All posts by Kit Case

WA Farm Worker was Severely Burned When a Drum Exploded

The Washington Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program* has published a new Injury Narrative. The new narrative describes an incident where a farm worker was severely burned when a drum exploded. 

For your convenience, this narrative is also available as a Slideshow intended to be used as a group discussion and training tool.

These are one-page reports that summarize work-related injury incidents and list some requirements and recommendations that might have prevented the incident from occurring. We are focusing on theagriculture industry. These narratives provide preliminary information about the incident to the interested community, similar to OSHA’s Fatal Facts and MSHA’s Fatalgrams. We hope that they are used for formal or informal educational opportunities to help prevent similar incidents.

*The FACE Program is partially funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH grant# 5 U60 OH008487-11) and the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) Program at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. The contents of the Fatality Narratives are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NIOSH.

 

Photo by 10b travelling / Carsten ten Brink on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Multiple Asbestos Violations Result in Nearly $800,000 in Fines

Improper and unsafe handling of asbestos at a Seattle area home-flipping site put workers and neighbors at risk, and has left two business owners and their companies facing numerous citations and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines from the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

James Thorpe, Northlake Capital & Development, 3917 Densmore LLC, and Chris Walters have each been cited for 11 willful and serious violations. In total, the fines for the four separate investigations add up to $789,200.

“These two men endangered their workers and people who live nearby this project, including children,” said Anne Soiza, L&I’s assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “On top of that, they tried to avoid responsibility by creating a legal web of confusion over who was responsible. I hope this sends a strong message that we take worker safety and public health very seriously.”

L&I opened the inspection following a complaint from an alert neighbor living near the residential renovation project on Densmore Road in Lynnwood. Several workers were improperly removing exterior asbestos tiles from the home over a weekend. When a neighbor confronted Chris Walters, the man who said he was the homeowner, Walters promised to remove the asbestos correctly. However, two neighbors took videos that showed the workers committing several violations.

An extensive investigation by L&I revealed that Walters was actually part of a complex corporate partnership created to renovate and flip the residence.

The home was initially purchased by Seattle company Northlake Capital & Development, owned by James Thorpe. Northlake is a real property company that primarily focuses on house flipping. After the purchase, Thorpe created 3917 Densmore LLC and established Walters, a Northlake employee, as the sole member of the new corporation, claiming that Walters was the homeowner, and that he intended to live in the home.

During parts of the investigation Walters and Thorpe shifted responsibility from LLC to LLC and from person to person. Eventually, L&I cited both men and the companies they oversee for the same violations. The fines vary, primarily due to the number of workers each entity was responsible for. Thorpe and Northlake each received $214,100 in fines and Walters and 3917 Densmore each receive $180,500.

The violations included using uncertified workers to remove asbestos; not using a certified asbestos supervisor; and not obtaining an asbestos good faith survey prior to beginning work. They were also cited for not using water and not keeping the shingles intact during removal (the workers were breaking the tiles with hammers); for the lack of proper personal protective equipment for workers; not monitoring the air during removal; and for not having a written accident prevention program.

Asbestos is extremely hazardous and can cause potentially fatal diseases like asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Only a certified abatement contractor that follows the specific asbestos related safety and health rules may remove and dispose of asbestos-containing building materials.

An employer has 15 business days from the time a citation is received to appeal, and each of these citations is currently under appeal.

Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.

For a copy of the citations, please contact Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.

Kit Case, Causey Wright's Paralegal & Media Manager

Chase for Talent Pushes Tech Giants Far Beyond West Coast

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

The current Apple campus in Austin, Tex. The company is planning a new 133-acre campus there that will initially have 5,000 workers. Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — This generation’s biggest technology companies — including Apple, Amazon and Google — have long been tied to their hometowns. Now these giants are increasingly outgrowing their West Coast roots.

Driven by a limited pool of skilled workers and the ballooning cost of living in their home bases of Silicon Valley and Seattle, as well as President Trump’s shifting immigration policies, the companies are aggressively taking their talent hunt across the United States and elsewhere. And they are coalescing particularly around a handful of urban areas that are already winners in the new knowledge-based economy, including New York City, Washington, Boston and Austin, Tex.

This eastward expansion accelerated on Thursday when Apple said it would build a $1 billion campus in Austin, expanding its presence there to over 11,000 workers and becoming the area’s largest private employer. The decision followed Amazon’s highly publicized selection of Queens and Arlington, Va., last month for new offices that would house at least 50,000 employees. Google, too, is shopping for more real estate in New York that could enable it to more than double its work force of 7,000 in the city.

“They’re expanding out,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at…

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Trucking Tips – A Kit to Fit a Freezin’ Season

Information provided by the Keep Trucking Safe program. TIRES is a project of the Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention (SHARP) program of the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. TIRES is supported in part by CDC/NIOSH grant# U60 OH008487. For more information and free training resources visit KeepTruckingSafe.org

Fog, ice, wind, rain, and snow make winter driving hazardous and slow. But with careful preparation you can keep safe and warm in any situation. To avoid the weather’s frosty grip, pack a survival kit for your trip. Pack a kit with items in the following list:

  • Warm socks, hat, and gloves. Waterproof gloves cost more, but keep your hands from freezing and going numb.
  • Sleeping bag or blankets.
  • Non-perishable foods such as dried fruit, nuts, granola.
  • Extra medication. Check expiration dates.
  • Bottled water.
  • Foldable or stowable shovel.
  • Flashlights and batteries.
  • First aid kit.
  • Jumper cables.
  • Tool kit: Screwdrivers (both flat-head and Phillips) Pliers. Box knife. Small selection of wrenches. Duct tape.
  • Spare bulbs for either the marker lights or headlights.
  • Extra fuses.
  • Chains.
  • Windshield de-icer and scraper.
  • Emergency flares.
  • Charged cellphone with emergency contact numbers. If you don’t have your emergency contacts memorized, then keep a paper copy as well in case you need to borrow a phone.
  • Small section of tarp or other such material to lay on for installing chains.

 Photo by TruckPR on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave has Arrived

Washington Employment Security Department has been working hard to build the entire Paid Family and Medical Leave program from the ground up, and as of January 1st the program has officially begun!

Employers from every corner of Washington are ready for Paid Family and Medical Leave – and the work is just getting started. ESD is continuing to build the program and get the word out to Washington employers and employees about this great new program.

WA employers on why paid leave is good business

Washington employers talk about why Paid Family and Medical Leave is good for their business

 

Here are a few samples of Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave in the news:

Seattle Times: Workers start paying for Washington’s new paid-leave law next month. Here’s how it works. 

KOMO: Wash. to implement best paid family & medical leave in America in 2019

AP: Premiums for new paid family program start next week

Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (Op-Ed): Washington families will benefit from state’s paid leave  

www.paidleave.wa.gov

Washington Minimum Wage Climbs to $12 in 2019

Initiative 1433, approved by Washington voters in 2016, requires a statewide minimum wage of $11.00 in 2017, $11.50 in 2018, $12.00 in 2019, and $13.50 in 2020. The minimum wage in Washington will increase to $12 per hour starting Jan. 1, 2019, for workers age 16 and older.

The cities of SeaTac, Seattle, and Tacoma have their own minimum wage rates. SeaTac’s minimum wage rate is $16.09 per hour in 2019. In Seattle, small employers (with 500 or fewer employees) must pay at least $15.00 per hour. The Tacoma minimum wage is $12.35.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, Washington was one of 19 states raising the minimum wages on January 1, meaning wage increases for more than 5 million Americans. An estimated 337,100 workers in Washington got a raise. Thanks to all the workers in Seatac, Seattle, Tacoma and across the state who fought for and won these raises to the minimum wage!

For more information on the minimum wage or your other rights on the job, check out www.fairworkcenter.org.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) enforces the state’s wage-and-hour laws, which includes the minimum wage. The state minimum wage applies to most jobs, including those in agriculture.

Under state law, tips do not count toward a worker’s minimum wage. Also, employers can pay workers under 16 years old 85 percent of the minimum wage. For 2019, that comes out to $10.20 per hour.

When Initiative 1433 passed in the fall of 2016, it set a schedule for Washington’s minimum wage over a four-year period. As a result, in 2020 the state minimum wage will climb to $13.50. For the following year, L&I will calculate the minimum wage by using a formula tied to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.

Complete information about the minimum wage is available on L&I’s website (Lni.wa.gov), including details about handling overtime, rest breaks and meals. There’s also a minimum wage announcement online that employers can print off and post.

L&I investigates all wage-payment complaints. More information about wage and hour laws and workplace rights is available on L&I’s webpage. Employers and workers may also call 360-902-5316 or 1-866-219-7321.

Photo by Urban Isthmus on Visualhunt.com / CC BY

Kit Case, Causey Wright's Paralegal & Media Manager

What is talc, and why is asbestos relevant?

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

Some products currently containing talc among their listed ingredients. Jens Mortensen for The New York Times

Nearly 12,000 women have sued Johnson & Johnson, with most claiming the talc in its well-known product Johnson’s Baby Powder caused their ovarian cancer. They now have a new potential legal front.

In a recent case, a group of plaintiffs argued that the talc was contaminated with asbestos, a carcinogen considered unsafe at any level of exposure. A jury agreed with them, and awarded them $4.69 billion in damages in July.

The carcinogen has been a concern inside the company for decades. In hundreds of pages of memos reviewed by The New York Times, executives worried about a potential government ban of talc, the safety of the product and a public backlash over Johnson’s Baby Powder, a brand built on a reputation for trustworthiness and health.

What is talc, and why is asbestos relevant?

Talc is a mineral in clay mined from underground deposits. It’s the softest mineral known to man and that makes it useful in a wide range of consumer and industrial products.

Asbestos is also found underground, and veins of it can often be found in talc deposits, leading to a risk of cross-contamination, geologists say.

Are any other consumer products made with talc?

Talc is used in many cosmetics: lipstick, mascara, face powder, blush, eye shadow, foundation and even children’s makeup. In the list of ingredients, it can be listed as talc, talcum or talcum…

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Kit Case, Causey Wright's Paralegal & Media Manager

How Freaked Out Should We Be by the Possibility That There Was Asbestos in Baby Powder?

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

It's a bottle of Johnson & Johnson baby powder
It’s a bottle of Johnson & Johnson baby powder

Recent blockbuster investigations from Reuters and the New York Times allege that for decades, there was asbestos lurking in bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder, that the company knew about it, and that it did not share that information with the public. It sounds terrible: A cover-up, a mineral that can cause cancer after even tiny amounts of exposure, and a contaminated product that is marketed for use on infants. And it is terrible. But none of the reports answered the fundamental question for consumers: If you’ve used Johnson & Johnson baby powder on yourself or your children, just how scared should you be?

Over the last six days, I talked to two experts in the fields of environmental and occupational health, and consulted a slew of papers and fact sheets from independent sources. And while they all agree that the news reports are concerning, the topline takeaway is that individual consumers don’t have to worry as much as the terrifying word salad of “asbestos baby powder” would suggest.

Let’s back up. The Reuters investigation is pegged to the story of Darlene Coker, who sued Johnson & Johnson in 1997, and alleged that the company’s baby powder had given her a rare form of cancer, mesothelioma, which is closely linked to asbestos. Coker lost her case due to a lack of evidence to support the claim that the company’s baby powder contained any amount of the…

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Washington One of the Top States for Workplace Safety

Washington remains one of the best states for workplace safety and health according to a report from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. For 2017 our state had the ninth lowest fatal occupational injury rate in the nation.

According to the report, there were 84 workplace deaths in Washington in 2017, which comes out to 2.5 deaths per every 100,000 fulltime workers. That’s a slight increase from 2016 when Washington’s rate was 2.4 per 100,000.

“Every workplace death is tragic. Employers, workers and the state must continue to work together and learn from each serious injury and death, so we can continue to improve Washington’s workplace safety culture,” said Anne Soiza, L&I Assistant Director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “This report shows we’re on the right track, but there’s always more to do to keep workers safe and healthy. We all need to continue our focus on preventing falls and the disturbing rise of workplace violence.”

As part of the state’s focus on prevention L&I partners with industry and labor on campaigns, provides free onsite consultations to public and private employers to help them find and fix workplace safety and health hazards. The agency also works closely with high-risk industries to alert them to dangerous work situations and activities so they can prevent them.

Washington’s workplace fatality rate is 30 percent below the national average. The numbers vary from year to year, but Washington consistently demonstrates one of the lowest fatal occupational injury rates in the country.

Construction is always one of the most dangerous occupations here and nationally. Washington had 15 construction fatalities in 2017, one more than in 2016. That’s a rate of 6.2 per 100,000 full-time workers; six other states had a lower rate.

Other industrial sectors that rank high on the national list for dangerous workplaces include the category of farming, fishing and forestry with a rate of 20.9 fatal injuries per 100,000, and transportation with a rate of 15.9. Each of these rates is meaningfully higher than the respective rates in Washington of 11.7 and 5.8 per 100,000 full time workers.

The bureau’s report contains several charts and graphs that break down the data by type of incident, occupation, industry, state, etc. For a more detailed look follow the links on the bureau’s news release.

 

Photo by TranBC on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND