OSHA has announced the largest fine ever in its history: $87 million for BP’s safety violations and failure to correct hazards at the Texas City refinery where a 2005 explosion killed 15 workers and injured 170. The New York Times’ Steven Greenhouse explains:
Federal officials said the penalty was the result of BP’s failure to comply in hundreds of instances with a 2005 agreement to fix safety hazards at the refinery, the nation’s third-largest.
According to documents obtained by The New York Times, OSHA issued 271 notifications to BP for failing to correct hazards at the Texas City refinery over the four-year period since the explosion. As a result, OSHA, which is part of the Labor Department, is issuing fines of $56.7 million. In addition, OSHA also identified 439 “willful and egregious” violations of industry-accepted safety controls at the refinery. Those violations will lead to $30.7 million in additional fines. …
A series of investigations attributed the March 23, 2005, explosion to overzealous cost-cutting on safety, undue production pressures, antiquated equipment and fatigued employees — some who worked 12 hours a day for 29 straight days.
In other news:
The News Tribune (Washington): Many of the Washington National Guard troops who were stationed at the Balad base in Iraq report respiratory and sinus problems, and suspect they’re related to an enormous trash-burning pit at the base. The 2010 defense authorization bill places limits on the use of burn pits at military bases.
New York Times: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 39% of US workers don’t have paid sick leave – which means that many of those who get swine flu will come to work anyway and place their co-workers at greater risk of catching the virus.
Los Angeles Times: California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration often issues fines to employers whose workers are killed or seriously injured on the job, only to have the fines reduced or dismissed by the Cal-OSHA Appeals Board.
The Washington Independent: A survey by the National Employment Law Project shows that a federal emphasis on immigration enforcement is undermining the government’s ability to enforce laws on working conditions and the minimum wage.
MinnPost: Senator Al Franken has introduced legislation that aims to protect healthcare workers from musculoskeletal injuries; it would require OSHA to issue a standard on safe patient handling that would require the use of lift equipment.