Category Archives: Uncategorized

After her husband’s death, widow warns burn pits used in Iraq may cause deadly cancer

Today’s post was shared by Jon L Gelman and comes from www.kshb.com

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The widow of a Raytown veteran killed by a rare and aggressive cancer says she’s convinced her husband’s illness was brought on by his exposure to toxic fumes from “burn pits” during his service in Iraq.

Now she’s warning other veterans to speak to their doctors about risks associated with the pits.

Sgt. Matthew Gonzales received a diagnosis of Esthesioneuroblastoma four years after returning from Tikrit, where he worked regularly near a burn pit used to dispose of medical waste by burning it with jet fuel in a large open pit.

“One thing that caught me off guard is that they didn’t have any protective gear covering themselves,” his widow, Elizabeth, said of a video her husband showed her of the pit. “I asked about that, and he felt confident saying, ‘The government wouldn’t put us in any harm’s way. They’re going to protect us.’”

After an oral surgeon discovered the mass that turned out to be the start of her husband’s cancer, Elizabeth Gonzales now says that’s exactly what the government did.  

“The surgeon said that exposure to different toxicities like sands and paints and things like that would cause a person to get this type of cancer,” Gonzales told 41 Action News. “I started researching burn pits and found out that there’s thousands of soldiers and contractors who are reporting different medical issues since their exposure to burn pits.”

And…

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Underpaid, overworked and far to go: the Obama administration’s conscience for women at work

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from www.theguardian.com

Woman worker

Within the US Department of Labor, there is a little-known bureau: the Women’s bureau.

Since 1920, the bureau has focused on tracking and supporting the growth of women in the workforce.

Many things have changed over the past 90-plus years. In 1920, women accounted for just 21% of working Americans. By 2012, that number had more than doubled, with women making up 47% of American workers. More than 75% of single mothers are the sole breadwinners in their families.

Even as things have changed, many things have stayed the same. The wage gap still persists – with women earning about 78 cents for every dollar that men earn. About 6% of female workers earn minimum wage, compared to just 3% of men.

Until that changes, the bureau won’t rest. There is still a lot of work to do, says Latifa Lyles, the director of the bureau.

“While we are the only federal agency that focuses on women in the workforce and women’s economic security issues, we are part of a larger coalition in the Obama administration who are making sure that we are addressing women’s issues in a coordinated way and improving programs and outcomes with other federal agencies,” says Lyles.

One of the partners working closely with the bureau is the White House Council on Women and Girls. This past year, President Obama and the bureau convened a summit on working families that brought together low-wage workers, business owners and policymakers to discuss the issues that affect working…

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Pain Really Is All In Your Head And Emotion Controls Intensity

Today’s post was shared by Workers Comp Brief and comes from www.npr.org

Image of brain within a skullImage of brain within a skull
Image of brain within a skull

When you whack yourself with a hammer, it feels like the pain is in your thumb. But really it’s in your brain.

That’s because our perception of pain is shaped by brain circuits that are constantly filtering the information coming from our sensory nerves, says David Linden, a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University and author of the new book Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind.

"There is a completely separate system for the emotional aspect of pain — the part that makes us go, ‘Ow! This is terrible.’ "

- David Linden, neuroscientist, Johns Hopkins University

"The brain can say, ‘Hey that’s interesting. Turn up the volume on this pain information that’s coming in,’ " Linden says. "Or it can say, ‘Oh no — let’s turn down the volume on that and pay less attention to it.’ "

This ability to modulate pain explains the experiences of people like Dwayne Turner, an Army combat medic in Iraq who received the Silver Star for valor.

In 2003, Turner was unloading supplies when his unit came under attack. He was wounded by a grenade. "He took shrapnel in his leg, in his side — and he didn’t even notice that he had been hit," Linden says.

Despite his injuries, Turner began giving first aid and pulled other soldiers to safety. As he worked, he was shot twice — one bullet breaking a bone in his arm. Yet Turner would say later that he felt almost no pain.

"Soldiers in the heat of…

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Cracking Down on Pay Schemes that Cheat Workers out of Millions in Overtime Pay

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from blog.dol.gov

johnsmith

As more and more companies begin outsourcing key business functions and enlisting the help of staffing agencies to provide workers, a fissure forms in the workplace, disrupting traditional employment relationships. Without a direct employee-employer relationship, these companies oftentimes mistakenly relinquish employer responsibilities which can have an adverse impact on workers who might experience a loss of benefits, inadequate health and safety protections, and sometimes lower pay.

The Wage and Hour Division promotes compliance with a number of laws which impact almost every industry in the United States. One way to reach the 7.3 million establishments and 135 million employees covered by WHD laws in the U.S. is through planned initiatives like the one launched 2 years ago in the temporary staffing industry by the division’s New Orleans District Office. Recognizing the valuable and the important role that these employers play in today’s economy, the Wage and Hour Divisions’ Southwest and Southeast Regions began directed investigations to address concerns about the industry practice of misclassifying a portion of worker’s earnings as per diem payments.

Per Diem Pay Schemes

The investigations under the temporary staffing initiative uncovered evasive per diem schemes through which companies misclassified a portion of workers’ earnings as per diem payments. Per diem payments are compensation for living expenses incurred on behalf of the employer,…

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WSDOT files $17M lawsuit in Skagit River Bridge collision

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.king5.com

I-5 bridge collapse over Skagit River
I-5 bridge collapse over Skagit River

(Photo: KING)

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Transportation has filed a $17 million lawsuit to recover costs related to the 2013 Skagit River bridge collapse.

The lawsuit names four parties as responsible: the truck driver whose oversized truck hit the bridge; the driver’s employer; the pilot car driver; and the owner of the metal shed being transported.

In November, the Washington State Patrol issued a report on its final findings from the collapse, saying that the driver hit 11 arced sway braces on the bridge during the accident that sent two cars into the river.

The Washington State Patrol Major Accident Investigative Team cited the truck driver for negligent driving, stating the bridge collapse resulted from a series of miscalculations, mistakes and errors by the truck driver and his employer, including:

• The truck driver did not know the accurate height of his oversized load, and received a permit for a load two inches lower than the one he carried.

• The truck driver failed to research the route to ensure it could accommodate his over-height load. Had he taken the advanced safety steps required of all drivers who haul oversized loads, he would have known the left southbound lane of the bridge provided adequate vertical clearance for the load.

• The pilot-car driver was on the phone as she crossed the bridge and did not notify the truck driver of the height clearance pole striking the bridge.

• The…

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The Record: Toxic legacy remains

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from www.northjersey.com

Print

ONE OF government’s most basic responsibilities is protecting public health. That’s not happening in Ringwood with a notorious old dump that is now a Superfund site.

Rather than remove more than 100,000 tons of toxic waste dumped about 40 years ago by the Ford Motor Co., the borough wants to build a recycling center on top of it. That’s bad enough.

What’s even worse is that the state Department of Environmental Protection is going along with the plan, according to a letter the agency sent recently to an attorney representing the borough. Nearby residents should be outraged that borough and state officials are seemingly so unconcerned about a real risk to public health.

The dumping site, which is off Peters Mine Road and near where many members of the Ramapough Lenape Nation live, has had a particularly sordid history.

Ford, which once had a plant in nearby Mahwah, began disposing paint sludge in the wooded terrain in the late 1960s, when such dumping was not uncommon. The federal Environmental Protection Agency oversaw a cleanup of the site in the early 1990s and, in 1994, proclaimed the area free of contaminants. That was not true. After a series by The Record in 2005 found that huge amounts of waste were still in the ground, properly cleaning up the area was again an issue.

The borough’s plan is to cover the contaminated area with a 2-foot layer of soil and synthetic material. A recycling center would then be constructed on top. It is not unusual for old dumps, or…

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Every 2.5 minutes, a new solar system is installed in the United States!

Today’s post was shared by TreeHugger.com and comes from www.treehugger.com

Solar panels installation on roof photo

Last year, a new solar system was installed every 2.5 minutes on average in the US, with over 200,000 systems being connected to the grid. This compares favorably to 2013, when a solar system was installed every 3.7 minutes on average, and that’s 4x more than in 2011 when only around 50,000 systems were installed (which was a record at the time). If we go back a bit further in time to 2001, new solar systems were only installed every 9-and-a-half hours on average. Talk about progress!

The trend is clear:

© GTM

So it’s not surprising that the solar industry is also creating jobs about 20x faster than U.S. businesses.

Australia is also impressive on the solar front. Despite having a much smaller population than the U.S. (23 million vs. 316 million), the country still installed a solar system every 2.8 minutes, or 185,890 solar systems in 2014.

In fact, Australians like solar so much that there’s already a solar system on 1-in-5 households (1.2 million solar systems installed across Australia since 2001) and 9 out of 10 Australian households are considering switching to solar power!

Kudos, Australians!

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ColumbiaCedar2.jpg

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 www.motherjones.com

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 www.techtimes.com

Quell

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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