Tag Archives: worker safety

12th Annual Agriculture Safety Day

The Governor’s Industrial Safety & Health Advisory Board will host the 12th Annual Agriculture Safety Day at the Wenatchee Convention Center in Wenatchee, WA on  February 24, 2016. Each year this training event just gets bigger and better!

The University of WA, Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences, School of Public Health will be presenting a four hour course on Process Safety Management: Ammonia

New this year – we will be offering Dairy/Livestock classes led by Dr. David Douphrate, University of  Texas, School of Public Health and Dr. Robert Hagevoort, New Mexico State University, State Dairy Extension Specialist.

REGISTER ONLINE NOW!

 

Why We’re Still Killing Workers in the USA

The AFL–CIO’s annual report on job fatalities is out, and provides some interesting fodder for thought.

It’s no surprise that North Dakota – – with its “wild West” environment for oil and gas extraction on the Bakken Shale was the most dangerous place – – with 17.7 deaths per 100,000 workers versus the national average of 3.4.

Nationally, 4600 workers died on the job in 2012. While that number has fallen since safety laws were implemented in the 1970s, the decline has flat-lined over the most recent decade. It was 4.2 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2006, now still at 3.4 in 2012.

The AFL–CIO report contains maps that reflect part of the reason for the stall-out: the vast majority of the states with the highest fatality rates contain the 8 million workers in states with no federally approved OSHA safety and health plan. The report graphically portrays another salient fact: the number of federal OSHA inspectors per 1 million workers has fallen from a high of 15 in 1980 to 6.9 in 2013.  OSHA has been so underfunded over recent years that it would take an average of 139 years for available OSHA inspectors to visit each workplace in their jurisdiction just once. (In some states that number is even more staggering – – 521 years for South Dakota.)

The AFL-CIO report reflects some other interesting facts concerning the demographics of workplace fatalities – – not surprisingly, being foreign-born or Latino puts a worker at a higher risk of fatality, and homicide was the number one cause of death for women in the workplace in 2012.

But, getting back to the “oil patch” in North Dakota, we see other disturbing trends in the culture of workplace injury that accompany the decreasing application of safety regulation. With job growth tripling in North Dakota’s oil patch since 2007, while workers’ compensation filings are up, many injured workers are encouraged by employers in the extractive industries not to file, with many companies working out sidebar deals with injured workers. Injury rates are being kept artificially low by rewards for not reporting. As the AFL–CIO’s safety chief, Peg Semenario, has said, underreporting warps national safety figures in an industry that is already notoriously opaque.

And the culture of creating false indicators of workplace safety will likely have tremendous implications down the line when the 2000 tons of silica-rich sand used in the cement casing of each fracking well begins to work its way into workers’ lungs. NIOSH reported in 2012 that 92 of 116 air samples at franking sites exceeded the recommended safe levels of silica, which can lead to incurable, irreversible lung disease.

 

 Photo credit: Craig Newsom / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Worker’s Death Leads to Citation for WA Department of Natural Resources

 

The Department of Labor & Industries(L&I) provided the following information in a press release on January 11, 2013.  L&I noted that it has cited the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for 15 worker-safety violations following an investigation into the drowning death of a DNR diver last summer.  The citation carries a proposed penalty of $172,900.

 

The deceased diver, David Scheinost, age 24, was one of a four-person dive team from the DNR Aquatic Resources Division that was collecting geoduck samples to test for paralytic shellfish poisoning from the Manzanita and Restoration Point geoduck harvest tracts off Bainbridge Island on July 24.

 

Two SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) divers had deployed on their third dive of the day when the victim surfaced in distress and called out that he couldn’t breathe. The others were unable to reach him before he slipped below the surface and was gone. His body was found three days later.

 

The L&I investigation into the dive-safety policies and practices at DNR found:

 

  • 370 occurrences over a six-month period in which divers were deployed without carrying a reserve breathing-gas supply.
  • DNR did not ensure a designated person was in charge at the dive location to supervise all aspects of the diving operation affecting the health and safety of the divers.

 

L&I concluded that these were “willful” violations, which means they were committed with intentional disregard or plain indifference to worker safety and health regulations.

 

“Commercial diving involves risks that unfortunately lead too often to tragedies like this incident,” said Anne Soiza, assistant director of L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “These significant risk factors require advance planning, properly maintained equipment and strict adherence to procedures to ensure the protection of workers’ lives on each and every dive.”

 

In addition to the two willful violations, L&I cited DNR for eight “serious” and five “general” violations for not complying with standard safe-diving practices and procedures, including failure to:

 

  • Have an effective safety and health accident prevention program and training program.
  • Ensure that divers maintained continual visual contact with each other.
  • Inspect and maintain equipment.
  • Have a stand-by diver available while divers are in the water.

 

In Washington, state and local governments must provide safe workplaces for their employees just like private businesses, including following the minimum workplace safety and health rules. L&I is responsible for workplace safety and health and investigating workplace deaths for all private, state and local government worksites.

 

DNR will have 15 working days to appeal the citation. As with any citation, penalty money paid is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job. For a copy of the citation, please contact L&I Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.

 

Not mentioned in the L&I notice sent out today is the information from Bainbridge Island police, reported by the Seattle Times on September 4, 2012, that Mr. Scheinost was also suffering from “acute cocaine intoxication” at the time of his salt-water drowning, according to the death certificate.  It is not clear whether this was factored into the penalty ordered by L&I.