Tag Archives: workplace

Advocacy group: OSHA falls down on the job

Kirsten Stade, advocacy director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, writes on The Hill‘s Congress Blog that the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration has turned a blind eye to widespread underreporting of workplace safety violations. Stade says that OSHA “accepts without question industry reports that paint a rosy picture of workplace health – even for notoriously dangerous industries such as steel plants and poultry factories.”

Photo by kevin (iapetus) via Flickr.

The piece’s strongest words come from Robert Whitmore, a former OSHA official who Stade says lost his job after speaking out against the agency’s lax standards.

“I contend that the current OSHA Injury and Illness information is inaccurate, due in part to wide scale underreporting by employers and OSHA’s willingness to accept these falsified numbers. There are many reasons why OSHA would accept these numbers, but one important institutional factor has dramatically affected the Agency since 1992, regardless of the political party in power: steady annual declines in the number of workplace injuries and illnesses make it appear that OSHA is fulfilling its mission.”

While advocating for Whitmore’s reinstatement, Stade admits the Obama administration has taken some important steps toward increasing OSHA accountability.

On September 30, 2009, OSHA initiated an “Illness and Injury Recordkeeping National Emphasis Program” that beefs up enforcement of industry reporting rules. It is designed to “test OSHA’s ability to effectively target establishments to identify under-recording of occupational injuries and illnesses”.

As its name might indicate, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is a nonprofit environmental advocacy group made up of local, state and federal employees.

New CDC site aims to reduce workplace obesity

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a Web site called “LEAN Works” as part of a campaign to work with employers to reduce workplace obesity. In CDC-speak, LEAN stands for Leading Employees to Activity and Nutrition.

The campaign aims to speak in a language business can understand, emphasizing the negative impact big waistlines can have on a company’s bottom line. They even provide an obesity cost calculator, which will allow any HR department creepy enough to have every employee’s body mass index on file to calculate the precise projected return on investment yielded by an obesity intervention program.

The CDC also gives tips on how to set up a workplace obesity intervention, how to keep the momentum going and how to measure whether or not it’s producing any results.

(Hat tip to the NPR Health Blog)

AHCJ Resource
Covering Obesity: A Guide for Reporters

Covering ObesityThe prospect of covering such a broad, engaging and important topic as obesity can be overwhelming. This guide, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is designed to help journalists cover a wide range of stories, whether writing on deadline or researching a multipart series. It offers assistance on calculating body mass index, finding obesity statistics on the state level, gauging the quality of school district wellness policies, finding innovative school nutrition policies and much more. Supplementary material can be found on this page.

Last-minute rules would affect health care

ProPublica, which is tracking last-minute rulemaking by the Bush Administration, reports on one rule that would make it more difficult for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to regulate toxins.

Fire and emergency response personnel practice techniques for hazardous materials containment and removal.

Fire and emergency response personnel practice techniques for hazardous materials containment and removal. Photo: Jim Gathany/CDC

ProPublica, which also links to coverage in The Washington Post and The New York Times, says “OSHA has issued just one significant health standard” in the past eight years – and that it did that under court order.

Another rule the administration is pushing forward is would require federally funded health care facilities to allow employees to refuse to provide services at odds with their moral or religious beliefs, such as abortion.

David G. Savage of the Los Angeles Times reports that “For more than 30 years, federal law has dictated that doctors and nurses may refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would go further by making clear that healthcare workers also may refuse to provide information or advice to patients who might want an abortion.”

Savage writes that the rule, as written, could extend to other procedures, including prescribing birth control or providing artificial inseminination. A lawyer for the National Women’s Law Center said the law also could affect decisions about end-of-life care.