Category Archives: Health & Safety

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.

OSHA Enforcement Activity Declines Under the Trump Administration

Source: National Employment Law Project (NELP), Data Brief, June 2018

From the press release:
Crucial lifesaving worksite enforcement activity by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is declining under the Trump administration, according to a new data brief released today by the National Employment Law Project.

Even though U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta stated at a recent hearing that “laws matter . . . and they need to be enforced,” the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is cutting back on enforcement activity, with key enforcement indicators showing declining activity from FY 2016 to FY 2017.

Moreover, the latest available data reveals that this decline in enforcement activity continued at an accelerated pace in the first five months of FY 2018. Enforcement activity, as measured by OSHA in enforcement units, is down by 1,163 units in just the first five months of this fiscal year, compared to the same time period in FY 2017…..

Prison employment and post‐traumatic stress disorder: Risk and protective factors

Source: Lois James, Natalie Todak, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Online First, June 12, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Objectives
To examine the prevalence of Post‐Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in a sample of prison employees, investigate risk factors, and explore protective factors for PTSD.

Methods
We surveyed 355 Washington State Department of Corrections employees. The survey included the PTSD checklist for the DSM‐5 (PCL‐5), the Critical Incident History Questionnaire, and the Work Environment Inventory.

Results
We found 19% of the sample met the criteria for diagnosable PTSD. Several risk factors were associated with a higher PCL‐5 score, including exposure to critical incidents, and having greater ambiguity in the job role. Being happy with job assignments and having positive relationships with supervisors and coworkers were associated with decreased PCL‐5 score.

Conclusions
Prison employees have a PTSD rate equivalent to Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and higher than police officers, suggesting the importance of developing programs for promoting resilience to stress, incorporating the knowledge gained on risk, and protective factors.

Can Mass Shootings be Stopped? To Address the Problem, We Must Better Understand the Phenomenon

Source: Jaclyn Schildkraut Margaret K. Formica Jim Malatras, Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, May 22, 2018

The mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, happened nearly two decades ago, yet it remains etched in the national consciousness. Columbine spurred a national debate — from personal safety to the security of schools, workplaces, and other locations and to broader considerations of guns and mental illness. To this day, communities still are grappling to find solutions to the complex and multifaceted nature of mass shootings.

“Human-centric lighting” may be the key to feeling better at work

Source: Lynne Peeples, Quartz, May 29, 2018

…. Indeed, it’s not the buoyancy lesson that has drawn me to this school just outside of Seattle, but those funky new lights, which are designed to mimic the shifting colors and intensities of the rising and setting sun. Scientists believe that exposure to bright, blue-rich white light during the day, and to softer, amber hues at night, helps restore the human body’s natural circadian rhythm, a deeply ingrained, physiological drumbeat that, many experts argue, has been disrupted to ill-effect by our constant exposure to standard incandescent or fluorescent lighting — and more recently, to the relentless glow of electronic screens. ….

Fighting Night-Shift Fatigue

Source: Carol Potera, AJN The American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 118 no. 5, May 2018

Because society needs nursing services around the clock, nurses must work irregular hours and at night. This leads to disruption of circadian rhythms and to sleep deficits that can affect work readiness and the health, safety, and well-being of nurses. Long shifts, shift rotations, double shifts, and evening and night shifts pose short- and long-term health and safety risks for nurses, as well as danger to their patients. Sleep-deprived nurses are also at risk for car accidents. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, less than four hours of sleep in the past 24 hours increases a driver’s risk of crashing 11.5 times, compared with just 1.3 times after seven hours of sleep…..

How to Break an NDA, See If Your Pay Is Fair, Confront a Colleague, and More

Source: Mary Pilon, Bloomberg, May 1, 2018

Practical advice on some of the most uncomfortable—and important—things you could do for your career.

Related:
Employee Rights
Source: NOLO, 2018

Can you be required to take a drug test? Who is entitled to earn overtime? What kinds of conduct fall under the definition of illegal discrimination and harassment — and what should you do if you are a victim? Can you take time off work to care for a new child, serve in the military, cast your ballot, or recover from a serious illness? Get detailed answers to all of your questions about workplace rights here.

Your Workplace Rights
Source: Workplace Fairness, 2018
Hiring & Classifications
Looking for a new job? Wondering if the questions you were asked at the interview were legal? This section addresses some of the most common issues you may encounter in the hiring process, and how you are classified as a worker may affect your workplace rights.

Discrimination
Are you being treated differently at work? If so, is it because of your race, sex, age, disability, national origin or religion? Wondering what other kinds of discrimination are illegal? Get the facts on workplace discrimination here.

Harassment & Other Workplace Problems
Whether you’re being pressured to have sex with your boss, forced to listen to foul language or slurs, or wondering whether the comment you made might get you in trouble, you’ll find this information on harassment and other problems you might encounter on the job to be helpful.

Unpaid Wages/Wage & Hour Problems
Not getting paid what your employer owes you? Are you forced to work overtime, but not receiving any extra pay? Get the facts on “wage and hour” laws here.

Benefits & Leaves
For most employees, your job isn’t just about the pay, but also what benefits are included. Sick leave, disability leave, family/medical leave–the different kinds of leave you may be allowed to take can be confusing. Get information about health care coverage, pensions, leave eligibility and other benefit-related information here.

Privacy & Workplace Surveillance
Is somebody watching you? It just might be your employer. Find out here what rights to privacy in the workplace you do and do not have.

Health & Safety/Workplace Injuries
Is your workplace unsafe? Are you worried about getting hurt at work? Wondering what to do about it? Have questions about the workers’ compensation system? Find the answers here.

Whistleblowing & Retaliation
Fighting back when you see your employer doing something wrong can be scary, and risky. But there are laws that can protect you in a number of situations. Learn more about how you might be protected when you blow the whistle or challenge illegal conduct.

Unions & Collective Action
Facing an organizing campaign at work (or want to get involved in one)? Already a union member but don’t understand how things work? Fired for organizing or joining a union? This section covers information about your rights to organize and be in a union, and how unions work.

Termination & Unemployment
Whether you were suddenly fired, laid off, or asked to resign, you’ll want to know what happens now that you are out of a job.