My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Posts Tagged ‘OSHA’

Strange News Of The Day: Western Colorado Census Office Raided By Feds

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Very interesting story here from the Grand Junction Sentinel:

Feds checking for violations of safety laws at census office

By Gary Harmon
Sunday, June 27, 2010

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an investigation into the U.S. Census Bureau office in Grand Junction, which earlier this year was inundated by fumes from a marijuana-growing operation in the same building.

A person who worked in the building at 573 W. Crete Circle, meanwhile, said as many as a dozen claims might be filed by census employees affected by pesticide fumes from the nearby operation, which shared a ventilation system with the census office.

The inspection is intended to determine if there were violations of federal workplace-safety laws as a result of the fumes flowing into the offices, Herb Gibson, area director for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said Friday.

The agency’s inspection “is open, and I would say it will stay open for a few more weeks,” Gibson said.

Inspectors have visited the census office, where Gibson said officials are in the process of making modifications to the ventilation system.

A Mesa County grand jury last week declined to indict the three people who owned the marijuana operation.

Still, a former office employee, who asked not to be identified, said some people who worked there, including the employee, have suffered ill effects from the fumes, which were those of pesticides used to protect the marijuana plants, census officials said.

Even though officials point to the pesticides, other odors were unmistakable, the employee said.

“You walk in the front door, and you feel like you’re at a Bob Marley concert,” the employee said.

Even after leaving the office, the employee said pain and coughing developed to the point that the employee had to be hospitalized for several days.

“I was screaming in pain” and forced to double over by the coughing, the employee said. “It felt like it was burning me from the inside.”

The employee has been in contact with other people from the office who have been hospitalized. Some are preparing or have prepared workers’ compensation claims as a result of their exposures in the office, the employee said. (more…)

Who Let The Dogs Out (in Sarasota)?

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

If you think that working for the U.S. Census Bureau is safe, think again. As we have previously reported, man’s best friend is census listers’ worst enemy. When we previously pressed the folks at the Census Bureau’s Washington HQ for worker safety data, they referred us to look at OSHA’s stats page. However, it is unlikely that this data is accurate because of the sheer number of Census Bureau employees scattered throughout America and the fact that the data for the recent operations will not be tabulated for some time.

Here’s an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Sarasota Herald Tribune detailing a recent vicious attack on census worker:

The most recent attack occurred April 15, as David Fraser, 52, approached the front of the home while gathering data for the U.S. Census.

Fraser’s job for the Census Bureau involves a computer and GPS system, and requires him to go to homes, line up a GPS and push a button that registers that house.

Fraser said he was about 5 feet from the door of the house’s lanai when he heard a “low growling.” Then, he says, in a flash the dog “lurches and succeeded to open the front door” and grab and bit his wrist.

The dog took off and Fraser saw he was bleeding; he ended up at Sarasota Memorial Hospital for a tetanus shot and antibiotics.

Fraser said that under normal circumstances, in light of the dog-warning signs, he might have stayed farther back from the lanai door. But that day, his supervisors had given Census workers “a quality control talk.” Workers were “failing quality controls” and were told they needed to get to within 5 feet of structures before registering them.

Officials with the U.S. Census Bureau have declined to comment on the episode.

If you think this is a first time occurrence, think again. During the 2000 headcount, 71-year old Census Bureau employee Dorothy Stewart was killed by a pack of 18 dogs in Indiana. Here’s an excerpt from an article about Stewart’s tragic death from dogbitelaw.com:

June 10, 2000, Brown County, Indiana. Dorothy Stewart, a worker for the US Census, was attacked and killed by a pack of (more than 18) dogs while collecting census data in Indiana.  Her family filed a wrongful death suit and eventually settled with the defendants’ insurance company for the limit of the policy.

Charges of criminal recklessness were filed against the dog owners, because as they had maintained the pack for over 10 years, and numerous other people had run-ins, albeit not fatal, with the dogs.  This was the only charge apparently available to the prosecutor due to a loophole in Indiana law. In that state, it is a felony if your dog leaves your property and attacks someone, but not a crime at all if the attack happens on your property.  An attempt to change the law last year failed; the bill was watered down — first it would only protect government employees, then only between the hours of 8 and 5, and finally the house and senate couldn’t reconcile their bills and the entire effort to change the law sputtered to a halt.

The prosecutor entered into a plea agreement (dropping drug charges) and the defendants pled guilty.  On July 6, 2001, they received the maximum sentence available under the agreement, which was 1.5 years in jail for the wife, and 3 years in jail for the husband.