Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "occupational safety" ...

  • Fatal Flaws

    Kentucky's worker safety program failed to properly investigate nearly every on-the-job death for two years. The victims were tree trimmers, public-works employees, construction workers, home health aides. They died in jobs everyone knows to be dangerous and in jobs you might attend every day without considering whether you'd make it home. But in almost every case, the state's Occupational Safety and Health program didn't do enough to determine if a business was responsible for unsafe conditions — never mind actually hold them accountable.
  • “Leaves of Poison” and “Dying on the Farm”

    More than 75 years ago, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was signed into law. A groundbreaking achievement in the fight against child labor, the FLSA banned children from mines and factories, while also granting the Secretary of Labor the authority to protect youth from working in any other hazardous occupations. This series on child labor in agriculture uncovers how loopholes in the law continue to put child farm workers as young as 12 at risk for grave illness, injury, and death. It shows how the agriculture lobby fought back in 2012, blocking new rules that would have closed these loopholes — and that children have died as a result. “Leaves of Poison” focuses on the use of children as young as 12 to harvest tobacco in Southern tobacco fields. Tobacco is a notoriously hazardous crop, exposing field workers to acute nicotine poisoning, with symptoms that can include dizziness, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and heart rate fluctuations requiring hospitalization. The plants are also sprayed with high doses of pesticides, which pose special dangers to adolescents whose nervous systems are still developing. These dangers have led countries such as Russia and Khazakstan to ban minors from tobacco work, and the United States has donated millions to eradicate child tobacco labor overseas. But a proposed rule by the Department of Labor banning children from the harvest (and other particularly “hazardous” tasks) was withdrawn by Obama administration officials in response to concerted lobbying by the American Farm Bureau. “Dying on the Farm” was an ambitious effort to track how many child laborers have died since those rules were scuttled in April 2012, which would have barred them from performing particularly “hazardous” tasks, such as harvesting tobacco, working in manure pits and grain silos, or using heavy power machinery. The investigation shows that child farmworkers “fall through the cracks” when it comes to government tallies of work-related injuries and deaths. Nevertheless, using FOI requests to Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Workers’ Compensation offices, surveying local press clippings, and speaking with medical practitioners who work directly with farmworkers we found that at least four young farm workers-for-hire have been killed and 39 injured while doing these hazardous tasks since the rules were withdrawn. Both “Leaves of Poison” and “Dying on the Farm” movingly tell the personal stories of young workers at a risk.
  • Hospital at Risk

    My investigation of the Minnesota Security Hospital, a state-run facility that provides psychiatric treatment to nearly 400 adults deemed "mentally ill and dangerous," uncovered high rates of violence and injuries of employees and patients at the facility, a critical shortage of psychiatrists, and widespread confusion among employees about what to do when a patient becomes violent. I found that much of confusion was the result of the abrasive, threatening management style of head administrator David Proffitt, who was hired in 2011 to reform the facility. I began investigating Proffitt and found he was hired without a basic background check. I uncovered many troubling details from Proffitt's past, including domestic violence, a PhD from a now-defunct online degree mill, a forced resignation from his previous job as the administrator of a private psychiatric hospital in Maine, and other failings. The state ordered Proffitt to resign and the Minnesota legislative auditor began an audit of the department's hiring practices. The assistant commissioner of the Department of Human Services who led the hiring search also resigned. The governor proposed $40 million in renovations to address safety concerns. Regulators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration visited the facility for the first time in 21 years. The facility also implemented new training for employees to reduce violence. My investigation of the facility continues.
  • Model Workplaces, Imperiled Workers

    The Center's series exposed serious problems with an ever-expanding government program that promises results through cooperative regulation but often has failed to protect the nation's working men and women. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Programs, known as VPP, recognize "model workplaces" and offer them an exemption from regular inspections. But in many cases, this government stamp of approval was a hollow trophy, allowing companies to avoid scrutiny and to attract employees. Even after preventable tragedies at these sites, OSHA rarely cracked down.
  • Renegade Refinery

    Just weeks after the Deepwater Horizon disaster began, an analysis of inspection data obtained from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that two oil refineries owned by BP accounted for a staggering 97 of the most flagrant violations found by OSHA inspectors. Most of these citation's were categorized as "egregiously willful."
  • "Lifesaving Drugs, Deadly Consequences"

    This investigative piece looks at worker safety issues that affect "the nation's healthcare providers." Health care employees are often put in harms way by handling drugs that are meant to save the "lives of cancer patients," but can be "human carcinogens," too. This report shows that regulation on exposure to these types of drugs in the workplace is weak.
  • The Mine Disaster

    Following a mining accident that killed 29 workers in West Virginia, the Gazette examines the safety record of the mine and the failure of the oversight agencies to prevent similar accidents. The investigation revealed that the reforms put into place in 2006 had not done enough to prevent an accident from occurring.
  • Las Vegas Construction Deaths

    Workers had been dying at a rate of one every six weeks -- 12 deaths in 18 months -- until contractors made sweeping safety improvements after the Las Vegas Sun revealed that poor safety practices and lax oversight by state regulators had contributed to the fatalities. Before the story, construction safety had been a non-issue in Las Vegas. The deaths were considered the cost of doing business in a $32 billion building boom, the biggest in Las Vegas history. High-rise construction is dangerous, authorities said. Contractors and state regulators blamed many of the accidents on the dead workers themselves. This investigation found those arguments were "plainly wrong."
  • Accidents Rise on Campuses as Insections Decline

    "The number of serious accidents on college campuses has increased by about 50 percent over the past 20 years while government enforcement of occupational safety rules has fallen sharply. These changes among colleges were larger than for all types of employers as a whole. Many public colleges and universities are exempt from any OSHA inspections and so can afford to pay less attention to work place safety without serious repercussion. In some states, inspectors lack the legal authority to fine public colleges. Colleges with the largest fines included both large and small institutions."
  • In Iowa Meat Plant, Kosher 'Jungle' Breeds Fear; Injury, Short Pay

    Nathaniel Popper, reporting for the Forward (NY) investigated a Kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, where he uncovered dangerous working conditions, low pay, and anti-unionization pressures that raised questions about the ethics of the Jewish owners of the plant towards their largely immigrant workers.