Occupational Health News Roundup

At the Sacramento Bee, Ryan Lillis and Jose Luis Villegas report on the effects that Trump’s immigration crackdown is having on California farms, writing that fear of deportation is spreading throughout the state’s farming communities. While many farmworkers believe immigration raids are inevitable, farm operators, many who voted for Trump, hope the president will bring more water to the region and keep immigration officials off their fields. Lillis and Villegas write:

Fear is everywhere. The night before, the local school board became one of the first in California to declare its campuses a “safe haven” for students and families, meaning it won’t ask about students’ immigration status or allow federal immigration authorities onto school property.

That anxiety stretches throughout the southern San Joaquin Valley, among the most fertile and productive agricultural regions on Earth. As the spring picking season approaches, farmworkers are convinced the fields will be raided by federal agents intent on rounding up undocumented immigrants and shipping them back to Mexico or Central America. With many fearing the authorities will also set up checkpoints on the highways, the United Farm Workers union said the labor flow has already been cut in half at some farms.

“If they don’t need us here to work the fields, who’s going to do the work?” said a 54-year-old farmworker named Metorio, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico and a father of three. The Sacramento Bee is only using his first name because he fears deportation.

“The workers who do this work are the Mexicans, the Latinos,” he said. “I hope President Trump will see how much the farmers need us.”

To read the full article, visit the Sacramento Bee.

In other news:

Toronto Star: Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on the “epidemic of violence” that Ontario’s nurses and other health care workers face on the job – experiences that Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, recently wrote about in a letter to Ontario’s minister of labor. In that letter, Hurley said the threat of violence that health care workers face goes “unacknowledged, dismissed or tolerated by administrators and regulators.” Within the Canadian province, health care workers experience the second-highest number of reported injuries, ahead of industries such as construction, mining and manufacturing. Mojtehedzadeh writes: “Dianne Paulin, a registered practical nurse from North Bay with 25 years of job experience, says she would have been spared her life-changing injures if the psychiatric ward she worked on had implemented common sense policies like bolting down furniture. Instead, she was assaulted by a patient who pinned her against his room door with a chair and repeatedly punched her, leaving her with a bulging neck disc, post-traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks.”

Charleston Gazette-Mail: Ken Ward Jr. reports that the West Virginia Senate is now considering an industry-backed bill that would dismantle the state’s miner safety laws. Among the changes proposed: state safety inspectors wouldn’t inspect mines anymore, they would conduct “compliance visits and education”; violators of health and safety standards wouldn’t receive fines, but “compliance assistance visit notices”; and state regulators wouldn’t have the authority to write safety and health regulations, but could only focus on improving compliance assistance. Ward Jr. writes: “One thing that is clear is that the bill would maintain and encourage the use of ‘individual personal assessments,’ which target specific mine employees — rather than mine operators or coal companies — for violations, fines and, possibly, revocation of certifications or licenses needed to work in the industry.” In related news, the New York Times Editorial Board recently published an opinion arguing that Trump’s promise to resurrect coal’s “heyday” is prompting the health and safety onslaught in state legislatures.

Bloomberg BNA: Sam Pearson reports that industry groups, along with House Republicans, are pushing for an infinite delay of OSHA’s updated beryllium standard. In a letter to OSHA, Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., said the agency had made a mistake by issuing standards for construction and shipyards, as its 2015 proposed rule only applied to general industry. Pearson writes: “In public comments, Sammy Almashat and Emily Gardner of Public Citizen countered that the postponement was ‘simply the latest in a 16-year-long series of delays of a rule that the entire scientific community agrees is urgently necessary to save thousands of workers from the risk of needless suffering and death.’”

BuzzFeed: Cora Lewis reports that nearly 350,000 service workers nationwide plan to strike on May 1, with tens of thousands of California SEIU members joining the protest. The strike is being driven by organized labor, but an overriding goal is to use the gathering to highlight “alt-labor” groups, such as worker centers. Lewis writes: “The Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United, a food industry worker advocacy group, will also be participating in the strike, according to Saru Jayaraman, its co-director. ROC United and its network of restaurant owners and workers were instrumental in organizing the recent Day Without Immigrants protest, which shuttered hundreds of restaurants in cities across the country. America’s last major general strike was the first such Day Without Immigrants, in 2006, in which more than a million workers struck.”

Kim Krisberg is a freelance public health writer living in Austin, Texas, and has been writing about public health for 15 years.

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The interesting thing about underground mining is IMHO it could now be done with robotics and no humans underground most of the time. In particular with the new longwall methods all the equipment is automated, add some tv cameras and fiber optic cables and no human need be at least at the working face, either they can be in a safe room or back on the surface. As an example from a related industry consider that on modern oil rigs all pipe handling needed to round trip a well is done by machines, Further continious miners are currently run with about a 30 foot cable.