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Archive | January, 2012

Cal/OSHA Issues Citations in First Confirmed Heat Related Fatality for 2011

Posted on 31 January 2012 by admin

OAKLAND, Calif., Jan. 11, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — Farm labor contractors cited for violations of heat illness prevention regulations

Cal/OSHA issued citations against two California farm labor contractors following investigations into the heat illness of two employees this past summer, one of which resulted in the first confirmed heat related death of 2011.

The Department of Industrial Relations’ (DIR) Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) issued citations to both farm labor contractors, C. Clunn Consulting of Holtville and AgPrime Corp. of Los Banos, for violations of California’s first-in-the nation heat illness prevention standard.

“These incidents, including a tragic death, highlight the need for employers at outdoor worksites to be diligent and monitor their workers for signs of heat illness,” said DIR Director Christine Baker. “We have conducted an extensive outreach and education campaign on heat illness prevention regulations over the last three years, which has included training for employers and supervisors. Employers should be aware of their responsibility.”

“Heat illness is totally preventable and should not occur if proper procedures are followed. We take any heat related incident seriously and enforce our standard to the fullest extent possible,” added Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess. “When employers provide the basics of water, shade, rest breaks and training to identify the onset of heat illness, workers are better protected and lives are saved. Employers should know the signs and symptoms of heat illness, and have emergency response plans in place so that workers suffering from severe heat illness can quickly receive medical attention.”

In the first case, C. Clunn Consulting employee Romero Vasquez, age 47, collapsed in a cantaloupe field in Blythe on July 7 and later died after being airlifted to a hospital in Phoenix. Vasquez had been packaging cantaloupes, loading 40-pound boxes on a trailer and driving a tractor in 102-degree heat prior to his death. High humidity added greater risk to the worker.

The investigation revealed that C. Clunn Consulting did not provide employees or supervisors required training on how to identify and treat symptoms of heat illness. C. Clunn failed to enforce its own Heat Illness Prevention program which included having emergency medical procedures in place to safeguard employees in case of severe heat illness.

Citations issued to C. Clunn Consulting include willful, serious and general violations with a total penalty of $74,125.

A willful violation is issued when evidence shows the employer is aware that a hazardous condition exists and no reasonable effort is made to eliminate the hazard. A serious violation is cited when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious physical harm could result from the actual hazard created by the violation. A general violation is one in which an accident or illness may result but would probably not cause death or serious harm.

In the second case, a 16 year old farmworker employed by AgPrime Corp. was picking bell peppers with his guardians in a field southwest of Bakersfield on July 6, 2011, when he became ill with heat illness symptoms. The temperature in the field had reached 105 degrees that evening when the crew began work. The supervisor noted the worker’s illness, but did not seek medical assistance. The young farmworker later recovered from his illness.

Cal/OSHA’s investigation found that AgPrime did not provide adequate water, shade, rest breaks, or first aid kits at the worksite and did not train new employees or supervisors as required to identify and treat the symptoms of heat illness. Also, Ag Prime had no procedures to protect employees working in high heat conditions or summon emergency medical help if needed.

Citations issued to AgPrime Corp include six serious and one general violation with a total penalty of $61,425.

Cal/OSHA referred this case to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) due to the age of the young affected farmworker and the circumstances that led to the injured worker and his guardians’ separation of employment from AgPrime. DLSE issued two citations of $500 each to AgPrime for child labor violations – one for failure to maintain a permit and the second for working outside of the permitted hours for a minor. The investigation further recovered wages totaling $500 for the 16 year old and his guardians. Subsequent wage claims and retaliation claims filed by the three were resolved by settlement, resulting in an additional payment of $400 to each claimant.

For more information on heat illness prevention and training materials, please visit the Cal/OSHA Web site at http://www.dir.ca.gov/heatillness . Employees with work-related questions or complaints, including heat illness, may call the California Workers’ Information Hotline at (866) 924-9757. Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Unit provides free information and training on occupational safety and health hazards and ways to protect workers from these hazards.

IR# 12-02 Internet: www.dir.ca.gov

CONTACT:Erika MonterrozaDean Fryer(510) 286-1161

SOURCE California Department of Industrial Relations

Copyright (C) 2012 PR Newswire. All rights reserved

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/calosha-issues-citations-in-first-confirmed-heat-related-fatality-for-2011-2012-01-11

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Unions losing influence?

Posted on 30 January 2012 by admin

By Ryan Lillis

rlillis@sacbee.com

 

Labor unions, historically a powerful interest group at Sacramento City Hall, are suddenly at a crossroads.

Labor’s steadiest ally on the City Council, Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy, said Monday she is stepping down. Harry Rotz, the most influential leader in local labor – and perhaps city politics – just retired.

Finally, a June ballot measure seeks to bar the city from entering into agreements ensuring union labor will be used on publicly funded construction projects.

All of this is happening as city officials demand employees contribute more toward their pensions, a common theme playing out in cash-strapped locales across the state and country.

Labor has been under attack for the last several years,” said Sacramento public relations consultant Doug Elmets. “They’re never to be underestimated, but given the current economic environment, both locally and nationally, they’re being forced to come up with a new paradigm to succeed.”

At City Hall, labor lost a key friend Monday when three-term Councilwoman Sheedy announced she would not seek re-election in June. Sheedy, 68, said she was stepping down to spend more time with her family. She was facing a campaign against four challengers.

Bill Camp, the head of the Sacramento Central Labor Council, called Sheedy’s departure “a huge loss for the city of Sacramento.

Also stepping down from the council this year is Rob Fong, who generally has been supported by unions during his time at City Hall. The departure of Fong and Sheedy could leave as few as two council members on the dais – Kevin McCarty and Bonnie Pannell – who are seen by the city’s non-public safety unions as staunch allies.

In contrast, the city’s police and fire unions count other supporters on the council, including Mayor Kevin Johnson.

Still, Sheedy said she wasn’t concerned about the future of labor at City Hall.

“They’re big boys; they’re going to figure it out,” she said. “They have a celebrated and honorable cause.”

Sheedy’s announcement follows the retirement of Rotz earlier this month as the business manager of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 447, the most politically active union at City Hall. While it’s unclear whether Rotz will step away completely from the union’s political activities, his retirement raises questions about whether the plumbers will remain a force.

Under Rotz’s watch, the plumbers union has donated more than $800,000 to local campaigns in the past four years, records show. According to Sheedy, “Harry and his family have always been among the most influential people” at City Hall.

Rotz, who never speaks with the media and declined a request to comment for this article, regularly made his presence known during City Hall campaigns with independent expenditure mailings supporting pro-labor candidates and causes.

This spring, labor will be under pressure to fight back against a measure that likely will be on the June ballot. That measure, sponsored by a group called Fair and Open Competition Sacramento, seeks to outlaw project labor agreements, making it easier for nonunion firms to win contracts on taxpayer-funded projects, such as the planned Kings arena downtown.

Eric Christen, an anti-union activist leading the campaign, said his group filed nearly 50,000 signatures from city voters supporting the measure with the City Clerk’s office last month. That is well above the required 32,000 signatures needed to place the proposal on the ballot.

County elections officials are validating the signatures, and a decision on the measure’s future is expected this week.

“With the economy the way it is, (taxpayer-funded projects) should be available to all workers,” Christen said.

Phil Giarrizzo, a Sacramento political consultant and former union leader, said such measures are “unnecessary political fights.” He said business interests should concentrate more on investing in development projects. When it comes to the arena, “they’re throwing a hand grenade by launching this kind of assault.”

“People are trying to take advantage of the economic climate to kick labor unions,” said Giarrizzo, who is running the City Council campaign of developer Allen Warren, one of the candidates seeking to replace Sheedy.

With the deadline for candidates to enter local campaigns just six weeks away, labor groups will now refocus on Sheedy’s race. In addition to Warren, other candidates seeking to represent the North Sacramento district include Sondra Betancourt, president of the Ben Ali Community Association; former Councilman Rob Kerth; and Kim Mack, who ran President Barack Obama’s local campaign in 2008.

Camp said his organization will re-examine the candidate pool now that Sheedy has exited the race. Sheedy said she has urged labor groups to seek prospects from the Latino community, describing the other candidates as “very weak.”

Camp said the pressure being applied to the local labor movement isn’t surprising.

“I think people still see the labor movement as a valuable voice,” he said. “We’re speaking up for the middle-class families of our region and as a result, some people don’t like it when we speak up.”

 

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/01/24/4209763/unions-losing-influence.html#storylink=cpy

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RIVERSIDE COUNTY: Union plans one-day strike

Posted on 30 January 2012 by admin

Riverside County employees, represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 721, rally last year in front of the County Administrative Center in Riverside. They are upset over the benefit cuts imposed on them by county officials.

BY DUANE W. GANG

STAFF WRITER

dgang@pe.com

http://www.pe.com/local-news/politics/duane-gang-headlines/20120124-riverside-county-union-plans-one-day-strike.ece

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Rise in Calif. workers comp indemnity costs may be due to recession: Study

Posted on 30 January 2012 by admin

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—The recent recession may have driven an increase in workers compensation indemnity costs in California, according to the Workers Compensation Research Institute.

Indemnity costs climbed an average of 7% per year between 2007 and 2009, despite little change in the average weekly wage of injured California workers during that time, the Cambridge, Mass.-based WCRI said in a report released Monday.

That increase is compared with a 30% decline in indemnity costs per claim in California from 2005 to 2007, the report said. The decline was attributed largely to workers comp reforms passed by California from 2002 to 2004.

Longer time off the job

The average duration of temporary disability claims increased by one week per year during the recession, which drove much of the recent increase in indemnity costs, WCRI said. Other factors included more injured workers who were out of work for more than one week.

WCRI said the data is possible evidence that the recession had an impact on workers comp costs.

“During a recession period, one would typically expect to see slower wage growth, slower return to work (because there are fewer jobs available due to higher unemployment rate), and more incentive to settle cases for both parties because of greater uncertainty regarding the future,” the report said.

http://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20120123/NEWS08/120129970?tags=%7C305%7C339%7C304%7C92

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KYLE VAN HOUTEN’S Injured Worker Horror Story

Posted on 20 January 2012 by admin

“I lost my leg in a construction accident. I went from being an All-State football player to feeling like less than a whole person. Iʼve lost my active youth and now the governor is taking most of my Permanent Disability compensation.”

more at this link

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ROBERT NARES’ Injured Worker Horror Story

Posted on 20 January 2012 by admin

“I lost my leg and now I’ve lost most of my compensation for my Permanent Disabilities.”

more at this link

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LAURIE DARR’S Horror Story

Posted on 20 January 2012 by admin

“I hurt my back, nearly died after back surgery and still need more surgery to put rods in my spine. Iʼve lost my job and my savings. The governorʼs schedule awards me just $7,816.”

more at this link

 

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Terri DeLaFiganiere’s Horror Story

Posted on 20 January 2012 by admin

“I hurt my shoulder and neck at work. The day before I was to have surgery, the insurer canceled the operation. The constant denial and delay of treatment has worsened my injury. Iʼve gone from being a child support enforcement officer to barely being able to support my own kids. ”

 

more at this link

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JOHN LUBY’S Injured Worker’s Horror Story

Posted on 20 January 2012 by admin

“I lost my knee, my job and my health. Iʼm supporting my family of five on $870 a month. Iʼm depressed but the insurance company denied counseling, MRI and surgery.”

more at this link

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SCOTT HAYES’ Injured Worker’s Horror Story

Posted on 19 January 2012 by admin

“Injured workers have tremendous problems getting insurance companies to provide necessary care on accepted injuries. Insurance companies have shown they are unconcerned with harming legitimately injured workers as long as they can avoid liability.”

 

more follow the link

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