Category Archives: Health & Safety

Traditional and environmentally preferable cleaning product exposure and health symptoms in custodians

Source: Jennifer L. Garza, Jennifer M. Cavallari, Sara Wakai, Paula Schenck, Nancy Simcox, Tim Morse, John D. Meyer and Martin Cherniack, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, Article first published online: June 4, 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background: We investigated the associations between traditional and environmentally preferable cleaning product exposure and dermal, respiratory, and musculoskeletal symptoms in a population of custodians.

Methods: We analyzed associations between symptoms and exposure to traditional and environmentally preferable cleaning product exposure among 329 custodians.

Results: We observed increased odds of dermal, upper and lower respiratory, and upper extremity, back, and lower extremity musculoskeletal symptoms associated with increased typical traditional cleaning product exposure. We observed significant trends for increased odds of dermal and back and lower extremity musculoskeletal symptoms associated with increased typical environmentally preferable cleaning product exposure.

Conclusions: Fewer positive associations and reduced odds of health symptoms associated with environmentally preferable cleaning product exposure suggest that these products may represent a safer alternative to traditional cleaning products.

Occupational safety and health protections against Ebola virus disease

Source: Knut Ringen, Philip J. Landrigan, Jeffrey O. Stull, Richard Duffy, James Melius and Melissa A. McDiarmid, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 58 Issue 7, July 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Even as the Ebola epidemic is finally showing signs of remitting, controversy continues regarding the modes of disease transmission, the understanding of which necessarily dictates methods of prevention. The initial public health response to the epidemic was based on assumptions formed during previous outbreaks, and in the belief that transmission was restricted to direct “contact” with other infected patients. However, the current Ebola outbreak differed from previous experiences in its intensity of transmission, speed of spread, and fatality rate and was also particularly unforgiving on health workers occupationally infected. Even with these differences, however, other modes of transmission were not considered by public health authorities, thus denying both the hard-hit health worker populations and the wider public more protective guidance. International Labor Conventions require employers to provide a comprehensive safety program that anticipates work-related risks and specifies strategies for protection against them. Such a precautionary approach is recommended in future epidemic planning, especially where evidence regarding transmission is incomplete.

Does Mortality Differ Between Public and Private Sector Workers?

Source: Alicia H. Munnell, Jean-Pierre Aubry and Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College (CRR), SLP#44, June 2015

The brief’s key findings are:
– In projecting pension costs, state and local plans assume their workers will live longer than private sector workers. Is this assumption accurate and, if so, why?
– The analysis confirms that public sector workers – particularly women – have lower mortality rates than their private sector counterparts.
– The question is whether lower mortality reflects the nature of the job or the nature of the workers.
– The answer is the workers – specifically their education levels. Controlling for education, the gap between public and private workers disappears.

New Models of Worker Representation

Source: Robert Bruno, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 40 no. 1, March 2015
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….Yet despite repeated predictions of labor’s ultimate demise, unions have proven to be remarkably durable institutions. Fight remains. The cause is no less right. But how does labor respond to falling rates of unionization, the passage of right to work laws, the election of antilabor political officials, and the inactivity of too many rank-and-file members this time? Additionally, maybe unionization, in its conventional and legally crafted form, needs to make room for and support other worker organizations and advocacy approaches. Are the remarkable benefits of collective bargaining only possible within the confines of labor law? And is a labor agreement the only virtuous product of worker organizing? In this special issue of LSJ, we present four case studies of alternative approaches to representing the collective interests of workers. Two of them involve unions, while the others engage other means. The articles are drawn from a series of papers on the theme “New Models of Worker Representation,” presented at the 2014 United Association for Labor Education Conference. ….

Articles include:
Worker Engagement in the Health and Safety Regulatory Arena under Changing Models of Worker Representation
Source: Linda Delp and Kevin Riley, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 40 no. 1, March 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This paper examines the efforts of a labor-community-university partnership in Southern California to confront violations of workplace health and safety standards by employers of nonunion workers in low-wage jobs. A worker engagement model has opened avenues for workers and worker advocates to participate in the regulatory arena absent union representation. This approach has achieved notable successes to date, including groundbreaking Cal/OSHA citations and nascent collaboration with agency officials to target enforcement of health and safety standards. We argue this model constitutes the foundation needed to support a potentially viable form of tripartism that allows nonunion workers a voice, albeit limited, in the health and safety regulatory process.

A Novel Way to Represent and Reframe the Interests of Workers: The People’s Budget Review in St. Petersburg, Florida
Source: Bruce Nissen and Rick Smith, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 40 no. 1, March 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article relates the three-year history of the People’s Budget Review, a highly unusual coalition of progressive forces in St. Petersburg, Florida, spearheaded by the Florida Public Services Union (FPSU). The People’s Budget Review has completely reoriented the public terms of discussion around city budgetary and social priorities and has won impressive victories. The issues faced by the FPSU as it transitioned from a more “normal” union to one focused centrally on “public goods” rather than simply collective bargaining gains for its own members are examined. The authors draw out the lessons that might be drawn for other unions out of this effort.

NIOSH Training Program for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours

Source: Claire C. Caruso, Jeanne Geiger-Brown, Masaya Takahashi, Alison Trinkoff, Akinori Nakata, Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2015-115, CDC Course Numbers: WB2408 and WB2409, May 2015

The purpose of this online training program is to educate nurses and their managers about the health and safety risks associated with shift work, long work hours, and related workplace fatigue issues and relay strategies in the workplace and in the nurse’s personal life to reduce these risks. Part 1 (CDC Course No. WB2408) is designed to increase knowledge about the wide range of risks linked to these work schedules and related fatigue issues and promote understanding about why these risks occur. This knowledge provides background information for Part 2 of the training program. Part 2 (CDC Course No. WB2409) is designed to increase knowledge about personal behaviors and workplace systems to reduce these risks. Content for this training program is derived from scientific literature on shift work, long work hours, sleep, and circadian rhythms.

Attribution of mental illness to work: a Delphi study

Source: M. G. P. Wong, C. J. M. Poole and R. Agius, Occupational Medicine, Advance Access, First published online: May 15, 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background: Clinicians may be asked whether mental ill-health has been caused by work but there is no guidance on how this judgement should be made.

Aims: To seek a consensus on the factors that should be considered and how they should be sought when attributing mental ill-health to work.

Methods: A three-round Delphi study involving expert academics, occupational physicians, psychiatrists and psychologists. We deemed consensus had been reached when 66% or more of the experts were in agreement.

Results: Of 54 invited experts, 35 (65%) took part in the first round, 30 of these 35 (86%) in the second and 29 of these 30 (97%) in the final round. Consensus was reached for 11 workplace stressors: high job strain; effort–reward imbalance; major trauma; interpersonal conflict; inadequate support; role ambiguity; person–job mismatch; organizational injustice; organizational culture; work scheduling and threats to job security. Seven personal factors were identified as being important: previous mental illness; personality traits of neuroticism; adverse life events or social circumstances; resilience; a family history of mental illness and secondary gain. The worker, manager and co-workers were thought to be the most useful sources of workplace information. Consensus was reached for a definition of occupational mental illness but not for a threshold of work-relatedness.

Conclusions: The attribution of mental ill-health to work is complex and involves the consideration of both workplace stressors and personal factors of vulnerability. Clinical consultation with an occupational physician who is familiar with the workplace is central to the process.

Systematic review: height-adjustable workstations to reduce sedentary behaviour in office-based workers

Source: G. A. Tew, M. C. Posso, C. E. Arundel and C. M. McDaid, Occupational Medicine, Advance Access, First published online: May 1, 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background: Time spent sitting in the workplace is an important contributor to overall sedentary risk. Installation of height-adjustable workstations has been proposed as a feasible approach for reducing occupational sitting time in office workers.

Aims: To provide an accurate overview of the controlled trials that have evaluated the effects of height-adjustable workstation interventions on workplace sitting time in office-based workers.

Methods: A comprehensive search was conducted up until March 2014 in the following databases: Medline, PsychINFO, CENTRAL, EMBASE and PEDro. To identify unpublished studies and grey literature, the reference lists of relevant official or scientific web pages were also checked. Studies assessing the effectiveness of height-adjustable workstations using a randomized or non-randomized controlled design were included.

Results: The initial search yielded a total of 8497 citations. After a thorough selection process, five studies were included with 172 participants. A formal quality assessment indicated that risk of bias was high in all studies and heterogeneity in interventions and outcomes prevented meta-analysis. Nevertheless, all studies reported that height-adjustable workstation interventions reduced occupational sitting time in office workers. There was insufficient evidence to determine effects on other relevant health outcomes (e.g. body composition, musculoskeletal symptoms, mental health).

Conclusions: There is insufficient evidence to make firm conclusions regarding the effects of installing height-adjustable workstations on sedentary behaviour and associated health outcomes in office workers. Larger and longer term controlled studies are needed, which include more representative populations.

Quality of Worklife Survey

Source: American Federation of Teachers, 2015

From the summary:
The results of new AFT survey on well-being, working conditions and stressors for teachers and school support staff across the country provide much-needed information about sources of stress on the job. The first-of-its-kind, 80-question survey was filled out by more than 30,000 educators.

Among the findings:
• Only 1 in 5 educators feel respected by government officials or the media.
• Fourteen percent strongly agree with the statement that they trust their administrator or supervisor.
• More than 75 percent say they do not have enough staff to get the work done.
• Seventy-eight percent say they are often physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day. Eighty-seven percent say the demands of their job are at least sometimes interfering with their family life.
• Among the greatest workplace stressors were the adoption of new initiatives without proper training or professional development, mandated curriculum and standardized tests…..

Overview of Respondents:
• 80% teachers/special education teachers
• 8% counselor, nurses, psychologists, social workers, librarians
• 12% other positions in schools

Occupational Traumatic Injuries Among Workers in Health Care Facilities — United States, 2012–2014

Source: Ahmed E. Gomaa, Loren C. Tapp, Sara E. Luckhaupt, Kelly Vanoli1, Raymond Francis Sarmiento, William M. Raudabaugh, Susan Nowlin, Susan M. Sprigg, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), Vol. 64 no. 15, April 24, 2015

In 2013, one in five reported nonfatal occupational injuries occurred among workers in the health care and social assistance industry, the highest number of such injuries reported for all private industries (1). In 2011, U.S. health care personnel experienced seven times the national rate of musculoskeletal disorders compared with all other private sector workers (2). To reduce the number of preventable injuries among health care personnel, CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), with collaborating partners, created the Occupational Health Safety Network (OHSN) to collect detailed injury data to help target prevention efforts. OHSN, a free, voluntary surveillance system for health care facilities, enables prompt and secure tracking of occupational injuries by type, occupation, location, and risk factors. This report describes OHSN and reports on current findings for three types of injuries. A total of 112 U.S. facilities reported 10,680 OSHA-recordable patient handling and movement (4,674 injuries); slips, trips, and falls (3,972 injuries); and workplace violence (2,034 injuries) injuries occurring from January 1, 2012–September 30, 2014. Incidence rates for patient handling; slips, trips, and falls; and workplace violence were 11.3, 9.6, and 4.9 incidents per 10,000 worker-months, respectively. Nurse assistants and nurses had the highest injury rates of all occupations examined. Focused interventions could mitigate some injuries. Data analyzed through OHSN identify where resources, such as lifting equipment and training, can be directed to potentially reduce patient handling injuries. Using OHSN can guide institutional and national interventions to protect health care personnel from common, disabling, preventable injuries…..