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Department of Labor 68 articles

Federal agencies partner up to improve whistleblower protections for commercial drivers

Better oversight of whistleblower protections afforded by the federal Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) is the aim of a memorandum of understanding signed by leaders of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The joint effort will strengthen coordination and cooperation between the two agencies, resulting in better anti-retaliation protections for employees of the commercial truck and bus industries. According to OSHA, the memorandum “allows for the exchange of safety, coercion and retaliation allegations when received by one agency, that fall under the authority of the other.” The STAA shields drivers and ... Read More

Company ordered to reinstate, compensate truck drivers it fired for voicing safety concerns

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has ordered Pontiac, Mich.-based Asphalt Specialists Inc. to pay $1 million in back wages and damages and reinstate a foreman and two truck drivers who were fired after voicing safety concerns. According to OSHA, Asphalt Specialists fired the foreman on June 30, 2012, after he repeatedly raised concerns to the company’s co-owner about being forced to exceed hours-of-service (HOS) rules, which regulate commercial drivers’ periods of work and rest and are intended to mitigate driver fatigue. Company managers “repeatedly failed to allow for the 10-hour rest period mandated by the Department of Transportation,” ... Read More

Former Survivor star killed on the job at Birmingham railroad

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Former Survivor: Blood vs. Water contestant and Alabama resident Caleb Bankston was killed June 24 in a work-related accident in Birmingham. Sources say the 26-year-old locomotive engineer and conductor for Alabama Warrior Railway was working on one of the train cars at a company rail yard in Birmingham when he was crushed to death. According to TMZ, Mr. Bankston “was checking on something in the small space between two of the cars when the train went off the tracks. Cops say the rear car slammed into the forward car … with Bankston caught helplessly between.” Mr. Bankston ... Read More

Wrongful death lawsuit targets rock legend Gregg Allman, Hollywood filmmakers

SAVANNAH, Ga. — The family of a 27-year-old camera assistant who was struck and killed by a freight train on the set of a movie about Gregg Allman said they are suing the rock legend and producers of his movie as a “wake up call” to make Hollywood safer. Sarah Jones, 27, died Feb. 20 when a freight train struck part of a film crew shooting on a railroad bridge in southeastern Georgia. Six other workers on the set were injured. Ms. Jones and the others were filming a scene for the movie “Midnight Rider,” a film about the life ... Read More

President Obama urged to reject USDA rule loosening poultry plant inspections

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is nearly ready to implement a new rule that will increase line speeds at chicken processing plants, saying it will improve efficiency and enhance food safety, but the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a number of consumer-safety groups, and other organizations are urging President Barack Obama to reject the rule. Most significantly, the new rule would increase chicken processing line speeds – the number of birds inspectors visually check per minute — from 140 per minute to 175 per minute. The rule also would effectively remove most USDA inspectors from the line to focus on ... Read More

OSHA investigating construction worker’s death on Baylor stadium worksite

WACO, Texas — An ironworker’s death at a Baylor University stadium construction site in January has prompted federal safety regulators to investigate a Dallas/Fort Worth-area construction company that has a history of past violations. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials are probing the death of Jose Dario Suarez, a 55-year-old construction worker who was working on a bridge over the Brazos River that is being built as part of Baylor’s new stadium. Mr. Suarez was standing on an aerial lift boom, to which he was tethered, when it fell off the side of a barge into the river. Divers ... Read More

Prison management company agrees to reduce threat of violence-related injuries for staff

A Boca-Raton, Fla.-based prison management company has entered into a settlement agreement with the U.S. Labor Department that requires it to make sweeping changes across all of its facilities to better protect correctional officers, guards, and other prison staff from workplace violence. U.S. safety regulators cited GEO Group Inc. in June 2012 for numerous workplace safety violations at a prison facility it manages in Meridian, Miss. GEO specializes in correctional, detention, and community re-entry services with 95 facilities, approximately 73,000 beds, and 18,000 employees around the world. The company’s safety violations involved its failure to hire a sufficient number of ... Read More

Georgia company cited for exposing workers to amputation, laceration, and burn injuries

THOMSON, Ga. – Federal authorities have cited a Georgia automotive parts manufacturer with 22 safety and health violations for exposing workers to a multitude of hazards, including the risk of amputation, laceration, and burn injuries. Inspectors with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited HP Pelzer Automotive Systems Inc. and staffing agency Sizemore Inc. for 22 violations of federal safety codes at the HP Pelzer’s Thomson-based manufacturing facility. The violations amount to more than $207,000 in proposed fines. HP Pelzer makes and supplies numerous automotive parts to major car manufacturers and employs about 10,000 workers in nine facilities ... Read More

Deadly West, Texas, blast prompts OSHA to remind employers about chemical safety

The chemical explosion in a West, Texas, fertilizer plant that nearly leveled an entire city last April has prompted federal regulators to contact more than 7,000 agricultural retailers, distributors, producers, and other facilities that use potentially explosive fertilizers to remind them of the importance of safely storing and handling ammonium nitrate. The April 17, 2013, blast at the West Fertilizer facility in West, Texas, killed 15 people, injured more than 200, and decimated parts of the city, including a school, nursing home, and hundreds of houses and businesses. Investigators determined that the company improperly stockpiled several tons of ammonium nitrate, ... Read More

Jury returns $17 million verdict in grain-bin entrapment trial

An Illinois jury has awarded the families of two teens who died after they were buried in a grain bin $8 million each. A third 30-year-old man who survived but was traumatized by the entrapment was awarded $875,000. Tragically, it’s not unusual for workers to sink into giant grain bins and suffocate, but the case of the three youths who became trapped in a bin of wet corn at the Haasbach LLC grain storage complex in Carroll County, Ill., was especially appalling. As National Public Radio’s (NPR) Howard Berkes reported, in July 2010, “teenagers Wyatt Whitebread and Alex Pacas, and ... Read More