Assemblyman Rory I. Lancman
Assemblyman
Rory Lancman
Committee Chair
NYS Seal Contact Information: Allison Weingarten
Legislative Director
718-820-0241
New York State Assembly
Subcommittee on
Workplace Safety
Monthly Update
February 2010

The Subcommittee on Workplace Safety is Now On Facebook!

Please join our facebook group to show your support
of workers' safety in and around New York!

Assemblyman Lancman Advocates for Workers' Safety
and Health in Fiscal Year 2010-2011 Proposed Budget

Assemblyman Lancman teamed up with Assembly Labor Committee Chair Susan John and Assembly Health Committee Chair Dick Gottfried to advocate for workplace safety and health issues in the budget.

Together with nineteen other colleagues, Assembly Members Lancman, John and Gottfried sent a letter to Speaker Silver in support of full funding for New York's Occupational Health Clinic Network. The Network provides medical screening to workers in high risk industries as well as offering treatment to injured workers throughout New York. In the letter they urged that no money generated for the Network from the existing assessment on workers' compensation insurance companies be swept into the state's general fund for other purposes.

Then, Assembly Members Lancman, John and fifteen other colleagues sent a second letter to Speaker Silver supporting Governor Paterson's budget proposal to install speed-tracking cameras in highway work zones across the state. These work zones are dangerous for road maintenance employees, as highlighted by the recent death of Department of Transportation worker Gary Farrel at the hands of a speeding motorist. This budget proposal will improve safety in work zones and raise revenue for the state.

Kerry Kennedy, Founder of the Robert F. Kennedy
Center for Justice and Human Rights:
A Strong Advocate for Farmworkers' Rights in New York

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Assemblyman Lancman recently met with Kerry Kennedy to discuss safety issues for farmworkers in New York State.

Ms. Kennedy described one of her visits to a duck farm in New York in which she met workers who labor seven days a week, sixteen hours a day, with two seperate four hour breaks. These workers perform dangerous jobs with little rest.

Ms. Kennedy is an advocate for the Farmworkers' Fair Labor Practices Act (A.1867), sponsored by Assembly Member Catherine Nolan. This bill would guarantee more rights for farmworkers, including the right to one day of rest per week. The bill passed the Assembly last session but died in the Senate.

Assemblyman Lancman Works for Improved Job Safety
Conditions for Hotel Workers

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Assemblyman Lancman sat down with Neal Kwatra of the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council (NYHTC), to discuss health and safety issues for members of the Council.

NYHTC represents approximately 28,000 hotel workers in New York, including housekeepers, front desk employees, bell and door service workers, laundry workers, maintenance workers and security guards.

Hotel workers experience a wide range of safety issues on the job, including high rates of back injuries, chemical exposure from cleaning equipment and maintaining security in hotels.

NYCOSH Holds Safe Patient Handling Conference

Picture by D. Newman/NYCOSH

Over one-hundred workplace health and safety professionals and advocates attended a Safe Patient Handling Conference sponsored by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health focused on educating health care professionals on implementing "Zero Lift" policies in their facilities. "Zero Lift" means only lifting and maneuvering patients when necessary, and then using up-to-date equipment to prevent strains on the body. According to the New York State Zero Lift Task Force, a safe patient handling program requiring nurses to use mechanical lifting equipment rather than manually lifting patients could prevent most nurse back injuries. According to the Taskforce, "[b]ack injury may be the single largest contributor to the shortage of nurses, with perhaps 12% of nurses leaving, or being fired, each year due to back injury."

Assembly Member Susan John sponsors legislation (A.2047) which would create a safe patient handling taskforce, direct the New York State Department of Health to establish a safe patient handling policy and require each covered health care facility to write and execute a plan that coincides with that policy.

The Subcommittee on Workplace Safety strongly supports this legislation.

65 Year Old Teacher in Maryland Shot Dead at a Center
for Juvenile Offenders Deemed "Not Dangerous"

According to the Baltimore Sun, Hannah Wheeling, a teacher at a juvenile residential facility in Maryland was killed by a resident on February 19. The facility had a "long history of problems" and was "recently released from federal monitoring."

As the publicly run facility houses juveniles who are considered "not dangerous," workplace safety procedures at the facility should be questioned. For example, the Baltimore Sun asks: "Was the resident assistant who is supposed to provide security for classroom teachers on duty when the crime was committed? If the answer is no, why not?" Maryland's Department of Juvenile Justice should also reexamine how they determined whether or not a juvenile is dangerous.

This incident reminds New Yorkers of the tragic killing of Renee Greco, a worker at a privately run community residential home for youth offenders, in Lockport, New York. Private residential facilities are less secure than limited secure facilities run by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). As OCFS licenses private residences for juvenile delinquents and determines juvenile delinquent placement based on the youth's rehabilitative needs and their determined dangerousness to the surrounding community, Renee Greco's death sparked questions for OCFS: Are workers in public and private facilities given the tools needed to remain safe while caring for juvenile delinquents? And how are juvenile delinquents determined to not be too dangerous for non-secure privately run residential programs for juvenile delinquents?

The Subcommittee on Workplace Safety is currently examining the seemingly high rate of worker injuries in OCFS. As Sandra Bloom, founder of the Sanctuary Model, has said: "A program cannot be safe for clients unless it is simultaneously safe for staff and administrators."