The surge in the killings of journalists and other media workers is a grave cause of concern and yet another wake up call for governments across the globe to take action in the defence of journalism, one of the key pillars of democracy,” said IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger. “The failure to act will only embolden those who seek to suppress the free flow of information and undermine the ability of people to hold their leaders to account, including in ensuring that those with power and influence do not stand in the way of open and inclusive societies. It is now time for the UN General Assembly to pass the IFJ Convention on the Safety and Independence of Journalists.”
What’s happening in the world of workplace safety and health? Lots. And lots of work to be done. Here are some short dispatches. If you know of other happenings that workers and public health advocates need to know about, let me know in the comments below.
OSHA COVID-19 Standard: Better Late Than Never
The permanent COVID-19 standard covering healthcare workers has finally gone to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for final review. OIRA has three months to review final standards and regulations, although it can take longer or shorter than that time-limit. OSHA announced the standard last January, predicting that it would take six to nine months to finalize. OSHA standards never adhere to schedules, however, and this will be on the shorter end of OSHA delays if it’s released in the near future. Republicans and the American Hospital Association are, of course, opposing the standard, labeling it government over-reach, inflexible and unnecessary. The text of the final draft has not been made public.
Meanwhile, in case you’re wondering why an OSHA COVID standard is still needed, CDC reports that total cases, deaths and hospitalizations are on the rise and 72% of counties in the country are experiencing high transmission rates, although at this point “only” 9% of counties have a “high” community level. (Community Levels to determine the impact of COVID-19 on communities and take action. Community Transmission levels are provided for healthcare facility use only.)
And serious cases still wind up in hospitals where they’re taken care of by healthcare workers who would rather not be infected.
We can expect the new Republican House of Representatives to look closely at OSHA’s new standard and a hearing might not be out of the question.
Deadly Countertops: “The dust never, ever stopped coming.”
Cutting and grinding synthetic engineered-stone countertops is killing workers. A great but tragic story from Public Health Watch journalists and
At least 30 countertop fabricators in the Los Angeles area [have been] diagnosed with an accelerated form of silicosis since January 2016. It’s believed to be the largest cluster of the disease in the United States. All the victims are relatively young Latino men who worked long hours under harsh conditions without complaint.
The manufacturers know about the hazard. Some are successfully protection workers, but many aren’t. One worker sent a message to consumers: “Behind the kitchen, basically, there’s sweat and blood and, at the worst, even death.”
Merchants of Poison
Great story by Stacy Malkan of USRTK.org about how Monsanto influenced the science to hide evidence that Roundup (and it’s prime active ingredient, glyphosate) causes cancer. The article describes numerous examples from internal Monsanto documents,
showing how employees worked behind the scenes to shape the scientific record and influence regulatory reports to bolster one core message: glyphosate is safe. These strategies included courting friendly scientists to write papers favorable to the company — even ghostwriting scientific papers and influencing a meta-analysis — while keeping the company’s role hidden. The documents also show how the company used the scientific literature they had helped create to influence federal agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and tried to prevent a domestic ruling on glyphosate they feared would align with IARC’s.
This story parallels the numerous examples of undermining science detailed in Dr. David Michaels seminal work, The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception (now out in paperback which you should be purchasing for all the inquiring minds in your family this holiday season.)
Getting Serious About Workplace Violence
We have written frequently here about the epidemic of workplace violence suffered by healthcare workers in the United States (and Canada) and the failure of OSHA to move forward on a workplace violence standard. The good new is that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Center for Clinical Standards and Quality seems to be getting serious about the problem. CMS administers Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Health Insurance Marketplace.. CMS just issued a memorandum to State Survey Agency Directors stating that hospitals risk getting kicked out of Medicare and Medicaid for failure to adequately respond to and prevent incidents of workplace violence.
CMS states that healthcare providers that don’t address workplace violence problems are failing in their obligation to care for patients in a safe setting, train staff and to have policies and procedures aimed at protecting both their workforce and their patients and strategies for addressing emergency events.
OSHA has been working on a workplace violence standard since 2016, but has not made much progress. The House of Representatives has also passed legislation that would force OSHA to issue an accelerated standard, but the bill was never taken up in the Senate.
Workplace Death: Just a Natural Part of Life
Confined Spaces: Don’t Rush in
Saving Public Employees’ Lives
West Virginia Republicans Forget Mine Disasters While Weakening Mine Safety Protections
As West Virginia goes increasingly Republican, there are still a few state legislators that are opposing current efforts to weaken mine safety laws by invoking the forgotten and neglected graveyards of miners who lost their lives in the state’s many mining disasters. “More than a century of overgrowth on this West Virginia hillside has erased any trace of the burial ground known locally as Little Egypt, the resting place for dozens of coal mine workers who died, in a 1912 mine explosion. ”
For Ed Evans, a state lawmaker and retired public school teacher
the burial ground is a reminder of the sacrifices by workers who inspired safety regulations when the coal industry was rapidly expanding in the early 20th century, the deadliest era for miners in US history. It’s more important than ever now, he said, amid a push to undo regulations as the industry declines.
Republicans in West Virginia’s have introduced multiple bills that would eliminate worker protections in an attempt to bolster the shrinking coal industry, including a sweeping overhaul of the state agency that inspects coal mines.
Huge Increase in Journalists Killed on the Job
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reports that 67 journalists and media staff have been killed around the world so far this year, up from 47 last year. That would be a 42% increase. The war in Ukraine, continuing conflict in Palestine, chaos in Haiti and drug wars in Latin America have contributed to the killing of media workers. The IFJ also reports that 375 journalists currently imprisoned for their work, with the highest figures in China including Hong Kong, in Myanmar and in Turkey, up from 365 incarcerated journalists last year. There were 12 media fatalities in Ukraine alone.
Only 12 Days Until Christmas and 5 days Until Hanukkah
But still time to buy your favorite people some great labor and workplace health & safety books. If you just can’t figure out what to get the person who has everything, don’t forget to check out the Confined Space Holiday Book Shopping list.
2 thoughts on “Dispatches From the Front Lines of Workplace Safety and Health”
I would like to add a book to the Confined Space Holiday Book Shopping Lists please. How about Drowning in Oil by Loren Steffy? As you know, a pretty telling tail of the long-term effects of a lack of safety culture.