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Kettle Falls, WA Cedar Mill Fined More Than $150,000 for Safety Violations

Kettle Falls cedar mill fined more than $150,000 for safety violations in connection with worker injury

The Columbia Cedar mill in Kettle Falls has been fined $151,800 for safety violations after a worker was seriously hurt while trying to clear bark from a hopper.

The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) cited the employer for one willful violation and 28 serious violations of workplace safety regulations.

The willful violation involved multiple instances of employees working in close proximity to exposed and unguarded chain sprockets on chain conveyors, a hazard that can cause permanent disabling injuries. The one willful violation carries a penalty of $52,000.

L&I initiated the inspection after learning that in June 2014 an employee had suffered a serious injury and was hospitalized after becoming entangled in a rotating shaft meant to move bark in the back of a hopper. The investigation found the equipment had no guarding installed to protect employees.

Along with the willful citation, the employer was cited for several serious violations related to machine/equipment guarding, and for not ensuring “lock-out/tag-out” procedures were used to prevent machinery from starting up or moving during service or maintenance by workers.

There were several additional serious violations involving fall/overhead hazards, hand-held tools, personal protective equipment and forklift training.

The employer was also cited for failing to report the hospitalization of an injured worker. By law, all employers are required to report to L&I within eight hours any time a worker is hospitalized or dies due to work-related causes.

A willful violation can be issued when L&I has evidence of plain indifference, a substitution of judgment or an intentional disregard to a hazard or rule. A serious violation exists in a workplace if there is a substantial probability that worker death or serious physical harm could result from a hazardous condition.

The employer has 15 working days to appeal the citation, and has notified L&I that it plans on doing so. Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job.


How Companies Like Walmart Are Fighting to Keep Workplace Injuries Secret

Today’s post was shared by Mother Jones and comes from

Andrew Francis Wallace/ZUMA

Nearly four years ago, while lifting pallets of blankets during an overnight stocking shift at Walmart, Barb Gertz began to notice a dull pain in her arms. She kept on lifting and stocking, but by the time her lunch break rolled around she could no longer raise her arms. Her doctor told her she had tendinitis in her biceps, and that it was most likely caused by her job. Walmart disagreed. The retailer contested Gertz’s workplace-injury claim—and won.

If Gertz had worked in a factory, she could have bolstered her case with evidence from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s national database of manufacturing workplace injuries. But no such database exists for retail workers like Gertz. A new regulation that OSHA is scheduled to finalize this year would change that. OSHA wants to create a public database of workplace injury and illness data from all industries, not just manufacturing. This would help workers, the government, researchers, and journalists identify companies with safety problems. But the trade groups that represent some of America’s biggest chains—including Walmart, Target, and McDonald’s—are fighting back hard.

The National Retail Federation—a group that represents Walmart, McDonald’s, and The Container Store—spent $2.4 million lobbying on this measure and other issues between January and September of last year. In a letter to OSHA last March, the group complained that the rule would require…

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CES 2015: Quell Promises Pain Relief with New FDA-Approved Gadget

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from


Quell is a new gadget that promises pain relief. It attaches to a user’s calf and emits electronic signals that boost the body’s opiate production.
(Photo : Business Wire)

A new gadget revealed at CES 2015 promises to provide pain relief through technology. The device, dubbed Quell, attaches to the user’s calf and stimulates the body’s opiate production to relieve pain from various ailments.

When most people think of pain relief, they think of some sort of pill ingested internally, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, or similar over the counter product. For more serious pain, there are prescription medicines available, but they can be highly addictive, have many serious side effects, and have a large potential for abuse.

Quell promises an external source of pain relief. The unit attaches to the user’s calf, which the makers of the Quell consider a "virtual USB port," and electrodes stimulate the wearer’s body to release pain-relieving opiates. The sensory nerves it stimulates send neural pulses to the brain that trigger the release of endogenous opioids, the pain-relief response that blocks pain signals in the spine. The process is called Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation technology, also known as TENS. There are already over-the-counter TENS systems such as the one made by Icy Hot, but these are very low-powered and low-tech compared with Quell.

Quell is also much more expensive, but manufacturer NeuroMetrix, a health-care company that develops…

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Wage and Hour Division

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from

Executive Order

On February 12, 2014, President Obama signed Executive Order 13658, “Establishing a Minimum Wage for Contractors,” to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for workers on Federal construction and service contracts. The President took this executive action because boosting wages lowers turnover and increases morale, and will lead to higher productivity overall. Raising wages will improve the quality and efficiency of services provided to the government. The Executive Order directed the Department of Labor to issue regulations to implement the new Federal contractor minimum wage.

The Department published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register on June 17, 2014. The NPRM proposed standards and procedures for implementing and enforcing Executive Order 13658 and invited public comment on the proposed provisions. The Department received many comments from a variety of interested stakeholders, such as labor organizations; contractors and contractor associations; worker advocates, including advocates for individuals with disabilities; contracting agencies; small businesses; and workers.

After carefully considering all timely and relevant comments, the Department has published a final rule to implement the provisions of Executive Order 13658. The final rule issued by Secretary of Labor Tom Perez is an important milestone in raising the minimum wage for workers on Federal contracts.

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11 New Products Added to List of Goods Produced by Child labor, Forced labor

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from

A nine-year-old girl sits on a cracked floor in the suffocating heat and humidity of a five-story garment factory. She is almost finished trimming loose threads from shirt sleeves when her 11-year-old friend comes to collect the sleeves, which will be sown into shirts. As they briefly share a laugh, the supervisor smacks their heads and screams at them to get back to work. This day is not much different from any other.

Boy harvesting scallions, Mexicali, Mexico (Stolen Childhoods)
Boy harvesting scallions, Mexicali, Mexico (Stolen Childhoods)

A twelve-year-old boy walks between the long rows of vanilla orchids on a large plantation, hand-pollinating the flowers. He works in sweltering heat during school breaks, and reports to the fields each day after school, working until late at night.

Another boy kneels next to a wooden loom many times his size, reaching up to weave yarn through its threads.  When he finishes, he will eat a meager meal and go to sleep next to the loom, alongside the seven other boys who also live and work there. He is only 10 years old, but he can barely remember his parents through the fog of the drugs his employers provide to keep him docile. Four years ago, his impoverished family took an advance payment from a recruiter in exchange for his labor, and he has remained bonded to this loom ever since.

Although the details of their exploitation may differ, the stark reality of the estimated 168 million child laborers and 21 million forced laborers around the world are the same:  their lives are…

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Why Living Wages are Important for My Workers, Business & the Community

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from

Editor’s Note: The author, Molly Moon Neitzel, is the owner and CEO of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream, a company comprised of six ice cream shops in Seattle serving homemade, locally sourced ice cream.

Molly Moon's Grand Opening - University Village
Molly Moon’s Grand Opening – University Village

When I first decided to open an ice cream shop, I knew that one of my goals would be to pay all of my employees a living wage. So I wrote it into my business plan, along with a few other things that were important to me, like paying 100% of the health insurance premiums for my employees and making sure all my product and packaging was compostable. I had my share of critics; there were plenty of people who said I was crazy, and that I would never be able to make a profit.

Seven years later, my company has grown from one shop with 7 employees in 2008 to six ice cream shops, with just under 100 employees during our busiest months. What I’ve learned is that taking care of my employees and paying a living wage is absolutely the right thing to do, and it’s also good business strategy.

Having a healthy, robust group of employees has a great impact on our community, and goes beyond just writing paychecks. It helps us recruit top talent, and it makes for a more loyal workforce and lower turnover which reduces training costs. Incorporating values into business strategy can also help your marketing plans. I know that, as a customer, I choose to spend money with businesses that share my values and I think my…

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Seattle church leaders back in court for lawsuit against pot shop

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from

Uncle Ike's Pot Shop
Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop

Lawyers for a Seattle church suing to shut down a pot store next door will be back in court on Friday.

The Mount Calvary Church in the Central District is resisting the location of Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop.

The church’s lawsuit claims the pot shop lied about how close it would be to a park and a teen recreation center.

The church says it’s trying to keep marijuana away from children.

The lawsuit says Uncle Ike’s lied on the business application about not being near places where youngsters hang out.

The church also said the City of Seattle and State Liquor Control Board never gave them proper notice to fight the pot shop’s application.

KIRO 7 tried to get a comment from the owner of Uncle Ike’s on the alleged lie on their application and to talk about the lawsuit, but the owner did not want to comment.

 The church said it will have a large group at the downtown courthouse Friday morning.

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Sailors Can Sue Tepco in U.S. Over Radiation, Judge Says

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from

U.S. Navy personnel who were exposed to radiation from Japan’s wrecked Fukushima plant during earthquake and tsunami relief efforts in 2011 can sue the power station’s operator in California, a court ruled.

U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino in San Diego denied the request by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) to dismiss the class-action lawsuit based on jurisdictional issues and have it heard in Japan instead.

“Although Japan is an adequate alternative forum, the balance of the private and public interest factors suggest that it would be more convenient for the parties to litigate in a U.S. court,” Sammartino wrote in her Oct. 28 ruling.

The sailors and their families claimed the company known as Tepco, Japan’s biggest power utility, was negligent in the design and operation of the Fukushima plant, according to their amended complaint filed in February. They’re seeking to create a fund exceeding $1 billion to monitor their health and pay for medical expenses, on top of unspecified damages.

Tepco had argued the U.S. military had contributed to the plaintiffs’ harm, limiting the utility’s liability.

Tepco spokesman Satoshi Togawa declined to comment on the lawsuit.

In Japan, an inquest committee has recommended that local prosecutors indict former Tepco chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and two executives over negligence claims leading to the disaster. Prosecutors in Tokyo said this month they would decide on charges by Feb. 2.


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Working Together to Strengthen the Economy

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from

October was another solid month of job growth, as our economy added 214,000 jobs and continued its strong, steady recovery. It was the ninth month in a row with greater than 200,000 new jobs (after revisions), and private employers have now created 10.6 million new jobs over the last 56 months. The unemployment rate fell to 5.8 percent, compared to 7.2 percent a year ago.

Thanks to the ingenuity and innovation of both our workers and our businesses, as well as strong leadership by President Obama, we have climbed out of the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. GDP is now significantly higher than it was before the recession. Consumer confidence is at its highest level since 2007. Rising home values are creating greater economic security for millions of people. For the first time in 20 years, the United States produces more oil than it imports. More people have access to affordable health care, and more students are graduating from high school.

But clearly there is still unease in American households from coast to coast – and it comes from a very real place. There is still widespread economic inequality. Wages haven’t kept pace with productivity. We are in the middle of the strongest run of private-sector job growth in 16 years, but we need the same broadly-shared prosperity that we had in the late 1990s. Today’s rising tide is only lifting some boats, while too many others are struggling to stay above water. We have to do more.

On Tuesday, the American…

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Silver Buildings: New Buildings for Older People

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from

Today’s post is shared from

SAN FRANCISCO — I HEARD about the new building for months before I saw it. Part of a leading medical center, its green architecture and design were getting a lot of attention, as was its integration of top-notch modern medicine with health and wellness spaces inspired by cultures from around the world. My father’s doctor had moved there, and driving to his appointment we looked forward to experiencing the cutting-edge new building firsthand.

Outside, I unloaded the walker and led my 82-year-old father through the sliding glass doors. Inside, there was a single bench made of recycled materials. I noticed it didn’t have the arm supports that a frail elderly person requires to safely sit down and get back up. It was a long trek to the right clinic and I was double-parked outside. Helping my father onto the bench, I said, “Wait here,” and hoped he would remember to do so long enough for me to park and return.

He nodded. We were used to this. It happened almost everywhere we went: at restaurants, the bank, the airport, department stores. Many of these places — our historic city hall, with its wide steps and renovated dome, the futuristic movie theater and the new clinic — were gorgeous.

The problem was that not one of them was set up to facilitate access by someone like my father.

That may have been intentional. A few years earlier, I’d heard about a new community center where the older…

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