Posts Tagged ‘workplace safety’

An editorial in yesterday’s New York Times calls on Congress to take action on pending mine and workplace safety legislation before another tragedy like the Upper Big Branch mine disaster or the Deepwater Horizon explosion occurs.

The House and Senate are each considering similar versions of the “Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety and Health Act,” legislation that would promote safer workplaces by protecting whistleblowers who report unsafe conditions, increasing penalties for mine and workplace operators who endanger the lives of their workers, and giving the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) more authority to force employers to quickly abate hazardous conditions.

Earlier this summer, the House voted its bill out of committee and it currently awaits a floor vote. As usual, the Senate is moving at a slower pace. Public Citizen has called on Congress to take action to reduce the 5,000 worker fatalities that happen each year by passing this important legislation.

For more information on this legislation, check out our fact sheet, letter to Congress, and backgrounder (all are in PDF format). Or view the text of the House and Senate bills.

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Today, Congress took an important step to improve workplace safety. The House Committee on Education and Labor passed the Robert C. Byrd (named after the late Senator from West Virginia) Miner Safety and Health Act. The bill now advances to the House floor where it will hopefully come up for a vote soon. This is an important piece of legislation. David Arkush, director of our Congress Watch division, explained its potential effects in a statement released today:

The legislation addresses two key areas in particular: (more…)

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Is BP really trying to downplay its safety record now? The oil giant’s memory seems to be a little foggy — perhaps too much crude clouding the picture?

HuffPost just ran a story about BP defending its safety record, claiming that most of its violations centered around one major accident in 2005. For one, that’s not really anything to brag about. Secondly, it’s not even true!

The Center for Public Integrity released data that showed that BP was responsible 97 percent of all flagrant violations reported in the refining industry over the past three years. Three. Not five. Sorry, BP.

And in case you forgot even more of the details of BP’s atrocious safety and environmental records, this will refresh your memory. In just the last few years, BP has pled guilty to two crimes and paid over $730 million in fines and settlements to the US government, state governments and civil lawsuit judgments for environmental crimes, willful neglect of worker safety rules and penalties for manipulating energy markets.

“Safe and reliable?” Try again. Everyone else, try getting Beyond BP.

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It has started. Thick, sludge-like oil from the BP spill has hit the shore of Louisiana marshlands, pictured above, all but ensuring this will be an environmental catastrophe.

NASA also released a photo today that shows a “massive column of oil extending out Southeast towards the open ocean.” This image will likely change the estimated extent of the spill and damage.

If that weren’t bad enough, meteorologists now say that the oil has spread enough for the Loop Current to drag it through the Florida Keys, where tar balls (sticky clumps of decayed oil) have turned up in the past few days.

Treehugger posted a powerful video, “The Gulf Bleeding,” in which environmentalist John Wathen said, “For the first time in my environmental career, I find myself using the word hopeless.”

And through this environmental disaster, finger pointing continues but no punishments have been implemented. But we can take action. We can use our power as consumers to boycott the oil company responsible for the rig that caused the spill, BP — the oil company with the worst safety record in the country. Together, we can hold BP accountable.

Join Public Citizen in its campaign, 1,000,000 Strong to Boycott BP. Sign a petition letting BP know that their actions are inexusable and we won’t stand for it. We already have more than 9,500 signatures. Add yours now.

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It doesn’t stop.  The oil from the spill, the stories about the environmental effects and BP’s blatant disregard for safety — it all keeps pouring out.

The Boston Globe‘s “The Big Picture” put out breath-taking, absolutely horrifying photos of what’s happening in the Gulf, including the one featured above. It’s really worth taking the time to scroll through them. And just think — those pictures were taken nearly a week ago. How bad is it now?

What else is happening down there?

  • “Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick in spots,” reports The New York Times. “The plumes are depleting the oxygen dissolved in the gulf, worrying scientists, who fear that the oxygen level could eventually fall so low as to kill off much of the sea life near the plumes.”
  • “Two refineries owned by oil giant BP account for 97 percent of all flagrant violations found in the refining industry by government safety inspectors over the past three years,” according to the Center for Public Integrity. OSHA classified most of the violations as “egregious willful.”
  • “It’s no longer mere speculation – the spill is far worse than the 1989 Exxon Valdez incident in Alaska,” wrote the Troy Media Corporation.

What can we do? We can hold BP accountable. Join Public Citizen in boycotting BP for three months. Sign the petition. Join the Facebook group. Make a difference.

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As the nation continues to mourn the loss of the 29 miners that died last week in Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, President Obama and other federal officials launch an investigation. Others, like The Huffington Post, call for a criminal investigation against Massey’s CEO, Don Blankenship, for compromising the safety of his employees. Public Citizen goes even farther, calling for Massey’s board to fire Blankenship.

Blankenship’s Massey Energy is out of control. Since 2005, the Upper Big Branch Mine has been cited with more than 1,342 safety violations, including two the very day of the explosion. Massey has become a leader in the highly destructive practice of mountaintop-removal mining, sometimes in violation of the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws. And Massey’s miners have been threatened with being fired if they join a union, according to the United Mineworkers of America.

If that weren’t bad enough, Blankenship has used his wealth to launch a $3 million campaign of reprehensible political ads smearing the reputation of a West Virginia Supreme Court justice while a $50 million judgment against Massey was before the court.

We cannot allow this blatant disregard for workers’ safety to continue. Sign the petition: Tell Massey’s board of directors to fire Don Blankenship at www.FireBlankenship.org. The first step is to remove Mr. Blankenship as Massey’s CEO. Doing so is a step forward for corporate accountability and worker safety.

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The silver lining of the mine explosion in West Virginia that has left at least 25 people dead and four missing is the added attention to mine safety—and workplace safety as a whole.

The Huffington Post today featured a story about all of the workplace safety accidents that aren’t widely publicized.

“Indeed, 16 American workers die every single day, on average, at the workplace, and the federal agencies tasked with making sure that doesn’t happen need more resources and more tools to combat such tragedies,” wrote Huffington Post’s David Dayen.

Want to hear about more about them? Public Citizen now tracks developments in workplace health and safety, from accidents to policy changes. Sign up now for daily e-mailed updates.

Unfortunately, mine safety is not a new issue. Just last year, Public Citizen highlighted the huge backlog of unheard mine safety cases (13,000 a year ago, 18,000 now), and called on Congress to allocate more money to the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, the government agency tasked with ruling on mine safety violations, to make more judicial hires. Many of these unheard cases are appeals–a tactic companies use to avoid paying fines for safety violations.

Perhaps if the agency had received the proper funding, Massey Energy, the company that owns the West Virginia mine, would not have gotten away with its dozens of violations. In fact, the company was slapped with two citations the very day of Monday’s explosion.

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