Senate Panel Tackles Repeated Serious OSHA Violations

Tune in at 10 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow via Webcast if you want to hear what the senator heading the U.S. Senate's Employment and Workplace Safety subcommittee believes should be done to combat repeated serious OSHA violations by some employers. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has four witnesses scheduled to testify: two union representatives, former OSHA Administrator Gerard Scannell, and a consultant from Behavioral Science Technology Inc.

The union witnesses are Eric Frumin, occupational safety and health program director for UNITE HERE in New York City; and Doris Morrow, listed as a memer of UFCW Local 227 in Robards, Ky. Frumin testified Jan. 14 at a U.S. House Education and Labor subcommittee's field hearing in Linden, N.J., about persistent safety violations in the laundry industry. The hearing followed the deaths of two men in a tank at a Linden laundry company. Morrow works at Tyson Foods' Robards animal feed plant, where two workers in July 1999 suffocated from methane gas after they fell into an open pit of decomposing chicken parts. Tyson, the world's largest processor of chicken, with headquarters in Springdale, Ark., reached a "global" $149,515 settlement with the Kentucky Department of Labor in July 2005 after facing more than $500,000 in proposed civil penalties.

Scannell was OSHA's director from October 1989 to January 1992. OSHA's online page of milestones in its history cites only one during his tenure, publication of the bloodborne pathogens standard in December 1991 -- but it overlooks a case while he was at OSHA that might be mentioned tomorrow: DOL cited USX Corp. on Nov. 2, 1989, for about 1,600 alleged violations at a Fairless Hills, Pa. steel mill and a Clairton, Pa., coke works, and fined it a then-record $7.3 million. OSHA and then-Labor Secretary Elizabeth Dole alleged there had been a pattern of indifference to safety at those plants for years that had resulted in 17 deaths since 1972.

Visit to listen to a webcast of the hearing. Murray chairs the subcommittee; other members of the panel include Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

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