Category Archives: Health & Safety

Violation Tracker

Source: Good Jobs First, October 2015

Discover Which Corporations are the Biggest Violators of Environmental, Health and Safety Laws Throughout the United States

Violation Tracker is the first national search engine on corporate misconduct. Version 1.0 covers environmental, health and safety cases initiated by 13 federal regulatory agencies since 2010, including those referred to the Justice Department. Other violations (banking, antitrust, wage & hour, etc.) will be added later. Violation Tracker is produced by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First.
BP and Its Brethren (a report analyzing the largest violators)
Data Sources
User Guide

Preventing violence and harassment in the workplace

Source: Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Health and Safety Guidelines, 2015

From the summary:
Workplace violence is a serious everyday health and safety issue for many workers in Canada, including CUPE members. Violence doesn’t “just happen.” It’s not “just part of the job.” Rather it’s a workplace hazard with specific causes. By better understanding the root causes of violence in the workplace we can more effectively prevent violence and protect workers. No matter what the cause of violence in the workplace, it is a requirement of employers to provide a healthy and safe workplace that is free from violence in all its forms.

The purpose of the Violence Prevention Guidelines is to provide CUPE members with resources to help protect them against violence in the workplace. Far too often, employers develop policies and procedures that react to violence. This is not good enough. This guide focuses primarily on preventing violence, before it happens in the workplace. Through this guide members will gain an understanding of what is violence, the risk factors and consequences of violence, employer’s requirements under legislation, and how workers, unions, and health and safety committees can work together to prevent workplace violence. Throughout the guide, we explore the potential underlying causes of violence and the steps and process that your employer and health and safety committee can take to prevent violence from happening.

The Life and Death of an Amazon Warehouse Temp – What the future of low-wage work really looks like.

Source: Dave Jamieson, Huffington Post, [October 21, 2015]

…..When it comes to low-wage positions, companies like Amazon are now able to precisely calibrate the size of its workforce to meet consumer demand, week by week or even day by day. Amazon, for instance, says it has 90,000 full-time U.S. employees at its fulfillment and sorting centers—but it plans to bring on an estimated 100,000 seasonal workers to help handle this year’s peak. Many of these seasonal hires come through Integrity Staffing Solutions, a Delaware-based temp firm. The company’s website recently listed 22 corporate offices throughout the country, 15 of which were recruiting offices for Amazon fulfillment centers, including the one in Chester.

This system isn’t unique to Amazon—it pervades the U.S. retail supply chain. Many companies choose to outsource shipping work to so-called third-party logistics providers, which in turn contract the work to staffing companies. At some of Walmart’s critical logistics hubs, multiple temp agencies may be providing workers under the same roof. The temp model also extends far beyond retail. The housekeeper who cleans your room at a Hyatt hotel may not work for Hyatt, but for a temp firm you’ve never heard of, for less money and fewer benefits than a direct hire. “It’s the standard operating model,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “The entire service economy is based on this kind of hyper-flexibility. If you don’t have it, it sends costs way up.”
1 The workers argued they were owed money for the time it took to go through mandatory security screenings, which could be as long as 20 minutes, according to the lawsuit. The justices ruled unanimously in Integrity’s favor.

For employers, the appeal of this system is obvious. It allows companies to meet demand while keeping their permanent workforce at a minimum, along with all the costs that go with it—payroll taxes, benefits, workers’ compensation costs and certain legal liabilities. (When Amazon warehouse workers around the country claimed they were victims of wage theft in a Supreme Court case last year, Integrity, not Amazon, was named as the defendant.) For employees, though, it means showing up to work every day with the knowledge that you are always disposable. You are at least one entity removed from the company where you work, and you are only as good as your last recorded input in a computerized performance monitoring system. In the event that something goes wrong in your life—illness, injury, a family crisis—you have few, if any, protections. And yet for Americans like Jeff, this precarious existence now represents one of the only remaining potential paths to a middle-class life…..

….Di-Key told me that she doesn’t blame Amazon or Integrity for Jeff’s death. What bothers her most is how expendable her husband seemed to be inside the warehouse system. She believes that had he not died as a second-class temp worker, his family might have been in a better position to sustain the loss. “Just feeling like he wasn’t human, like he was just a piece of paper,” she said. “You know, [they] can dispose of you. It kind of hurt.”….

Undocumented status as a social determinant of occupational safety and health: The workers’ perspective

Source: Michael A. Flynn, Donald E. Eggerth and C. Jeffrey Jacobson Jr., American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 58 no. 11, November 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background: Undocumented immigration to the United States has grown dramatically over the past 25 years. This study explores undocumented status as a social determinant of occupational health by examining its perceived consequences on workplace safety of Latino immigrants.

Methods: Guided by the Theory of Work Adjustment, qualitative analysis was conducted on transcripts from focus groups and individual interviews conducted with a convenience sample of Latino immigrant workers.

Results: Participants reported that unauthorized status negatively impacted their safety at work and resulted in a degree of alienation that exceeded the specific proscriptions of the law. Participants overwhelming used a strategy of disengagement to cope with the challenges they face as undocumented immigrants.

Conclusion: This study describes the complex web of consequences resulting from undocumented status and its impact on occupational health. This study presents a framework connecting the daily work experiences of immigrants, the coping strategy of disengagement, and efforts to minimize the impact of structural violence.

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
(subscription required)

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
(subscription required)

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
(subscription required)

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
(subscription required)

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
(subscription required)

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.