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Health & Safety


• Health & Safety links: from general to specific, here's where you can start searching for the h&s information you need at work ... and at home.

• Information for Workers: several articles deal with workplace health and safety issues. Try starting with Safety: It's Not a Game!

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Health & Safety

Be careful not to take health and safety for granted. Every workplace should have a Health and Safety Committee and every Health & Safety Committee should inspect the workplace!

Heath and Safety Articles
by Dave Kotelchuck

(These articles previously appeared in the UE News
and are listed in their publication date order. If you are
looking for a specific term, try using the UE search page
or the search box at the bottom of this page.)

  • McWane, Inc:
    A Tale From Dickens

    A recent investigative report by Frontline,  the New York Times and the CBC revealed to many Americans what many working people knew already:  the pursuit of the bottom line by many companies means workers endure truly hellish working conditions every day. (January, 2003)

  • Bushwhacking OSHA
    And the Environment

    In April 2002, the Bush Administration promised it would "quickly and effectively" address workplace ergonomics issues (after having killed OSHA's ergonomics proposal a year earlier). Eight months later, there's been no movement on this promise. The message to workers is still: "suffer". (December, 2002)

  • Mercury: Workplace Hazard
    Mercury has been in the news a lot recently, mostly because of its effect on the environment. But, what many people don't realize, is that mercury – even in tiny amounts – can be a dangerous workplace hazard. In addition to manufacturing plants, mercury can be found in many workplaces, ranging from schools to hospitals.  (July, 2002)

  • Cleanup at the World Trade
    Center Site: Lessons Learned

    The cleanup of the World Trade Center site has ended well ahead of schedule, well below the estimated cost and, despite the dangerous work, with far fewer injuries than statistics would have predicted. Surprised? Don't be: this was a job done entirely by union workers in a workplace where everyone was committed to safety. (June, 2002)

  • OSHA's New Ergonomic Guidelines:
    A Plan to Develop a Plan?

    In what amounts to an "empty suit", the Bush Administration has announced that it has 'plan to develop a plan to deal with ergonomic issues in the workplace' ... while tens — even hundreds — of thousands of workers continue to suffer from repetitive stress injuries suffered on the job with no relief in sight. (April, 2002)

  • Writing Emergency Plans and Bringing Them to Life
    Every workplace needs to have an emergency plan if lives are to be saved if and when disaster hits. Workers should be involved in creating the plan and, most important, it must be practiced by everyone if it's to work when needed. Here are Dave's thoughts on how to create an emergency plan ... and make it work when needed  ...  (March, 2002)

  • Planning for Emergencies
    The emergency response plans practiced at the World Trade Center played a major role in saving lives among the 20,000 people who survived. The same type of plan could be critically important in your workplace, too ... (February, 2002)

  • Reflections on Life And Safety After WTC
    Dave Kotelchuck lives and works in New York ... here are his thoughts and reflections about 9-11-2001 ... (November, 2001)

  • Astounding Grace and Asbestos
    Another U.S. corporation puts its workers — and many others — in deadly danger ... and then ducks its responsibility. This story involves W.R. Grace and Company, the manufacturer of an fireproofing spray containing "asbestos-free" verimiculite. But the product wasn't asbestos free — not for the workers that mined the raw material, nor for the construction workers who sprayed it without respirator protection ... (July, 2001)

  • Ersatz Ergonomics
    Called 'a sham and a fraud backed by industry and Republicans in Congress,' the new Secretary of Labor is planning a series of three public 'forums' in July to gather answers to that perplexing question of ergonomics and ergonomic injuries. The problem, says Dave, are that the questions that will be asked are one-sided, reflecting only concerns and issues raised by industry opponents. And, besides, they're questions that have already been asked ... and answered ... (June, 2001) 

  • Arsenic and 'Sound Science'
    According to President George W. Bush, we need to develop more "sound science" about harmful levels of arsenic in drinking water (at least, that's what he said as he killed regulations proposed by the Clinton Administration to limit the amount of arsenic permitted). The problem is: we do have "sound science" about arsenic and it's dangers ... not only in our drinking water, but in the home and at work, too. Here's the real story ... (May, 2001)

  • Indoor Air Quality:
    An Old Problem Reappears

    Problems with polluted air and poor indoor air quality have been known for decades. But in  the past few decades these problems have grown much worse, especially for workers in offices, whether in office buildings or in-plant offices. And some of these problems, such as toxic mold growth, can affect people at any worksite. (Originally published in two parts: March and April 2001)

  • Fighting for an Ergonomics Standard
    'The union movement has spent a decade fighting for an ergonomics standard — and saw it wiped-out in record time by an anti-worker Congress and President. Here's an overview of the protections we would have had if it were not for the greed of corporate America. (December, 2000)

  • Republicans Hold Government
    Hostage Over Ergonomics Standard

    The Clinton Administration, as promised, has taken steps to implement a new ergonomics standard, despite the best efforts of Republicans and business to keep this long-delayed measure from seeing the light of day (scuttling a pre-election fy2001 budget-agreement to do so). Dave says the proposed standard is modest – despite reports that business is "enraged" ... (November, 2000)

  • Another Asbestos Industry Bailout Bill:
    They're Guilty, We Pay?

    Speed and stealth are what some members of Congress are counting on as they work hard to saddle taxpayers, distracted by the election, with an asbestos industry bailout. Find out more about this undemocratic disgrace ... (October, 2000)

  • Youth and Child Labor
    Of the 4 million young people ages 15-17 working this summer (and 2.9 million working during the school year), some 200,000 to 300,000 will be injured, and it's likely about 67 will die, according to government figures — which may be understated ... (July, 2000)

  • Bingo! You Lose! (And Other Unsafe Acts)
    With OSHA under attack and managers seeking to cover up workplace injuries, employers are returning to some very dangerous "workplace safety" programs. Dave tells us why the final result is almost always "Bingo! You Lose!" ... (June, 2000)

  • The Sad Tale of Libby, Montana
    Ever hear of "Zonolite"? You may have used it in your garden ... or as insulation. But it can be deadly ... as we learn in yet another story of how regulators and companies put profit ahead of safety and human life  ... (May, 2000)

  • The Asbestos (Company)
    Compensation Bill — Part II

    How did an outrageous anti-worker asbestos "compensation" bill get as far as it has in Congress? Dave follows the power-players and the money behind this story ... and gives us the good news that he erred in reporting the bill has passed in the Senate ... (April, 2000)

  • Asbestos Compensation: A Killer Idea ...
    Once again, it's profit before human life and suffering, as legislation before Congress threatens to take away the rights of workers poisoned by their employers through asbestos exposure. Here's the story on this outrageous attack ... (March, 2000)

  • OSHA Homework
    Whether it's piece-work or hi-tech, if you're among the growing number of workers paid to toil at home, you're covered by the law. At least, you should be — despite OSHA's hasty retreat on home health and safety. Dave tells us why ...  (February, 2000)

  • Looking Back Over the Century
    Workplace health and safety has improved dramatically during the course of the 20th Century ... progress that was due almost solely to the struggles of working men and women to organize themselves into trade unions. Here's the story ...  (January, 2000)

  • Two Cheers for Half an Ergo Standard
    It took ten years of fighting intense employer opposition, but OSHA has finally released its proposed ergonomic standard covering manufacturing workers. That's the good news for some of the workers at risk from repetitive stress disorder. The bad news: office workers will not automatically be covered.  (December, 1999)

  • Say It Ain’t So, Everett!
    It's bad enough that many health care workers are not aware of potentially life-threatening reactions to commonly-used latex gloves, but it's even worse when a respected public figure downplays the dangers for reasons that can only be called suspect in testimony before Congress. (November, 1999)

  • Ergoban Defeated!
    Once again there is at least the possibility of an OSHA-issued ergonomics standard to combat an injuries that have been suffered by more than two-and-one-half million U.S. workers. Senate Republicans have, for the moment, backed off on their efforts to thwart action on this issue — but big business is still pushing the Republican majority to keep ergonomics off OSHA's agenda. (October 1999)

  • OSHA Moves To
    Expand Worker Rights

    OSHA has proposed a new standard that would broadly include workers in voluntary workplace inspections (federally-funded health and safety consultation services). If the new regs are approved, workers would accompany inspectors and the employer would be required to post the hazards found ... a major change from past practice. In suggesting the new standard, OSHA is admitting what workers knew all along — we know where the hazards are! (July, 1999)

  • You've Found the Hazards —
    Now What Do You Do?

    Your local’s health and safety committee has done a walk-through survey of your plant and they have found a number of new health and safety hazards. What’s next? What can you and your union local do to control, or better yet, eliminate these hazards? Here's Dave's overview of  handling safety issues at work — especially when there are a lot of them. (June, 1999)

  • Beryllium: A 'Deadly Alliance'
    A secret deal by a U.S. government agency, exposed in a series of Toledo Blade articles, has meant a very real and very high risk of contracting a deadly and incurable lung disease for hundreds of workers. The substance involved is beryllium, a metal UE once fought to eliminate from manufacturing plants ... but later became prized in weapons manufacturing and the space program. Find out more about why you should be angry ... and what we can do ... (May, 1999)

  • Some Common Ventilation Foul-Ups
    Ventilation systems designed to protect workers on the job may not be working as intended. Dave shows us what could go wrong ... and how to check for and correct problems ... (April, 1999)

  • A Cautionary Tale
    Could an international organization strike down health and safety protections for workers in the United States? One of the first examples of this emerging threat under international trade agreements involves Monsanto Corporation, the Canadian Government and the World Health Organization and the outcome could easily be a cautionary tale of things to come ... (March, 1999)

  • Work Injuries Down?
    Check Your OSHA Logs
    Have workplace injuries really dropped to their lowest levels since OSHA went into effect in 1971? Probably not, says Dave. More likely, employers are underreporting injuries. Is yours? February is the month to find out ... (January, 1999)

  • Sulfuric Acid Mist Judged Cancer Agent
    Sulfuric acid mist can cause cancer — and if this commonly-found industrial chemical is used in your workplace, proper ventilation is an absolute necessity ... (December, 1998)

  • Medical Removal Protection ...
    and More Good News!
    A new Methylene Chloride exposure standard adopted by OSHA not only protects workers' health — but provides wage and benefit protections as well ... ergonomics standard put on "fast track"  ... and anti-OSHA attack bills have died with the adjournment of the 105th Congress ... (November, 1998)

  • Ergonomics Progress!
    After four years of constant Republican attacks in the U.S. Congress, it finally looks like the tide is turning in the fight for an OSHA ergonomics standard to protect workers ... but the battle is not yet over ... (October, 1998)

  • Ergonomic Double-Cross:
    Even though some 64% of all reported work-related injuries share a common cause, anti-labor legislators are rushing to protect the boss in Congress — making sure that OSHA can't act to deal with a serious workplace problem. (July, 1998)

  • Noise Hazards:
    Noisy work environments can cause hearing loss. There are laws which can help protect your hearing while on the job ... and workers' comp provisions if you have job-related hearing loss. (June, 1998)

  • Respirators:
    Under a new OSHA standard, employers must develop a written, comprehensive respiratory protection program for all workers who are required to use respirators on the job and, for the first time, requires employers to provide respirators under working conditions that are immediately dangerous to life and health. (April/May, 1998)

  • Choking the Life out of OSHA:
    The last thing big-business politicians want is for worker safety to get in the way of profits — and they're lining up again to choke OSHA to death to make sure it doesn't happen. This time, the attack is called the "Regulatory Improvement Act of 1998" ... (March, 1998)

  • Shift Work:
    Shift work can take a toll on human health. Find out what can be done to reduce shift-related health problems. (February, 1998)

  • Fairy Tales:
    OSHA plays a numbers game with national occupational illness and injury rates (January, 1998)

  • Radiation Fallout:
    Up to 7,500 people across the U.S., affected by fallout radiation from U.S. government tests in the 1950s, will — or have — died from thyroid cancer. Senator Tom Harkin is calling on the government to pay for medical exams of anyone who may have been exposed to these tests. (December, 1997)

  • Be Cool!
    Handling summer heat and/or hot conditions at work (August, 1997)

  • Sneak Attacks:
    Republicans shift their strategies in workplace safety attacks (February, 1997)

  • Set for a Fall:
    Some basic rules for ladders and scaffolds and heights ... (April, 1996)

  • Gutting OSHA:
    Republican-sponsored legislation aims to gut OSHA (December, 1995)

  • Zapped!
    Reproductive Hazards in the Workplace (March, 1994)

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