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Government Paying Back
Nuclear Workers Who Got Sick on the Job

The U.S. Department of Labor announced that it has paid more than $1 billion to 8,926 individuals under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act.

The money provides compensation for lost wages and medical care to people who suffered occupational illnesses as a result of their jobs at nuclear plants.

The Department of Labor took over these workers' compensation claims from the Department of Energy, whose program was plagued by delays.

More than 70,000 claims have been filed with the Department of Labor, with $1 billion paid out in slightly more than three years. Less than $2 million was paid out - via state workers compensation systems - under old Department of Energy program.

The program provides federal compensation and medical benefits to contractors and subcontractors of the Department of Energy who worked at certain facilities and developed an occupational illness as a result of exposure to toxic substances. In some cases, survivors of these workers also are eligible for benefits.

The program provides additional compensation for uranium workers who worked at facilities covered by the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act and some of their survivors.

Is City Building Killing Employees?

The San Francisco Chronicle published a compelling article on several city workers who died of cancer.

Allan Lemar Morrison, Paula Hamilton, and Tom Sandoval all worked for the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. They also all worked or spent a lot of time in a building named Kezar Pavilion.

Morrison and Hamilton, who both died recently, and Sandoval, whose health is declining, aren't the first rec workers to battle cancer. Of 40 people who have worked in the Pavilion, five have died of cancer, three others have developed tumors and yet another worker is being monitored for growths in his lungs.

Could their jobs have caused these rec workers' illnesses and the five deaths? Did their asbestos-contaminated workplace cause cancer?

The government says no. A federal occupational health and safety expert consulted by the city after the cancer cluster became apparent has ruled that the building isn't to blame, even though there is asbestos there.

Tags: environmental illness, asbestos cancer, workplace cancer, asbestos contamination, cancer cluster

OSHA Rules Designed to Protect Employees, Prevent Workplace Injuries

The Savannah Morning News in Georgia poses an interesting question:

How much do we really know about OSHA, its rules and its protections?

The article that answers that question is a good primer on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and its role in preventing workplace injuries and ensuring worker safety.

For example, do you know what kind of penalties employers face for violating OSHA rules and regulations:

OSHA penalties range from nothing to $70,000, depending upon how likely the violation is to result in serious harm to employees. Other-than-serious violations often carry no penalties but may result in penalties of up to $7,000. Serious violations may have penalties up to $7,000. Repeat and willful violations may have penalties as high as $70,000. Penalties may be discounted if an employer has a small number of employees, has demonstrated good faith, or has few or no previous violations.

We all - employees and employers - could probably use a lesson on OSHA. So check out the newspaper's informative article.

Tags: OSHA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA regulations, workplace safety, preventing workplace injuries, worker safety, OSHA penalties

Government to Screen for Black Lung in West Virginia Miners

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is providing free health screenings to coal miners in 16 West Virginia counties to provide early detection of pneumoconiosis.

Pneumoconiosis, also know as "black lung," is a serious but preventable lung disease.

It is caused by inhaling coal dust. There are few early symptoms of the disease, but as it progresses, it can cause lung scarring and shortness of breath. Some people who develop serious cases of black lung become disabled or die.

The disease is not curable but it is preventable.

Under the Federal Mine Safety & Health Act of 1977, all working underground coal miners are eligible for free chest x-ray screenings.

Tags: black lung, pneumoconiosis, coal miner disease, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, West Virginia coal mine, miner lung disease

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