Milking the Workers? Farm worker advocates have published a survey of mostly undocumented Hispanic workers that describes discrimination and workplace abuse experienced by workers on New York’s large dairy farms. Most of the workers are undocumented. The authors report that nearly half of the workers said they were bullied or intimidated by their bosses, and two-thirds said they’d suffered at least one injury. It’s the first major analysis of Hispanic dairy farm workers’ attitudes in New York, according to the authors of the report, Milked: Immigrant Dairy Farmworkers in New York State. North Country Public Radio also did a story on the dairy farms report. OSHA’s Buffalo, Syracuse, and Albany Area offices launched a Local Emphasis Program focusing on dairy farm workers in 2015, following a storm of protest by NY dairy farmers. That LEP expired in late 2016 and it’s unclear if OSHA will be renewing it.
Baby It’s Hot Inside: California is working on a standard to protect indoor workers from heat illness after Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation last year directing the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health to adopt a standard. California already has an outdoor heat standard. Federal OSHA has no heat standard, but for the past several years has been enforcing safe working conditions using its General Duty Clause. Rulemaking will begin this year and a proposed rule is due to the Cal/OSHA Standards Board by Jan. 1, 2019.
Happy Ending? We wrote last month about how Diego Flores, an undocumented worker who had been injured on the job, was arrested by ICE after meeting with his employer about workers compensation. After two weeks in jail, Flores was released. Needless to say, immigrant and worker safety advocates feared that his arrest could prevent other workers in the country illegally from reporting workplace accidents. According to Flores’ attorney, one of those factors is a potential investigation into retaliation by the employer.
Meanwhile, Lara Jirmanus, a family physician practicing in Cambridge and a fellow at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, describes how nearly half of her patients don’t file workers compensation, fearing retaliation by their employers. Many are immigrant workers, but some are not. And the Flores case just contributes to a chilling message to immigrant workers. She cites a national study by NOSH showing that about 40 percent of work-related illnesses or injuries were not paid by workers’ compensation.
Getting High on Safety: The The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA), Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and OSHA are joining together to provide a seven hour training course about hazards in the marijuana industry on such issues as fire hazards and safety challenges in similar businesses as well as cannabis pesticide application. The CDA released a guide for marijuana workplace safety in February; this class will be a broad overview of that document. “The intention with publishing the guidelines was to have some kind of followup to increase awareness for those in the marijuana industry, and for employers and workers to understand and develop a safety program in their workplace,” says Roberta Smith, manager of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Occupational Health Program.
Safe. OK. Sound? We’ll see: OSHA has launched “Safe and Sound Week “to raise awareness and understanding of the value of safety and health programs that include management leadership, worker participation, and a systematic approach to finding and fixing hazards in workplaces.” Last year, the Obama administration updated OSHA’s 1989 Health and Safety Program Guidelines and Safe and Sound week OSHA is joining with NIOSH, the National Safety Council, ASSE, AIHA and other organizations to hold events around the country to promote implementation of these best practices. Hopefully, the promoters of Safe and Sound week will also talk up the virtues of the Susan Harwood Training Grant program which the administration has slated for elimination. But I doubt it.
Transparency is transparently a good thing: Former Obama OSHA head David Michaels joined with former Wage and Hour head David Weil to pen an article in The Hill about why informing workers and the public about a company’s injury and illness record is actually a good thing, despite what some industry associations and the Trump administration is saying. The Obama administration issued a rule requiring covered employers to send their data to OSHA where it would be posted on OSHA’s website. Not only will job seekers know which companies are safer, but consumers may also shape their buying decisions about who is safer. All of this is likely to pressure companies to improving their working conditions. Sounds like a win-win to me, but the Trump administration has announced plans to delay the implementation of this rule.
Turning on the Headlights at Tesla: We wrote last month about serious safety and health problems at Tesla. Now Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk says “he wants to personally review every injury report, and meet with every injured employee to get feedback on how to improve safety.” David Marquet, writing in Forbes hopes “it’s a temporary measure and that his leadership team will soon understand safety the way he does.”