WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg
July 11, 2014 by Matt Shudtz

USDA Submits Poultry Rule to OMB: The Facts

Yesterday, USDA submitted its draft final rule on poultry slaughter “modernization” to OMB for formal review.  This rule, as regular readers of CPR Blog will remember, would remove USDA inspectors from poultry slaughtering facilities, transfer some of their food safety and quality control duties to plant employees, and allow the plants to increase their line speeds to an astonishing 175 birds per minute.  On top of that, the rule allows each plant to develop its own testing protocols for E. coli, salmonella, campylobacter and other food-safety concerns.  It’s the foxes guarding the henhouse, for sure.

Along with many of our allies in the worker health and safety and food safety communities, we have been urging USDA since early 2012 to go back to the drawing board with this ill-advised rule.  USDA published its proposed rule in January 2012 without consulting with its inspection advisory committee, without holding public meetings to solicit other stakeholders’ views, and – especially galling – without seeking input from OSHA.

In the two and a half years since USDA proposed the rule, we’ve seen a steady stream of bad news for the proponents of the rule:

June 30, 2014 by Matt Shudtz
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

A coalition of occupational health and safety experts submitted an amicus brief to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) last Thursday, urging the Board to reconsider its restrictive definition of “joint employer” for purposes of collective bargaining.  It’s a critical issue for workers as more and more are getting jobs through temp firms, staffing agencies, and other complex employment relationships.  The workers who got your last-minute Father’s Day gift from the Amazon warehouse to your front door, for instance, don’t all get paychecks from Amazon, but they all operate at “Prime” speed because Amazon demands it.

From a health and safety perspective, it’s important that laws like the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) are interpreted broadly because the remedial purposes of those statutes – to ensure all workers can collectively bargain for better working conditions …

June 26, 2014 by Matt Shudtz
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

Thousands of U.S. workers die on the job each year, the victims of unsafe workplaces. Countless more are injured, some permanently disabled, or exposed to toxic substances that could eventually harm or kill them. While the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has made progress to improve workplace safety since Congress passed the OSH Act in 1971, a new advocacy manual from the Center for Progressive Reform focuses on the progress on worker safety issues  likely to come at the state and local levels, far from the general dysfunction in Washington.

Winning Safer Workplaces: A Manual for State and Local Policy Reform, written by a team of lawyers and public health researchers, offers local advocacy groups a series of policy proposals, all ripe for enactment by state legislatures, city or county councils, or state or local agencies.

In releasing the manual, CPR President Rena Steinzor — my …

May 8, 2014 by Matt Shudtz
columnfeet_wide2.jpg

The National Academies’ National Research Council released its long-awaited report on IRIS this week, and the results are good for EPA.  The report praises the IRIS program and its leadership, including Drs. Olden and Cogliano, for making great strides to improve how IRIS assessments are developed.

To get a real appreciation for how positive this report is, it’s important to put it in context.  In 2011, a different NAS/NRC committee led by the same chairperson went out of its way to criticize the IRIS program for creating what the committee viewed as overly ponderous, sometimes confusing documents.  That committee, which was organized to peer review a draft assessment of formaldehyde, went beyond its charge to complain about an IRIS assessment development process that it cast as not being fit for its weighty purpose (developing the scientific evidence upon which agencies regulate drinking water, Superfund cleanup …

Feb. 4, 2014 by Matt Shudtz
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

Today, separate House committees will hold hearings that address two federal agencies’ efforts to regulate toxic chemicals.  The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy will hold its fifth hearing on issues arising out of ongoing efforts to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Simultaneously, the House Education and Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections will hold a hearing addressing, among other things, OSHA’s recent attempts to spur better protections for workers who face chemical hazards.  The two hearings have been framed differently and will feature different witnesses, but they share a common thread: each committee’s Republican majority is championing a worldview in which federal agencies should be restricted from engaging in the most basic form of protective action – gathering and sharing information about toxic chemicals’ risks.

The Energy and Commerce hearing, which has a rather conspicuous absence …

Oct. 24, 2013 by Matt Shudtz
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

Today OSHA announced two new web-based resources designed to help employers eliminate chemical hazards in the workplace. Both the toolkit for identifying less-hazardous substitutes and the annotated exposure limits table are useful informational resources designed to promote voluntary action by conscientious employers and informed demands by workers and their advocates. But OSHA has to deal with both the “high road” and the “low road” employers, so using these new tools in enforcement proceedings is a necessary adjunct to voluntary employer efforts. With some enterprising work by enforcement officials and strong support from the Solicitor of Labor the tools could be the basis for a new wave of enforcement under the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause.

As OSHA freely admits, the Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) found in current regulations are out-of-date and inadequately protective. Employers may expose workers to chemicals up to those limits without incurring fines …

Oct. 23, 2013 by Matt Shudtz
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

SBA’s Office of Advocacy has added its voice to the chorus of business interests who want OSHA to delay publication of a new rule that would protect workers from the deadly effects of silica exposure. In a letter to OSHA chief David Michaels, the top lawyers from the Office of Advocacy claim that it will be “nearly impossible” for small business representatives to review OSHA’s proposal and prepare the comments and testimony due in early December.

To be sure, the rulemaking docket is voluminous and the issues are complex. But the bottom line is that each day of delay in publishing the new rule means another day when millions of workers will be exposed to elevated levels of a deadly dust. By OSHA’s estimates, hundreds of workers die each year from silica exposures that are perfectly legal under current standards; thousands of other workers …

Oct. 17, 2013 by Matt Shudtz
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

OSHA’s proposed new silica standards promise to improve the health and safety of more than two million workers across the U.S. By reducing exposures to respirable silica dust, the standards are expected to save 700 workers’ lives and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis every year. Of course, these impressive benefits come at a cost to employers and those costs will be a major talking point for the business community as OSHA’s proposal moves through the rulemaking process. One argument that we’re sure to hear from the Chamber of Commerce and its allies is that the costs of complying with the new standards will fall disproportionately on small businesses.  The plight of small business owners somehow always seems to pull at the heartstrings of the big businesses owners when federal agencies propose new public health and environmental protections – in stark contrast to …

Sept. 24, 2013 by Matt Shudtz
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

As we noted on the day of the announcement, OSHA has – at long last – released a proposal to better protect workers from respirable silica. We didn’t have much to say about the substance at the time because we simply hadn’t had the opportunity to read through the massive proposal. (It’s over 750 pages, with almost 1600 additional pages in the risk assessment and economic analysis documents – OSHA clearly doesn’t take their regulatory responsibilities lightly.) Having had a chance to get a bit more familiar with the proposal, here are some initial thoughts:

  • A 50 µg/m3 permissible exposure limit (PEL) is necessary, but not sufficient. As with numerous other health standards OSHA has issued over the years, the agency has determined that reducing the PELs to their proposed level will reduce the risk posed by silica but will leave workers exposed to …

July 31, 2013 by Matt Shudtz
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

Today, Senator Boxer’s Environment and Public Works committee will hold a hearing to discuss the best ways to fix the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the badly outdated law governing some 80,000 chemicals used in commerce in the United States. Communities across the country are not aware of the dangers present in chemicals in everything from baby bottles to face creams, with little to no regulation because of weak TSCA legislation passed over 40 years ago. Strong toxic chemical regulation is needed that protects the rights of consumers to go to court, that strengthens the ability of states to regulate toxics, and streamlines the EPA’s process for reviewing chemicals instead of bogging it down with repeated analysis and procedures that focus on the profitability of the chemical industry instead of the health and safety of the public. CPR Board Member Thomas McGarity will testify …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Aug. 26, 2020

I'm Leaving the Best Job I've Ever Had

Aug. 3, 2020

CPR's Commitment to Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Aug. 3, 2020

Will Isaias Unleash Toxic Floodwaters along the East Coast?

June 1, 2020

CPR Will Stand with Those Who Cannot Breathe

May 4, 2020

Baltimore Sun Op-ed: More Needs to Be Done to Protect Our Meat and Poultry Workers

March 5, 2020

How Can Legal and Regulatory Enforcement Help Communities at Risk from the Climate Crisis?

April 15, 2019

CPR Member Scholars to EPA: Clean Water Rule Rollback Based on Bad Law, Weak Science