Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Steinzor on the Obama Safety and Health Legacy

Frank Pasquale

My colleague Rena Steinzor offers a valuable perspective on the Obama Administration's labor record.  She notes that there is a very real possibility that Obama "will finish eight years in office having promulgated only two rules to address grave threats to worker safety and health."  What else needs to be addressed? Plenty, according to Steinzor: 
Because of lax rules, workers handling n-propyl-bromide, an extraordinarily toxic chemical used in furniture glue that causes severe nerve damage after short exposures, retire on disability in their forties. Construction workers get lung cancer from inhaled silica (sand); workers are immolated in combustible dust explosions. Workers who handle beryllium and diacetyl have waited for years for OSHA to set more stringent limits on exposures that cause life-threatening lung and other diseases. 
Left entirely out of the official regulatory agenda are rules on (1) infectious diseases (promised by Michaels soon after he was confirmed); (2) safe patient handling to avoid ergonomic injury in the health care industry; and (3) standards for heat stress in outdoor occupations, especially agriculture—a seeming no-brainer as climate change produces temperatures in the range of 110° degrees in southern fields. Two weeks ago a postal worker in Massachusetts collapsed and died after trudging around in high temperatures; imagine what is going on with migrant workers in Texas.
As with green energy, there is much the Obama Administration could do now to ease the plight of exploited workers

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