Category Archives: Health & Safety

Protecting workers in the home care industry: workers’ experienced job demands, resource gaps, and benefits following a socially supportive intervention

Source: Linda Mabry, Kelsey N. Parker, Sharon V. Thompson, Katrina M. Bettencourt, Afsara Haque, Kristy Luther Rhoten, Home Health Care Services Quarterly, Volume 37 Issue 3, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The Community of Practice and Safety Support (COMPASS) program is a peer-led group intervention for home care workers. In a randomized controlled trial, COMPASS significantly improved workers’ professional support networks and safety and health behaviors. However, quantitative findings failed to capture workers’ complex emotional, physical, and social experiences with job demands, resource limitations, and the intervention itself. Therefore, we conducted qualitative follow-up interviews with a sample of participants (n = 28) in the program. Results provided examples of unique physical and psychological demands, revealed stressful resource limitations (e.g., safety equipment access), and elucidated COMPASS’s role as a valuable resource.

Effects of environmental stressors on daily governance

Source: Nick Obradovich, Dustin Tingley, and Iyad Rahwan, Proceedings on the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), August 13, 2018

Significance:
Public servants are often first responders to disasters, and the day-to-day completion of their jobs aids public health and safety. However, with respect to their individual psychological and physiological responses to environmental stressors, public sector workers may be harmed in much the same way as other citizens in society. We find that exposure to hotter temperatures reduces the activity of two groups of regulators—police officers and food safety inspectors—at times that the risks they are tasked with overseeing are highest. Given that we observe these effects in a country with high political institutionalization, our findings may have implications for the impacts of climate change on the functioning of regulatory governance in countries with lower political and economic development.

Abstract:
Human workers ensure the functioning of governments around the world. The efficacy of human workers, in turn, is linked to the climatic conditions they face. Here we show that the same weather that amplifies human health hazards also reduces street-level government workers’ oversight of these hazards. To do so, we employ US data from over 70 million regulatory police stops between 2000 and 2017, from over 500,000 fatal vehicular crashes between 2001 and 2015, and from nearly 13 million food safety violations across over 4 million inspections between 2012 and 2016. We find that cold and hot temperatures increase fatal crash risk and incidence of food safety violations while also decreasing police stops and food safety inspections. Added precipitation increases fatal crash risk while also decreasing police stops. We examine downscaled general circulation model output to highlight the possible day-to-day governance impacts of climate change by 2050 and 2099. Future warming may augment regulatory oversight during cooler seasons. During hotter seasons, however, warming may diminish regulatory oversight while simultaneously amplifying the hazards government workers are tasked with overseeing.

Cameras can catch cars that run red lights, but that doesn’t make streets safer

Source: Justin Gallagher, The Conversation, August 15, 2018

The automobile is a killer. In the U.S., 36,675 people died in traffic accidents in 2014. The year before, 2.3 million people were injured in traffic accidents.

During the past decade, over 438 U.S. municipalities, including 36 of the 50 most populous cities, have employed electronic monitoring programs in order to reduce the number of accidents. Red light camera programs specifically target drivers that run red lights.

In a study I co-authored with economist Paul J. Fisher, we examined all police-recorded traffic accidents for three large Texas cities over a 12-year period – hundreds of thousands of accidents. We found no evidence that red light cameras improve public safety. They don’t reduce the total number of vehicle accidents, the total number of individuals injured in accidents or the total number of incapacitating injuries that involve ambulance transport to a hospital….

Are there health benefits of being unionized in late career? A longitudinal approach using HRS

Source: Jacques Wels, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: 28 June 2018

From the abstract:
Objective:
To assess whether unionization prevents deterioration in self‐reported health and depressive symptoms in late career transitions.

Methods:
Data come from the Health and Retirement Study (N = 6475). The change in self‐perceived health (SPH) and depressive symptoms (CESD) between wave 11 and wave 12 is explained using an interaction effect between change in professional status from wave 10 to wave 11 and unionization in wave 10.

Results:
The odds of being affected by a negative change in CESD when unionized are lower for unionized workers remaining in full‐time job (OR:0.73, CI95%:0.58;0.89), unionized full‐time workers moving to part‐time work (OR:0.66, CI95%:0.46;0.93) and unionized full‐time workers moving to part‐retirement (OR:0.40, CI95%:0.34;0.47) compared to non‐unionized workers. The same conclusion is made for the change in SPH but with odds ratios closer to 1.

Conclusion:
The reasons for the associations found in this paper need to be explored in further research.

Corporate Impunity – “Tough on Crime” Trump Is Weak on Corporate Crime and Wrongdoing

Source: Rick Claypool, Taylor Lincoln, Michael Tanglis and Alan Zibel, Public Citizen, July 2018

From the press release:
During President Donald Trump’s first year in office, enforcement against corporate crime and wrongdoing declined dramatically, with total penalties for such violations plummeting from the final year of the Obama administration, according to a new report from Public Citizen.

In almost every federal agency under control of a Trump appointee – and most notably at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the nation’s lead law enforcement agency – enforcement against corporations dropped, often plunging to just a small fraction of what it had been.

Public Citizen’s report “Corporate Impunity” tracked enforcement activities against corporate violators by 12 federal agencies overseen by a Trump administration official for the majority of Trump’s first year in office. The report was co-released with Violation Tracker, a corporate enforcement database produced by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First.

In 11 of the 12 agencies, the amount of penalties imposed on corporate violators declined, in many cases drastically. In 10 of the 12 agencies, the number of individual enforcement actions against corporate violators also declined significantly.

Related:
OSHA Broke the Law by Refusing Worker Injury and Illness Data – Timely Data Is Needed to Protect Workers From Threats to Health and Safety
Source: Public Citizen, Press release, July 25, 2018

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) broke the law by suspending parts of its electronic recordkeeping rule, Public Citizen, the American Public Health Association and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists said in a lawsuit filed today with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. To help the agency monitor and prevent workplaces injuries and illnesses, the rule requires covered workplaces to submit certain 2017 work-related injury and illness data to the agency by July 1. OSHA recently announced that it would not accept the data.

Instead of following notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures required by the Administrative Procedure Act, OSHA simply announced on its website that it was suspending the July 1 deadline, that it would neither require nor accept the data and that it intended to revise the rule. In the lawsuit, the groups explain that OSHA lacks the legal authority to suspend the deadline without first providing public notice and an opportunity to comment, and that OSHA’s stated reason for the suspension is arbitrary and capricious. The groups are asking the court to order OSHA to require and accept the workplace injury and illness data, as required by the rule.

Public Citizen’s Corporate Presidency Project

Employer liability for third‐party sexual harassment

Source: Kevin J. Smith, Lindsay C. Stone, Employment Relations Today, First published: April 25, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
While most employers understand the scope of their responsibility to prevent sexual harassment between employees, the scope of an employer’s responsibility to prevent sexual harassment by third parties is often less clear. Such third parties may include customers, clients, sales representatives, vendors, investors, or anyone in the workplace who is not a member of the employer’s workforce. Although an employer may be unable to easily control non‐employee actions, it is legally obligated to respond to any third‐party sexual harassment of its employees that is brought to the employer’s attention. With proper safeguards and remedial action, however, an employer can keep its employees safe from third‐party sexual harassment and protect itself from liability in the process. This Q&A explains employer liability for third‐party sexual harassment, describes the ramifications of an employer’s failure to properly address or prevent it, and recommends strategies to reduce an employer’s legal exposure.

OSHA Occupational Chemical Database

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2018

This chemical inventory is OSHA’s premier one-stop shop for occupational chemical information. It compiles information from several government agencies and organizations. Information available on the pages includes:
– Chemical identification and physical properties
– Exposure limits
– Sampling information, and
– Additional resources.

Fentanyls and the safety of first responders: Science and recommendations

Source: John Howard, Jennifer Hornsby‐Myers, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: 25 June 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Opioids have many beneficial uses in medicine, but, taken inappropriately, they can cause life‐threatening health effects. The increasing use of physician‐prescribed and illicit opioids, including highly potent fentanyl and its analogs, have contributed to a significant increase in opioid‐related drug overdoses in the United States, leading to a public health emergency. There have been a number of reports describing adverse health effects experienced by police officers, fire‐fighter emergency medical services providers, and private sector ambulance personnel when responding to drug overdose incidents. Several sets of exposure prevention recommendations for first responders are available from government and the private sector. Understanding the scientific basis for these recommendations, increasing awareness by responders of the potential risks associated with opioid exposure during a response, and educating responders about safe work practices when exposure to opioids is suspected or confirmed are all critical prevention measures that can keep first responders safe.

The Union Effect in California

Source: University of California, Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, 2018

From the summary:
“The Union Effect in California” is a three-part series exploring the ways in which unions affect the lives of all working people—both union members and nonunion members—in California. The studies were conducted as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to issue a ruling in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees that threatens to weaken public sector unions.  

The first study, Wages, Benefits, and Use of Public Safety Net Programs, shows that by bargaining together through unions, California workers increase their earnings by approximately $5,800 per worker annually, for a combined total of $18.5 billion. Union workers also have more access to health and retirement benefits, thereby reducing reliance on the state’s public safety net programs.
By Ken Jacobs and Sarah Thomason    

The second study, Gains for Women, Workers of Color, and Immigrants, shows that, while all workers in California have higher wages and greater access to benefits when covered by a union contract, those workers who earn the least in nonunion workplaces—women, people of color, and immigrants—gain the most.
By Sarah Thomason and Annette Bernhardt      

The third study, A Voice for Workers in Public Policy, analyzes unions as a countervailing force to corporate power in the state. It explores union-backed policies promoting the rights of workers—union and nonunion alike—and addressing broader issues facing working families in the state. Included are policies in the areas of minimum wage, worker benefits, workplace safety, wage theft, employment-based sexual harassment, whistleblower protections, education, immigration, consumer protections, infrastructure and housing, climate policy, and criminal justice.
By Jenifer MacGillvary and Ken Jacobs

Does ‘right to work’ imperil the right to health? The effect of labour unions on workplace fatalities

Source: Michael Zoorob, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Online First, June 13, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Objective:
Economic policies can have unintended consequences on population health. In recent years, many states in the USA have passed ‘right to work’ (RTW) laws which weaken labour unions. The effect of these laws on occupational health remains unexplored. This study fills this gap by analysing the effect of RTW on occupational fatalities through its effect on unionisation.

Methods:
Two-way fixed effects regression models are used to estimate the effect of unionisation on occupational mortality per 100 000 workers, controlling for state policy liberalism and workforce composition over the period 1992–2016. In the final specification, RTW laws are used as an instrument for unionisation to recover causal effects.

Results:
The Local Average Treatment Effect of a 1% decline in unionisation attributable to RTW is about a 5% increase in the rate of occupational fatalities. In total, RTW laws have led to a 14.2% increase in occupational mortality through decreased unionisation.

Conclusion:
These findings illustrate and quantify the protective effect of unions on workers’ safety. Policymakers should consider the potentially deleterious effects of anti-union legislation on occupational health.