In this Edition... Safety is #1 On the Job

In this edition of Labor Link, we are focusing on lead in the workplace and giving employers a refresher on youth employment restrictions during the school year. The workplace can be a dangerous place, and the Missouri Department of Labor is committed to helping keep all employees, both youth and adults, safe. For working youth, the beginning of the school year can signal changes in the acceptable hours for work. For workers employed in one of Missouri’s many mines, it is necessary to be mindful of the hazards that exist when working in close proximity with lead. And for those who may have lost a loved one in a workplace accident, the FIGHT project may help to answer your questions and bring closure.

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FIGHTing for What is Right

FIGHTing for What is Right

At the Missouri Worker’s Compensation Conference, Ron Hayes, director of the FIGHT project, provided attendees with a moving speech regarding workplace injuries. Hayes and his wife founded the FIGHT project, which stands for families in grief holding together, in 1993 after their son, Patrick, was killed from being suffocated in a grain silo accident.

On the day of Patrick’s death, Hayes and his wife, Dot, attempted to retrieve answers about what had happened, as well as why and how. However, they were greeted with a cold shoulder and left with many unanswered questions that evening at the police station. Already grief stricken, Hayes became angry with the way he had been treated that night and with many similar roadblocks that followed. “I left that night thinking nobody else will ever experience this treatment again if I can help it,” Hayes said, and that is exactly what he has being trying to do ever since.

 The FIGHT project is a non-profit organization designed to help families gather information about work-related deaths and injuries. “We help them figure out the process of what they’re about to be going through by giving them a shoulder to lean on,” said Hayes. Anytime someone going through a loss needs to talk, he or she can call Hayes’ toll free phone number and he will be there ready to listen. “Part of the reason we started the FIGHT project was because we knew there would be people that need help, but couldn’t afford it, and this way they can call anytime from anywhere,” he added. Moreover, once someone contacts him, he sends them a book and articles concerning grief and stories of others who are going through similar situations. FIGHT also serves as a channel for these families by putting them into contact with various individuals such as attorneys or even doctors that can help provide them with answers and hopefully uncover the truth.

Perhaps the most inspiring part of the FIGHT project is the fact that neither Hayes nor anyone else affiliated earns a profit from the organization. He works with several reporters around the country in order to provide them with information about workplace injuries, as well as collaborating with various government agencies, but he does it all for free. “I’ve had people tell me I’d be a millionaire by now if I would charge something, and I just tell them that’s not what I’m trying to accomplish here.” Anytime there is a donation made to the organization, it goes straight into providing materials and support for the families that contact Hayes.

Hayes is the only unpaid person in history to serve on the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, making him the true workers’ advocate. By working for free, Hayes is able to speak his truth 100 percent of the time, without having to hold back because of some type of subsidy. “I’ve got no reason to lie because I’ve got nothing to lose; I’ve already lost what is most important.”

When asked if he still felt that same driving force to help others that began in 1993 with the loss of his son, Hayes responded, “My passion will die when I die.” He added, “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing right now as long as there is one person hurt or killed, I’ve got to keep trying because I owe it to Pat.”

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Lead- a Real Theat to Missouri Workers

Lead- a Real Theat to Missouri Workers

Often times in news coverage regarding lead poisoning, children are portrayed as the most at-risk victims, which rings true for most regions of the United States. But in Missouri, it's workers that need to be careful.

As last month’s newsletter stated, Missouri is considered the “Mine and Cave State” and provides substantial employment in many occupations in the lead mining industry and in the manufacturing of products containing lead (i.e. batteries). In fact, the mining industry employs close to 30,000 men and women in our state. The southeastern part of Missouri has been known as the Lead Belt, and produces about 70% of the lead used in the United States, leading to another Missouri nickname, “the Lead State.”

Workers are exposed to lead in industries ranging from construction to manufacturing to  mining, Various methods of exposure include coming in contact with it, inhalation, or ingestion. More than 90 percent of US adults with elevated levels of lead in their blood were exposed occupationally (at work). These workers can also unintentionally bring lead home from their workplace, potentially exposing their families. In adults, some symptoms include headache, abdominal pain, memory loss, kidney failure, and weakness, pain or tingling in the extremities. In children, symptoms include loss of appetite, abdominal pain, vomiting, weight loss, anemia, irritability, lethargy, learning disabilities and behavior problems. In children, symptoms include loss of appetite, abdominal pain, vomiting, weight loss, anemia, irritability, lethargy, learning disabilities and behavior problems.

The Department of Labor takes this threat very seriously. The Division of Labor Standards’ Mine and Cave Safety and Health section conducts surveys of harmful airborne contaminants at lead mines, smelters, and refineries in an attempt to prevent lead poisoning. For those who may have already been exposed to enough lead in their workplace to suffer lead poisoning, the Division of Workers’ Compensation can help. Lead poisoning can be considered an occupational disease covered by the law, with the employer required to pay for treatment.

Lead is an extremely useful mineral, but must be handled with care to prevent lead poisoning in both children and adults. The Department is committed to helping both employers and employees have safer, healthier workplaces, free from fears of lead poisoning. For more information, call the Division of Labor Standards at 573-751-3403.

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Student Transition: Working Summers back to Studying at School

Student Transition: Working Summers back to Studying at School

Even though the temperature outside remains at unprecedented highs, summer time is winding down, and students will be heading back to school soon. Often times, students take advantage of free time during summer, and work in order to save some money for the upcoming school year. Many students also continue working during the school year. During the 2003-04 academic year, 78 percent of college students held down a part time job while in school.

As far as Missouri state law goes, children under the age of 14 are not permitted to work in any occupation other than in the entertainment industry (which is subject to its own special requirements). Children who are 14 and 15 years old may be employed, if they obtain a work permit. Some examples of acceptable jobs for youth under the age of 16 (14-15 year olds) include office/clerical work, retail, maintenance/janitorial service, food preparation/delivery, and vehicle cleaning services. Some unacceptable jobs are door-to-door sales, operating hazardous equipment, handling power-driven machinery, operating a motor vehicle, etc.

However, there are some stipulations to the amount of hours they can work. When school is not in session, 14-15 year olds can work 8 hours between 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and no more than 40 hours a week. When school is in session, they may work 3 hours on school days between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., and up to 8 hours on non-school days. Year round, students with a work permit under the age of 16 may only work 6 days a week.

Missouri law does not require employers to provide employees, including youth workers, a break of any kind, including a lunch hour. Breaks are left to the discretion of the employer, agreed upon by the employer and employee, or may be addressed by company policy or contract. The only exception is the entertainment industry, which does require breaks and rest periods for youth workers.

Read more information (including a full list of unacceptable jobs for youth) on our Youth Employment page.

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