"I have something up my sleeve... I've got two bills... locked in the lower left-hand corner of my desk." This was the characteristically understated suggestion made by Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins to President Franklin D. Roosevelt that indicated she was fully prepared to move forward with the sweeping reforms she had championed for most of her adult life. Waiting in the dark quiet of that desk drawer was the first draft of what would become the Fair Labor Standards Act. The lock turned and the drawer slid open, so to speak, on June 25, 1938 75 years ago this week when Roosevelt signed the bill into law. Among several features of the law that transformed the way we work was the establishment of a national minimum wage, set at 25 cents an hour. The law also provided for an increase in that minimum wage to 30 cents the
following year, with a "universal minimum" of 40 cents set for the seventh year (1945). After that, increases were enacted as amendments to the bill, with the minimum wage hitting $1 for the first time in 1956. Unlike the current debate, Perkins and Roosevelt did not have decades of independent economic data to measure the impact of a minimum wage to the economy as a whole, but wage and employment increases in that first year under the law showed that it did not obstruct a rebounding economy.
• Renewing the Promise of the FLSA: Workers on the Need to Raise the Federal Minimum Wage: After logging thousands of miles and engaging dozens of low-wage workers in conversations during minimum wage roundtables, acting Secretary Harris' campaign reached a pinnacle of sorts when he brought some of those workers to a White House event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act with Vice President Biden. Harris recounts that event here, along with his testimony on minimum wage legislation before a Senate committee. About those workers who joined him at these events, Harris writes, "These workers deserve better than to be stuck in poverty. They deserve better than to struggle to provide their families with the basic necessities. They deserve a pathway to the middle class. They deserve a raise."
• Talking STEM Training in Austin: Acting Secretary Harris reports on his recent trip to Austin, Texas, where he participated in U.S. News' annual STEM Solutions Conference: "What Big Employers Want." Harris covers the department's initiatives to promote employment in science, technology, engineering and math, connecting the development of job training in these fields with the overall economic development of communities like Austin.
• Safety Rights for Young Workers: With summer upon us, Rebecca Bilbro, a Presidential Management Fellow with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, writes a message to young, first-time workers about the hazards they can face and OSHA's resources on summer job safety. She provides information on heat exposure, landscaping work, the dangers of grain engulfment and other hazards, and lets young workers know they have rights on the job.
More than 100 people attended the Hurricane Sandy Prevailing Wage Conference in Atlantic City on June 26 for training on the Davis-Bacon Act, McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, and how these statutes apply specifically to employers, employees and union officials. "It is our commitment to ensure that workers employed on federal and federally assisted contracts do not become vulnerable to underbidding or a race to the bottom," said Laura Fortman, principal deputy administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. The conference was the second of two hosted by the Wage and Hour Division's northeast regional office and specifically designed to promote compliance on federal and federally assisted projects for reconstruction efforts following Hurricane Sandy.
Coal producer Alpha Natural Resources opened the doors of its $23 million mine safety training facility in Julian, W.Va., on June 20. The state-of-the-art Running Right Leadership Academy grew out of a landmark $210 million settlement between the company and the Department of Justice following the April 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster. Within the walls of the complex's 96,000-square foot mine lab, miners will be able to experience simulated mine emergencies and conditions. Students will learn how to operate continuous mining machines, shuttle cars and roof bolters in the virtual reality lab. Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, gave the center high marks during an opening-day tour. "This is an exceptional, state-of-the-art facility," said Main. "There is no other center like it in the country. It truly will benefit miners and mine rescue personnel."
Byte Back, a local nonprofit computer and job training center serving residents of Washington, D.C., hosted Ben Seigel at its monthly job club meeting on June 20 at Catholic University. Seigel, deputy director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, discussed the department's Job Clubs Initiative with members and volunteers of the Byte Back Job Seekers Club. During the meeting, Seigel shared tips and strategies used by job clubs across the country, including the role volunteering can play in networking and skills building. The link between volunteering and finding employment was the topic of a recent report released by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Secretary's Regional Representative Millie Herrera attended a graduation ceremony for 45 Little Havana out-of-school youth program participants who achieved their GED certificate and 24 in-school youth program students from Hialeah Senior High School who received their high school diplomas. The ceremony took place on June 13 at Miami-Dade College's Inter-American campus. "Many times, students who complete their GED just get a certificate, and there is no ceremony for their accomplishment. This program goes above and beyond to celebrate this important achievement," said Herrera. The Workforce Investment Act's formula-funded youth program grants serve low-income youths ages 14-21 who face barriers to employment. Youth Co-Op Inc. is a service provider for American Job Corps Centers in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties for the South Florida Workforce Investment Board, which funds the program through WIA Youth. This year, approximately 63 percent of out-of-school graduates are already employed or enrolled in advanced training and 80 percent of in-school students are enrolled in post-secondary education.
Mid-Atlantic Listening Sessions
As members of vulnerable populations, Hispanic and Asian workers often are fearful to speak out about challenges they face in the workplace. To give these workers a voice, the Philadelphia Region's Women's Bureau and Mid-Atlantic Region's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs joined the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to host listening sessions at the South Philadelphia Library on June 21. Attendees expressed concerns about issues including discrimination, pay inequity and language barriers, and the need for more informational materials translated and distributed to organizations in their respective communities. The three federal agencies plan to hold additional outreach events in collaboration with city and community organizations.
Native American Outreach
In an effort to improve outreach to connect with Native Americans, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has held seven meetings with leaders of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway), United Cherokee Indian, Nottoway and Pamunkey Tribes, as well as the Mattaponi-Pamunkey-Monacan Consortium. The tribes, all located in the Virginia counties of Southampton, King William and Amherst, have met with members of the OFCCP district office in Richmond over the past several months. These outreach meetings afforded an opportunity for information-sharing between the agency and tribal leaders, including discussions about the underutilization of Native Americans in federal contractor workplaces throughout Virginia. OFCCP will continue to develop collaborative relationships with Native Americans through additional outreach meetings that will take place in the coming months.
Promoting workplace safety and health among staff members, students and local employers in the manufacturing, construction and service sectors is at the heart of a new alliance between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Erie Institute of Technology in Erie, Pa. The institute provides technical training programs for computer, electronics, manufacturing and technology careers. Through the alliance, OSHA and the institute will provide information on OSHA national, regional and local emphasis programs; opportunities to participate in the federal rulemaking process; and occupational safety and health laws and standards, including the rights and responsibilities of workers and employers. Additionally, both organizations will participate in forums, roundtable discussions and stakeholder meetings on youth safety to help forge solutions in the workplace and provide input on safety and health issues.
Las Vegas played host June 25-27 to the annual American Society of Safety Engineers' Safety 2013 Professional and Development Conference and Exposition. Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, spoke on the first day of the event. The expo included 250 educational sessions, networking opportunities and products for professionals in occupational safety, health and environmental fields. During his remarks, Dr. Michaels announced OSHA's new National Emphasis Program to protect workers from exposure to isocyanates. He also highlighted the agency's initiatives to protect temporary and contingent workers, ensure workplace training in a language workers can understand, campaigns to prevent falls in construction and heat illness in outdoor workers, preventing exposure to hazards in the grain handling and health care industries, and the importance of employers implementing injury and illness prevention programs.
Renewing EMPLEO Alliance
Regional department leadership in Southern California joined with local and state government agencies, consulates and nonprofit organizations on June 26 at the Mexican General Consulate in Los Angeles to celebrate the ninth anniversary of the Employment, Education and Outreach alliance. EMPLEO has informed and educated workers and employers in Southern California and beyond on their workplace rights since 2004. Thanks to a toll-free line staffed by volunteers, the alliance has been instrumental in collecting $14 million in back wages for more than 9,000 workers. The event was hosted by Acting Consul General of Mexico in Los Angeles Juan Carlos Mendoza Sanchez. On hand to renew the alliance agreement were representatives from the Wage and Hour Division, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement, Cal-OSHA, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Mexican Consulate and Central American consulates.
The Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families hosted the annual meeting of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood grantees on June 25. The meeting focused on key issues of the Obama Administration as it relates to families, including men's health, domestic violence prevention and workforce development. Gerri Fiala, acting assistant secretary of labor for employment and training, sat on a panel to discuss the workforce development system and how the nationwide network of American Job Centers can assist in improving economic stability. The job centers provide a wide range of resources to help families impacted by unemployment get back on their feet and enter or stay in the middle class.
Nuclear Worker Town Halls
Former nuclear weapons workers, including those from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., and Argonne National Laboratory East in Lemont, Ill., attended two town hall meetings in Bolingbrook on June 19 to learn about the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. The Joint Outreach Task Group, comprised of members from the Office Workers Compensation and other federal agencies, hosted the meetings. Rachel Leiton, director of OWCP's Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation, led an overview of Parts B and E of the EEOICPA. In New Mexico, individuals interested in learning the medical benefits of the EEOICPA gathered at town hall meetings on June 18 in Santa Fe, June 19 in Albuquerque, and June 20 in Grants. The meetings highlighted home health care services and how to better assist claimants. More than 500 people attended the five town halls.
Employment growth in the United States was the topic for a C-SPAN audience, in particular the latest measurements in hires, job openings, and separations including retirements. John Wohlford, branch chief of the job openings and labor turnover survey at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, appeared alongside Sudeep Reddy of the Wall Street Journal on C-SPAN's Washington Journal "America by the Numbers" on June 21.
Job Corps is seeking new applicants ages 16 to 24 for its national career training and education program at 125 campuses across the country. Residential and nonresidential slots are available for the self-paced federal program. The program is an ideal opportunity to gain education, career training, and employability skills for eligible low-income individuals who may be looking for a steppingstone to a community college or for those who need additional support to pursue a community college degree.
The department reported the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial Unemployment Insurance claims was 346,000 for the week ending June 22, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week. The four-week moving average was 345,750, down 2,750 from the previous week's revised average.
Standing before a group of working Americans and saying that it's about "simple dignity," Vice President Biden called for increasing the federal minimum wage during a White House event on June 25. "No man or woman who works 40 hours a week should go home and look at their kids and say, 'Honey, we got to apply for food stamps,'" Biden said. The event commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the law that established a national minimum wage. Earlier, acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris led a discussion with workers who told him of the economic hardships they face and how they would benefit from President Obama's proposal to increase the minimum wage from its current rate of $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour by 2015. The workers said they would spend the extra income on groceries, car repairs and their children, a point echoed by the vice president. A minimum wage increase "ripples all through the economy," Biden said, benefitting the country as a whole as those workers spend their additional income on necessities such as food and utility bills.
On the eve of signing the Fair Labor Standards Act into law in 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt took to radio to extol its virtues. "Except perhaps for the Social Security Act, it is the most far-reaching, farsighted program for the benefit of workers ever adopted here or in any other country," he told the American people during one of his Fireside Chat radio addresses. In commemoration of the law's 75th anniversary, the department and acting Secretary Harris used the same wireless technology, along with 21st Century social media, to celebrate the FLSA and advocate for a raise in the minimum wage. Harris was a guest on June 26 on two nationally syndicated radio programs, "The Diane Rehm Show" and "The Bill Press Show." Through the use of Facebook and Twitter, Harris reached thousands more to reaffirm the protections that the FLSA affords America's workers while championing an increase in wages for the lowest-paid among them.
$58 Million in Training Grants for Dislocated Workers
Thirty states will receive $58 million in National Emergency Grants to provide expanded training for dislocated workers. Announced on June 26, the grants will support on-the-job training, customized training, registered apprenticeships and other approaches that connect individuals with employers, with a focus on those saddled by long spells of unemployment. "While economic conditions continue to improve across the country, millions of workers still face barriers in returning to work," said acting Secretary Harris. "These federal funds will strengthen the capacity of the states' workforce investment systems to deliver critical work-based learning and training to thousands of unemployed Americans."
The department has awarded nearly $72 million in grants to community-based organizations to develop or expand YouthBuild programs nationwide. Grants of up to $1.1 million were awarded to 68 programs in 33 states and the District of Columbia. The funding will go to support academic and occupational skills training for nearly 4,600 at-risk youth. Through these programs, youth will gain valuable job skills that will lead to industry-recognized credentials in fields like construction, health care and information technology. "These grants reflect our shared commitment to investing in the future of our nation's youth and the belief that those investments will yield dividends for generations to come," said acting Secretary Harris. The department now supports 247 YouthBuild programs around the country.
Nearly $29 Million in Grants Awarded for Veterans Assistance
The Veterans' Employment and Training Service awarded 121 grants totaling nearly $29 million, to organizations that will provide more than 14,000 veterans with job training, job placement, housing and money management mentoring. The grants were awarded on June 27 under the department's Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program. "Military service members and their families have been asked to make tremendous sacrifices for this nation. Although homelessness among veterans has fallen, too many of our heroes cannot find jobs or homes," said acting Secretary Harris. "These grants will provide those who have served our nation with the means to find meaningful civilian employment and chart new directions for their lives."
The department is helping youth overcome the barriers to employment that often follow juvenile arrests. More than $26 million in "Face Forward" grants have been awarded to assist youth who have gone through the juvenile justice system obtain legal services to have their records expunged and/or get involved in diversion programs. Participating youth will receive mentoring services, education and training leading to industry-recognized credentials and other support services. The grants were awarded to 28 community-based organizations around the country. "These grants offer young people a chance for success and the opportunity to build a better life for themselves, their families and their communities," said acting Secretary Harris.
A lot has changed in the 75 years since the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act established basic worker protections, such as the minimum wage and overtime. Yet the need for those protections is more important than ever. Laura Fortman, principal deputy administrator for the Wage and Hour Division, talks about the critical role that FLSA plays today.
What has changed about the labor force in the last 75 years? Employment relationships are more tenuous. Union membership has declined. The workforce is more diverse. Men and women don't usually spend their lives working for the same employer. These changes have only heighted the need for the protections that the FLSA affords workers. Segments of the workforce in this country are particularly at risk when employers skirt around their obligations by misclassifying employees as independent contractors, using temporary employment agencies, subcontracting, or by employing other methods of altering the employee-employer relationship to avoid paying a fair wage.
The Wage and Hour Division is charged with enforcing the FLSA. What is the agency doing to adapt to the changing economy? In light of these challenges, the 21st Century Wage and Hour Division has to be smart and embrace change in pursuing its most important function of promoting compliance. We've been increasing our ranks of investigators so that we can be sure that we have enough "boots on the ground" to be effective. And in increasing staff, we've hired individuals with multiple language skills so that we can communicate with those employer and worker populations that are least likely to be aware of their responsibilities and their rights. And we're using social media to leverage our impact on compliance. WHD investigators are also using advanced technologies as critical work tools when conducting investigations.
You just mentioned the use of new technologies. Can you tell us more about the use of new tools to encourage compliance with the FLSA? Education and outreach to increase awareness and promote voluntary compliance has been and will continue to be one of the agency's key strategies for protecting the workforce and ensuring a level playing field throughout the economy. However, in the age of digital information, we need to provide a variety of ways to disseminate information through tools such as our website and online applications. Now more than ever, workers, employers and the American public have immediate and around-the-clock access to valuable information about federal wage and hour protections and requirements. We continue to seek new and innovative ways to increase public awareness about the agency and the laws we enforce.
News You Can Use
New Tools for Affordable Health Care
An enhanced website and 24-hour call center were launched on June 24 to help America better prepare for changes to the nation's health care system. HealthCare.gov and the call center provide educational resources in multiple languages to educate consumers about available options under the Affordable Care Act. Beginning Oct. 1, callers can receive assistance with plan selection and application completion, and they will be able to compare and enroll in health plans through HealthCare.gov. "These resources will give employees, employers and private citizens the guidance and support they need to make informed decisions about their personal health," said Phyllis C. Borzi, assistant secretary of labor for employee benefits security.
For the Fourth of July, Watch Out for Fireworks Hazards
In preparation for Independence Day celebrations, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration urges vigilance in the pyrotechnics industry to protect workers from hazards associated with manufacturing, storing, transporting, displaying and selling fireworks for public events. "As we look forward to July 4th celebrations with fireworks and festivities, we must also consider the safety of workers who handle pyrotechnics," said Dr. David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor who heads OSHA. "Employers are responsible for keeping everyone safe on the job and taking appropriate measures to protect workers from serious injuries or death." In March 2012, three workers suffered serious burns from an explosion at Global Pyrotechnic Solutions Inc. in Dittmer, Mo. OSHA resources that promote best practices and address retail sales of fireworks and fireworks displays are posted on its Web page.
Making the Case for an Increase in the Minimum Wage
Acting Secretary Harris presented the case for an increase in the minimum wage to the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. During the June 25 hearing chaired by Sen. Tom Harkin, "Building a Foundation of Fairness: 75 Years of the Federal Minimum Wage," Harris shared stories from minimum wage roundtables the department has held across the country, and outlined the positive economic impact associated with an increase. "In addition to being necessary for the well-being of workers and their families, the minimum wage is also essential to a healthy economy," said Harris. "Nearly 70 percent of the American economy is built on consumer spending. A higher minimum wage will give low-wage workers the additional purchasing power to buy goods and services in their communities thereby stimulating local economies and helping small businesses to grow and expand."
In Photographs, Showing the History of Mine Rescue
A recently created exhibit at the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beaver, W.Va., offers a glimpse into mining's history and a detailed timeline of mine rescue efforts from the early 1900s through the present day. "The History of Mine Rescue" is a pictorial time capsule of the mine rescue tradition that began more than 100 years ago, and the improvements that have taken place to better ensure miners' safety and health. Early visitors to the academy have given the exhibit high marks. "Our hope is that the online version of the display will reach many more people throughout the country who know little about mine rescue," said Janet Bertinuson, superintendent of the academy. "The History of Mine Rescue" exhibit will be on display through Aug. 9.
After he was discharged from the Army, Gregory Morales visited the Employment Development Department in Merced, Calif., seeking veteran employment services. "I was lost and didn't know where to start," he said. Donald Strong, an Air Force veteran and Disabled Veteran Outreach Program Specialist, stepped in. He offered Morales a career assessment and enrolled him in a workshop to sharpen his interview skills and refine his resume. When Strong left the military, he received similar help at the same Merced EDD and enrolled in
a Department of Veterans Affairs Work-Study program. Eventually, he was hired as a DVOP. Strong thought Morales would bring "passion and new ideas on how to market to younger veterans," so he steered Morales into the same VA Work-Study program to help other veterans with online job applications and resume preparation. Strong's efforts have paid off, as Morales recently was hired by EDD.
DOL in Action
Grain Elevator Company Cited in Worker Fatality
Plains Grain & Agronomy LLC has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with one willful and one serious citation and placed in the Severe Violator's Enforcement Program. In January, a worker at the company's Sheldon, N.D., grain terminal was fatally injured when he fell about 15 feet while loading railcars without fall protection. The company, which is headquartered in Enderlin, N.D., previously was cited at its Marion, N.D., location when a worker died after being engulfed by grain in April 2006. "Falls are one of the six major hazards present in grain bin handling facilities. Allowing workers to load railcars without proper fall protection is inexcusable," said Eric Brooks, OSHA's area director.
Food Packaging Facility Pays $150, 261 in Back Wages
Food Evolution, a food packaging facility in Schiller Park, Ill., has paid 130 workers $150,261 in back wages following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division. The company was found to have consistently altered time records to avoid paying overtime properly. Food Evolution failed to pay employees time and one-half for overtime hours by reducing the actual hours worked over 40 per week by one-third and representing on the payroll records that the reduced overtime hours were being paid at time and one-half. The firm signed an enhanced compliance agreement in which it agreed to provide training to those personnel who prepare payroll.
New Program to Focus on the Workplace Chemical Isocyanates
To protect workers from the serious and sometimes fatal health effects arising from exposure to isocyanates, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced on June 25 a new National Emphasis Program focused on workplace exposure in general workplaces, construction and maritime industries. Isocyanates are chemicals used in materials such as paints, varnishes, auto body repair and building insulation. The chemicals can cause occupational asthma; irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat; and cancer. At-risk jobs include the spray-on polyurethane manufacturing of products such as mattresses and car seats, and protective coatings for truck beds, boats and decks. Dr. David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor who heads OSHA, announced the new program at the American Society of Safety Engineers' Safety 2013 Professional Development Conference in Las Vegas. "Workers exposed to isocyanates can suffer debilitating health problems for months or even years after exposure. Through this program, OSHA will strengthen protections for workers exposed to isocyanates."
Nebraska Plumbing Company Placed in Severe Violator Program
Witt Plumbing Inc. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for five safety violations after a worker died from injuries received when a trench collapsed at a job site in Hastings, Neb. The worker was locating a sewage drain pipe at a home under construction when the unprotected trench collapsed in January. Two willful violations involve failing to provide cave-in protection to workers in an unprotected trench more than 5 feet deep and failing to provide a means of egress from a trench. The company has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program and fined $157,000.
Retirement Assets Restored for Indianapolis Workers
Heartland Foods Inc. of Indianapolis will restore $283,530 to its 401(k) Profit Sharing Plan under terms of a consent judgment and order. The decision follows an investigation by the Employee Benefits Security Administration. In violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, co-owners Karen S. Curry and Danny Woods transferred assets from the plan to the company's checking account, co-mingling employee contributions with the company's general operating funds. An independent fiduciary has been appointed by the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Indiana to administer, terminate and distribute the plan's assets to qualified participants.
Ohio Company Failed to Correct Previous Violations
General Awning Co. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with eight safety violations, carrying proposed penalties of $48,800. During an April follow-up inspection, OSHA found the Brooklyn Heights, Ohio, awning manufacturer had failed to abate six previous violations. Two repeat violations also were cited for failing to ensure all necessary machine guarding was present and affixed to machinery. These same violations were cited in an October 2012 inspection.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration on June 27 commended a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in a case involving Cumberland Mine in Greene County, Pa. According to the decision, the court held that the failure to maintain emergency lifelines in a manner for miners to use effectively is a significant and substantial violation of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, regardless of the likelihood of a mine emergency actually occurring at the time of the violation.
Houston Employer Faces Penalty for Amputation Hazards
Piping Technology and Products Inc. in Houston was cited with one willful violation and issued a proposed penalty of $70,000 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after two workers had fingers amputated. The willful violation was cited for four hydraulic presses that lacked point-of-operation machine guarding, which resulted in the amputations. Piping Technology was inspected twice in 2011 and cited with 42 health and safety violations, including failing to guard the point of operation for band saws, shears and press brakes. The company contested those citations.
Kentucky Coal Operator Cited for Multiple Violations
Inspectors with the Mine Safety and Health Administration issued 23 citations and six unwarrantable failure orders during an impact inspection at a Floyd Co., Ky., underground coal mine. Among the violations found on May 8 at Tram Energy LLC #1 Mine were mining without required dust controls in place, failure to conduct adequate belt examinations, damaged conveyor belt structure and accumulations of combustible materials. These conditions exposed miners to a potential explosion and increased their risk of developing black lung and other respiratory diseases. Less than two weeks later, inspectors issued an additional closure order for failure to conduct adequate examinations of the electrical mining equipment. As a result, the underground portion of the mine was shut down until May 30. Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 616 impact inspections at mining operations around the country.
Ex-City Council Member Sentenced for Benefits Theft
An Employee Benefits Security Administration investigation has led to jail time for a former Ramsey, Minn., city council member. David Elvig was sentenced to pay more than $24,000 in restitution and serve 60 days in jail after embezzling employee benefit contributions from E-Street Makers Inc. of Anoka, a furniture company that Elvig founded and owned. The sentencing followed an April 2013 trial, where the jury, after less than two hours of deliberations, found him guilty of two counts of theft by swindle. According to the investigation, in 2009 and 2010, Elvig used employee contributions to the employer-sponsored healthcare, dental and 401(k) plans to pay company expenses. As a result of the theft, the health and dental plans were cancelled, and some employees defaulted on loans they had taken from the 401(k) retirement plan.
Construction Industry Stand-down in New York, New Jersey
With an emphasis on preventing falls within the construction industry, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced a safety stand-down to occur June 24 to July 3 in New York and New Jersey. The agency has teamed up with construction industry leaders to distribute safety information to approximately 4,000 organizations, including contractors, unions and workers. OSHA produced the construction industry information packets to combat worker falls and provide clear safety standards for employers and workers. The packet also serves as an information sheet for construction companies and organizations to record their stand-down events. Falls continue to be the leading cause of worker deaths in the construction industry.
New Jersey Contractor Facing Fines for Repeat Fall Hazards
R.E. General Contractor LLC in Paterson, N.J., was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for two repeat violations and one serious safety violation including fall hazards found at a work site in Paterson. The repeat violations, which the contractor previously was cited for in 2008, 2010 and 2011, include workers exposed to fall hazards of approximately 50 feet while engaged in roofing work without fall protection in place. The serious violation resulted from the company's failure to provide workers with hard hat protection while working near the forks of a material boom lift. The company faces $49,600 in penalties.
Pacific Initiative to Promote Automotive Lifts Safety
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is launching a local emphasis program in Hawaii, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa in July aimed at reducing injuries and fatalities associated with the operation of automotive lifts. OSHA compliance officers will begin conducting inspections to identify and evaluate hazards of lifts used in the automotive industry. Since 2007, according to the agency's Fatality and Catastrophe Investigation Summary database, OSHA has conducted several inspections, 11 of which resulted from fatalities.
Violations Found at Cincinnati Hazardous Waste Facility
Environmental Enterprises Inc. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with 22 safety and health violations after a fire and explosion occurred at the Cincinnati waste treatment facility last December. Two employees were severely burned by the fire, one fatally. As a result of the four willful violations found related to the fatality, OSHA has placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections.
Assistance for Former Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital Workers
After the 2011 closure of the Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital, a state-run mental health facility for developmentally disabled and mentally ill patients in Rome, Ga., the department announced a $3.75 million National Emergency Grant to the Georgia Department of Labor. This grant will provide workers with the training and support services needed to successfully find re-employment. Of the total, $1,120,427 was released initially; an additional $502,569 increment has been announced. Additional funding up to the amount approved will be made available as the state demonstrates a continued need for assistance.
Michigan-based Railroad Ordered to Pay Whistleblower Back Wages
Grand Trunk Western Railway Co., in Ferndale, Mich., violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act when a carman was suspended following a workplace injury, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The employee was seriously injured by a 20-foot section of crane chain while changing defective railcar wheels. The company must pay $137,618 in back pay, along with interest, punitive and compensatory damages and attorney's fees. "For an employer to place blame on an employee who got injured on the job while following the instructions of his supervisors is unjust," said Nick Walters, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago.
Worker Dies in Explosion While Cleaning Oil Tanker
Plains Trucking LLC has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for nine safety violations after a worker was fatally injured on March 27. The worker was cleaning the inside of a crude oil tanker that exploded at the company's facility in Ross, N.D. The incident occurred when another worker lowered a treble light, not approved for use in such conditions, into the tanker. The second worker suffered a concussion and a head laceration. OSHA has proposed fines of $28,000 and cited the company with one willful and eight serious violations. The company also has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
Texas Employer Failed to Monitor Asbestos Exposure
National Electric Coil Co. LP in Brownsville, Texas, was cited for eight safety violations, including one willful and one repeat, by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA found that the company failed to monitor asbestos exposure and provide adequate procedures to control hazardous energy sources. The willful violation was cited for failing to perform initial monitoring prior to workers being exposed to asbestos. The repeat violation was cited for failing to develop and implement adequate lockout/tagout procedures to control hazardous energy sources from cure presses and other equipment. Four of the six serious violations involved asbestos hazards. The other two serious violations involved struck-by and crushing hazards. A fine of $120,000 has been proposed.