Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Photo by Patrick Houdek

For more than a decade, a typical “work day” for Anthony Kovacs meant spending time on stage with loud guitars and drums, singing into a microphone as the lead vocalist for the Chicago punk band Shot Baker.

Even when he wasn’t on stage, Kovacs said his daily life was pretty noisy.

“When I wasn’t on tour I was working in music venues as a door guy or whatever I was doing, so I was exposed to loud quite a bit,” he said. “And at some point, I noticed that my hearing wasn’t as sharp as it once was, and it actually started scaring me into wearing hearing protection.”

A coalition of advocacy and labor groups have sent a petition to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They’re calling for specific standards to protect construction, farm and other outdoor laborers from extreme heat. Right now there are no specific protections in place.  

Luke Runyon / KUNC and Harvest Public Media

Nearly half of Colorado’s marijuana industry workers report receiving little to no on-the-job health and safety training, a new Colorado State University study shows.

Researchers surveyed more than 200 marijuana industry workers along Colorado’s Front Range, and found a wide range of workplace safety standards and training procedures. About 46 percent of those surveyed said they’d received little to no training.

Brian Seifferlein / Harvest Public Media

The meatpacking plants that enable American consumers to find cheap hamburger and chicken wings in the grocery store are among the most dangerous places to work in the country. Federal regulators and meat companies agree more must be done to make slaughterhouses safer, and while there are signs the industry is stepping up its efforts, danger remains.

The rate of meatpacking workers who lose time or change jobs because they’re injured is 70 percent higher than the average for manufacturing workers overall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Brian Seifferlein / Harvest Public Media

The nights were often worse for Gabriel, even after long days working on the production line at a pork slaughterhouse in Nebraska. He had nightmares that the line – what the workers call “the chain” – was moving so fast, instead of gutted hogs flying by, there were people.

“You’ve been working there for three hours, four hours, and you’re working so fast and you see the pigs going faster, faster,” he says.

“There are some supervisors, you stop the chain because there’s a problem, they come out yelling, ‘Let’s go! Let’s go!’ They swear at you, ‘C’mon, you son of a…’”

Dan Boyce / Rocky Mountain PBS for Harvest Public Media

On the worst day of Greta Horner’s life, she was dressed in a burlap robe, waiting by the window for her husband to come home from work.

The couple was down to one car. The other one was in the shop. She donned the costume for a play, set in Old Jerusalem, part of Vacation Bible School at the church. She just needed the car to get there.

Ralph Horner, or Ed as his family calls him, should’ve been pulling in the driveway any minute that morning in June 2014, home from his overnight shift as a maintenance employee at the beef plant in Greeley, Colorado. It’s owned by JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker, with its North American headquarters a short drive from the Horners’ rural Larimer County home.