construction-worker-wide.jpg
July 11, 2019 by Katie Tracy

New House Bill a Game Changer for Protecting Workers from Extreme Heat

Asunción Valdivia, a 53-year old father and farmworker at a Giumarra vineyard in California, died after laboring to pick grapes for ten straight hours in 105-degree heat. When he collapsed, his employer told Valdivia’s son, Luis, who was also working in the field, to drive him to the hospital, but Valdivia died before they arrived.

In Valdivia’s memory, on July 10, Reps. Judy Chu and Raúl Grijalva paved the way to protecting outdoor and indoor workers across the nation from extreme heat by introducing the Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act (H.R. 3668).

Valdivia is among 815 workers who died on the job because of extreme heat between 1992 and 2017, based on cases documented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Tens of thousands more workers have suffered illnesses and injuries from exposure to excessive heat. Extreme heat poses the greatest risk to outdoor workers, such as those in agriculture and construction, but it also affects indoor workers, such as in the warehousing industry (e.g., Amazon). And the toll of deaths and injuries is continuing to climb as the climate crisis brings higher temperatures and humidity.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is …

May 16, 2019 by Katie Tracy
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) guarantees workers the right to speak up about health and safety concerns in the workplace without reprisal. Specifically, Section 11(c) of the law provides workers the express right to report any subsequent employer retaliation against whistleblowers, such as demotion or firing, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Even with these protections, many workers fear retaliation if they report health and safety concerns. Workers who put their jobs on the line to make their voice heard deserve certainty that OSHA has their back if their employers violate the law and take adverse action against them. However, due to statutory barriers and resource constraints, OSHA's administration of 11(c) cases often leaves workers without any remedy.

On May 14, I delivered remarks at an OSHA stakeholder meeting on improving the agency's administration of retaliation cases filed under Section …

April 29, 2019 by Thomas McGarity, Katie Tracy
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

Although Workers' Memorial Day was officially April 28, the time has not passed for remembering the thousands of friends, family members, and neighbors whose lives were tragically cut short due to fatal on-the-job incidents this past year. We carry on their memories as we renew the fight for healthy and safe working conditions.

On average, 5,320 workers die on the job every year. In 2017, the latest year for which data is available, the death toll was 5,147. These figures do not account for the estimated 50,000 workers who succumbed to occupational diseases caused by chronic exposures to toxic chemicals and other harmful substances they encountered in their workplaces.

Every day across the nation, salon workers are exposed to toxic chemicals like toluene and formaldehyde in nail polish and hair dyes, construction workers inhale asbestos during home renovations and silica during sandblasting, and janitorial …

April 17, 2019 by Katie Tracy
toxic-chem-barrels-workplace-wide.jpg

Workers should be able to earn a paycheck without putting their lives or their health and well-being on the line. Yet every day, an estimated 137 U.S. workers succumb to diseases caused by on-the-job exposure to toxic chemicals and other hazardous substances, and hundreds of thousands more suffer from nonfatal illnesses. In fact, more people die annually from toxic exposures at work than from car crashes, firearms, or opioids.

Today, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) releases a new handbook, Chemical Detox for the Workplace: A Guide to Securing a Nontoxic Work Environment, exploring multiple strategies that workers, their representatives, and advocates can implement to reduce or eliminate chemical hazards in their workplaces and assist injured workers, all without waiting for government intervention. This is critically important now more than ever as the Trump administration and the chemical industry fight aggressively to undermine existing protections and …

Dec. 26, 2018 by Katie Tracy
2019-start-line.jpg

As 2018 ends and we take stock of the developments in workers’ rights over the first half of the Trump administration, there is little forward progress to report. This administration, acting with minimal to no congressional oversight, has consistently neglected to protect America’s workers, instead rolling back and delaying numerous Obama-era regulations and safeguards, ignoring emerging hazards from climate change and new technologies, and restricting traditional inspection and enforcement in favor of self-reporting and compliance assistance. 

Instead of focusing on the past and the negative, let’s look forward to 2019. If it wants to, the Trump administration has an opportunity to change course next year, and work with the 116th Congress to prioritize America’s workers. In the likely event President Trump and the Republican majority of the Senate continue on the same path, the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives can …

Oct. 22, 2018 by Katie Tracy
construction_steelworkers_wide.jpg

The Trump administration has few plans to protect workers from emerging workplace health and safety hazards, according to the regulatory agenda released by the White House on October 16. This is nothing new for this administration, which has consistently neglected to take up worker protections, instead focusing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) resources on delaying and rolling back existing safeguards

Among the rules in OSHA's crosshairs, the agency plans to revoke a requirement for employers with 250 or more employees to electronically submit detailed logs of injuries and illnesses that occur at their establishments. The electronic reporting requirement for large firms is one piece of a 2016 rule finalized just before President Obama's term ended. The 2016 rule only sought to require establishments to submit injury and illness records that employers are already required to keep on site. But Trump's OSHA is basing its rollback …

Sept. 25, 2018 by Katie Tracy
asbestos-danger-cc-wide.jpg

September 26 is Mesothelioma Awareness Day. The day is intended to share information about mesothelioma, an incurable cancer that forms on the linings of vital organs, typically the lungs, following asbestos exposure. While the prognosis for individuals diagnosed with the illness is grim, preventing it is very much possible. 

Scientific studies of asbestos conclude there is no safe level of exposure. Accordingly, the clear solution to preventing mesothelioma is to ensure people are never exposed to asbestos in any amount. Safer alternatives to asbestos exist, so banning it is not beyond reach. Despite this, the U.S. is not among roughly 50 nations that have done so. Although asbestos is no longer manufactured in the United States, it persists in previously installed insulation and is still being imported every year. 

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, nearly 100 percent of the asbestos imported into …

Aug. 14, 2018 by Katie Tracy
Accident_Workplace_wide.jpg

The Trump administration has aggressively sought to undermine public safeguards since taking office, all under the guise of making America great (again?). Nowhere has this been more evident than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where Trump appointees have sought to attack most every standard adopted during the Obama era, as well as long-standing analytical procedures (see here and here) designed to ensure any new standards are evidence-based and scientifically sound. These attacks do not stop at EPA, however. Trump has also undermined worker protections at every turn. 

At the end of July, Trump's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed to roll back an Obama-era rule finalized in May 2016 to improve tracking of worker injuries and illnesses by requiring employers to electronically submit certain records to the agency. The final rule did not ask employers to document additional information than is already required under existing recordkeeping …

June 12, 2018 by Rena Steinzor
trench-wide.jpg

This op-ed originally ran in the Baltimore Sun.

On June 5, a 19-year-old construction worker named Kyle Hancock was smothered to death when a deep trench where he was working collapsed. R.F. Warder Inc., the construction company that hired Hancock to help fix a leaking sewage pipe, and the bosses it employed are responsible for his death, plain and simple. Their failure to shore the trench to prevent a collapse was grossly negligent, readily foreseeable, eminently preventable and, therefore, criminal.

The scene of the incident was gruesome. To recover Hancock's body, emergency responders from the Baltimore Fire Department first shored the trench to protect themselves and then worked painstakingly until 1:30 a.m., digging with hand shovels 20 feet down. Before they began the rescue effort, they had to order two other workers out of the hole. We can assume from this fact that Hancock …

May 14, 2018 by Katie Tracy
construction-worker-wide.jpg

The White House released its Spring 2018 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions on May 9 with little fanfare. A close examination of the agenda for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) shows that protecting worker health and safety is anything but a priority for the Trump administration. Rather, the agency will continue to focus on weakening worker protections.

OSHA's spring agenda lists 20 planned activities – 15 carryovers from the fall agenda, four agenda items moved from the agency's list of long-term actions to now in play, and one new activity.

The 15 carryover items include 14 announcements of delays, ranging from one to seven months. For example, one carryover on the agenda is the agency's plan to weaken the 2017 beryllium standard by easing safety requirements on the construction and maritime industries. The standard protects workers from chronic disease and lung cancer, but the …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Aug. 3, 2020

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

July 29, 2020

Empowering Workers to Sue Employers for Dangerous Working Conditions

July 28, 2020

CPR Leads Legal Academics in Ensuring Citizen Access to Justice in the Wake of COVID-19

July 2, 2020

Will COVID-19 'Shock' Workplace Injury Law Like the Railroads of the Early 20th Century?

June 19, 2020

Supreme Court Affirms Title VII Protections for LGBTQ+ Community

June 18, 2020

The Climate Crisis and Heat Stress: Maryland Farms Must Adapt to Rising Temperatures

June 17, 2020

OSHA, Other Agencies Need to Step Up on COVID-19, Future Pandemics