The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced two grants totaling more than $1.94 million to benefit workers in Massachusetts and Missouri. The emergency grants will help provide a number of job resources to workers who are unemployed due to plant closings. In addition, the DOL has ruled that these workers are eligible for additional assistance under TAA, the Trade Adjustment Assistance program.
Displaced workers in Massachusetts and Missouri will receive a total of $1,940,459 under the two grants. Just last month, the DOL announced a similar grant to benefit workers in Maine, Oklahoma and North Carolina.
The first National Emergency Grant goes to workers in Fall River, Massachusetts affected by the closure of the Quaker Fabric Corp. The $617,515 grant was awarded by the DOL on July 25, 2007.
The second grant, of $1.3 million, goes to workers affected by 3 plant closures in Missouri. The funds will benefit workers from the Briggs & Stratton plant in Rolla, Missouri, the Affinia Brake Parts plant in Cuba, Missouri, and AMF Billiards and Games, Inc. in Bland, Missouri. Altogether, 967 workers who were displaced by these plant closures will benefit from the grant, which has an initial release of $536,069 and was announced in July 2007.
Under the National Emergency Grants, workers will have access to services not covered under the TAA program. Services offered under the grant include assessment, career counseling and job search assistance.
TAA assistance includes career counseling and job training. In most cases, displaced workers are not able to find another well-paying job in a similar field. TAA partially offsets the loss of wages and tuition costs while workers learn new skills to compete in the marketplace. If the workers accept a lower-paying job, TAA provides supplementary payments to partially offset lost wages for up to 24 months.
Quaker Fabric Corp announced its plans to shutter the Fall River, Massachusetts plant on July 2, 2007. More than 900 employees will be out of work, due to this decision. According to company sources, Quaker Fabric began operations in 1945 as a small family-owned fabric mill. Today it is “one of the largest producers of Jacquard upholstery fabric in the world and one of the undisputed leaders in the $2-billion-plus U.S. upholstery fabric industry.” The company also produces and sells specialty yarns, which are then sold to other fabric manufacturers. On its website, the company still lists its headquarters as Fall River, Massachusetts. Quaker Fabric is a publicly traded company with the Nasdaq symbol QFAB.
“This $617,515 grant will provide these workers with re-employment services to help them start new careers in growing industries,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.
Briggs & Stratton announced the closing of its Rolla plant in September 2006, putting 678 workers on the unemployment line. Briggs & Stratton is a well-known manufacturer of lawnmowers and engine parts. The company’s mission is to “create superior value by developing mutually beneficial relationships with our customers, suppliers, employees and communities. We will enhance our brand equity and leadership position by developing, manufacturing at low cost, marketing and servicing high value power for a broad range of power products. In pursuing this mission, we will provide power for people worldwide to develop their economies and improve the quality of their lives and, in so doing, add value to our shareholders’ investment.” The company is publicly traded under the Nasdaq symbol BGG.
According to the website, Briggs & Stratton is the world’s largest manufacturer of air-cooled power engines for outdoor equipment.
In October 2006, Affinia Group, Inc. announced that it would close the Affinia Brake Parts factor and dislocate 213 workers by closing its Cuba, Missouri plant. The company’s vow to become “faster, smarter, leaner” in 2007 apparently did not include these employees.
In May 2007, AMF Billiards & Games put 76 workers out to pasture with the closure of its plant in Bland, Missouri. AMF bills itself as the “world’s largest owner and operator of bowling centers, and a leader in the production of bowling and billiards products.” The company prefers the term “exploring strategic alternatives” to “plant closure”. However, the employees were give 60 days notice that they will be unemployed.
Between August 2006 and May 2007, Rapid Response sessions were conducted at all three plant locations to inform workers of their options in collecting unemployment insurance and TAA assistance.
National Emergency grants are a previous-approved budget item granted in specific situations, by the U.S. Secretary of Labor. In order to qualify for emergency grants, states must show that they have the ability to meet specific guidelines.
When it comes to Massachusetts Worker Safety, employers and employees alike should pay attention to a recent advisory. Although many people may not realize it, the clutches and brakes on older trucks and cars can pose a danger to the mechanics repairing these vehicles. Asbestos can be found in some clutches and brakes that are on older vehicles.
The difficulty arises because workers cannot determine if brakes and clutches contain the substance. Safety regulations designed to protect workers require that, in certain industries, employers put procedures in writing for dealing with potential asbestos hazards. Moreover, workers should be trained by their employers on how to follow these procedures. Finally, employers need to verify that employees are indeed following the correct procedures.
Part of the problem with asbestos is that it easily breaks into small pieces that then float in the air and can be inhaled. If one employee mishandles a car part that contains asbestos, it’s possible for the material to float through the shop and expose other employees as well. To reduce the amount of material released into the air, control measures include getting the asbestos wet. Another approach is to store the part in a bag that is sealed tight.
Asbestos poses a danger because it can cause deadly diseases. Yearly in the United States, approximately 10,000 people die from diseases caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos-related diseases include cancer of the gastrointestinal system and lungs, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that forms in the lining of internal organs.
Causing a chronic inflammation of the lung tissue, asbestosis occurs when the worker is exposed long-term to asbestos. Industries such as mining are at risk for this disease, which is why asbestosis is considered an occupational lung disease. People who suffer from this disease tend to experience a severe shortness of breath. Moreover, their chance of developing various types of lung cancer increases.
Active and abandoned mines pose a risk to Massachusetts worker safety. Since 1999, more than 200 people have died in mine-related accidents. Workers, recreational users and children were many of the tragic victims. Trespassing on abandoned mine property has caused a lot of children grief. In others cases, workers in unrelated industries have accidents inside mines or fall into shafts.
“There are about 500,000 abandoned mines,” said Richard E. Stickler, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health. Another 14,000 are in active operations throughout the United States.
The US Department of Labors Mine Safety and Health Administration, MSHA, recently started a new public safety campaign to warn everyone, from workers to outdoors enthusiasts about the dangers of intruding on mine property. The campaign is called “Stay Out – Stay Alive.”
With the warm season here, the probabilities of mine accidents increase.
Massachusetts worker safety is in jeopardy due to active and abandoned mines. “Many of them contain hidden hazards and, for those not trained to work in mines, the outcome can be deadly. That’s why we urge workers, hikers, bikers, rock hounds and swimmers to ‘Stay Out — Stay Alive’,” Stickler said.
The campaign is in its ninth year and it is partnered by dozens of federal and state agencies, private organizations, businesses and individuals.
At least 30 people died in 2006 because of surface or underground mine operations. Their ages ranged from 17 to 51 years old.
Some of the dangers of abandoned mines include tunnels in bad conditions that may contain poisonous snakes and insects, inundated areas, deadly gases, and unseen shafts. The absent-minded worker or casual explorer could drop in shafts of hundred of feet down. Broken or rotten boards often cover the holes and give way easily.
Schools, scouting groups and other organizations will be visited by federal mine safety and health professionals. The idea is to talk to young people and adults about the dangers of playing on mine property. The program’s public service announcements are designed to warn people about accidentally trespassing in dangerous mine areas.
Raising awareness about the impact of alcohol and drug abuse on the workplace is the focus of the recently expanded Massachusetts Drug Free Workplace Alliance. The alliance also makes available information on how companies can establish programs to create a drug-free workplace.
The Massachusetts Drug Free Workplace Alliance is expanding, and along with the Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao, representatives from unions and contractor associations were present at the signing. Chao is committed to addressing this problem by working with both the unions and the contractor associations. The Massachusetts Drug Free Workplace Alliance aims to increase worker safety by reducing alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace.
Reducing alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace improve worker safety for everyone.
The U.S. Department of Labor initiated this alliance because Chao is committed to a goal she shares with unions and contractor associations, the need to protect employee safety. This alliance will supply information to businesses on creating programs for a drug-free workplace.
The power is in the hands of the businesses. They can educate their employees on the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. Moreover, they can encourage employees with problems to seek help. Another effective method is to use random drug testing and even pre-employment drug testing as a way to control this problem in the workplace.
Leaders from the following contractor associations also were present:
Associated General Contractors
- American Road and Transportation Builders Association
National Asphalt Pavement Association
NEA — The Association of Union Constructors
Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association
Labor unions present at the signing were the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada, the International Union of Operating Engineers, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers, and the Laborers’ International Union of North America.
I’ve received several questions recently regarding the Massachusetts OSHA 300 form. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires all businesses to display the 300 form. The dates that it should be posted between are February 1st and April 30th.
An OSHA booklet says, “Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA’s role is to assure the safety and health of America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health.” Part of an employer’s responsibility is to display the OSHA 300 log as well as the OSHA-It’s the Law Poster.
The OSHA 300 form shows the accidents of the previous year at the company. The point is to prevent future problems. If the company keeps track of the types of accidents that take place most frequently, they can better focus efforts on preventing the same things for the next year. Job-related illness, injury, and fatality are nothing to ignore. Hopefully, you have attended meetings with your employer about keeping your place of work a healthy and safe one.
Since the prominent posting of the OSHA 300 form is required by the law, OSHA will not tolerate noncompliance. A company caught not properly displaying the required poster for the full appointed time will be subject to fines. Your health and safety while you work is important to the OSHA, and they are making continued efforts to inspire that kind of drive for protection in your employer.
Reducing and preventing workplace accidents is one of the major goals of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. You can do your part as an employee by making sure that you follow safety precautions. Remind your coworkers of the importance of safety and health. Be careful to protect yourself, your colleagues, and the customers.