Good Friday to you.
Here are the stories driving conversations in the workplace safety and health world this week:
BIG WEEK FOR BIG OSHA FINES – The enforcement surge continues…
OSHA proposes more than $346,000 in fines against Bronx, NY, elevator cab manufacturer for uncorrected and recurring hazards;
$214,500 in fines against Portsmouth, NH, fish and seafood plant for process safety hazards;
More than $125,000 in fines against Brooklyn, NY, contractor after partial building collapse;
$88,500 against Infineum USA L.P. for 22 workplace safety violations, including exposing employees to chemical hazards, at the company's Linden, NJ facility.
On May 27, OSHA hit South Dakota Wheat Growers Association of Aberdeen, SD, with more than $1.6 million for grain handling violations.
The cop is back on the beat swinging a big stick.
FIRED SCHOOL BUS DRIVER gets OSHA’s support. The agency files suit against First Student Inc., headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a former local manager for allegedly firing an employee of the school bus transportation service's Syracuse, NY, branch who was discharged in October 2007 after raising safety and health concerns to the company.
"It is unacceptable for employers to retaliate against employees who raise safety and health concerns," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "Employers will be held accountable if they violate workers' legal right to have a voice in the workplace on health and safety."
OSHA's investigation found merit to the worker's complaint, and the agency seeks reinstatement, back pay and benefits for the worker from First Student Inc. and Thomas Waldron, former contract manager at the Syracuse location. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, seeks a judgment ordering all appropriate relief for the worker, including reinstatement, back pay with interest, and compensatory and punitive damages.
ODD QUOTE FROM STEVE JOBS:
Apple CEO Steve Jobs said this week at a Wall Street Journal conference that the Taiwanese-owned plant Foxconn in Shenzhen, China, which manufactures the iPad, iPod, and iPhone on behalf of Apple, and where 10 employees have committed suicide since January, is “a pretty nice factory. They’ve got restaurants and swimming pools.”
The plant cranks out tech components for other big vendors: Dell, HP, Sony. Critics suggest Foxconn is overworking employees to meet demands for the iPad, selling at a rate of about 33,000 units per day.
Jobs conceded the suicides were “very troubling to us” and said Apple’s “own people and some outside folks” have gone to the plant “to look into the issue.”
Among the many subplots in the Gulf gusher story: the too-close-for-comfort relationship uncovered between Minerals Management Service inspectors and oil and gas production companies. MMS Lake Charles, La., District Manager Larry Williamson tells Interior Department investigators that many MMS inspectors had worked for the oil and gas industry and continued to be friends with industry reps.
“Obviously, we’re all oil industry,” said Williamson.
Interior Department’s final report said individuals in MMS and oil and gas companies “involved in the fraternizing and gift exchange… have often known each other since childhood.”
OSHA CAN’T KEEP UP (AGAIN)
OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels concedes to The New York Times his agency’s regs have not yet caught up with the 21st century biotech industry and its many infectious materials.
OSHA’s lab standard doesn’t deal with infectious agents, says Michaels. Plus, OSHA does not have jurisdiction over many academic and government biolabs, where dozens of cases of worker illness or exposure to toxic agents have been documented.
Michaels says one of his top priorities â€” a broad standard requiring all employers to find and fix hazards of all types â€” will take the place of trying to regulate each infectious agent.
Still, how these very broad requirements will be enforced is up in the air. Former OSHA official Adam Finkel tells The Times: “There’s new stuff being made every day that’s incredibly dangerous, but nobody knows how to get their arms around it.”
WORTH READING: “Methland,” by Nick Reding, available in paperback, ties rampant crank use in U.S. in part to ingrained American work ethic: Work hard to get ahead, and meth, like some turbo-charged, addictive and illegal Red Bull, enables you to pull double shifts, work two jobs, and feel focused and in the flow â€” until you crash.