If you’re feeling a little lazy over the holidays and the corporate attacks on our judiciary (including publishing judges’ photos to alert every extreme-right wingnut in America – shameful, ATRA) isn’t quite enough to get your juices boiling again, I’ve got just the trick. Check out the new journalistic endeavor from former Los Angeles Times award-winning investigative journalist Myron Levin, called Fair Warning, a non-profit news web site covering the latest “news of safety, health and corporate conduct."
We remember Levin at the LA Times, of course, covering everything from the tobacco industry (“The country’s leading smokers’ rights group has built a fat war chest despite minimal support from the 3 million people it claims as members, according to public records and internal documents that suggest its only significant backer is Big Tobacco.” ) to auto safety (“How much should General Motors Corp. spend to keep people from burning to death in fiery crashes? In a memo nearly 30 years ago, a young GM engineer, Edward C. Ivey, suggested that the answer was: Not much.”) to dishonest PR tactics behind the so-called “tort reform” movement ( “Legal Urban Legends Hold Sway; Tall tales of outrageous jury awards have helped bolster business-led campaigns to overhaul the civil justice system.”)
Fair Warning breaks new ground with stories like today’s expose of the wind power biz, which “has fallen short on worker safety.” To say the least. Writes Levin,
Thousands of the giant wind machines violate a federal requirement to give technicians who work inside the towers enough maneuvering space to get up and down their ladders safely. The standard says the space near the ladder should be free of permanent obstructions that could cause serious head or back injuries if a climber slips or is moving fast...
Two field technicians have sought to draw attention to the issue, saying they were stunned by the prevalence of the problem.
“Between my friends and I … we’ve been in thousands of wind turbines and haven’t found one that’s compliant with this issue,” said Ed Oliver, 47, of Dana Point, Calif.
Let’s just say that the treatment of these technicians - who are trying to save workers from serious injury or death and even offered the industry “their own version of a safety device” - has much to be desired, while OSHA has no idea what it’s doing.
Brian Sturtecky, OSHA’s area director in Jacksonville, Fla., and chairman of its wind energy task force, said enforcement activity is on hold while OSHA prepares a “Letter of Interpretation” to clarify how the standard will be applied.
The result could be a mandate for the industry to retrofit thousands of towers. Or, the industry could get a pass if the agency decides the hazard can be controlled by other measures, such as training.
The task force is examining other safety issues in the industry in the wake of some serious accidents.
In August, 2007, a worker was killed and another injured in the collapse of a tower at a wind farm near Wasco, Ore. Also, OSHA fined Outland Energy Services $378,000 for safety violations after an employee suffered serious electrical burns at an Illinois wind farm in October, 2010.
Fair Warning, which should be on your "must read" list for 2012, stands in the best muckraking tradition of Lincoln Steffans and populist tradition of Woody Guthrie. We even think Dylan would be proud.