www.DukeEmployees.com - Duke Energy Employee Advocate
Health - Page 2
Executive Health CareEmployee Advocate – DukeEmployees.com - June 1, 2003
There was a time when most employees probably thought everyone was covered equally under corporate pension and health care plans. That myth has been forever shattered. Everything, from the smallest benefit to the most major benefit, is skewed toward the executives. While workers get meager cash balance pension plans, CEO’s get executive cash balance plans. Employees’ pension plans may be underfunded, but executives often have guaranteed retirement funds. The Wall Street Journal reported that corporate health plans are usually no exception to the pattern.
Many corporations reimburse executives for all medical expenses. Meanwhile, employees are chiseled, gouged, and jerked around about every dime in health care costs. In some executive plans there is no deductible or co-payment. And, everything is covered including, orthodontia, contact lenses, alcoholism treatment, preventive speech therapy, and private hospital rooms.
Corporations generally keep executive perks well hidden. No one suspected the vast benefits that Jack Welch, retired CEO of General Electric, was receiving. When he was exposed in a divorce proceeding, he was so embarrassed that he gave some of it back! Some people who are making millions of dollars per year have nothing to spend their money on; everything is given to them!
At a Duke Energy medical clinic, a booklet of “economical health tips” was available to read in the lobby. It was the most ridiculous thing that you can imagine! The basic advice was “Never go to the doctor.”
If your ankle is injured, it’s probably not broken, so just put ice on it. Don’t go to the doctor for a cold; take aspirin and over-the-counter products.
How many people can tell just when a cold stops and influenza or pneumonia begins? A large number of people die from influenza and pneumonia each year. Do you really want to ignore your health and take only aspirin when you could receive prompt medical treatment?
This advice may be appropriate for someone unemployed, with zero money, zero insurance, and zero credit. But even in such dire circumstances, free health clinics are often available.
To ignore your health has to be the dumbest advice ever given. What if you go to the doctor and he finds nothing wrong with you? Well, that's why you go - to find out. You have just purchased peace of mind, if nothing else!
There are probably more people who ignore health problem that there are those who are afflicted with hypercondria. Many people who though that they were suffering from indigestion were having heart attacks. Sitting around taking antacids until you fall over dead will really save the bucks. But then, you will not need the bucks.
One Duke employee had probably read one too many such booklets. He was experiencing chest pains and went to the emergency room. Evidently, he was concerned about running up unnecessary expenses in the event he was not really having a heart attack. So, he did not ask to be treated. He just sat in the waiting room all day. He rationalized that if he actually had a heart attack that he would fall out on the floor and would then be rushed into the emergency room. This tactic was not mentioned in the booklet, but it may appear in future editions!
He pulled it off. He survived the day and went back home. Duke did not have to pay any unnecessary emergency room charges. The only problem was that the next day he had the chest pains again. He could not very well spend all his time sitting in the emergency waiting room in case he had a heart attack. He had to break down and seek treatment.
Those who promote such garbage as medical tips are likely the ones who are rolling in millions of dollars and getting everything provided for free. One could not help but wonder if Rick Priory practiced these medical tips.
The above is not satire or exaggeration; it actually happened.
Asbestosis Win for EmployeesN. Y. Times – by David Stout – March 11, 2003
WASHINGTON, March 10 — Railroad workers who have a noncancerous illness because of exposure to asbestos on the job can recover damages for mental torment over the prospect of actually getting cancer itself, the Supreme Court ruled today.
In a 5-to-4 decision that was anxiously awaited by insurance and business interests for its potential impact outside the railroad industry, the court upheld a jury award of nearly $5 million for six former railroad workers from West Virginia who had developed a noncancerous lung disease, asbestosis, after being exposed to asbestos dust.
Asbestosis itself does not lead to cancer. But people who have the condition are statistically vulnerable to cancer, including a deadly form called mesothelioma, which attacks the chest cavity and causes excruciating pain that is relieved only by death.
"Heightened vulnerability to cancer, as one court observed, `must necessarily have a most depressing effect upon the injured person,' " Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority, quoting from an earlier decision. Invoking the metaphor of the sword of Damocles, she continued, "he knows it is there, but not whether or when it will fall."
The decision contained what Justice Ginsburg called "an important reservation." That is, the person suing for damages must prove that "his alleged fear is genuine and serious."
The case, Norfolk & Western Railway Company v. Ayers, No. 01-963, is among a multitude of legal actions arising from the use of asbestos. Once widely and openly used for fireproofing and other industrial purposes, asbestos was found decades ago to cause several serious illnesses. The latency period for some cases has been 30 to 40 years, accounting for many instances in which factory workers exposed during World War II became ill in late middle age.
Negligence claims against employers are still increasing, with thousands of new ones filed each year, including a significant number by people who are currently healthy and may never become ill.
The Bush administration had joined the West Virginia case on behalf of the railroad, since it involves the application of the 1908 Federal Employers' Liability Act, which governs the rights of railroad workers. While rail workers are the only people immediately affected by today's ruling, there could be a wider impact in years to come, since interpretations of the 1908 law often influence the evolution of state negligence law, as well as the application of other federal liability statutes.
Justice Ginsburg was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter and Clarence Thomas. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote a dissent joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Stephen G. Breyer.
All nine justices agreed on a separate issue: that the 1908 law allows the affected workers to collect their entire damages directly from the railroad, thus placing the burden of seeking money from other negligent parties on the railroad. Texts of the decisions can be read on the court's Web site, www.supremecourtus.gov.
In his dissent, Justice Kennedy noted that all but one of the six railroad workers had a long history of tobacco use. He worried, too, that compensating people like the plaintiffs in the West Virginia case would exhaust resources for payment, thus denying damages to people whose injuries were real rather than speculative.
"Today's decision is not employee-protecting," Justice Kennedy wrote. "It is employee-threatening."
The court ruled several years ago that mere exposure to asbestos was not sufficient to establish liability under federal law. When the justices heard the West Virginia case on Nov. 6, the plaintiffs' counsel argued — successfully, as it turned out — that the plight of the six workers was different, because they were actually sick and had good reason to fear they might get cancer.
Fraud Presents a Health HazardAssociated Press – January 23, 2003
WASHINGTON (AP) - Private laboratories are increasingly being caught falsifying test results for water supplies, petroleum products, underground tanks and soil, hampering the government's ability to ensure Americans are protected by environmental laws, investigators say.
The fraud has caused millions of people to fill their cars with substandard gasoline that may have violated clean air standards, or to drink water not properly tested for safety, the officials told The Associated Press. In addition, officials making decisions at hazardous waste cleanup sites have relied on companies that fraudulently tested air, water and soil samples.
``In recent years, what has come to our attention is that outside (non-government) labs are oftentimes in bed with the people who hired them, and conspired to commit environmental crime,'' said David Uhlmann, chief of the Justice Department's environmental crimes section.
The EPA's watchdog against fraud, Inspector General Nikki Tinsley, has called the rise of lab fraud a disturbing trend.
``If it was my drinking water I'd consider it very serious,'' she said, declining to identify locations affected by the ongoing investigation.
Private laboratories test products that are regulated by anti-pollution laws, and the results allow companies to certify that they're meeting the requirements of environmental protection laws.
In one instance three years ago, investigators discovered fraudulent test results by contract employees at the Environmental Protection Agency's lab in Chicago. The head of the laboratory was transferred and the contractor, Lockheed Martin, was suspended from performing tests.
The Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency have prosecuted dozens of employees and laboratories the past several years for fraudulent testing. Uhlmann, the Justice Department official, said the prosecutions have grown but statistics are not kept on lab fraud cases.
The growing number of cases stretch from New England, where a chemist for municipal water made up test results, to Texas, where the government recently prosecuted the largest tester of underground fuel tanks. Officials said they aren't certain whether an increasing number of labs are falsifying tests, or whether more are simply being caught through more aggressive investigations and whistle-blowers.
Tinsley said there were numerous reasons for lab misconduct: poor training, ineffective ethics programs, shrinking markets and efforts to cut costs.
In some cases, the labs duped the companies that submitted samples for testing. In other instances, the companies were part of a conspiracy with the labs, officials said.
Sometimes the fraud included ``driveway tests,'' so-named because employees generate them on a computer in their own driveways, without ever visiting the facilities.
Whatever the case, lab fraud hampers an environmental protection system that frequently relies on voluntary compliance by companies backed by test results, officials said.
``If we can't rely upon science with supporting lab results, then we don't know what's out there for the public to eat or drink or use,'' said J.P. Suarez, the EPA's assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance.
``When people may not be getting harmed, they may be getting ripped off, using products that are not what they're paying for. And companies are paying for services they're not getting,'' he said. Among the recent examples:
- Intertek Testing Services, of Richardson, Texas, was fined $9 million for falsifying results at its former laboratory in the Dallas suburb. The tests of air, soil, pesticides, nerve gas agents and other hazards were used to make decisions for severely polluted areas called ``Superfund'' sites, at Department of Defense facilities and other hazardous waste locations.
- Terian Koester, owner of Quality Water Analysis Laboratories in Pittsburg, Kan., was sentenced to 18 months in prison for violating the Clean Water Act and mail fraud. He was accused of fraudulent analysis of waste water, drinking water and hazardous waste.
- William McCarthy, a senior chemist for the Lawrence, Mass., drinking water filtration plant, pleaded guilty to violating the Safe Drinking Water Act. During the 1990s McCarthy, who supervised quality testing, admitted he fabricated drinking water quality results. The Lawrence filtration plant draws water from the Merrimack River and distributes it to more than 60,000 residents.
- Caleb Brett U.S.A. Inc., of Houston, was sentenced to pay a $1 million fine and three years probation for misleading investigators about a scheme to falsify analyses on reformulated gasoline, a blended fuel that significantly reduces pollution in populated areas. The fraud resulted in distribution of 200 million to 300 million gallons of substandard gasoline in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
- Tanknology-NDE International, of Austin, Texas, was ordered to pay $2.29 million in a criminal fine and restitution for false underground storage tank testing services. The nation's largest underground storage tank testing company admitted the fraud at postal facilities, military bases and a NASA facility, among other sites. The tests were supposed to detect leakage of petroleum products.
- Former environmental contractor James Edward Adams of Inman, S.C., was sentenced to 27 months in prison. His company, which provided testing services for underground storage tanks, directed employees to provide false test reports to owners and operators of petroleum tank facilities in South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Virginia and Tennessee, prosecutors said.
Protesting May Be Good for Your HealthReuters - January 9, 2003
(12/24/02) - LONDON (Reuters Health) - Taking part in protests and demonstrations can be good for your physical and mental health, a new British study suggests.
Psychologists at the University of Sussex found that people who get involved in campaigns, strikes and political demonstrations experience an improvement in psychological well-being that can help them overcome stress, pain, anxiety and depression.
The finding fits in with other studies suggesting that positive experiences and feeling part of a group can have beneficial effects on health.
"Collective actions, such as protests, strikes, occupations and demonstrations, are less common in the UK than they were perhaps 20 years ago," researcher Dr. John Drury said in a statement.
"The take-home message from this research therefore might be that people should get more involved in campaigns, struggles and social movements, not only in the wider interest of social change but also for their own personal good."
The results emerged from in-depth interviews with nearly 40 activists from a variety of backgrounds. Between them, they had more than 160 experiences of collective action involving groups of demonstrators protesting against a range of issues. These included fox-hunting, environmental damage and industrial matters.
Volunteers were asked to describe what it was about taking part in such collective action that made them feel so good.
"Many published activist accounts refer to feelings of encouragement and confidence emerging from experiences of collective action," said Drury. "But it is not always clear how and why such empowerment occurs, so we aimed to explain what factors within a collective action event contribute to such feelings."
He said the interviews revealed that the key factors were that participants felt they had a collective identity with fellow protestors. They also derived a sense of unity and mutual support from taking part.
Such was the strength of the feelings they experienced that the effects appear to be sustained over a period of time.
"Empowering events were almost without exception described as joyous occasions," said Drury. "Participants experienced a deep sense of happiness and even euphoria in being involved in protest events. Simply recounting the events in the interview brought a smile to the face of the interviewees."
Health Compromised to Cover for CorporationsSt. Louis Post-Dispatch – by Andrew Schneider – December 30, 2002
WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency was on the verge of warning millions of Americans that their attics and walls might contain asbestos-contaminated insulation. But the White House intervened at the last minute, and the warning never has been issued.
The agency's refusal to share its knowledge of what is believed to be a widespread health risk has been criticized by a former EPA administrator under two Republican presidents, a Democratic U.S. senator and physicians and scientists who have treated victims of the contamination.
The announcement to warn the public was expected in April. It was to accompany a declaration by the EPA of a public-health emergency in Libby, Mont. In that town near the Canadian border, ore from a vermiculite mine was contaminated with an extremely lethal asbestos fiber called tremolite that has killed or sickened thousands of miners and their families.
Ore from the Libby mine was shipped around the world, ending up in insulation called Zonolite that was used in millions of homes, businesses and schools across America.
A public-health emergency declaration never had been issued by any agency. It would have authorized removal of the disease-causing insulation from homes in Libby and also provided long-term medical care for those made sick. Additionally, it would have triggered notification of property owners elsewhere who might be exposed to the contaminated insulation.
Zonolite insulation was sold throughout North America from the 1940s through the 1990s. Almost all of the vermiculite used in the insulation came from the Libby mine, last owned by W.R. Grace.
In a meeting in mid-March, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman and Marianne Horinko, head of the Superfund program, met with Paul Peronard, the EPA coordinator of the Libby cleanup and his team of health specialists. Whitman and Horinko asked tough questions, and apparently received the answers they needed. They agreed they had to make a declaration.
By early April, the declaration was ready to go. News releases had been written and rewritten. Lists of governors to call and politicians to notify had been compiled. Internal e-mail shows that discussions had even been held on whether Whitman would go to Libby for the announcement.
But the declaration never was made.
Interviews and documents show that days before the EPA was set to make the declaration, the plan was thwarted by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which had been told of the proposal months earlier.
Both the OMB and the EPA acknowledge that the White House agency was actively involved, but neither agency would discuss how or why.
"Contact OMB for the details," EPA's chief spokesman Joe Martyak said.
Said OMB spokeswoman Amy Call: "These questions will have to be addressed to the EPA."
Call declined to say why the White House opposed the declaration and the public notification.
"These are part of our internal discussions with EPA, and we don't discuss predecisional deliberations," Call said.
Both agencies refused Freedom of Information Act requests for documents to and from the OMB.
'The wrong thing to do'
Former EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus, who worked for former Presidents Nixon and Reagan, called the decision not to notify homeowners of dangers posed by Zonolite insulation "the wrong thing to do."
"When the government comes across this kind of information and doesn't tell people about it, I just think it's wrong, unconscionable, not to do that," he said. "Your first obligation is to tell the people living in these homes of the possible danger. They need the information so they can decide what actions are best for their family. What right does the government have to conceal these dangers?"
What to do about Zonolite insulation was not the only asbestos-related issue in which the White House intervened.
In January, in an internal EPA report on problems with the agency's much-criticized response to the terrorist attacks in New York, a section on "lessons learned" said: "We cannot delay releasing important public-health information. The political consequences of delaying information are greater than the benefit of centralized information management."
'Conflict of interest'
The OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs derailed the declaration. That office is headed by John Graham, who formerly ran the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis.
His appointment in 2001 was denounced by environmental, health and public advocacy groups, who claimed his ties to industry were too strong. Graham passes judgment over all major national health, safety and environmental standards.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., urged colleagues to vote against Graham's appointment, saying Graham would have to recuse himself from reviewing many rules because affected industries donated to the Harvard University Center.
Thirty physicians, 10 of them from Harvard, according to The Washington Post, wrote the committee asking that Graham not be confirmed because of "a persistent pattern of conflict of interest, of obscuring and minimizing dangers to human health with questionable cost-benefit analyses, and of hostility to governmental regulation in general."
Repeated requests for interviews with Graham or anyone else involved in the OMB decision were denied.
Whitman, Horinko and some members of their top staff were said to have been outraged at the White House intervention.
"It was like a gut shot," said one of those senior staffers involved in the decision. "It wasn't that they ordered us not to make the declaration, they just really, really strongly suggested against it. Really strongly. There was no choice left."
Whitman vs. White House
Staff members said Whitman was personally interested in Libby and the national problems spawned by its asbestos-tainted ore. The EPA's inspector general had reported that the agency hadn't taken action more than two decades earlier when it had proof that the people of Libby and those using asbestos-tainted Zonolite products were in danger.
Whitman went to Libby in early September 2001 and promised the people it would never happen again.
"We want everyone who comes in contact with vermiculite — from homeowners to handymen — to have the information to protect themselves and their families," Whitman promised.
Political pragmatists in the agency knew the administration was angered that a flood of lawsuits had caused more than a dozen major corporations — including W.R. Grace — to file for bankruptcy protection. The suits sought billions of dollars on behalf of people injured or killed from exposure to asbestos in their products or workplaces.
Republicans on Capitol Hill crafted legislation — expected to be introduced next month — to stem the flow of these suits.
Nevertheless, Whitman told her people to move forward with the emergency declaration. Those in the EPA who respect their boss fear that Whitman may quit.
She has taken heat for other White House decisions such as a controversial decision on levels of arsenic in drinking water, easing regulations to allow 50-year-old power plants to operate without implementing modern pollution controls and a dozen other actions that environmentalists say favor industry over health.
Newspapers in her home state of New Jersey ran stories this month saying Whitman had told Bush she wanted to leave the agency.
Spokesman Martyak said his boss is staying on the job.
Documents reveal struggle
In October, the EPA complied with a Freedom of Information Act request and gave the St. Louis Post-Dispatch access to thousands of documents — in nine large file boxes. There were hundreds of e-mails, scores of "action memos" describing the declaration and piles of "communication strategies" for how the announcement would be made.
The documents illustrated the internal and external battle over getting the declaration and announcement released.
One of the most contentious concerns was the anticipated national backlash from the Libby declaration. EPA officials knew that if the agency announced that the insulation in Montana was so dangerous that an emergency had to be declared, people elsewhere whose homes contained the same contaminated Zonolite would demand answers or perhaps demand to have their homes cleaned.
The language of the declaration was molded to stress how unique Libby was and to downplay the national problem.
But many in the agency's headquarters and regional offices didn't buy it.
A Feb. 22 memo questioned the agency's claim that the age of Libby's homes and severe winter conditions in Montana required a higher level of maintenance, which in turn meant increased disturbance of the insulation in the homes there.
It's "a shallow argument," the memo said. "There are older homes which exist in harsh or harsher conditions across the country. Residents in Maine and Michigan might find this argument flawed."
In millions of attics
No one knows precisely how many dwellings are insulated with Zonolite. Memos from the EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry repeatedly cite an estimate of between 15 million and 35 million homes.
A government analysis of shipping records from W.R. Grace shows that at least 15.6 billion pounds of vermiculite ore was shipped from Libby to 750 plants and factories throughout North America.
Between one-third and one-half of that ore was popped into insulation and usually sold in 3-foot-high kraft paper bags.
Eventually, the internal documents show, acceptance grew that the agency should declare a public-health emergency.
In a confidential memo dated March 28, an EPA official said the declaration tentatively was set for April 5.
But the declaration never came.
Instead, Superfund boss Horinko on May 9 quietly ordered that asbestos be removed from contaminated homes in Libby. There was no national warning of potential dangers from Zonolite. And there was no promise of long-term medical care for Libby's ill and dying. The OMB's presence is noted throughout the documents. The press announcement of the watered-down decision was rewritten five times the day before it was released to accommodate OMB language changes that downplayed the dangers.
The asbestos in Zonolite, like all asbestos products, is believed to be either a minimal risk or no risk if it is not disturbed. The asbestos fibers must be airborne to be inhaled. The fibers then become trapped in the lungs, where they may cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, a fast-moving cancer of the lungs' lining.
The EPA's files are filled with studies documenting the toxicity of tremolite, how even minor disruptions of the material by moving boxes, sweeping the floor or doing repairs in attics can generate asbestos fibers.
One doctor's warnings
Dr. Alan Whitehouse, a pulmonologist who had worked for NASA and the Air Force on earlier projects before moving to Spokane, has not only treated 500 people from Libby who are sick and dying from exposure to tremolite. He also has almost 300 patients from Washington shipyards and the Hanford nuclear facility in Eastern Washington who are suffering health effects from exposure to the more-prevalent chrysotile asbestos.
Comparing the two groups, Whitehouse has demonstrated that the toxicity of the tremolite from Libby is 10 times as carcinogenic as chrysotile and probably 100 times more likely to produce mesothelioma than chrysotile.
W.R. Grace has maintained that its insulation is safe. On April 3 of this year, the company wrote a letter to Whitman again insisting that its product was safe and that no public-health declaration or nationwide warning was warranted.
Dr. Brad Black, who runs the asbestos clinic in Libby and acts as health officer for Lincoln County, Mont., says "people have a right to be warned of the potential danger they may face if they disturb that stuff."
Martyak, chief EPA spokesman, argues the agency has informed the public of the potential dangers. "It's on our Web site," he said.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is sponsoring legislation to ban asbestos in the United States. She said the Web site warning is a joke.
"EPA's answer that people have been warned because it's on their Web site is ridiculous," she said. "If you have a computer, and you just happened to think about what's in your attic, and you happen to be on EPA's Web page, then you get to know. This is not the way the safety of the public is handled.
"We, the government, the EPA, the administration have a responsibility to at least let people know the information so they can protect themselves if they go into those attics," she said.
N.C. Should Sue BushThe Charlotte Observer – by Steve Govus – December 19, 2002
(12/18/02) - In June North Carolina enacted one of the nation's most progressive programs to deal with the problem of old, polluting coal-fired power plants that had been grandfathered out of the Clean Air Act in the '70's. These plants are still very much around and are implicated in a number of serious problems.
One problem is ground level ozone, which causes serious health problems in the human respiratory system (see "Relaxed air standards threaten N.C. air quality," Observer, Nov. 30, for example). The effects of the pollution from these plants is broader than that, however. Acid deposition kills trees and other vegetation, particularly in the mountains, and the depletion of the buffering capacity in the soils leads to acidity in mountain streams that makes life impossible for native trout and other aquatic species.
Mercury contamination is released as coal is burned, and spreads across the Carolinas. This is particularly a problem in the blackwater rivers of the coastal areas, where some fish are unfit to eat even in remote and seemingly pristine areas.
The N.C. Clean Smokestacks Act was put together by a broad-based, bipartisan group that included planners from Duke Energy and Carolina Power & Light. They are to be commended for their progressive and public-spirited efforts.
Unfortunately, cleaning up our own act is not enough to solve the problem. Significant pollution drifts in from old coal-fired plants in neighboring states and as far away as the Ohio River Valley. The hope was that these other areas would follow our lead and enact similar legislation themselves.
That hope was dashed Nov. 23, when the Bush administration announced a revision to the "New Source Review" provisions of the Clean Air Act. The effect of that revision will be to allow these plants to continue to operate with pollution levels unabated.
A bipartisan coalition of nine states -- all the New England states plus New York, New Jersey, and Maryland -- immediately announced plans to sue the Bush administration over the revisions.
These states have suffered long as a result of being downwind of antiquated coal-fired plants. So has North Carolina. Particularly since the state has taken such progressive steps to solve the problem, it would be wise and appropriate for Gov. Mike Easley to direct the attorney general to join with these other states in the lawsuit against the Bush administration.
Steve Govus runs a small business in Rutherford County and is an outdoors enthusiast who enjoys fishing in the Carolinas.
Killer Safety HarnessesJust-Contractors.com – Newsletter – September 4, 2002
Jobsite Negligence Called Homicide
Paul Corsi, 37, an ironworker, was crushed to death by a 165-ton truss on February 12th.
Since then, the accident has been under investigation by OSHA and Pittsburgh homicide detectives. On Aug. 23rd, the Allegheny County Coroner, Cyril H. Wecht, opined "The failures at every level of this project are so blatant and overwhelming that a reasonable person could only conclude that the actions, errors and omissions on the part of Dick Corp. more than rise to the level of recklessness and grossly negligent conduct.
"It is the conclusion that the manner of death of Paul Corsi Jr., which had been listed as accidental, be changed to homicide, and the Dick Corp. be held criminally liable."
This conclusion was reached in face of the fact that Corsi was wearing the OSHA-mandated safety harness. It was, in fact, the safety harness being tied to the falling 165-ton truss that flung Corsi to the ground, and resulted in his being crushed. This is not the first time that an American worker has been killed by a safety harness. In several documented cases, workers who were tied-off were unable to jump to safety and died, while workers working along side these, in violation of OSHA regulations, were not tied off and were able to jump to safety.
Residential construction workers often complain that the ropes attached to these safety harnesses are trip-lines on a steeply pitched roof, and cause more accidents than they prevent.
Construction continues to be the third most deadly occupation when all trades fatalities are combined.
Roofing and structural steel workers are the two most deadly trades within this group.
Some other construction jobsite fatalities:
A laborer engaged in the removal of an existing stairway fell through the stairway floor opening. He fell approximately 32 feet. He died.
A laborer was killed when a gasoline storage tank he was cutting with a portable power saw exploded. The worker's company was involved in installing, removing and junking gasoline pumps and underground tanks.
Nail From Powder Actuated Tool
A carpenter apprentice was killed when he was struck in the head by a nail that was fired from a powder actuated tool. The tool operator, while attempting to anchor a plywood form in preparation for pouring a concrete wall, fired the gun causing the nail to pass through the hollow wall. The nail traveled some twenty-seven feet before striking the victim.
A crew of ironworkers and a crane operator were unloading a 20-ton steel slab from a low-boy trailer using a 50-ton crawler crane with 90-foot lattice boom. During lifting, the load moved forward and to the right, placing a twisting force on the boom. The boom twisted under the load, swinging down, under and to the right. Two employees standing 30 feet away apparently saw the boom begin to swing and ran. The boom struck one of the employees - an ironworker - on the head, causing instant death. Wire rope struck the other -- a management trainee -- causing internal injuries. He died two hours later at a local hospital.
A laborer was steam cleaning a scraper. The bowl apron had been left in the raised position. The hydraulically controlled apron had not been blocked to prevent it from accidentally falling. The apron did fall unexpectedly and the employee was caught between the apron and the cutting edge of the scraper bowl. The apron weighted approximately 2500 pounds.
A painter foreman climbed over a bridge railing to inspect work being done, slipped, and fell 150 feet to his death.
Two employees were installing storm drain pipes in a trench, approximately 20-30 feet long, 12-13 feet deep and 5-6 feet wide. The side walls consisted of unstable soil undermined by sand and water. There was 3-5 feet of water in the north end of the trench and 5-6 inches of water in the south end. At the time of the accident, a backhoe was being used to clear the trench. The west wall of the trench collapsed, and one employee was crushed and killed.
Two employees were installing aluminum siding on a farmhouse when it became necessary to remove a 36-foot high metal pole CB antenna. One employee stood on a metal pick board between two ladders and unfastened the antenna at the top of the house. The other employee, who was standing on the ground, took the antenna to lay it down in the yard. The antenna made electrical contact with a 7200-volt power transmission tine 30 feet 10 inches from the house and 23 feet 9 inches above the ground. The employee handling the antenna received a fatal shock and the other employee a minor shock.
Two employees were painting the exterior of a three-story building when one of the two outriggers on their two-point suspension scaffold failed. One painter safely climbed back onto the roof while the other fell approximately 35 feet to his death.
Two workers were using a crawling board/chicken ladder type apparatus while they painted the roof of a barn. The crawling board/chicken ladder broke, and both employees fell approximately 35 feet to the ground, One employee sustained multiple injuries, and the other employee was killed.
A construction worker was assigned to sandblast the inside of a reactor vessel during turnaround activities at a petrochemical refinery. Instead of relying on the contract company's own air compressors in accordance with the contractor's policy, the contract foreman connected the employee's supplied air respirator to a hose containing what he thought was plant air. Instead it was nitrogen. Both hoses were identical except for markings at the shutoff valve. The sandblaster entered the vessel, descended to the bottom, placed the respirator hood on his head and was overcome.
A construction worker in a looped chain was lowered approximately 17 feet into a 21-foot deep manhole. Twenty seconds later he started gasping for air and fell from the chain seat face down into the accumulated water at the bottom of the manhole. An autopsy determined oxygen deficiency as the cause of death.
Death By Fire
A bulldozer operator was preparing a road bed by using the machine to lift trees out of the way. A hydraulic line to the right front hydraulic cylinder ruptured, spraying hydraulic fluid onto the engine manifold and into the operator's compartment. Upon contact with the hot manifold, the hydraulic fluid ignited, engulfing the operator in flames. The operator died from the burns he received.
Fall from Roof
A roofer, handling a piece of fiberboard, backed up and tripped over a 7½ inch parapet. He fell more than 50 feet to ground level and died of severe head injuries.
Remember our men. Remember the sacrifices they make for their families.
Beware of Brave New Health PlansBusiness Week – by Michelle Conlin – September 3, 2002
(9/9/02 Issue) - Get ready for the Big Shift, Round Two. First, during the 1980s, CEOs deftly phased out rich defined-benefit pensions and moved workers into you're-on-your-own 401(k)s, shredding a major safety net even as they locked in lifetime benefits for themselves. The move promised the rank and file a chance to make big money in the stock market, but it has also enabled companies to cut 22% of their retirement spending since 1986, according to the Labor Dept. Warning labels about the risks of employees becoming their own investment managers--or about how much less companies would be contributing--were often missing from the promotional brochures.
Now, health benefits are in the crosshairs. Faced with soaring increases of 13% and more in runaway costs--and with no relief in sight--companies for the past year have been shifting more of the bill onto workers in the form of higher deductibles, co-pays, and premiums. If the labor market continues to weaken, companies could be even more emboldened to shift more risk, responsibility, and management for health care onto employees.
Enter the new "consumer-driven" health plans, which such companies as Novartis and Humana already are offering as one option. For now, companies are piloting the new plans alongside traditional ones. But experts say that if the consumer-driven trend takes off, it could save employers as much as 15%. Indeed, what HMOs were to the '90s, these plans could be to this decade--and they have the potential to have the same profound impact on your health care as 401(k)s had on your retirement nest egg.
On the surface, they sound great. An employee who chooses one over a traditional plan will get, let's say, a defined yearly contribution of $2,000--about average for plans now being piloted--for his family. He can spend the money any way he wants, using it to buy preventative care or forgoing doctor visits altogether and rolling the sum into his account the following year. The idea is that since it's his cash-- and not some all-you-can-eat plan--he's less likely to rush to the emergency room every time his kid bumps his head. But if the family exceeds the $2,000, they could be on the hook for what is in essence a supersize deductible, ranging from $2,000 to up to $4,000 and possibly even more. Only after that interim cost is met does a kind of traditional health coverage kick in.
If the grand experiment in 401(k)s taught us anything, it's that many corporations sloughed off responsibility without providing an adequate support structure for employees. Now they are in danger of making the same mistake again. Ten years ago, HMO advocates made big noises about the creation of clearinghouses of impartial information-- Consumer Reports for health care--that would enable workers to make informed, savvy choices. But it's still nowhere in sight. Doctors and hospitals have been leery about releasing information. As it stands now, workers would be expected to wander the health-care maze without a clue about price and quality.
If you're young, healthy, or manage your coverage just right, the plan could work splendidly. One of its chief virtues, advocates say, is that it injects consumerism into an arena that's sorely lacking in economic discipline. But can health-care spending be rationed so easily? The very name "consumer-driven" seems to equate needing a biopsy with buying a burger. If you're unlucky enough to have a child who gets cancer, for example, the payment on the gap between the company-paid voucher and catastrophic care could end up swamping your family's finances. There's also the danger that the cash-up-front plans could skew the risk pool, attracting healthy workers and their dollars. That could leave sick or older employees, whose bills could easily exceed the cash grant, consigned to far costlier plans. That essentially amounts to a two-tiered health system. Says Princeton University health-care economist Uwe Reinhardt: "This is a simple device to try to roll out more of the health-care cost from employers to employees and, within employees, from the healthy to the sick." In other words, you're on your own.
Safety Rules Backed in Washington StateAssociated Press – by Paul Queary – July 14, 2002
(7/13/02) - OLYMPIA — A judge upheld the state's sweeping new workplace ergonomics rules yesterday, rejecting a business coalition's challenge to the plan for reducing on-the-job injuries caused by repetitive motion, heavy lifting and awkward movements.
The Building Industry Association of Washington, the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business and others criticize the studies that prompted the rules and contend the state vastly underestimated the costs to business.
But Thurston County Superior Court Judge Paula Casey ruled that the Department of Labor and Industries wrote the rules according to state law.
Part of the process was a cost-benefit analysis that indicated the rules would cost $80 million to implement and produce $300 million in savings from smaller workers-compensation costs, increased productivity and other benefits.
"The department was not arbitrary and capricious to conclude that the benefits of this rule would outweigh the cost," Casey said.
The ruling was a victory for Gary Moore, the director of Labor and Industries.
"It's good in terms of preventing injuries, but it's also good for the employers' bottom line," Moore said. "Workers don't come with spare parts."
The department receives 50,000 claims a year from injured workers, which cost employers more than $400 million.
The business groups contend the rules would cost employers $725 million and said they'd appeal Casey's ruling.
"Judge Casey's decision grants carte blanche to other state agencies to go ahead with their wild schemes without any regard for sensible standards," said Carolyn Logue, director of the 17,000-member Washington Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business.
Labor leaders, who pushed hard for the rules, praised Casey's ruling.
"The state has an interest — and in fact a constitutional obligation — to ensure its workplaces are safe and healthy, and the ergonomics rule is a critically important step toward addressing the No. 1 cause of work injury in this state," said Rick Bender, president of the Washington State Labor Council.
The rules went into effect July 1 for companies with 50 or more workers in the highest risk industries, including masonry and stonework, carpentry, roofing, sawmills, groceries, personal care, and landscaping and nursing. But Gov. Gary Locke has delayed enforcement until July 2004 to allow companies to identify hazards and reduce them.
Smaller and less risky workplaces come under the rule over the next four years, with enforcement delayed for two years afterward. For most offices, where some workers have reported injuries caused by repetitive typing on computers, the rule would take effect next July.
Labor and Industries used its authority to protect employees from injury in the workplace to hand down the regulations in May 2000 without specific authorization from lawmakers.
Bills to repeal the rules have died in each of the last two sessions of the Legislature, despite warnings that the rules put Washington products at a disadvantage in national and world markets.
Congress has repealed similar federal ergonomics regulations handed down during the Clinton administration.
A Power Company’s PR SolutionBusiness Ethics – June 22, 2002
(6/16/02) – This summer, all 221 residents of Cheshire, Ohio will be packing because American Electric Power has bought their town, reported the New York Times in May. That’s right. AEP polluted the place so badly it figured it would just buy the place – purchasing all homes for about three times their value – in exchange for promises not to bring lawsuits later. A local environmental group, Buckeye Environmental Network, supported the buyout, saying it was easier than trying to force the plant to clean up.
That’s the (sort of) good news.
The bad news is that this all came about because the company was complying with environmental law. In the mid-1990s the company spent $616 million to install scrubbers to reduce carbon dioxide, and it replaced one tall smoke stack with two shorter ones. The scrubbers meant no more acid raid – but they also mean emissions fell closer to home. Ergo: local folks had to move.