Category Archives: Health & Safety

Collective Bargaining in the Aftermath of COVID-19

Source: Henry E. Farber and Nicole Mormilo, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 46, No. 2, Autumn 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The authors identify and explore issues stemming from COVID-19 that they expect to arise during labor negotiations. Those issues include: Management rights; Economics; Employer flexibility to adjust workforce; Benefits; Employee health and safety; and Force majeure clauses.

Pandemic Pandemonium: Navigating Employment Considerations in the Face of COVID-19

Source: April Boyer, Rio Gonzalez, and Erinn Rigney, Benefits Law Journal, Vol. 33, No. 2, Summer 2020
(subscription required)


From the abstract:
The global outbreak of COVID-19 presents significant issues for employers attempting to manage global and domestic workforces, address business disruptions, and navigate developing regulatory guidance and requirements. COVID-19 has led to seismic disruptions for employers, irrespective of their size or earlier financial stability. Amidst this pandemic, employers are continuing to wrestle with several challenges, including understanding and complying with new and existing laws, implementing workplace safety measures, and monitoring evolving federal, state, and local government responses and restrictions. Further, employers are beginning to assess re-open strategies and preparing to implement innovative solutions to an altered operational landscape. This article addresses how COVID-19 has affected businesses from an employment perspective; provide an overview of various regulatory changes; and identify future considerations as employers develop return-to-work strategies within the shadow of COVID-19.

Center for Progressive Reform Report: Protecting Workers In A Pandemic–What The Federal Government Should Be Doing

Source: Thomas McGarity, Michael C. Duff, Sidney A. Shapiro, Center for Progressive Reform Report, June 17, 2020

The “re-opening” of the American economy while the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still circulating puts workers at heightened risk of contracting the deadly virus. In some blue-collar industries, the risk is particularly acute because of the inherent nature of the work itself and of the workplaces in which it is conducted. And the risk, for a variety of reasons, falls disproportionately on people of color and low-income workers. With governors stay-at-home orders and other pandemic safety restrictions, Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholars Thomas McGarity, Michael Duff, and Sidney Shapiro examine the federal government’s many missed opportunities to stem the spread of the virus in the nation’s workplaces, and make recommendations for what needs to happen next to protect employees on the job.

Ergonomics Tips for Working at Home

Source: University of Pittsburgh School of Education, June 2020

Millions of Americans are working from home in the ongoing public health effort to halt the spread of coronavirus. But many don’t have the benefit of home offices. They are creating makeshift workspaces from their dining room tables, kitchen counters, living room couches, or folding tables and chairs. While these workstations may meet basic needs, most fail to provide sound ergonomic design, according to April Chambers, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. Chambers specializes in occupational ergonomics and bioengineering. She expects a steep rise in the number of people who are experiencing pain or discomfort in their neck, back, or shoulders. Unchecked, the pain can develop into long-term musculoskeletal injuries.

COVID-19 OSHA Complaint tracker

Source: Strikewave, 2020

Workplace health and safety is more important now, than ever. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, essential workers—whether unionized or not—have fought employers to ensure that workers and the public are protected.

One tool available to workers: complaints made to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA. We’ve compiled an interactive map of COVID-19 complaints made nationwide including the names of employers, narrative descriptions of their offenses, and an overall breakdown of complaints by industry.

Differential occupational risk for COVID‐19 and other infection exposure according to race and ethnicity

Source: Devan Hawkins, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: June 15, 2020

From the abstract:
Background:
There are racial and ethnic disparities in the risk of contracting COVID‐19. This study sought to assess how occupational segregation according to race and ethnicity may contribute to the risk of COVID‐19.

Methods:
Data about employment in 2019 by industry and occupation and race and ethnicity were obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey. This data was combined with information about industries according to whether they were likely or possibly essential during the COVID‐19 pandemic and the frequency of exposure to infections and close proximity to others by occupation. The percentage of workers employed in essential industries and occupations with a high risk of infection and close proximity to others by race and ethnicity was calculated.

Results:
People of color were more likely to be employed in essential industries and in occupations with more exposure to infections and close proximity to others. Black workers in particular faced an elevated risk for all of these factors.

Conclusion:
Occupational segregation into high‐risk industries and occupations likely contributes to differential risk with respect to COVID‐19. Providing adequate projection to workers may help to reduce these disparities.

Walkouts Spread as Workers Seek Coronavirus Protections

Source: Dan DiMaggio, Saurav Sarkar, Labor Notes, March 26, 2020

As the coronavirus spreads, more and more workers who are still on the job are taking action to defend their health and safety and demand hazard pay. Here’s a round-up. (For an earlier round-up, see “Organizing for Pandemic Time-Off,” Labor Notes, March 16, 2020.)

Development and application of a noise‐hazard scheme for road maintainers

Source: Jennifer M. Cavallari, Jennifer L. Garza, Jackie DiFrancesco, Alicia G. Dugan, Erica D. Walker, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: January 18, 2020

(subscription required)

From the abstract:

Background: Transportation road maintenance and repair workers, or “maintainers,” are exposed to hazardous and variable noise levels and often rely on hearing protection devices (HPD) to reduce noise‐exposure levels. We aimed to improve upon HPD use as part of the HearWell program that used a Total Worker Health, participatory approach to hearing conservation.
Methods: Full‐shift, personal noise sampling was performed during the routine task of brush cutting. Work activities and equipment were recorded and combined with 1‐min noise measures to summarize personal noise‐exposure levels by equipment. Using noise‐monitoring results, HPD noise reduction ratings, and input from worker‐based design teams, a noise‐hazard scheme was developed and applied to the task and equipment used during brush cutting.
Results: Average (standard deviation) and maximum Leq 1‐minute, personal noise‐exposure levels recorded during brush cutting included chainsaws at 92.1 (7.6) and max of 111 dBA, leaf blowers at 91.2 (7.5) and max 107 dBA, and wood chipper at 90.3 (7.3) and max of 104 dBA. The worker‐designed noise‐hazard scheme breaks down noise exposures into one of three color bands and exposure ranges: red (over 105 dBA), orange (90‐105 dBA), or yellow (85‐90 dBA). The scheme simplifies the identification of noise levels, assessment of noise‐hazard, and choice of appropriate hearing protection for workers.
Conclusion: Combining noise‐exposure assessment with intervention development using participatory methods, we characterized noise exposure and developed an intervention to educate and assist in protecting workers as they perform noisy tasks.