Responsibility for Employees' Health and Safety Doesn't End at U.S. Borders

American workers assigned to duties overseas don't give up their right to health and safety on the job, according to a recent OSHA case.

The case against ABC, involving NABET members covering Japan's tsunami and resulting radiation leaks, cost the network a $3,000 fine in a settlement with OSHA. But CWA, NABET and NewsGuild leaders say the small penalty pales next to the far-reaching precedent the case sets.

"OSHA officials made it clear that the agency provides coverage of U.S. companies and their employees, even if the work is performed outside the United States," CWA Safety and Health Director Dave LeGrande said. "This decision has tremendous potential for union safety and health activities for our NABET and Guild members, and others, who perform work outside the country."

NABET Local 51016 members sent to cover the tsunami in Japan were given radiation monitoring badges. In addition to those readings, ABC told the union and OSHA that it had workers' equipment and personal items tested for radiation when they returned. But other than a summary report, ABC refused to hand over the full and final results of the tests.

"It turned out that ABC hasn't been truthful about how much monitoring they had done, and the results they got were inconclusive at best," LeGrande said. "We don't really know what level of exposure the workers had."