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OSHA launches new webpage dedicated to I2P2

As noted in the August , 2011 edition of Safety + Helath magazine, OSHA has launched a new webpage on their website dedicated to Injury and Illness Prevention Programs or what is commonly referred to as I2P2.  The  webpage features links to various program resources, related OSHA documents and information regarding the costs of injurys and illnesses to the U.S. economy.  “The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that approximately 3.3 million serious work-related injuries and about 4,300 fatalities occurred in 2009. The human cost of preventable workplace injuries and deaths is incalculable. However, according to the 2010 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, the direct cost of the most disabling workplace injuries and illnesses in 2008 amounted to $53.42 billion in U.S. workers compensation costs, more than one billion dollars per week. This money would be better spent on job creation and innovation. Injury and illness prevention programs are good for workers, good for business and good for America.” – Dr. David Michaels Assistant Secretary of Labor. For more information visit the webpage at: http://www.osha.gov/dsg/topics/safetyhealth/index.html  

OSHA inspector charged with Extortion…”blackmailing the Hustler Club”

According to The Chronicle-Telegram (Ohio)  An OSHA compliance officer from Lorain, Ohio is accused of trying to blackmail Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club in Cleveland.   Joseph Schwarz pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court to charges of extortion and possession of criminal tools. Schwarz, who works as a compliance officer for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is accused of falsely claiming to have video of customers doing drugs and performing illegal sex acts at the club, according to prosecutors. Brent English, Schwarz’s attorney, said his client will fight the charges. “He’s denied that he did anything that constitutes extortion,” English said. The 34-year-old Schwarz was arrested by the FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force on July 12 during a meeting investigators set up with him in which he was supposed to be paid the $10,000 he had demanded from the club while posing as a lawyer. According to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason’s office, Schwarz first contacted the club in early June and had been in contact with the club using his home and work computers, as well as his personal cell phone, in the alleged scheme. The FBI has declined to provide details on how the case came to the attention of law enforcement, but has acknowledged that the club cooperated with the investigation. OSHA spokesman Scott Allen said that Schwarz remains an employee of the agency but said he couldn’t comment beyond that. English said Schwarz has been placed on administrative leave while the criminal case is pending. Schwarz, who is free on a $5,000 bond, is due back in court later this month.

Textile Industry using Eco Index for a Green Future

The textiles and apparel industry, once considered far behind the building and consumer electronics sectors in sustainability, has taken the lead on the environmental front. Though still in their infancy, the industry-wide efforts are a prime example of how open-source, cooperative action can yield promising results. The Eco Index, an internal environmental assessment tool designed for apparel, footwear and equipment, grew from a seed of an idea that surfaced in August 2006 at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, a twice-annual trade show for outdoor industry businesses. Five years in the making, the tool is accessible for anyone to test via ecoindexbeta.org , though there are a number of active subgroups still finalizing content.  Methodologies for toxics & chemistry, equipment and materials efficiency in waste, and indicators for social responsibility and fair labor are being developed. Meanwhile, indicators for end of life, packaging and facilities are being revised. The Eco Index provides a comprehensive framework for approaching sustainability throughout the supply chain. Linda Greer, director of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Health and Environment Program and the woman behind the Clean By Design initiative, feels that creating the index is an amazing feat, but a bit misdirected. “The development of the whole tool doesn’t address the fact that more than 90 percent of the brands out there don’t know where they get their materials from,” Greer says. “That is a real problem. It’s as if they are writing a giant SAT test and don’t know the students to submit it to.” The lack of material transparency was one of the principal reasons behind the founding of Source4Style, a business-to-business online platform currently in public beta, which connects apparel brands directly to the source of their materials.  Sustainability information is built into a supplier questionnaire at the start, with the bulk of the questions modeled from the Eco Index’s Material Indicators.  The more information suppliers know about their own material, the better search functionality they will achieve once the site moves from public beta in a few months. Beth Jensen, corporate responsibility manager of Outdoor Industry Association, the trade organization supporting the Eco Index, says the index provides a platform for brands and retailers to work with suppliers to gather information, leading to the ultimate goal of increased supply chain transparency. “The companies in our industry recognize that they are not yet achieving the level of supply chain visibility they would ideally like to see, but that is why they developed the Eco Index,” she says. “The index provides shared language and guidance around environmental impacts, a roadmap to discussing sustainability issues with and gathering data from suppliers. “Down the road, it is likely that some type of third-party verification system will be put into place around the Eco Index, which will further force the issue of improved supply chain transparency. Those brands, retailers, and suppliers engaging now around the Eco Index will be well-positioned when that time comes.” It is clear that a process and framework for thinking about such issues were sorely lacking until the index emerged. Many firms and brands don’t know where to start when it comes to sustainability. The Eco Index gets all brands, retailers, and suppliers on the same page, working in a common language and using a common way of measuring progress — whenever the players are ready to speak and work towards those goals. Kevin Myette, director of product integrity at REI, resolutely says, “Until we have that language, we have minimized our chance to make a difference.” Myette, a core member of the Outdoor Industry Association Eco Working Group and the chair of the systems subgroup of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, jokes that he doesn’t know who he’s working for anymore, but to him, it doesn’t matter. He recognizes that being a part of the efforts helps move the industry forward. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, an initiative announced earlier this year, began building upon the Eco Index efforts through an initial dialogue between Patagonia and Walmart. Jill Dumain, Patagonia’s director of environmental strategy and chair of the Eco Working Group, says the coalition’s goal is “to reduce the impact of the apparel industry by creating an index that will allow companies to rate their products for internal review. This will allow them to learn the necessary steps to improve their products and practices from both an environmental and social/labor point of view.” By Summer Rayne Oakes at Greener World Media Thu Jul 7, 2011 1:00am EDT

Congress proposes to merge the departments of Commerce and Labor

As the White House is putting its finishing touches on its initial proposal to reorganize parts of the government, seven Senators introduced a bill Thursday to merge the departments of Commerce and Labor into the Department of Commerce and the Workforce (DOCW). Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and six co-sponsors, want to build off the Government Accountability Office’s March report on duplication across government and President Obama’s deficit commission recommendations to consolidate parts of the government. “This common-sense approach reduces duplication by combining offices with similar functions within these two agencies and would streamline our approach to comprehensive economic policy,” Burr said in a release. Joining Burr in sponsoring the bill are Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Dan Coats (R-Ind.). The Office of Management and Budget is expected to release its plans by June 9 for how it will consolidate efforts around trade, exports and competitiveness. The deficit commission recommended a broader reorganization by moving the Small Business Administration to Commerce, and transferring the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from Commerce to the Department of the Interior. Burr said the new merged DOCW would promote economic growth and workforce protections, and preserve the independent functions of both agencies and would not make changes to specific policy. He added the bill also would combine the support and administrative offices of the two agencies, thus saving more money by consolidating 35 offices into 12 and eliminate or reduce the funding of seven programs or initiatives. There is no House companion bill.   Read more at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/?sid=2400116&nid=35

Department of Natural Resources will no longer fund local Air Quality programs

In what appears to be a cost cutting measure, Missouri Department Natural Resources has apparently notified the Kansas City Air Quality Program that it will no longer fund local air quality programs as of September 30, 2011. In an email sent to various asbestos abatement and consultant firms throughout the Kansas City area, Christopher Smith an Enforcement Supervisor with the city of Kansas City Health Department, Air Quality Program stated that “In a nutshell our office may be closing.  This may affect future abatement projects.  The State will notify our office on how switch will be made.” No word on whether or not this is a proposed action or a certainity at this point.  As for now it’s business as usual though.