April 2002 Safety First
by Mary Erio, PE, CIH, CSP
LABOR FORUM - APRIL 18, 2002
Hello, this is Mary Erio for Safety First
OSHA Issues Press Release Concerning Plan to Develop Voluntary Ergonomics
Guidelines - From the New York Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health
April 12th Update at www.nycosh.org
Occupational Safety and Health Administration's announcement last week of its
"comprehensive program" to protect workers from repetitive strains and
other ergonomic injures received almost uniformly negative reviews, except for
praise from a small number of employer organizations and from politicians
aligned closely with the Bush administration.
the Bush administration killed OSHA's ergonomics standard last year, it claimed
that the repealed standard was the wrong solution to a very serious problem, and
promised to produce an alternative program within six months to control
musculoskeletal hazards," said NYCOSH Executive Director Joel Shufro.
"No one in the labor movement had expectations that the Bush substitute
would amount to anything, but I am frankly surprised at the Labor Department's
display of what is effectively contempt for the urgency of preventing more than
600,000 lost‑time injuries a year."
of an enforceable regulation, OSHA says that it will now, nearly a year after it
promised to protect workers from ergonomic hazards, start to develop
‘industry‑specific guidelines' to prevent ergonomic injuries," said
NYCOSH Assistant Director Susan O'Brien. It's
hard to believe how little they have to show for something that has allegedly
been in the works for nearly a year,"
Labor Secretary Elaine Chao announced the plan to develop an ergonomics program
on April 5th, she claimed that the Labor Department's policy was superior to the repealed ergonomics standard in
two ways: "This plan is a major improvement over the rejected old
rule," Chao said, "because it will prevent ergonomics injuries before
they occur and reach a much larger number of at‑risk workers."
like to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I can't imagine what she was
talking about," says NYCOSH ergonomics coordinator Elizabeth Kelleher.
If they are going to develop the guidelines industry-by-industry, there
are probably more than 300 industries they
will need to produce guidelines for. They haven't even identified any of the
industries to target, so it is going to be a very, very long time before they
have developed guidelines that apply to as many workers as were covered by the
The Bush Administration Kills Safety Regulation Opposed by Donors - A
special report from the Center For Public Integrity
Bush administration quietly shelved a proposal to tighten regulations on a
group of hazardous chemicals despite evidence linking dozens of deaths
and hundreds of injuries to accidents involving those chemicals, an
investigation by the Center for Public Integrity has found.
issue in the shelved proposal is a particular group of hazardous materials that
can produce runaway reactions. Some of these "reactive" chemicals
become unstable, for instance, when they're subjected to heat, pressure, air or
water. Others can react dangerously when
mixed with other chemicals in
uncontrolled ways. A particularly serious example of such chemical combinations
was a 1995 explosion and fire that claimed
five lives at a Lodi, N.J., plant. The
Bush administration abandoned a proposal to address such dangers after the
Process Safety Management standard it was meant to expand appeared on a
"hit list" of 57 regulations targeted by business groups. This
government list was solicited for White House budget officials.
spokesperson for OSHA said the agency was "unaware of any industry
objections" to the chemical proposal. But a government source told the
Center that three industry trade groups ‑
the American Chemistry Council (or Chemical Manufacturers Association),
the American Petroleum Institute and the Synthetic Organic Chemical
Manufacturers Association ‑ all opposed the initiative. Employees of those
groups and their member companies, and their political action committees,
contributed more than $216,000 to Bush's presidential campaign.
Frumin, safety and health director for UNITE, the Union of Needletrades,
Industrial and Textile
Employees, charged that the decision to drop the proposal shows how
"regulated industries are determining administration policies." UNITE,
which represented workers at the Napp Technologies, Lodi, N.J., plant where five
lost their lives, has been in the forefront of efforts by industrial and
firefighters unions to have more chemicals covered by the OSHA Process Safety
original PSM standard was adopted to comply with the 1990 Clean Air Act
Amendments signed by the first President Bush. The standard requires various
safe=management procedures to protect workers against accidental releases of
those reactive, toxic, flammable or explosive chemicals that qualify as
plant explosion at Lodi, N.J., resulted from the mixture of sodium hydrosulfite
and aluminum powder. Neither is
regulated under the current PSM standard.
unpublished study, commissioned by OSHA, determined that 44 reactive chemicals
that aren't covered by its standard were implicated in 408 documented workplace
accidents from 1992 through 1997. These incidents resulted in 66 deaths and 404
injuries, including 225 injuries that required hospital treatment, according to
a draft copy of the shelved proposal obtained by the Center.
Dec. 3rd, a new regulatory agenda posted in the Federal Register contained a
terse item saying the reactive chemicals initiative was being dropped because of
"resource constraints and other priorities." "Basically, OSHA had
a very ambitious schedule of projects" at the time the Bush administration
took office, explained the OSHA spokesperson, who asked not to be identified.
the entire report at
under “the public”.
Workers Memorial Day, April 28th
year more than 60,000 workers die from job injuries and illnesses and another 6
million are injured. Unions and job safety activists remember these workers on
April 28, Workers Memorial Day. For more information on Workers Memorial Day,
This is Mary Erio for Safety First