Is there a link between Governor Brown’s veto earlier this month of AB 1165 – which would require employers to immediately abate serious hazards – and the recent deaths of two BART workers, Chris Sheppard and Laurence Daniels, just last week? Could these deaths have been prevented if the law required employers cited by Cal/OSHA to fix serious hazards immediately instead of getting a reprieve for months or years while they argue in court? What track line safety rules do other transit systems follow, and how do they measure up to those used by BART?
On October 19, while working on a track during the BART strike, the two BART workers were struck by a train going as fast as 70 MPH. The workers were told they were responsible for their own safety by maintaining constant vigilance for oncoming trains, thanks to BART’s “simple approval” rule.
But Cal/OSHA had previously found this rule unacceptable and cited BART for several safety violations following the investigation of the 2008 death of BART worker James Strickland.
Keep California’s unique right-to-know protections and update the rules about chemical product hazards to better protect worker and public health!
That was the clear message workers’ advocates delivered in testimony and letters to the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board on October 17. (Click here to download the meeting agenda.) It is a message steeped in history and struggles for the human right to know about hazards at work.
The chemical industry was just as clear. Obscured in the fine print, and hidden behind code words like “harmonization," were their goals: roll back historic protections, safeguard private profits, and keep workers and downstream employers in the dark about the serious hazards they face.
The "Green Chemistry Regulations" are finally coming to town
The long-awaited - and fought for - Safer Consumer Product Regulations take effect on October 1. Often referred to as the “green chemistry regs”, they are the most innovative U.S. rules that aim to improve public health by getting rid of, and reducing the use of, toxic chemicals. And they start in the right place – examining the hazards of chemicals, to prevent harm to the health of people and their environments. The program applies to workplaces and jobs.
CalEPA's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) launched the program on September 26, 2013 completing a journey that started in 2008.
On September 4, 2013, Ellen Widess resigned from her position as Chief of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), also known as Cal/OSHA. Worksafe and many of our allies among unions, worker centers, and OSH professionals were caught off guard by the news; even more startling was the characterization of the OSH community’s reaction by the Cal-OSHA Reporter, which claimed that “both employer and labor representatives were practically jubilant at the news.” Worksafe was the only organization that was quoted on the record; we praised her work in carrying out the mission of the agency: to protect the health and safety of California workers.
A little more than a week later, the Cal-OSHA Reporter printed a handful of letters from agency staff, worker advocate organizations, and OSH professionals who supported her record and chastised the publication for its biased reporting. The Cal-OSHA Reporter mentioned in passing but did not print any of the letters from organized labor. Her detractors remain unidentified.