Category Archives: Health & Safety

Exposure To Harmful Workplace Practices Could Account For Inequality In Life Spans Across Different Demographic Groups

Source: Joel Goh, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Stefanos Zenios, Health Affairs, Vol. 34 no. 10, October 2015
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From the abstract:
The existence of important socioeconomic disparities in health and mortality is a well-established fact. Many pathways have been adduced to explain inequality in life spans. In this article we examine one factor that has been somewhat neglected: People with different levels of education get sorted into jobs with different degrees of exposure to workplace attributes that contribute to poor health. We used General Social Survey data to estimate differential exposures to workplace conditions, results from a meta-analysis that estimated the effect of workplace conditions on mortality, and a model that permitted us to estimate the overall effects of workplace practices on health. We conclude that 10–38 percent of the difference in life expectancy across demographic groups can be explained by the different job conditions their members experience.

Health Care Personnel Contamination During Protective Equipment Removal

Source: Myreen E. Tomas, Sirisha Kundrapu, Priyaleela Thota, Venkata C. K. Sunkesula, Jennifer L. Cadnum, Thriveen Sankar Chittoor Mana, Annette Jencson, Marguerite O’Donnell, Trina F. Zabarsky, RN3; Michelle T. Hecker, Amy J. Ray, Brigid M. Wilson, Curtis J. Donskey, JAMA Internal Medicine, Online First, October 12, 2015

This study characterizes the frequency and sites of contamination of health care personnel removing personal protective equipment (PPE) after training in PPE removal and during a simulation.

The Twenty-First Century Jungle: California Nurses Organize to Save Themselves

Source: Mariya Strauss, New Labor Forum, Vol. 24 no. 3, Fall 2015
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From the abstract:
When one had to work a shift in a factory, a mine, or a steel mill in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there was an ever-present sense of physical danger. Nowadays, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and MSHA standards exist to allow those agencies to enforce safety rules and protect such industrial workers from the most grievous physical harms.

But the service-oriented health care workplace, which now employs one out of every eight U.S. workers, has in some ways come to resemble the industrial shop floors of old. Health care workers say that they go to work every day not knowing if they will make it home to their families. The danger—still unregulated by OSHA in any state—is workplace violence. The threat can come from random people walking through the door; but increasingly, these workers also face violence from the patients they treat….

Respirator Performance against Nanoparticles under Simulated Workplace Activities

Source: Evanly Vo, Ziqing Zhuang, Matthew Horvatin, Yuewei Liu, Xinjian He, and Samy Rengasamy, Annals of Occupational Hygiene, Volume 59, Issue 8, October 2015
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From the abstract:
Filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) and elastomeric half-mask respirators (EHRs) are commonly used by workers for protection against potentially hazardous particles, including engineered nanoparticles. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the performance of these types of respirators against 10–400nm particles using human subjects exposed to NaCl aerosols under simulated workplace activities. Simulated workplace protection factors (SWPFs) were measured for eight combinations of respirator models (2 N95 FFRs, 2 P100 FFRs, 2 N95 EHRs, and 2 P100 EHRs) worn by 25 healthy test subjects (13 females and 12 males) with varying face sizes. Before beginning a SWPF test for a given respirator model, each subject had to pass a quantitative fit test. Each SWPF test was performed using a protocol of six exercises for 3min each: (i) normal breathing, (ii) deep breathing, (iii) moving head side to side, (iv) moving head up and down, (v) bending at the waist, and (vi) a simulated laboratory-vessel cleaning motion. Two scanning mobility particle sizers were used simultaneously to measure the upstream (outside the respirator) and downstream (inside the respirator) test aerosol; SWPF was then calculated as a ratio of the upstream and downstream particle concentrations. In general, geometric mean SWPF (GM-SWPF) was highest for the P100 EHRs, followed by P100 FFRs, N95 EHRs, and N95 FFRs. This trend holds true for nanoparticles (10–100nm), larger size particles (100–400nm), and the ‘all size’ range (10–400nm). All respirators provided better or similar performance levels for 10–100nm particles as compared to larger 100–400nm particles. This study found that class P100 respirators provided higher SWPFs compared to class N95 respirators (P < 0.05) for both FFR and EHR types. All respirators provided expected performance (i.e. fifth percentile SWPF > 10) against all particle size ranges tested.

Characterization of Urinary Phthalate Metabolites Among Custodians

Source: Jennifer M. Cavallari, Nancy J. Simcox, Sara Wakai, Chensheng Lu, Jennifer L. Garza, and Martin Cherniack, Annals of Occupational Hygiene, Volume 59, Issue 8, October 2015
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From the abstract:
Phthalates, a ubiquitous class of chemicals found in consumer, personal care, and cleaning products, have been linked to adverse health effects. Our goal was to characterize urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations and to identify work and nonwork sources among custodians using traditional cleaning chemicals and ‘green’ or environmentally preferable products (EPP). Sixty-eight custodians provided four urine samples on a workday (first void, before shift, end of shift, and before bedtime) and trained observers recorded cleaning tasks and types of products used (traditional, EPP, or disinfectant) hourly over the work shifts. Questionnaires were used to assess personal care product use. Four different phthalate metabolites [monoethyl phthalate (MEP), monomethyl phthalate (MMP), mono (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (MEHP), and monobenzyl phthalate (MBzP)] were quantified using liquid chromatography mass spectrometry. Geometric means (GM) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were calculated for creatinine-adjusted urinary phthalate concentrations. Mixed effects univariate and multivariate modeling, using a random intercept for each individual, was performed to identify predictors of phthalate metabolites including demographics, workplace factors, and personal care product use. Creatinine-adjusted urinary concentrations [GM (95% CI)] of MEP, MMP, MEHP, and MBzP were 107 (91.0–126), 2.69 (2.18–3.30), 6.93 (6.00–7.99), 8.79 (7.84–9.86) µg g−1, respectively. An increasing trend in phthalate concentrations from before to after shift was not observed. Creatinine-adjusted urinary MEP was significantly associated with frequency of traditional cleaning chemical intensity in the multivariate model after adjusting for potential confounding by demographics, workplace factors, and personal care product use. While numerous demographics, workplace factors, and personal care products were statistically significant univariate predictors of MMP, MEHP, and MBzP, few associations persisted in multivariate models. In summary, among this population of custodians, we identified both occupational and nonoccupational predictors of phthalate exposures. Identification of phthalates as ingredients in cleaning chemicals and consumer products would allow workers and consumers to avoid phthalate exposure.

The relationship between burnout, PTSD symptoms and injuries in firefighters

Source: F. Katsavouni, E. Bebetsos, P. Malliou and A. Beneka, Occupational Medicine, Advance Access, First published online: September 25, 2015
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From the abstract:
Background: Firefighters participate in activities with intense physical and psychological stress.
Aims To examine the correlation between work-related injuries (WRIs), burnout and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in firefighters.
Methods: The method used for the recording of the elements was the collection of self-report anonymous questionnaires, the completion of which was optional. The questionnaires used were: (i) a WRIs questionnaire, (ii) the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) and (iii) the Impact of Event Scale-Revised-Greek version. Descriptive statistics along with univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were applied.
Results: The study population consisted of 3289 firefighters. There was a significant association between WRIs, burnout syndrome, PTSD symptoms and age, work experience and physical condition. Relationships were found between PTSD symptoms, the MBI–emotional exhaustion dimension and WRIs and between MBI–depersonalization dimension and PTSD symptoms. The most traumatic event was the ‘dealing with death or rescue of a child’ and the top stress factor was ‘depression about the responsibility for quality of victims’ life’.
Conclusions: The occupational obligations may be responsible for the psychological and musculoskeletal problems experienced by firefighters. Early recognition and response to psychosomatic issues in firefighters is of high importance.

Workplace screening for hand dermatitis: a pilot study

Source: K. Nichol, R. Copes, S. Spielmann, K. Kersey, J. Eriksson1 and D. L. Holness, Occupational Medicine, Advance Access, First published online: September 26, 2015
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From the abstract:
Background: Health care workers (HCWs) are at increased risk for developing occupational skin disease (OSD) such as dermatitis primarily due to exposure to wet work. Identification of risk factors and workplace screening can help early detection of OSD to avoid the condition becoming chronic.
Aims To determine risk factors and clinical findings for hand dermatitis using a workplace screening tool.
Methods: Employees at a large teaching hospital in Toronto, Canada, were invited to complete a two-part hand dermatitis screening tool. Part 1 inquired about hand hygiene practices and Part 2 comprised a visual assessment of participants’ hands by a health professional and classification as (i) normal, (ii) mild dermatitis or (iii) moderate/severe dermatitis. Risk factors were determined using chi-square and Cochran–Armitage analysis on a dichotomous variable, where Yes represented either a mild or moderate/severe disease classification.
Results: There were 183 participants out of 643 eligible employees; response rate 28%. Mild or moderate/severe dermatitis was present in 72% of participants. These employees were more likely to work directly with patients, have worked longer in a health care setting, wash hands and change gloves more frequently, wear gloves for more hours per day, have a history of eczema or dermatitis and report a current rash on the hands or rash in the past 12 months.
Conclusions: There was a high percentage of HCWs with dermatitis and risk factors for dermatitis. These findings argue for increased attention to prevention and early identification of hand dermatitis and support further testing of the workplace screening tool.

Common solvent keeps killing workers, consumers

Source: Jamie Smith Hopkins, Center for Public Integrity, September 21, 2015

Regulators have been slow to act on paint strippers, other products containing methylene chloride. ….A Center analysis identified at least 56 accidental exposure deaths linked to methylene chloride since 1980 in the U.S. Thirty-one occurred before Johnathan Welch died, 24 after. The most recent was in July. Many involved paint strippers; in other cases victims used the chemical for tasks such as cleaning and gluing carpet, according to death investigations and autopsy reports the Center obtained through Freedom of Information Act and state open records requests. ….

Firearm Prevalence and Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers in the United States

Source: David I. Swedler, Molly M. Simmons, Francesca Dominici, and David Hemenway, American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 105 No. 10, October 2015
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From the abstract:
Objectives. In the United States, state firearm ownership has been correlated with homicide rates. More than 90% of homicides of law enforcement officers (LEOs) are committed with firearms. We examined the relationship between state firearm ownership rates and LEO occupational homicide rates.

Methods. We obtained the number LEOs killed from 1996 to 2010 from a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) database. We calculated homicide rates per state as the number of officers killed per number of LEOs per state, obtained from another FBI database. We obtained the mean household firearm ownership for each state from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Results. Using Poisson regression and controlling for factors known to affect homicide rates, we associated firearm ownership with the homicide rates for LEOs (incidence rate ratio = 1.044; P = .005); our results were supported by cross-sectional and longitudinal sensitivity analyses. LEO homicide rates were 3 times higher in states with high firearm ownership compared with states with low firearm ownership.

Conclusions. High public gun ownership is a risk for occupational mortality for LEOs in the United States. States could consider methods for reducing firearm ownership as a way to reduce occupational deaths of LEOs.