[Marxism] Fwd: [New post] OSHA Press Releases Hide Behind “Cloak of Invisibility”

Richard Sprout sproutr at upstate.edu
Mon May 15 08:21:32 MDT 2017

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Begin forwarded message:

> From: "Confined Space" <donotreply at wordpress.com>
> Date: May 15, 2017 at 7:02:12 AM EDT
> To: "Richard Sprout" <SproutR at upstate.edu>
> Subject: [New post] OSHA Press Releases Hide Behind “Cloak of
> New post on Confined Space
> OSHA Press Releases Hide Behind “Cloak of Invisibility”
> by jbarab
> After almost four months, the Trump Administration's OSHA has issued
only two enforcement-related press releases, despite having issued well
over 200 citations with penalties exceeding $40,000 -- the former
threshold for a press release.  The more than 200 cases with penalties
greater than $40,000 since January 20 are listed below.
> The Washington Post today describes OSHA's failure to issue press
releases as part of a government wide effort by the Trump administration
to remove or hide important information that had previously been made
available to the public.
> There was some hope that after Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta's
confirmation, OSHA would again resume issuing press releases for large
enforcement cases as all past administrations have -- Republican and
Democrat. And, OSHA did issue a second enforcement related press release
soon after Acosta took office, against Autoneum North America, an auto
insulation manufacturer in suburban Toledo. OSHA proposed $569,463 in
penalties after an investigation following the amputation a 46-year-old
worker's right hand, wrist and part of his forearm. OSHA's only other
press release was on April 12 describing a $1.5 million citation against
Atlantic Drain Service Co. Inc., following the deaths of two workers in
a trench collapse in New York last year.
> Juliet Eilperin, in a wide ranging Washington Post article, reports
that transparency has been under attack throughout the Trump
> The Trump administration has removed or tucked away a wide variety of
information that until recently was provided to the public, limiting
access, for instance, to disclosures about workplace violations, energy
efficiency, and animal welfare abuses.
> Some of the information relates to enforcement actions taken by
federal agencies against companies and other employers. By lessening
access, the administration is sheltering them from the kind of “naming
and shaming” that federal officials previously used to influence company
behavior, according to digital experts, activists and former Obama
administration officials.
> The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, for instance, has
dramatically scaled back on publicizing its fines against firms. And the
Agriculture Department has taken off-line animal welfare enforcement
records, including abuses in dog breeding operations and horse farms
that alter the gait of racehorses through the controversial practice of
“soring” their legs.
> “The Trump administration seems determined to utilize a larger version
of Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility to cover the entire
administration” -- Norm Eisen (Washington Post)
> OSHA has been slightly more liberal about getting enforcement
information out through its bi-weekly newsletter, QuickTakes. The May 1
issue (way at the end), for example, had short pieces about three recent
federal citations:
> OSHA issued citations against a Wal-Mart Distribution Center in
Brundidge, AL for $139,424 after a contract worker was seriously injured
when a trolley struck and crushed him. OSHA also issued a $126,749
citation against the worker’s employer, Swisslog Logistics Inc., for
serious and willful violations for exposing workers to caught-between,
struck-by and crushing hazards and for failing to implement
lockout/tagout procedures.
> OSHA issued multiple citations to Napoleon Spring Works Inc. in
Archbold, Ohio, after three inspections initiated as a follow-up to a
2013 case and in response to two incidents, on Nov. 2 and Nov. 7 of last
year, where employees suffered amputations. In just over two monthere were three amputations at the employer’s facility.  This even
generated a news article in the Toledo Blade, which is the point of
press releases, after all.
> Durcon Inc. in Taylor, TX has been issued citations for 35 safety and
health violations after a complaint about silica exposure.
> And with few exceptions, no press release means no news.  I could find
very few press stories over the past couple of weeks about OSHA
citations. Not coincidentally, three of the articles I did locate were
about.... Wal-Mart, Napoleon Spring Works and Autoneum. Interestingly, I
couldn't find any article related to the Durcon case, possibly because
if a reporter had happened upon it in QuickTakes, they may not have
realized that the citations amounted to a hefty $350,000 and listed the
company as Laboratory Tops, Inc. instead of Durcon. A press release
might have made all of this more understandable and interesting to the
local press in Taylor, Texas and possibly even nearby Austin.
> I found only one other article that appeared in the press despite no
press release, probably because it was a fairly traumatic incident in
Sioux Falls, South Dakota last December. OSHA cited Hultgren
Construction and Command Center, Inc. for a Sioux Falls building
collapse that killed  Ethan McMahon, a 24-year-old construction worker.
(Although the article reports that Hultgren received a $100,000
citation, while the OSHA webpage states that it's twice that much. Maybe
they got it wrong because there was no press release?)
> Now these few stories about OSHA citations are a good thing because at
least readers in those areas know that OSHA is on the job. The rest of
the country, not so much. And that's the real tragedy of OSHA's failure
to issue press releases: With very little news about OSHA in the papers
or on TV, companies that are inclined to cut corners on safety and
health may feel that it's even less likely they will ever see an OSHA
inspector, and workers who feel threatened by safety conditions in their
workplaces may feel like there's no point in calling OSHA -- assuming
they even know that OSHA still exists in these Trumpian times.
> We have noted  before how OSHA press releases have been an effective
and important tool for a small agency to leverage its resource and
discourage employers injuring or killing workers by cutting corners and
violating the law.  A dry list (see below) is a rather poor substitute
for a press release that can serve notice on employers across the
country that OSHA will not tolerate violations of the law.  Press
releases can also provide an educational tool for employers and workers
who need more information on the hazards they face in the workplace.
> For example, local businesses or workers might want to know what
happened at Sundial Plastics in Elgin, IL that earned them a $174,000
penalty, or the circumstances were at Pinquest Tool and Die in Rome, NY
which received at $152,000 penalty, or at Trinity Welding and Iron Works
in Teterboro, NJ which received an almost $152,000 citation from OSHA.
True, the data can be found deep in OSHA's website (or down below on
Confined Space), but who's going to look for it and how are they going
to make sense of it?
> Lack of Transparency in Other Federal Agencies
> In addition to OSHA, Eilperin cites information that has been hidden
or disappeared on climate change in the EPA and Interior Department
Websites, animal cruelty information on Department of Agriculture's
website, ecological assessments from the Bureau of Land Management, an
ethics website that published ethics waivers granted to appointees who
would otherwise be barred from joining the government because of recent
lobbying activities, and even "a White House Web page that directed
prospective donors to private groups that aid refugees fleeing Syria and
other embattled nations."
> She lets Norm Eisen, President Obama's special counsel for ethics and
government reform, sum up:
> “The Trump administration seems determined to of Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility to cover the entire
administration,” said Eisen, now a fellow with the Brookings
Institution’s governance studies program.
> Current Data
> Since back in March, I have been publishing all large enforcement
cases issued in this administration. Because some cases are slow to make
the database, the data that I posted previously were not complete. The
lists below should be up to date, including all of the "late" cases.
I've separated the data into large cases in states with federal
enforcement, and a separate table for large cases in state plan states.
> jbarab | May 15, 2017 at 7:00 am | Tags: Alabama, Ohio, South Dakota,
Texas | Categories: Alex Acosta, Enforcement | URL:
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