Fight Workplace Violence
The legislature passed two bills to prevent workplace violence. The Taxi Driver Protection Act, A.10058/S.7022, introduced by Assemblyman Lancman and Senator Eric Adams, increases the penalty for assaulting a taxi driver and requires a sign to be placed in the back of taxi cabs warning passengers that assaulting a taxi driver can lead to up to 25 years in prison. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, taxi workers are thirty times more likely to be killed on the job than other workers. New York City is home to the largest taxi driver industry in the country.
A.3103/S.4018, introduced by Assemblyman David Koon and Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, increases the penalty for assaulting nurses to class C and D felonies. Each year, countless acts of violence are inflicted upon emergency medical professional s while in the line of duty. They are subject to intimidation, harassment, physical assault and numerous other forms of emotional, verbal and physical abuse that include choking, stabbing and threatening.
Subcommittee Meets with SEIU 200 United's Health and Safety
Committee by Video Conference
Subcommittee staff met with the health and safety committee for SEIU 200 United, which represents many professions, including direct care workers, nurses, teaching assistants, food service workers and bus drivers in upstate New York.
Representatives discussed health and safety concerns for members, such as low staffing ratios in not-for-profit group homes licensed by the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD) and the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). For example, in OMRDD licensed facilities, employees fear that in case of a fire, current evacuation plans fall short, especially if the consumers in the facilities use wheelchairs.
Staffing ratios and violence prevention in not-for-profit facilities are issues the Subcommittee is currently working on. Just recently, Assemblyman Lancman voiced his concerns about legislation introduced by Governor Paterson that would move more juveniles into not-for-profit agencies licensed by OCFS:
"While the sanctuary model and other reforms being implemented at OCFS have the potential to significantly improve workplace safety in the long term, this is only possible if workplace safety concerns are fully integrated into OCFS policymaking at both the agency and facility level, including at community residence facilities," said Assemblyman Lancman. "At the very least, the Workplace Violence Prevention Act should be expanded to cover those entities which are taking on the custodial and rehabilitative responsibilities which Governor Paterson proposes to shift from OCFS."
US Department of Labor Raises Fines Against Employers Who Illegally Hire
The US Department of Labor recently increased penalties for illegally hiring children. Now employers who illegally employ minors under the age of fourteen can be fined up to $11,000. Employers who illegally hire individuals who are ages twelve or thirteen will be fined at least $6,000 and employers who illegally hire individuals under the age of twelve will be fined at least $8,000.
Young people are more likely than experienced workers to be killed or injured on the job partly because they are not as familiar with their rights as adults and they have limited work experience.
"Protecting our youngest workers is one of this department's top priorities. Beginning today, employers who hire children too young to work will face stiffer penalties," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "Work is not child's play. When children do work, that work must be age appropriate, safe and positive, and, it must not interfere with their schooling."
June is "Young Worker Safety Awareness Month" in New York State and New York is putting forth an effort to protect young people on the job.
Approximately two years ago, the New York State Young Worker Safety and Health Project (also known as the Task Force) was formed in an effort to minimize work related injuries and illnesses for young people. The Task Force is composed of representatives of the Department of Labor, the Department of Health, New York State Education Department, the Workers' Compensation Board, New York State United Teachers, the New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, the Subcommittee on Workplace Safety and several organizations representing teen students and teachers. One of the Task Force's goals is to introduce 'Passport to Safety' to young people in New York State.
'Passport to Safety' is an online workplace safety training program developed by Paul Kells, a man from Canada who lost his nineteen year old son who died in a fire on the job. The program is used by young people in Canada and Australia, and the New York State Workers Compensation Board granted funds to run a pilot of the program in New York. The New York State Young Worker Safety and Health Project is currently meeting with schools to recruit students to participate in the pilot program in Spring 2011.
Studies Show BP Oil Spill Cleanup Workers Are at Risk of Short Term
At a recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) hearing in New Orleans, Louisiana, experts testified that workers cleaning up the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast are at risk of short-term lung, liver and kidney damage from fumes. The studies were based on seven supertanker oil spills since the 1960's.
According to Nalini Sathiakuma of the University of Alabama at Birmingham who testified at the hearing, "These studies have shown us consistent evidence for ocular, neurological, and dermal exposure as a result of exposure to volatile organic compounds emitted by the oil. Personal protection equipment definitely reduces exposures, and education particularly of cleanup workers is extremely important."
Thomas Bernard of the University of South Florida also testified at the hearing, that cleanup workers in the Gulf Coast are additionally at significant risk of "exertional heat stroke."
A range of government entities, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, are monitoring the cleanup effort.