Category Archives: Health & Safety

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.

Prevalence of type II workplace violence among home healthcare workers: A meta‐analysis

Source: Ha Do Byon, Mijung Lee, Min Choi, Knar Sagherian, Mary Crandall, Jane Lipscomb, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: February 12, 2020

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From the abstract:

Background: Home healthcare workers (HHWs) provide medical and nonmedical services to home‐bound patients. They are at great risk of experiencing violence perpetrated by patients (type II violence). Establishing the reliable prevalence of such violence and identifying vulnerable subgroups are essential in enhancing HHWs’ safety. We, therefore, conducted meta‐analyses to synthesize the evidence for prevalence and identify vulnerable subgroups.


Methods: Five electronic databases were searched for journal articles published between 1 January 2005 and 20 March 2019. A total of 21 studies were identified for this study. Meta‐analyses of prevalence were conducted to obtain pooled estimates. Meta‐regression was performed to compare the prevalence between professionals and paraprofessionals.

Results: Prevalence estimates for HHWs were 0.223 for 12 months and 0.302 for over the career for combined violence types, 0.102 and 0.171, respectively, for physical violence, and 0.364 and 0.418, respectively, for nonphysical violence. The prevalence of nonphysical violence was higher than that of physical violence for professionals in 12 months (0.515 vs 0.135) and over the career (0.498 vs 0.224) and for paraprofessionals in 12 months (0.248 vs 0.086) and over the career (0.349 vs 0.113). Professionals reported significantly higher nonphysical violence for 12‐month prevalence than paraprofessionals did (0.515 vs 0.248, P = .015).


Conclusion: A considerable percentage of HHWs experience type II violence with higher prevalence among professionals. Further studies need to explore factors that can explain the differences in the prevalence between professionals and paraprofessionals. The findings provide support for the need for greater recognition of the violence hazard in the home healthcare workplace.

OSHA Forms Alliance With Waste And Recycling Industry Associations

Source: Employment Alert, Volume 36, Issue 23, November 12, 2019
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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has formed a national alliance with the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA), and Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) to protect the safety and health of workers in the solid waste industry. During the two-year agreement, the Alliance will address transportation hazards, including backovers and distracted driving; slips, trips, and falls; musculoskeletal injuries; heat and cold stress; and needle stick and other hazards. Participants plan to develop and share information about preventing and mitigating these hazards through articles, toolkits, fact sheets, exhibits at local and national industry conferences, and discussions at forums and other meetings. Participants will focus their efforts and outreach on small- and medium-sized employers…..

Occupational exposure to disinfectants and asthma incidence in U.S. nurses: A prospective cohort study

Source: Orianne Dumas, Krislyn M. Boggs, Catherine Quinot, Raphaëlle Varraso, Jan‐Paul Zock, Paul K. Henneberger, Frank E. Speizer, Nicole Le Moual, Carlos A. Camargo Jr., American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, November 6, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background:
Exposure to disinfectants among healthcare workers has been associated with respiratory health effects, in particular, asthma. However, most studies are cross‐sectional and the role of disinfectant exposures in asthma development requires longitudinal studies. We investigated the association between occupational exposure to disinfectants and incident asthma in a large cohort of U.S. female nurses.

Methods:
The Nurses’ Health Study II is a prospective cohort of 116 429 female nurses enrolled in 1989. Analyses included 61 539 participants who were still in a nursing job and with no history of asthma in 2009 (baseline; mean age: 55 years). During 277 744 person‐years of follow‐up (2009‐2015), 370 nurses reported incident physician‐diagnosed asthma. Occupational exposure was evaluated by questionnaire and a Job‐Task‐Exposure Matrix (JTEM). We examined the association between disinfectant exposure and subsequent asthma development, adjusted for age, race, ethnicity, smoking status, and body mass index.

Results:
Weekly use of disinfectants to clean surfaces only (23% exposed) or to clean medical instruments (19% exposed) was not associated with incident asthma (adjusted hazard ratio [95% confidence interval] for surfaces, 1.12 [0.87‐1.43]; for instruments, 1.13 [0.87‐1.48]). No association was observed between high‐level exposure to specific disinfectants/cleaning products evaluated by the JTEM (formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol quats, or enzymatic cleaners) and asthma incidence.

Conclusions:
In a population of late career nurses, we observed no significant association between exposure to disinfectants and asthma incidence. A potential role of disinfectant exposures in asthma development warrants further study among healthcare workers at earlier career stage to limit the healthy worker effect.

Let’s Get To Work: Empowering Employees to Take Action on Domestic Violence

Source: Holly Rider-Milkovich and Elizabeth Bille, Ms., October 24, 2019

Americans spend more waking hours at work, on average, than we do anywhere else. The positive and negative aspects of our lives come to work with us, and our experiences at work impact our overall quality of life. During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we’re reminded both of the devastating national impact of domestic violence on many individuals’ lives as well as the essential role that workplaces play in addressing this issue. ….

Together, we bring nearly a half century of experience in addressing domestic violence in the workplace and in our communities: Holly as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence on college campuses and in communities for over 20 years, and Elizabeth as an employment law attorney whose experience includes serving as General Counsel and Ethics Officer of SHRM and as a legal and policy advisor to the Vice Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In our current roles at EVERFI, we spearhead efforts to address sexual and gender-based violence in the workplace.

From this vantage point of both experience and expertise, we have identified three critical questions you can ask your company to assess whether your organization is ready to support employees who are experiencing domestic violence. ….

Testing a Path Model of Organizational Justice and Correctional Staff Job Stress Among Southern Correctional Staff

Source: Eric G. Lambert, Linda D. Keena, Stacy H. Haynes, David May, Rosemary Ricciardelli, Matthew Leone, Criminal Justice and Behavior, Volume 46 Issue 10, October 2019
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From the abstract:
Job stress has many negative effects on correctional staff. We proposed and tested a path model of transactional, procedural, and distributive justice’s direct and indirect effects on the job stress of 322 surveyed correctional staff, including 219 correctional officers, at a maximum security Southern prison. Findings indicated that procedural, distributive, and transactional justice affected job stress. Specifically, the proposed path model was supported, such that procedural justice had an indirect effect on job stress through distributive justice, and transactional and distributive justice had direct, negative effects on job stress. Transactional justice also had indirect effects on job stress through procedural and distributive justice. Taken together, the results suggest that organizational justice plays an important role in reducing correctional staff job stress.

Workers Are Falling Ill, Even Dying, After Making Kitchen Countertops

Source: Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR, Morning Edition, October 2, 2019

Artificial stone used to make kitchen and bathroom countertops has been linked to cases of death and irreversible lung injury in workers who cut, grind and polish this increasingly popular material.

The fear is that thousands of workers in the United States who create countertops out of what’s known as “engineered stone” may be inhaling dangerous amounts of lung-damaging silica dust, because engineered stone is mostly made of the mineral silica…… While all this silica isn’t a concern once the countertop is installed in a kitchen or bathroom, it is a potential problem for the businesses that cut slabs of this artificial stone to the right shape for customers…..

….In 2016, OSHA issued new workplace limits on how much silica could be in the air. This controversial new rule reduced the permissible exposure level to half of what it had been. Safety experts hailed the new, tighter limit as an important step forward; the previous regulations had been based on decades-old science, they said. But many industry groups opposed it. A year later, the incoming Trump administration ended the safety agency’s national emphasis program for silica. That program would have allowed OSHA to target the countertop fabrication industry for special inspections, says Michaels. …. Without that program, says Michaels, OSHA is limited in what it can legally do. OSHA can investigate a workplace injury or a complaint. But these workers, some of whom are undocumented immigrants with few employment options, are unlikely to complain…..

Highlights from occupational safety and health continuing education needs assessment

Source: Joshua G. Scott, Erin Shore, Carol Brown, Carisa Harris, Mitchel A. Rosen, American Journal of Industrial Medicine,
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background:
There is a lack of trained Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) professionals able to meet the current and future demand for such expertize in the United States. Many OSH professionals are required to perform duties, which are outside of their primary area of expertize; thus, expansion of continuing education (CE) may be necessary to properly train individuals for new OSH responsibilities.

Methods:
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health‐funded Education and Research Centers collectively developed and distributed an internet‐based survey to gauge the CE needs and interests of the OSH workforce.

Results:
A total of 2064 responses were received. The most common primary professions represented were safety (28%), occupational health nursing (18%), and industrial hygiene (12%). The majority of respondents (61%) reported that they perform work activities outside of those associated with their primary OSH profession. The CE offerings with the highest interest among respondents were related to safety. Other courses with high levels of interest included topics such as legal issues in OSH (88%), compliance (88%), risk management (85%), OSH management (83%), risk communication (83%), and communication in accident prevention (81%). Health and safety leadership (82%), health and safety culture (78%) and total worker health (74%) were also significant interests.

Conclusions:
It is important to be responsive to the evolving needs of the OS&H community. Developing relevant courses will help ensure that OS&H professionals have access to the training they need to perform essential job functions and keep employees healthy and safe.