Category Archives: Advocacy

Worker’s Memorial Day 2013

On Sunday, April 28, 2013 WisCOSH will join together with workers, advocates and employers to both “Mourn for the Dead” and “Fight Like Hell for the Living“. You are invited to join us in Milwaukee, WI at the events.

  1. Fight Like Hell for the Living

    WisCOSH is hosting a fundraiser Chili Dinner and a discussion on current and proposed actions at the State and Federal levels which are or may have an effect on worker and/or workplace safety and health. There have been a number of proposed laws and changes to laws which is, will or could impact workers lives and livelihood. There is no cost to attend and participate in this discussion. Rep. Gwen Moore, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Mayor Tom Barrett among others have been invited to speak.

    This year WisCOSH will host a lunchtime Chili Dinner which will include 2 kinds of chili [vegetarian, meat], fixings [cheese, peppers, crackers, hot sauces], homemade cornbread and desserts. A variety of beverages will also be available. Please notify WisCOSH in advance if possible if you need the vegetarian dinner so that we can ensure there will be enough.

    The cost for the meal is $10 paid in advance or $12.50 at the door. Children’s meal is $5. Checks or money orders can be sent to: WisCOSH Office & Worker Training center, 1535 W. Mitchell St., Milwaukee, WI 53204. If you want/need to pay in cash please call (414) 933-2338 before coming to the office to ensure someone is available to help you as the office is only open for limited hours during remodeling.

    After the meal and discussion WisCOSH will lead a procession over to Zeidler Union Square Park for the commemmoration event.

  2. Mourn for the Dead

    Workers are invited to gather at Zeidler Union Square Park and commemmorate those workers lost to workplace incident or exposures in 2012. Sheila Cochran of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council will be the Master of Ceremonies. A number of speakers have been invited to speak including Rep. Gwen Moore, Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm. WisCOSH will read the names of those workers known to have died due to workplace incident or from workplace exposure as well as the names of those military personnel from WI that were killed while deployed followed by a moment of silence and candlelight vigil.

Watch this space for updates or visit WisCOSH‘s Facebook Page Events for updates and further information. WisCOSH Worker’s Memorial Day flier

Workers Lose Life, Businesses Reap Prophits

It’s another day.
Just like any other day.
A worker dies on the job every 14 minutes of the day. All day.
Another family loses an income. A father or mother. A son or daughter. A neighbor. A friend.
Then there are the workers exposed to hazardous materials on the job and die slowly over the course of years and decades.

It’s February 14th. Valentines Day. For most folks it’s a day to celebrate love, friendship and togetherness. For many people it’s an anniversary. A time to spend some romantic or quiet time together.

For workers it’s an anniversary too. But it’s not a happy one. It’s not one that anyone will ‘celebrate’ or enjoy. Today marks 2 years that the proposed standard has been stuck in the depths of OMB waiting for the chance to be published so that public comment can be taken. Once it goes to OMB a proposed standard has 90 days for review and should then be published so that the general public can read it and weigh in on it. It’s allowed to extend the review period by 45 days. It’s been 2 years! 730 days.

Two more years that workers have been exposed to silica in the workplace making it much more likely workers will contract, and eventually die, from one or more of the many illnesses related to silica exposure. Two more years of talking heads telling that regulation is bad and costs jobs. Two more years where workers and their families wondering what good the jobs are when they kill the worker. Slowly, over the course of many years.

But don’t worry too much. In the 2 years that the silica rule has been sitting at the OIRA there have been plenty of meetings about it and lots of discussion. Business has met with Whitehouse many times to discuss the proposal and it’s economic impact. Closed door meetings. Public not welcome. Business has had two years to apply pressure on the Whitehouse [which chose not to make worker concerns or desires a leading plank in it’s reelection campaign] to weaken, delay or kill the proposal.

While corporate lobbyists have had their say in the matter no one else has been allowed to. Won’t you take 5 or 10 minutes of your day to make a couple phone calls and urge the process along. Call your Congressmen/women. Call your President. Call Now!

  •  

  • Congress [Toll Free]: (888) 245-3381
    1. Press 1 to speak to your Representative
      • Enter Zip Code and you’ll be transferred to your Representative
    2. Press 2 to speak to your Senator
      • Enter Zip Code and you’ll be transferred to your Senator
  • Whitehouse: 1 (202) 456-1414 or if you’d prefer to write it down you can visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/WH/EOP/html/contact_the_whitehouse.html.

Worker and Consumer Health and Safety to be at Increased Risk

The USDA continues to push forward with it’s proposal to “modernize poultry slaughter“. From their own headline this proposal is more about helping increase business profits with some marginal “gains” for taxpayers. Their headline blares out “$90 million over 3 years” as the benefit to taxpayers while citing “$256 million annually” for business. If my math is right that means for every 12 cents in taxpayer money saved business makes $1.00. WisCOSH is not against saving tax money. But not at the expense of the American public’s and workforce’s health and safety. Because of the public and workforce outcry the USDA had extended the “comment period”.

This proposal is worrisome on at least several levels:

  1. it reduces the number of inspectors by hundreds
  2. it allows greatly increasing the production linespeed [up to 175 bpm per line] for workers
  3. would leave the task of spotting [and presumably discarding] diseased and/or defective birds to the poultry companies
  4. There is no requirement for plant operators to train workers taking over job duties previously performed by Federal inspectors

The proposal makes many references to the amount of money per pound that plants will save upon going to the new process but few to the increased ability to protect the food supply. Or the consumer. Or the workers.There is a large, and growing, contingent of groups opposing this proposal. WisCOSH encourages you to contact your Senators and representative in Congress. And the USDA. And the President. Today. The health and safety of thousands of poultry line workers is depending on it. And so does that sandwich or dinner you were thinking of having.

Call Now

  • Congress [Toll Free]: (888) 245-3381
    1. Press 1 to speak to your Representative
      • Enter Zip Code and you’ll be transferred to your Representative
    2. Press 2 to speak to your Senator
      • Enter Zip Code and you’ll be transferred to your Senator
  • Whitehouse: 1 (202) 456-1414
  • Tom Vilsack [Secretary of USDA]: (202) 720-3631
  • It’s That Time Of Year Again

    Every year at this time [Feb. 1] OSHA requires employers to post the OSHA Form 300-A. It must remain posted until April 30. This is printed on the forms. The Standard that applies is 29 CFR 1904.32. It reads [in part]:

    1904.32(a): Basic requirement. At the end of each calendar year, you must:
    1904.32(a)(1): Review the OSHA 300 Log to verify that the entries are complete and accurate, and correct any deficiencies identified;
    1904.32.(a)(2): Create an annual summary of injuries and illnesses recorded on the OSHA 300 Log;
    1904.32(a)(3): Certify the summary; and
    1904.32(a)(4): Post the annual summary.

    If you have the latest hard copy of the OSHA Standards [29 CFR 1900 – 1910; Revised 2011-07-01] it is on page 58. As with most regulations there have been a couple Interpretations of what the Standard means. You can find them both here.

    If they are not posted in your workplace find out why as soon as possible. It is a violation of the OSH Act of 1970 to not post them, leave them incomplete, inaccurate or to falsify the information on the Summary. It is also important that they are posted where they are accessible to workers to review.

    It is also the time of year WisCOSH recommends that workers, or their representative(s), ask for their copy of the OSHA 300 Logs. WisCOSH recommends this so that it is easier to remember to do it each year. If you have never requested them before you should ask for all of them. If you have previously requested copy(s) of the OSHA 300 Log(s) then you should ask for 2012 and any updates since last year.  Your employer must provide these to you. Free of charge. If you ask for more than one copy your employer can charge you for any additional copies at whatever cost they choose. So make your own copies!

    If you are an employer, a worker or a worker representative and you want to know more about OSHA’s Recordkeeping Requirements you should join WisCOSH for it’s “Understanding OSHA’s Recordkeeping Requirements” class. WisCOSH can help you set up or join a class. This class is FREE!! That’s right, it’s one of the many available under our DOL/OSHA Susan Harwood Institutional Capacity Building Grant.

    Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA‘s role is to assure the safety and health of America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

    KK River Project

    Over this past summer and fall WisCOSH has received a number of phone calls concerning work being done as part of the KK River Project. WisCOSH has made several attempts to find work being done but until this week had not come upon an “active worksite” – meaning that work was taking place at the time of visitation. What WisCOSH investigators found is quite alarming.

    Upon arriving on the scene it was immediately noted that workers were being exposed to numerous safety hazards: work performed at height without personal fall protection, workers not wearing head protection while working below other workers, workers leaning out of windows working on the outside of the building without fall protection or head protection, ladders improperly set up and unsecured and more. WisCOSH attempted to engage workers and find out more about their working conditions, training and supervision. The workers refused to verbally answer. Pictures and video were taken to document the actions taking place.

    While surveying the worksite and the work being done it was noticed that the dumpster onsite was labeled as to be used for disposing hazardous materials – asbestos – and the investigators became alarmed. The materials the workers were ripping off the side of the building were not being handled appropriately if they were in fact asbestos and it was readily apparent that the building was not being lead abated either.

    After one investigator asked a worker about the work being done, the manner in which it was being done, their training and qualifications to perform the work, if there was a supervisor or crew leader present and who their employer was the investigator was attacked – a large piece of siding was purposely thrown at the investigator and smashed on the sidewalk in a huge cloud of dust. There was a work truck onsite but it had no owner or business name on it, phone number, business address or DOT number. WisCOSH attempted to look-up the name on the vehicle but got not results for any current business.

    WisCOSH continued it’s investigation by attempting to contact someone in City, County, State or Federal agencies to get more information concerning the work currently being done, scheduled upcoming work and locations, employer/contractor, what permits were pulled and when, etc. The Milwaukee OSHA Office was notified of the imminent danger to the workers and responded that they would try to get someone there. The WI DNR was also contacted. Attempts were made to talk with someone from the City of Milwaukee as well as Milwaukee County with no positive outcomes.

    WisCOSH continued it’s investigation by securing, bagging, labeling and documenting samples from the worksite. WisCOSH investigators also spoke with several residents of the neighborhood that told investigators of several other similar “active” worksites which WisCOSH then visited and secured samples from. WisCOSH will be taking in the first sample for analysis this afternoon.

    Worksite Overview Worker Hazards Up Close Worker Exposure – Alternate Angle Hazardous Waste Dumpster Whose Work Truck Is This?

    2012 National Worker H&S Conference

    December 6th & 7th

    The Maritime Institute, Baltimore, MD

    This conference brings together workers, activists and professionals for two days of interactive educational sessions and networking to advance the workplace health and safety movement. Last year’s conference featured some 30 different workshop topics and over 50 presenters. This year’s conference will build on that experience – offering a wide selection of educational workshops facilitated by experienced professionals and large group plenary sessions with inspirational speakers. A few of the many topics featured at this year’s conference include:

    • Fighting Back Against Behavior Based [“Blame The Worker”] Safety Programs
    • Current Campaigns To Win H&S Protection For All Workers
    • How To Get Better H&S Contract Language
    • Strategic Use Of Health & Safety Issues In Organizing Workers
    • How To Use Your Workplace Rights To Demand A Safe & Healthy Job
    • And many, many more!

    Whether you are a seasoned activist, union official or new to workplace health and safety issues this conference is for you! The conference will include post-election strategy sessions to carry the pro-worker agenda forward. Don’t miss this chance to get “plugged in” to the hottest health and safety activist scene in the country. It’s not just a conference – it’s a movement!

    For more information please visit www.coshnetwork.org/2012Conference.

    WisCOSH 2012 Resource Directory

    When workers need help with workplace safety or health issues they can rely on WisCOSH‘s Resource Directory to help them find out who and where to go to for that help. WisCOSH packs it full of contact information [phone numbers, e-mail and website addresses] on a wide variety of workplace safety and health issues. Every year WisCOSH releases it’s updated Resource Directory in conjunction with Worker’s Memorial Day on April 28. WisCOSH has begun sending out notices about our 2012 Resource Directory and how you can show your support for WisCOSH and safer and healthier work and workplaces. WisCOSH’s Resource Directory is provided with the training materials provided in all training as well as at all events WisCOSH participates in.

    The Resource Directory contains useful information, list of workers killed on the job last year, phone numbers and links to OSH related websites for government agencies and private organizations. If you would like to place a message of support in the Resource Directory please download the order form and send it with payment to the WisCOSH Office and Worker Center..

    Cecil Roberts [UMWA President] at National Worker Health and Safety Summit and Conference

    “Don Blankenship Can Kiss My Ass!”

    During the National Worker Safety & Health Conference and Summit lunch hour break UMWA President Cecil Roberts spoke to the workers, union leadership and OHS professionals and activists assembled about the recently released report, it’s findings concerning the Big Branch Mine explosion, and worker safety and health on the job. Mr. Roberts doesn’t mince words and laid the blame directly at Don Blankenship’s feet and the feet of the other Executive Officers and the members of the Board of Directors for Massey Energy.

    I started to take video, but had not set my camera correctly and got a still shot instead. The National COSH had set up the event to be streamed live on Livestream.com. In theory this was a great idea. However in practice Mr. Robberts is not one to be standing still for very long. Once I realized this I switched to video. I was able to get 2 short clips [1, 2] which I hope you will enjoy while waiting the release of the footage captured by the National COSH.

    Workers are lucky to have such leaders in these times. But it takes more than leaders to make the changes we need. The leaders need workers to join them. To do this we need to make sure workers understand what is going on, what’s at stake and what alternatives there are.

    It’s high time workers banded together and go visit the Pharoh’s in their community and demand they do the right thing!
    If there is an employer that is paying wages below the living standard and only employes part time work they need to change their ways.
    If there is an employer that says it’s too expensive to keep the workers from getting injured, made ill or killed on the job they need to change their ways.
    If there is an employer that requires workers who are ill to come to work to keep their job and thereby put other workers, customers and vendors at risk of becoming ill they need to change their ways.

    It’s time to stand up, stand together and say “NO More!

    Thanks For Stopping By!

    I would like to thank all of you who have stopped by WisCOSH whether in person or at our website or this blog. This past summer WisCOSH has had many new visitors to our website, to this blog and the many events that WisCOSH hosted, participated in, spoke at and those WisCOSH visited. Especially Worker’s Memorial Day in April, Share-A-Meal with Community Shares of Greater Milwaukee, Laborfest 2008 and the many training classes WisCOSH held.

    Speaking of training classes I’d like to thank our newest trainer with helping with the investigation, planning and implimenting of several of WisCOSH’s new training programs. Namely our new Emergency Planning; Dealing With Violence in the Workplace : The Silent Epidemic; Focus Four Hazards for Building and Construction Trades Workers and Identifying Hazards In Your Workplace trainings.  The added areas in work experience has opened many new venues for WisCOSH to help workers.  WisCOSH has held most of these training sessions over the summer and had good response from those in attendance.

    I would also like to thank those of you who came to WisCOSH for help in dealing with workplace safety and health situations you are facing. And there have been a growing number throughout the year. Continue to work with your coworkers to document unsafe working situations. Please remember to check in once in a while to keep WisCOSH updated on the progress and let us know if there is more that WisCOSH can do to help.

    The War on the Worker Continues

    It’s nothing new. The kid gloves came off long ago but it’s been getting more open and prevalent. Workplace safety and health standards have been on the chopping block for the past seven years. But that is nothing new either. A worker’s guaranteed right to a safe and healthy workplace has been picked at and chipped away at and defunded since we first managed to secure it nearly 40 years ago. Now in the quickly fading last days these kings of business – which have been in charge of agencies that guard worker’s health, safety and rights – which have been tearing apart the progress that workers have fought and died to attain have now put an all out full rush to remove any remaining vestiges of worker rights or justice.

    PBS recently ran an excellent expose on the issue of OSHA’s allowing employers to under report workplace injury and illness rates. [Watch it here] Workers are increasingly being forced to work in ways that are crippling and killing them just to put dinner on the table. It’s not just meat cutters and packers either. Every job has been sped up. Regulations have been weakened or dropped and enforcement has been mostly ignored. Workers are doing more, faster with less help. Most workplaces are understaffed. Workers are told everyday that they need to “just step up and make due”. With less. For less. For longer due to many workplaces having mandatory overtime. With or without prior notice. Some family values.

    Manufacturing has been “lean and mean” for a long time now. While they still have the power these agency heads decided to lose the lean and concentrate on the mean. And it’s been spreading to all sectors of the economy. Deaths in the mining industry are becoming all too common once again, although you’d be hard pressed to find (m)any deaths related to the mining industry according to the MSHA posted revision of what constitutes a fatal injury which is chargable to the mining industry. [Fatal Alert Bulletins, Fatalgrams and Fatal Investigation Reports] And every day seems to bring another report of construction workers killed on the job. [NIOSH Construction Safety Topics page] “Construction has increasingly become a deadly business – especially in New York, where laborers routinely dangle from skyscrapers, all part of a building boom that has defied the national slowdown.”

    Well the usual suspects are at it again. After hours. Behind closed doors. Secret doors. And you’re not only not aware of the the discussions taking place you’re not welcome either. Earlier this month the Department of Labor sent a new draft proposed rule on occupational health risk assessment to OMB for review. This stealth rule came out of nowhere. It had never been listed on the OSHA or MSHA regulatory agenda and DOL has refused to make public what it is about.

    This is an attempt by the DOL to change by regulation the policy and assumptions used in risk assessments on health hazards that would have the effect of reducing estimates of risk and therefore require less stringent regulation. The rule was developed by the Secretary’s Office and Assistant Secretary for Policy, not OSHA or MSHA at the behest of industry.

    They want to get this rule finalized before the end of the administration, even though their action falls outside the deadlines set forth by the White House for concluding rules before the end of this Administration. (Rules were supposed to have been proposed by June 1.)

    Rep. Miller and Senator Kennedy have written to Secretary Chao demanding a briefing on what this is all about and will be taking the necessary action to get to the bottom of this.

    This, unfortunately, is nothing new. It’s been a full on assault on the working men and women in America’s workplaces for a long time now. Under the guise of ‘keeping competitive’ with other workers in other countries. Many of whom are working for the same corporate overlords as Americans and being told the same lies about us waiting to steal their jobs as are force fed on us. Bill Moyers Journal Expose also had a good overview of what deregulation, free market enterprise and the de-education of the working class has wrought for workers and the nation as a whole. [Read the transcript here]

    They’ve barely finished with their revamping of the Toxic Release Inventory and telling cities and states that the actually don’t have the right to know about any plans that manufacturers may have for notifying the public should there be any type of ‘incident’ at a facility. No right to know about evacuation plans. No right to know about containment or clean-up plans. We really don’t actually have the right to know about what chemicals may be stored, produced or byproducts of any of their processes. Now they want to tell you you weren’t injured at work. Or if you were it wasn’t work related.

    Workers cannot afford to wait another 6 months to hope for a turn around in the direction this country is headed in. Who every you are planning to vote for this November make sure that they have your health and safety interests at heart, not the corporate lobbyists and big campaign contributors. Workers cannot assume that a candidate, whether for President or a Congressional seat, from any particular party will work in your best interest. You need to ask them and make them answer. Then hold them accountable for what they tell you. Before and after the election.

    Vulnerable Worker’s Grant Training

    Although it got a late start to it this year WisCOSH has been continuing to provide training and outreach to vulnerable workers under OSHA’s Susan Harwood Grant. WisCOSH has many training classes available under this grant including : Basic OSHA Rights; Workplace Safety & Health Rights for Teen Workers; Identifying Workplace Hazards & Body Mapping; Employer Recordkeeping Requirements Under OSHA as well as many other specific topic hazard training classes [such as Ergonomics, Starting a Health & Safety Committee in Your Workplace, Understanding OSHA’s HazComm Program and more!].

    Why did WisCOSH get such a late start this year? Like so many other things last year it was due to the Federal Budget process. The line item which funded the DOL funded OSHA Susan Harwood Institutional Competency Building Grant was removed and no progress on returning it was made until late December 2007. Unfortunately there were no changes made to the timeline of the grant so even though the RFP was not released until January 2008 the grant period remained October 1, 2007 to September 30, 2008. There was an attempt to change the grant and make it a larger version of the DOL funded OSHA Susan Harwood Targeted Training Topic Grant. The budgetary law that provided the funding didn’t attempt this, but rather the agency appointees did.

    Each year under the Targeted Training Topic Grant OSHA identifies a number of topics which tend to be focused on a particular issue within a particular occupation. The Susan Harwood ICB Grant has been a catch all training program which reaches out to all workers, in all occupations and has the ability to train workers on a variety of occupational safety and health topics. It is complementary to the Targeted Training Topic Grant in it’s scope of who can be trained and on what subjects. Therefore it is able to reach an even greater audience and provide additional information and training. This information and training generally reaches workers who may be immigrants, workers whose primary language may not be English, are new workers to an industry or teens who have little to no prior work experience or frame of reference. These are also workers who work in OSHA identified high hazard occupations. Many of these workers have little to no access to the information due to not have a computer nor access to one. Many workers who do have access to a computer may not have Internet access. Many workers who have a computer and Internet access still have little idea on where to find, or how to understand, the information they would receive in the training classes WisCOSH holds.