September 6, 2017 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH 0Comment

Investigative journalists play an important role in raising public awareness about worker health and safety issues. The number and quality of stories over the last 12 months was exceptional so “The Year in U.S. Occupational Health & Safety” includes a full section which highlights our picks for top-notch reporting.

The stories that Kim and I profile in Section III of the yearbook include the following:

  • A three-part investigation by NBC Bay Area that examined the workers’ compensation system in California. In one city, the medical claims of nearly 70 firefighters were denied and the reporters linked those decisions to one firm hired by the city to handle the claims. State-wide, denial of workers’ compensation claims is at an all-time high. The situation is made worse for injured workers because a change in state law means their appeals are adjudicated by a for-profit company, not an administrative law judge. The stories were investigated and reported for NBC Bay Area by Michael Bott, Jeremy Carroll, Mark Villarreal, and Liz Wagner.
  • NPR and Ohio Valley ReSource teamed up to investigate the epidemic of black lung disease in central Appalachia. The reporters identified nearly 2,000 cases of progressive massive fibrosis since 2010, while the federal government’s tally is just 99 cases. Their investigation included compelling audio from a 39-year-old coal miner, Mackie Branham, Jr. who developed severe lung disease. The stories were investigated by Howard Berkes at NPR and Benny Becker with Ohio Valley ReSource.
  • Journalists writing for The Atlantic, Mary Review, and Reveal independently uncovered the high prevalence of sexual harassment and violence against women who work in male-dominated industries. Lindsey Gilpin examined the National Park Service’s incompetence in handling harassment complaints brought by female employees and retaliation against them. Mary Pilon described gender discrimination and harassment in the trucking industry. More than 200 women at one trucking firm filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a single year. A majority of the women reported being raped, threatened with rape, or touched inappropriately. Shoshana Walter investigated abuse and trafficking in California’s marijuana-growing industry. Workers migrate to the growing region during the harvesting season, but hundreds “go missing” or are held against their will.
The death of Shane Hill (shown with his wife) puts a human touch on the Denver Post’s “Drilling through danger.”

We profile more than 20 examples of excellent reporting over the last 12 months, such as the Tampa Bay Times’ “Hellfire from above”; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s “Burned”; Bloomberg’s “Inside Alabama’s auto parts boom”; Denver Post’s “Drilling through danger”; ProPublica’s “Sold for parts”; and USA Today’s “Rigged.” The yearbook is available here.

Tomorrow I’ll recap the section of the yearbook that profiles some of the best new research from the peer-reviewed literature, as well as reports from non-profit organizations. Recaps of the other sections are here, and here.

Previous editions of the yearbook can be found here.

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