Although consumers generally view these products as effective tools to help prevent the spread of germs, there is currently no evidence that they are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water,” wrote the US Food and Drug Administration…

In 2012, a Frontline and Pro Publica investigation of the cell (or wireless) tower industry found that between 2003 and 2010 the average fatality rate for the US tower industry was more than 10 times greater than that of the construction industry. A January 6, 2014 story by KUOW reporter John Ryan about the death…

“Too often nothing happens,” said John Podesta, Center for American Progress chair and founder, introducing the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Majority Committee report released on December 11th that details federal contractors’ repeat and serious occupational safety and wage violations. “Too often the government renews agreements with companies that have a long track record…

Walmart says its wages are at the high end, but it’s hard to get by on even $12 per hour. After deducting housing, food, and transportation costs from a $12-per-hour worker’s paycheck, there’s little if anything left for other basic expenses, let alone saving for the future.

As Americans prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday and the White House gets ready for President Obama to pardon the National Thanksgiving Turkey in a Rose Garden ceremony on Wednesday November 27 that will “reflect upon the time-honored traditions of Thanksgiving,” let us take a moment to reflect upon the welfare of the men and women…