COVID Underscores Lack of Workplace Safety Whistleblower Protections

Denver Gazette by Kristian Hernandez

Fort Worth, TX – Federal and state agencies tasked with enforcing workplace safety rely on whistleblower complaints, but the agencies are so understaffed it can take years for complaints to be investigated, experts say. Advocates say the delays and the stigma associated with whistleblowing dissuade most workers who witness unsafe conditions from speaking up. Despite this, OSHA, the enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of Labor, received more than 4,600 whistleblower complaints in fiscal 2021, more than double the average number of complaints made over the previous five years. More than half were related to COVID-19. 

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On Top of Mold and Poor Disinfection Issues, Employees at Plant That Ruined Millions of J&J Covid Vaccine Failed to Shower, Change Clothes

NBC by Berkeley Lovelace, Jr. Baltimore, MD

Some employees at the Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore failed to shower or change clothes, which is required when working in the factory and it likely played a role in ruining millions of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 doses, according to a memo released Wednesday by a key House committee. Inspections of the Bayview facility conducted last year also flagged problems with mold, poor disinfection of plant equipment, and inadequate training of employees, staff for the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis said in the memo. The committee is holding a hearing Wednesday examining the biopharmaceutical company’s role in ruining the J&J shots. 

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Pfizer’s Newest Vaccine Plant Has Persistent Mold Issues and a History of Recalls

Tampa Bay Times by Sarah Jane Tribble

McPherson, KS – Pfizer’s management knew last year there was “a mold issue” at the Kansas facility now slated to produce the drugmaker’s urgently needed COVID-19 vaccine, according to a Food and Drug Administration inspection report. The McPherson, Kansas, facility, which FDA inspectors wrote is the nation’s largest manufacturer of sterile injectable controlled substances, has a long, troubled history. Nearly a decade’s worth of FDA inspection reports, recalls and reprimands reviewed by KHN show the facility as a repeat offender. FDA investigators have repeatedly noted in reports that the plant has failed to control quality and contamination or fully investigate after production failures. 

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ASTM Developing Nonregulatory Standard for Face Masks

EHS Daily Advisor by Guy Burdick

National – ASTM International, a standards-setting organization formerly known as The American Society for Testing and Materials, is developing a new specification for face coverings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended cloth face coverings for the general public to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recommended them in its workplace health guidelines during the pandemic, and four states now require them in emergency temporary standards for COVID-19. The ASTM standard, which would create minimum design, performance, and labeling and care requirements for face coverings, is being developed by the subcommittee on respiratory protection at ASTM. Click here for the full text.

The Center for Construction Research and Training Issued Quick Tips to Increase Ventilation at Indoor Construction Sites Without Operating HVAC Systems


National – COVID-19 is airborne and spreads faster and further in enclosed areas than outdoors. As temperatures drop, construction work is moving inside, work areas are being enclosed, and temporary warm-up stations are being set up. Since ventilation guidance issued by OSHA,1 the CDC, 2 and other organizations largely focuses on workplaces with working HVAC systems, below are some suggestions on how to improve ventilation on construction sites. To access the full document, click here.

The US May Soon Have Its First Standard for Consumer Face Masks

CNN by Keri Enriquez

National – The coronavirus pandemic triggered a sudden intense need for masks that had Americans making masks at home out of T-shirts and bandanas. Hundreds of new and untested products flooded the marketplace with almost no oversight or regulation, making consumer masks the Wild West of personal protection equipment. That is set to change. ASTM International, an international technical standards organization, and the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, are working on standards to “establish minimum design, performance (testing), labeling, user instruction, reporting and classification, and conformity assessment requirements for barrier face coverings.”  Click here for the full text.