Posts from Jordan Barab

The Many Types of Racism in the United States Today

Jordan Barab

Jordan Barab Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor, OSHA

As the nation’s capital was about to be overrun by more than two dozen American Nazis yesterday, President Trump issued an official Presidential tweetcondemning “all types” of racism.

What did he mean by “all types” of racism?  Possibly the terrible scourge of racism against oppressed white folk, which would make sense after his “very fine people on both sides” observation last year.

But, of course, it’s impossible to know what goes on in the President’s mind, so I’m going to provide him with examples of a couple of other “types of racism” that he can condemn if he’s really sincere about combating “all types” of racism.

Environmental Racism

We’ve written quite a bit about former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s attempt to repeal the Obama’s administration’s chemical plant safety regulation. Repealing a regulation requires a new regulation to repeal the old one. And among other analyses required by any new regulation, Executive Order 12898, issued in 1994, “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations,” requires that agencies conduct an evaluation of “environmental justice” concerns that address any “disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations in the United States[.]”

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“Freak Accidents” — Neither Freakish, nor Accidental

Jordan Barab

Jordan Barab Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor, OSHA

This is another in an occasional seriesof posts about the stupidity and ignorance of labeling workplace fatalities “freak accidents.” Why are we opposed to seeing this phrase?

First, the phrase implies that this type of incident hardly ever happens and there is, therefore, not much you can do about it. In fact, the phrase “freak accident” is a double-whammy. Not only dies the word “freak” imply “rare,” but the word “accident,” defined as “an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury,” implies that the event was “unexpected.”

Rare and unexpected. Shit happens. Waddayagonnado?

For example:

Married father-of-three mechanic, 40, is crushed to death in freak accident doing maintenance on ‘magic carpet’ ski lift in Colorado

Clear Creek County, CO — A Colorado ski area employee was crushed to death while working on a snow-level lift just three days after celebrating Christmas with his wife and three children. Clear Creek County officials say 40-year-old Adam Lee got caught in the equipment at Loveland Ski Area and suffered crushing chest injuries last Thursday.  Erika Mackay Lee, Adam’s wife, has expressed frustration at the lack of answers about what happened to her husband.  ‘I asked that question five times and every single time I was told it was a freak accident,’ the widow tells The Denver Channel.  In the days since her husband’s death, Erika has learned some of the details from Adam’s co-workers. ‘He was under the magic carpet conveyor belt,’ Erika told CBS4. ‘And that’s supposed to have a lock-out system. But somebody came up and started it. And he was dragged under.’

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OSHA Cites Two Multiple Death Cases Very Differently

Jordan Barab

Jordan Barab Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor, OSHA

OSHA has issued citations in two multiple fatality cases, one with a appropriately large penalty (for OSHA) and one not so much. What’s going on?

Gavilon Grain

 Gavilon Grain LLC faces a half million dollar penalty for the suffocation deaths of two men, Joshua Rasbold, 28, and Marcus Tice, 32, who died after they were buried under 20 to 25 feet of grain on Jan. 2 at Gavilon’s grain elevator near Wichita, Kansas.  Gavilon, formerly known as DeBruce Grain, “has faced 24 cases of safety and health violations by federal regulators over the past seven years.”

According to OSHA’s Press Release,

“OSHA cited Gavilon Grain LLC for failing to provide employees with lifelines and fall protection; lockout equipment; provide rescue equipment; and allowing employees to enter a bin in which bridged and/or hung-up grain was present.

“Moving grain acts like quick sand, and can bury a worker in seconds,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Kimberly Stille. “This tragedy could have been prevented if the employer had provided workers with proper safety equipment, and followed required safety procedures to protect workers from grain bin hazards.”

The $507,374 citation, which included four willful, one repeat and two serious citation also resulted in Gavilon being put on OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

The penalty was issued by OSHA Region 7 which I criticized a couple of weeks ago for issuing a rather mealy-mouthed press release following a spike in fatalities in the region. Happy to see they’re still serious about significant enforcement actions for employers who kill.

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Nice Try: OSHA’s Rollback of the Recordkeeping Rule–The Real Story

Jordan Barab

Jordan Barab Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor, OSHA

OSHA proposed last week to roll back parts of the “Electronic Recordkeeping” regulation that the Obama administration issued in 2016. The rule would have required certain employers to electronically send worker injury and illness information into OSHA. OSHA then intended to publicize the (non-confidential) information on its website. In a somewhat amusing, but Orwellian press release, OSHA portrays the rollback as an effort to “better protect” workers’ confidential information.

I finally had a chance to read the full OSHA proposal. Spoiler Alert: I’ve read a lot of OSHA regulatory proposals over my career and this one barely passes the laugh test, much less presents a serious argument for why this regulation should be weakened. Instead of an effort to better protect workers’ confidential information, this is a poorly justified attempt to protect employers from having to reveal potentially embarrassing information.

In other words, according to former OSHA official Debbie Berkowitz, “This is about the administration listening to employers who don’t want workers and the public to know about dangerous conditions.”

But even this partial rollback isn’t good enough for the Chamber of Commerce. According to Marc Freedman, the Chamber’s vice president of workplace policy, publishing any employer data on injuries and illnesses could also be used to unfairly malign businesses. “Not all injuries that have to be recorded reflect on an employer’s safety program. We don’t think they’ve fully taken care of the problem.”

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Union Matters

Filling the Halls of Power

From the AFL-CIO

A week after the defeat of “right to work” in Missouri, working people are riding a wave of momentum across the country. This week, working people in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Connecticut secured primary victories for several of our proud union brothers and sisters.

Yesterday marked a watershed moment for working people in three states, as union members secured nominations for federal and statewide office. Here are a few of our brothers and sisters who came out on top:

Tim Walz (AFT-NEA)—Nominee for Governor, Minnesota


Julie Blaha (AFT-NEA)—Nominee for State Auditor, Minnesota


Randy Bryce (Ironworkers)—Nominee for the 1st Congressional District, Wisconsin


Jahana Hayes (NEA)—Nominee for the 5th Congressional District, Connecticut



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Move Over, Myths

Move Over, Myths