Utah Mine Hearing

Worker safety concerns should have kept MSHA from accepting a plan for retreat mining at the Crandall Canyon Mine, said United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts on Sept. 5 at a Capitol Hill hearing.

According to Roberts, MSHA should have known that the company had no business in engaging in retreat mining as Crandall Canyon's previous owner, Andalex Resources, decided against retreat mining after determining the only coal left in the mine was supporting the barriers and pillars necessary to hold up the roof of the mine's main entrance and exit points. In addition, the agency should have known the mine had suffered a “bump,” an explosion of coal walls due to pressure exerted by the big mountain above, in March 2007, which occurred only a couple of hundred of feet away from where the six miners are presumed to be entombed.

Asbestos Concerns

The reintroduction of legislation banning asbestos sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has prompted the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) to express concern that the bill only takes issue with new uses of asbestos and does not address concerns with the millions of pounds of asbestos already in use that continue to pose a health threat.

In a letter sent to Murray's attention, AIHA President Donald Hart pointed out that an outright ban would not take issue with controlling exposure to asbestos already in use, an issue which some AIHA members confront every day. According to him, any application of asbestos in a product where the material becomes “friable” should no longer be continued.

Health Promotion for “Forgotten” Workers

The non-traditional workforce, which includes immigrant, transient and low-wage workers, often is overlooked when employers establish health protection and promotion programs. By ignoring these workers, employers can increase the disparity between them and those in stable, better-paying jobs, said Sherry Baron, coordinator for occupational health disparities for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), during a presentation at the 2007 Worklife National Symposium on Sept. 10.

“This is why it is so important to incorporate innovative programs and projects for the non-traditional workforce, a population that has been traditionally hard to reach,” she said.

Due to the characteristics of non-traditional workplaces, getting such workers to adopt a healthy work life comes with its challenges, said Kaori Fujishiro, a post-doctoral fellow working at NIOSH. “What we know from our experience with traditional work setting may not work in non-traditional work settings,” she said. “Unstructured work settings force us to rely on the workers' own ability to protect and promote their health,” Fujishori added. According to her, this could range from mobilizing personal resources to engaging in collective action, all of which would help workers take charge of their work, health and life.

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