Category Archives: Health & Safety

Takeaways from the Rockefeller Institute’s Webinar on Public Sector Management Following the COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: Joseph Popcun, Rockefeller Institute of Government blog, September 24, 2020

On September 10, 2020, the Rockefeller Institute of Government hosted a webinar with senior leaders from state and local government who reflected on the management challenges and opportunities that arose during the response to—and ongoing recovery from—the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The goal of the conversation was to understand how the public sector rapidly adopted new policies and adapted operations to meet new demands, particularly in support of a workforce that was able to work remotely to deliver essential services to constituents virtually. Based on their experiences over the past six months, panelists informed the audience of researchers, practitioners, and policymakers about dramatic changes to the public sector landscape—changes that may be features of the “new normal” for months and years to come.

This post explores some of the key themes that the panelists shared about how government was, and can continue to be, reimagined to ensure accessibility and continuity of services, as well as to attract and retain a workforce that makes government work for the people. The panelists discussed the “nuts and bolts” of how specific agencies devised new management approaches, leveraged remote work options, deployed public health and safety precautions for essential in-person work, and identified ways to improve resiliency and ensure continuity of their operations. These lessons are an invaluable resource to state and local governments throughout the United States as they continue to confront the challenges of COVID-19 and face a potential resurgence of viral transmission within their communities.

The COVID crisis in community colleges — what does the data say?

Source: Kent Phillippe, Community College Daily, September 7, 2020

The novel coronavirus has affected all aspects of society and the economy. But what do the data say about the impact of the pandemic on community colleges?

Getting timely and reliable data on two-year colleges is challenging. Many of the key metrics are not systematically collected nor reported nationally. This article will look at some of the available data to get a sense of the effects of COVID-19 on this sector of higher education.

Collective Action Is How We Shake Ourselves Free of Pandemic Isolation

Source: Barbara Madeloni, Labor Notes, September 30, 2020

The pandemic has made me see more clearly why it works when workers get together to solve problems collectively.

With no public health system to access and a disorganized, inept, and neglectful response from the government, individuals have been cast out alone to deal with the pandemic. Decisions about working—and risking one’s health and safety—have become individual.

School districts have surveyed parents and educators, asking what individuals wanted for themselves. Unions that simply let members fill out their surveys alone reinforced the message: you are on your own, do what is best for you.

Which is why the contrast when workers come together to talk is so pronounced and powerful right now.

Should public safety shift workers be allowed to nap while on duty?

Source: P. Daniel Patterson, Matthew D. Weaver, Francis X. Guyette, Christian Martin‐Gill, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Vol. 63, No. 10, October 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Fatigue and sleep deficiency among public safety personnel are threats to wellness, public and personal safety, and workforce retention. Napping strategies may reduce work‐related fatigue, improve safety and health, yet in some public safety organizations it is discouraged or prohibited. Our aim with this commentary is to define intra‐shift napping, summarize arguments for and against it, and to outline potential applications of this important fatigue mitigation strategy supported by evidence. We focus our discussion on emergency medical services (EMS); a key component of the public safety system, which is comprised of police, fire, and EMS. The personnel who work in EMS stand to benefit from intra‐shift napping due to frequent use of extended duration shifts, a high prevalence of personnel working multiple jobs, and evidence showing that greater than half of EMS personnel report severe fatigue, poor sleep quality, inadequate inter‐shift recovery, and excessive daytime sleepiness. The benefits of intra‐shift napping include decreased sleepiness and fatigue, improved recovery between shifts, decreased anxiety, and reduced feelings of burnout. Intra‐shift napping also mitigates alterations in clinician blood pressure associated with disturbed sleep and shift work. The negative consequences of napping include negative public perception, acute performance deficits stemming from sleep inertia, and the potential costs associated with reduced performance. While there are valid arguments against intra‐shift napping, we believe that the available scientific evidence favors it as a key component of fatigue mitigation and workplace wellness. We further believe that these arguments extend beyond EMS to all sectors of public safety.

Uninvestigated fatal workplace injuries in the United States

Source: Bethany Boggess, Lisa Pompeii, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, Version of Record online: September 7, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background:
Approximately 5000 people are killed by an injury at work every year, but the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) only investigates 25%–35% of these deaths. The aim of this study was to identify industry, geographic, and worker demographic disparities in the proportion of fatal workplace injuries that are investigated by OSHA.

Methods:
This cross‐sectional analysis drew from 2 years of public data (2014–2015) from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries and investigation data from OSHA. Differences by worker age and sex, geographic region, industry, and State Plan‐ versus Federal Plan‐state were examined.

Results:
Nationally, OSHA investigated about one in four (27.5%) of the 9657 fatal workplace injuries that occurred. Higher odds of uninvestigated fatalities were observed for female workers compared to male workers (odds ratio, 2.35; 95% confidence interval, 1.89, 2.93), for workers over age 65 compared to those aged 18–24 (3.05; 2.44, 3.82), for worker deaths occurring in State Plan states compared to Federal Plan states (1.64; 1.49, 1.79), among other differences.

Conclusions:
Although some of the disparities could be explained by OSHA jurisdiction restrictions, other areas of potential reform were identified, such as investigating a greater number of workplace violence deaths and increasing focus in industries with a low proportion of investigations but a high number of fatalities, such as transportation and warehousing. Consideration should be given to adapt policies, expand OSHA jurisdiction, and to increase OSHA resources for conducting both fatality investigations and proactive investigations that can identify and abate hazards before a worker is injured.

Envisioning the future of work to safeguard the safety, health, and well‐being of the workforce: A perspective from the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Source: Sara L. Tamers, Jessica Streit, Rene Pana‐Cryan, Tapas Ray, Laura Syron, Michael A. Flynn, Dawn Castillo, Gary Roth, Charles Geraci, Rebecca Guerin, Paul Schulte, Scott Henn, Chia‐Chia Chang, Sarah Felknor, John Howard, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, Version of Record online: September 14, 2020

From the abstract:
The future of work embodies changes to the workplace, work, and workforce, which require additional occupational safety and health (OSH) stakeholder attention. Examples include workplace developments in organizational design, technological job displacement, and work arrangements; work advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, and technologies; and workforce changes in demographics, economic security, and skills. This paper presents the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Future of Work Initiative; suggests an integrated approach to address worker safety, health, and well‐being; introduces priority topics and subtopics that confer a framework for upcoming future of work research directions and resultant practical applications; and discusses preliminary next steps. All future of work issues impact one another. Future of work transformations are contingent upon each of the standalone factors discussed in this paper and their combined effects. Occupational safety and health stakeholders are becoming more aware of the significance and necessity of these factors for the workplace, work, and workforce to flourish, merely survive, or disappear altogether as the future evolves. The future of work offers numerous opportunities, while also presenting critical but not clearly understood difficulties, exposures, and hazards. It is the responsibility of OSH researchers and other partners to understand the implications of future of work scenarios to translate effective interventions into practice for employers safeguarding the safety, health, and well‐being of their workers.

Occupational Heat Stress and Practical Cooling Solutions for Healthcare and Industry Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: Josh Foster, Simon G Hodder, James Goodwin, George Havenith, Annals of Work Exposures and Health, Advance Articles, Published: September 21, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Treatment and management of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2, which causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19), requires increased adoption of personal protective equipment (PPE) to be worn by workers in healthcare and industry. In warm occupational settings, the added burden of PPE threatens worker health and productivity, a major lesson learned during the West-African Ebola outbreak which ultimately constrained disease control. In this paper, we comment on the link between COVID-19 PPE and occupational heat strain, cooling solutions available to mitigate occupational heat stress, and practical considerations surrounding their effectiveness and feasibility. While the choice of cooling solution depends on the context of the work and what is practical, mitigating occupational heat stress benefits workers in the healthcare and industrial sectors during the COVID-19 disease outbreak.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Worker Safety During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: David Michaels, Gregory R. Wagner, JAMA, September 16, 2020

With the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the US is facing an unprecedented, massive worker safety crisis. Thousands of workers are at risk for workplace exposure to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection as they provide care for patients with COVID-19 or perform other “essential” services and daily functions and interact with other workers or the public. By law, employers in the US are required to provide workplaces free of recognized serious hazards. Enforcement of this law is the responsibility of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). While OSHA could be making an important contribution to reversing the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and mitigate risk to workers, their families, and communities, the federal government has not fully utilized OSHA’s public safety authority in its efforts to reduce the risk of COVID-19.

Estimates based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that more than 150 000 hospital and nursing home staff have been infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus at work, and more than 700 have died, although the actual numbers are unknown because of inadequate data collection systems. As the epidemic has spread, many other workers, including emergency responders, corrections officers, transit workers, and workers in meat and poultry factories, farms, grocery stores, and warehouses, also have been infected with SARS-CoV-2…..

Corporate Culprits Receiving Covid Aid

Source: Philip Mattera and Mellissa Chang, Good Jobs First, September 2020

This new report combining data from Covid Stimulus Watch and Violation Tracker shows how many CARES Act recipients have a history of corporate misconduct.

More than 43,000 businesses and non-profit organizations that received CARES Act funds have a history of misconduct, collectively paying $13 billion to settle civil and criminal penalties over the last decade.

Together, the same companies received $57 billion in grants and $91 billion in loans through the federal economic stimulus bill passed by Congress to mitigate the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the violations are workplace safety issues, leading in one case to the death of a worker, flouting of environmental standards, wage theft and defrauding the federal government. They raise the question whether greater scrutiny should be given to how recipients are using taxpayer dollars.

Mortality Rates From COVID-19 Are Lower In Unionized Nursing Homes

Source: Adam Dean, Atheendar Venkataramani, and Simeon Kimmel, Health Affairs, Ahead of Print, September 10, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
More than 40% of all reported coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) deaths in the United States have occurred in nursing homes. As a result, health care worker access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and infection control policies in nursing homes have received increased attention. However, it is not known if the presence of health care worker unions in nursing homes is associated with COVID-19 mortality rates. Therefore, we used cross-sectional regression analysis to examine the association between the presence of health care worker unions and COVID-19 mortality rates in 355 nursing homes in New York State. Health care worker unions were associated with a 1.29 percentage point mortality reduction, which represents a 30% relative decrease in the COVID-19 mortality rate compared to facilities without health care worker unions. Unions were also associated with greater access to PPE, one mechanism that may link unions to lower COVID-19 mortality rates. [Editor’s Note: This Fast Track Ahead Of Print article is the accepted version of the peer-reviewed manuscript. The final edited version will appear in an upcoming issue of Health Affairs.]