Category Archives: Health & Safety

24-hour work shifts, sedentary work, and obesity in male firefighters

Source: BongKyoo Choi, Marnie Dobson, Peter Schnall, and Javier Garcia-Rivas, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 59 Issue 6, June 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background: Little is known about the occupational risk factors for obesity in US firefighters.
Methods: 308 male California firefighters, who participated in a work and obesity project, were chosen. Working conditions were measured with a firefighter-specific occupational health questionnaire. Adiposity was clinically assessed using body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), and body fat percent.
Results: In a multivariate analysis, the prevalence of obesity by all measures was significantly higher in the firefighters who reported seventeen to twenty-one shifts than those who reported eight to eleven shifts in the past month. Prolonged sedentary work was also a risk factor for obesity by BMI. Furthermore, there was a linear dose-response relationship of obesity by BMI and WC with the number of 24-hr shifts and sedentary work.
Conclusions: Many additional 24-hr shifts and prolonged sedentary work substantially increased the risk for obesity in male firefighters.

Latino immigrant day laborer perceptions of occupational safety and health information preferences

Source: Claudia M. Díaz Fuentes, Leonardo Martinez Pantoja, Meshawn Tarver, Sandy A. Geschwind and Marielena Lara, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 59 Issue 6, June 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background: We address immigrant day laborers’ experiences with occupational safety in the construction industry in New Orleans, and opinions about content and method of communication for educational interventions to reduce occupational risks.
Methods: In 2011, we conducted seven focus groups with 48 Spanish-speaking day laborers (8 women, 40 men, 35 years on average). Focus group results are based on thematic analysis.
Results: Most employers did not provide safety equipment, threatened to dismiss workers who asked for it, and did not provide health insurance. Attitudes toward accepting unsafe work conditions varied. Women faced lower pay and hiring difficulties than men. Day laborers preferred audio format over written, and content about consequences from and equipment for different jobs/exposures.
Conclusions: Day laborers have common occupational experiences, but differences existed by gender, literacy and sense of control over safety. Day laborer information preferences and use of media needs further studying.

The Decline of American Unions Is a Threat to Public Health

Source: Michael J. Wright, American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 106, No. 6, June 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Empowerment is critical for public health. The empowerment of women translates to health for all members of society. Community empowerment enables access to affordable health care, decent housing, and public safety. Unions are the organizations through which workers collectively become empowered. But today unions are under attack and in decline. Two articles in this issue of AJPH demonstrate why this is a threat to public health.

Hagedorn et al. examined 16 binding union contracts with employers in the Pacific Northwest, showing how the contracts improved the lives and promoted the health of union members. They found that the contracts raised earnings, provided retirement benefits, included employer-paid health insurance, promoted occupational safety and health, and protected workers from discrimination and unfair treatment. All are important determinants of health.

The article by Tsao et al. indirectly shows why union efforts to increase earnings are especially important. The authors modeled an increase in New York City’s minimum wage to $15, and found that it could have prevented 2800 to 5500 premature deaths between 2008 and 2012. Of course, wage increases for members are usually at the top of union collective bargaining agendas, especially for newly organized low-wage workers. Unions also are at the forefront of efforts to increase the minimum wage for all workers.
Related:
The Role of Labor Unions in Creating Working Conditions That Promote Public Health
Jenn Hagedorn, Claudia Alexandra Paras, Howard Greenwich, Amy Hagopian, American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 106, No. 6, June 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We sought to portray how collective bargaining contracts promote public health, beyond their known effect on individual, family, and community well-being. In November 2014, we created an abstraction tool to identify health-related elements in 16 union contracts from industries in the Pacific Northwest. After enumerating the contract-protected benefits and working conditions, we interviewed union organizers and members to learn how these promoted health. Labor union contracts create higher wage and benefit standards, working hours limits, workplace hazards protections, and other factors. Unions also promote well-being by encouraging democratic participation and a sense of community among workers. Labor union contracts are largely underutilized, but a potentially fertile ground for public health innovation. Public health practitioners and labor unions would benefit by partnering to create sophisticated contracts to address social determinants of health.

Estimating Potential Reductions in Premature Mortality in New York City From Raising the Minimum Wage to $15
Tsu-Yu Tsao, Kevin J. Konty, Gretchen Van Wye, Oxiris Barbot, James L. Hadler, Natalia Linos, Mary T. Bassett, American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 106, No. 6, June 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Objectives. To assess potential reductions in premature mortality that could have been achieved in 2008 to 2012 if the minimum wage had been $15 per hour in New York City.

Methods. Using the 2008 to 2012 American Community Survey, we performed simulations to assess how the proportion of low-income residents in each neighborhood might change with a hypothetical $15 minimum wage under alternative assumptions of labor market dynamics. We developed an ecological model of premature death to determine the differences between the levels of premature mortality as predicted by the actual proportions of low-income residents in 2008 to 2012 and the levels predicted by the proportions of low-income residents under a hypothetical $15 minimum wage.

Results. A $15 minimum wage could have averted 2800 to 5500 premature deaths between 2008 and 2012 in New York City, representing 4% to 8% of total premature deaths in that period. Most of these avertable deaths would be realized in lower-income communities, in which residents are predominantly people of color.

Conclusions. A higher minimum wage may have substantial positive effects on health and should be considered as an instrument to address health disparities.

Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2015

Source: Lauren Musu-Gillette, Barbara A. Oudekerk, Anlan Zhang, National Center for Education Statistics, Bureau of Justice Statistics, American Institutes for Research, NCJ 249758, NCES 2016-079, May 2016

This report covers topics such as victimization, teacher injury, bullying and cyber-bullying, school conditions, fights, weapons, availability and student use of drugs and alcohol, student perceptions of personal safety at school, and criminal incidents at postsecondary institutions. Indicators of crime and safety are compared across different population subgroups and over time. Data on crimes that occur away from school are offered as a point of comparison where available.

Presents data on crime and safety at school from the perspectives of students, teachers, and principals. This annual report, a joint effort by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), provides the most current statistical information on the nature of crime in schools. This report contains 23 indicators of crime and safety at school from a number of sources, including the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), the School Crime Supplement to the NCVS, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the School Survey on Crime and Safety, and the School and Staffing Survey. Topics covered include victimization at school, teacher injury, bullying and cyber-bullying, school conditions, fights, weapons, availability and student use of drugs and alcohol, student perceptions of personal safety at school, and crime at postsecondary institutions.

Highlights:
– In 2014, among students ages 12–18, there were about 850,100 nonfatal victimizations at school, which included 363,700 theft victimizations and 486,400 violent victimizations (simple assault and serious violent victimizations).
– In 2014, students ages 12–18 experienced 33 nonfatal victimizations per 1,000 students at school and 24 per 1,000 students away from school.
– Between 1992 and 2014, the total victimization rate at school declined 82 percent, from 181 victimizations per 1,000 students in 1992 to 33 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2014. The total victimization rate away from school declined 86 percent, from 173 victimizations per 1,000 students in 1992 to 24 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2014.
– In 2014, students residing in rural areas had higher rates of total victimization at school (53 victimizations per 1,000 students) than students residing in suburban areas (28 victimizations per 1,000 students).
Related:
Summary

No relief: Denial of bathroom breaks in the poultry industry

Source: Oxfam America, May 2016

From the summary:
Chicken is the most popular meat in America, and the poultry industry is booming. But workers on the processing line do not share in the bounty. Poultry workers 1) earn low wages of diminishing value, 2) suffer elevated rates of injury and illness, and 3) often experience a climate of fear in the workplace.
Despite this, though, workers themselves say that the thing that offends their dignity most is simple: lack of adequate bathroom breaks, and the suffering that entails, especially for women.

The top four chicken companies control roughly 60 percent of the domestic market (Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms), and they can and should implement changes that will improve conditions for poultry workers across the country.

This report is part of Oxfam’s continuing campaign to advocate for improved conditions for US poultry workers. The campaign launched in October 2015, with publication of our comprehensive report, Lives on the Line: The Human cost of Cheap Chicken.

The immersive website, Lives on the Line, uses multimedia to convey the experiences of workers inside the poultry plant

Waste Workers’ Exposure to Airborne Fungal and Bacterial Species in the Truck Cab and During Waste Collection

Source: Anne Mette Madsen, Taif Alwan, Anders Ørberg, Katrine Uhrbrand and Marie Birk Jørgensen, Annals of Occupational Hygiene, Advance Access, First published online: April 20, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
A large number of people work with garbage collection, and exposure to microorganisms is considered an occupational health problem. However, knowledge on microbial exposure at species level is limited. The aim of the study was to achieve knowledge on waste collectors’ exposure to airborne inhalable fungal and bacterial species during waste collection with focus on the transport of airborne microorganisms into the truck cab. Airborne microorganisms were collected with samplers mounted in the truck cab, on the workers’ clothes, and outdoors. Fungal and bacterial species were quantified and identified. The study showed that the workers were exposed to between 112 and 4.8×104 bacteria m−3 air and 326 and 4.6×104 fungi m−3 air. The personal exposures to bacteria and fungi were significantly higher than the concentrations measured in the truck cabs and in the outdoor references. On average, the fungal and bacterial concentrations in truck cabs were 111 and 7.7 times higher than outdoor reference measurements. In total, 23 fungal and 38 bacterial species were found and identified. Most fungal species belonged to the genus Penicillium and in total 11 Penicillium species were found. Identical fungal species were often found both in a personal sample and in the same person’s truck cab, but concentrations were on average 27 times higher in personal samples. Concentrations of fungal and bacterial species found only in the personal samples were lower than concentrations of species also found in truck cabs. Skin-related bacteria constituted a large fraction of bacterial isolates found in personal and truck cab samples. In total, six Staphylococcus species were found. In outdoor samples, no skin-related bacteria were found. On average, concentrations of bacterial species found both in the truck cab and personal samples were 77 times higher in personal samples than in truck cab samples. In conclusion, high concentrations of fungi were found in truck cabs, but the highest concentrations were found in personal samples; fungal and bacterial species found in high concentrations in personal samples were also found in truck cabs, but in lower concentrations indicating that both fungi and bacteria are transported by the workers into the truck cab, and are subsequently aerosolized in the truck cab.

2016 Job Outlook

Source: Tom Musick, Safety + Health, April 24, 2016

….How is worker safety affected by more frequent career movement among safety professionals? For Safety+Health’s 2016 Job Outlook survey, almost 800 people helped us find out, responding to questions about the status of their jobs and their organizations and whether they hoped to work somewhere else in the next five years. Most importantly, respondents provided honest, thoughtful answers to open-ended questions about whether the trend of switching jobs is here to stay – and whether that is good for safety…..

Police officers who responded to 9/11: Comorbidity of PTSD, depression, and anxiety 10–11 years later

Source: Rosemarie M. Bowler, Erica S. Kornblith, Jiehui Li, Shane W. Adams, Vihra V. Gocheva, Ralf Schwarzer and James E. Cone, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, April 20, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background: After the 9/11/2001 World Trade Center (WTC) attack, many police-responders developed PTSD and might be vulnerable to develop depression and/or anxiety. Comorbidity of PTSD, depression, and/or anxiety is examined.

Method: Police enrollees from the WTC Health Registry were categorized into four groups based on comorbidity of PTSD, depression, and anxiety. DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for PTSD were used. Depression and anxiety were assessed with standardized psychometric inventories. Multinomial logistic regression was used to identify putative risk factors associated with comorbidity of PTSD.

Results: Of 243 (12.9% of total) police with probable PTSD, 21.8% had probable PTSD without comorbidity, 24.7% had depression, 5.8% had anxiety, and 47.7% had comorbid depression and anxiety. Risk factors for comorbid PTSD, depression, and anxiety include being Hispanic, decrease in income, experiencing physical injury on 9/11, experiencing stressful/traumatic events since 9/11, and being unemployed/retired.

Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, 2016

Source: AFL-CIO, April 2016

From the summary:
This 2016 edition of Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect marks the 25th year the AFL-CIO has produced a report on the state of safety and health protections for America’s workers. More than 532,000 workers now can say their lives have been saved since the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which promised workers in this country the right to a safe job. Since that time, workplace safety and health conditions have improved but at the same time some conditions have gotten worse and too many workers remain at serious risk of injury, illness or death.

• In 2014, 4,821 workers were killed on the job in the United States, and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases, resulting in a loss of 150 workers each day from hazardous working conditions.
• Older workers are at a greater risk. Thirty-five percent of all fatalities occurred in workers age 55 or older, and workers 65 or older have three times the risk of dying on the job as other workers.
• The oil and gas industry remains very dangerous–the fatality rate for oil and gas extraction is nearly five times the national average. States with prominent oil and gas industries continue to be among the most dangerous states to work.
• Latino workers continue to be at higher risk than other workers. There were 804 Latino workers killed on the job in 2014, 64% of whom were immigrant workers.
• Workplace violence is a serious and growing problem for workers, especially for health care professionals and women, who suffered 66% of the lost-time injuries related to workplace violence.
• Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) resources are still too few and declining with only 1,840 federal and state inspectors to inspect 8 million workplaces. This means there are enough inspectors for federal OSHA to inspect workplaces once every 145 years, on average, and state OSHA plans have enough to inspect workplaces once every 97 years.
• The current level of federal and state OSHA inspectors provides one inspector for every 74,760 workers. Despite a new law that will allow OSHA to increase its penalties for workplace safety and health violations, penalties are still too weak to be an effective deterrent for some employers and large corporations…..

Related:
Access the Digital Toolkit

2016 Workers Memorial Day Materials:
Workers Memorial Day Fact Sheet (English)
Workers Memorial Day Fact Sheet (Spanish)
Poster
Clip Art (PDF)
Sticker Art  (PDF)
Workers Memorial Day Materials Order Form  (PDF)
Report on Workers Memorial Day Events Form (PDF)

Rejecting the Grand Bargain: What Happens When Large Companies Opt Out of Workers’ Compensation?

Source: Alison D. Morantz, Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 488, March 18, 2016

From the abstract:
The “grand bargain” of workers’ compensation, whereby workers relinquished the right to sue their employers in exchange for no-fault occupational injury insurance, was one of the great tort reforms of the Twentieth Century. However, there is one U.S. state that has always permitted employers to decline workers’ compensation coverage, and in which many firms (“nonsubscribers”) have chosen to do so: Texas. This study examines the impact of Texas nonsubscription on fifteen large, multistate nonsubscribers that provided their Texas employees with customized occupational injury insurance benefits (“private plans”) in lieu of workers’ compensation coverage between 1998 and 2010. As economic theory would lead one to expect, nonsubscription generated considerable cost savings. My preferred estimates suggest that costs per worker hour fell by about 44 percent. These savings were driven by a drop in the frequency of more serious claims involving replacement of lost wages, and by a decline in costs per claim. Both medical and wage-replacement costs fell substantially. Although the decline in wage-replacement costs was larger in percentage terms than the drop in medical costs, the latter was equally financially consequential since medical costs comprise a larger share of total costs. The second stage, which compares the effect of nonsubscription across different types of injuries, finds that non-traumatic injury claims were more responsive to nonsubscription than traumatic ones. In part, this disparity reflects the fact that private plans categorically exclude some non-traumatic injuries from the scope of coverage. Yet even those non-traumatic injuries that were not excluded from coverage declined more than traumatic injuries, consistent with aggressive claim screening by employers and/or a decline in over-claiming and over-utilization by employees in the nonsubscription environment. The third stage examines the effect of nonsubscription on severe, traumatic injuries, which are generally the least susceptible to reporting bias and moral hazard. The sizable and significant decline in such injuries is consistent with an improvement in real safety, although it could also be explained by aggressive claim screening. The final stage of the study probes whether four ubiquitous features of private plans – non-coverage of permanent partial disabilities, categorical exclusion of many diseases and some non-traumatic injuries, capped benefits, and lack of chiropractic care – explain the observed trends. Surprisingly, these features account for little of the estimated cost savings. Although many study participants describe limited provider choice and 24-hour reporting windows as major cost drivers, data limitations preclude me from identifying their respective impacts. Overall, my findings suggest an urgent need for policymakers to examine the economic and distributional effects of converting workers’ compensation from a cornerstone of the social welfare state into an optional program that exists alongside privately-provided forms of occupational injury insurance.