Category Archives: Health & Safety

Are Your Co-Workers Killing You?

Source: Jonah Lehrer, Wired, Frontal Cortex, August 8, 2011

…A new study led by Arie Shirom at Tel Aviv University reveals the powerful impact of the workplace on longevity. The researchers tracked 820 adults for twenty years, starting with a routine health examination in 1988. The subjects worked in various professions, from finance to manufacturing to health care. They were interviewed repeatedly about conditions at their workplace, from the behavior of the boss to the niceness of their colleagues. Over the ensuing decades, their health was closely monitored, allowing the scientists to control for various medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, smoking and depression.

The first thing the researchers discovered is that office conditions matter. A lot…

Regulations at Work: Five Rules that Save Workers’ Lives and Protect their Health

Source: Justin Feldman, Public Citizen, July 2011

From the summary:
Lax regulation was a chief culprit in a number of recent disasters in the U.S. The financial meltdown, the BP oil spill, and the Upper Big Branch mine explosion each demonstrate the need for government oversight of corporations. But despite this recent history, Republicans, small-government conservatives, and even some Democrats have spent much of the past two years denouncing regulations and blaming them for slowing the economic recovery.

But the real-world record contradicts the critics’ narrative. Contrary to the broadsides against regulations in general, many actual regulations impose minimal costs on industry in proportion to the benefits they yield. This paper looks at five worker-safety regulations that were tremendously successful in reducing employee injuries, illnesses and fatalities.
See also:
Press release
Cranes and Derricks: The Prolonged Creation of a Key Public Safety Rule

Workers’ Compensation: Benefits, Coverage, and Costs, 2009

Source: Ishita Sengupta, Virginia Reno, and John F. Burton, Jr. , National Academy of Social Insurance, August 2011

This is the fourteenth report the Academy has issued on workers’ compensation national data. Before the National Academy of Social Insurance began the publication, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) produced the only comprehensive national data on workers’ compensation benefits and costs with annual estimates dating back to 1946. SSA discontinued the series in 1995 after publishing data for 1992-93.

This report provides a benchmark of the coverage, benefits, and costs of workers’ compensation in 2009, to facilitate policymaking and comparisons with other social insurance and employee benefit programs….Key estimates from this year’s report are summarized below.

National Trends:
– Workers’ compensation programs in the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and federal programs paid $58.3 billion in benefits in 2009, an increase of 0.4 percent from $58.1 billion in 2008.
– Medical payments decreased by 1.1 percent, to $28.9 billion, in 2009 but cash benefits to injured workers increased by 1.9 percent to $29.4 billion.
– Costs to employers fell by 7.6 percent in 2009 to $73.9 billion. This is the largest percentage decline in employer costs since 1987.
– Workers’ compensation covered an estimated 124.9 million workers in 2009, a decrease of 4.4 percent from the previous year due to the recession, which began in 2007. Aggregate wages of covered workers fell by 4.7 percent in 2009.
– Measured as a percentage of the wages of covered workers, benefits paid to workers increased whereas employer costs fell in 2009. As a share of covered wages, employers’ costs in 2009 were lower than in any year since 1980
– A total of 4,551 fatal work injuries occurred in 2009, which is a 12.7 percent decrease from the number reported in 2008, and the lowest since 1992.

State Trends:
– Between 2008 and 2009, the total amount of benefits paid to injured workers declined in 27 jurisdictions while the remaining 24 jurisdictions experienced an increase in benefit payments.
– Among the 51 jurisdictions (including the District of Columbia), on average from 2008 to 2009, medical benefits declined in 27 states and cash benefits increased in 28 states.

Use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers as a risk factor for norovirus outbreaks in long-term care facilities in northern New England: December 2006 to March 2007

Source: David D. Blaney, Elizabeth R. Daly, Kathryn B. Kirkland, Jon Eric Tongren, Patsy Tassler Kelso, Elizabeth A. Talbot, AJIC: American Journal of Infection Control, Volume 39, Issue 4, May 2011
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
During December 2006 to March 2007, a substantial increase in norovirus illnesses was noted in northern New England. We sought to identify institutional risk factors for norovirus outbreaks in northern New England long-term care facilities (LTCFs)….State health departments in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont distributed surveys to infection preventionists at all LTCFs in their respective states. We collected information regarding facility attributes, routine staff use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer (ABHS) versus soap and water, facility cleaning practices, and occurrence of any acute gastroenteritis outbreaks during December 2006 to March 2007. Norovirus confirmation was conducted in public health laboratories. Data were analyzed with univariate and logistic regression methods…This study suggests that preferential use of ABHS over soap and water for routine hand hygiene might be associated with increased risk of norovirus outbreaks in LTCFs.

See also:
Hand Sanitizers May Actually Cause Outbreaks Of Norovirus
Source: Joseph Nordqvist, Medical News Today, 15 Aug 2011

Hand sanitizer no substitute for hand-washing: Study
Source: Derek Abma, Montreal Gazette, August 10, 2011

Minority Stress and Physical Health among Sexual Minorities

Source: David M. Frost, Keren Lehavot, Ilan H. Meyer, Williams Institute, August 2011

New research shows that lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals (LGB) are at increased risk for physical health problems due to prejudice-related stress. On August 5, 2011, findings from the new report, “Minority Stress and Physical Health Among Sexual Minorities,” written by David M. Frost, Keren Lehavot, and Ilan H. Meyer, will be presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual conference in Washington, DC. The researchers found that LGB people who had experienced prejudice-related major life events were about three times more likely to have suffered a serious physical health problem over a one-year follow-up period than those who had not experienced such events.. The effects of prejudice-related events remained statistically significant even after controlling for the experience of other stressful events, as well as other factors known to affect physical health, such as age, gender, employment, and lifetime health history.
See also:
Press release

Inmate Health Care and Communicable Diseases

Source: Corrections Compendium, Vol. 35 no. 4, Winter 2010

For fiscal or calendar year 2009, 44 U.S. correctional systems reported actual expenditures of $4.38 billion to pay for medical care for the inmates housed in their facilities. The average amount spent per inmate indicated by 39 of the reporting systems that were able to provide actual figures was $4,940. Information received form the two responding Canadian systems is not included in this summary but is noted on the individual tables.

The table includes the following by state:
– Average Daily Population in 2009
– Percentage Allocated From Total DOC Budget
– Actual Expenditure From Total DOC Budget
– Average Annual Expenditure Per Inmate
– Budget Changes From 2008 to 2009
Increased, Decreased, Same, and Reasons for Change
– Consent Decree Mandate
– Total Staff in 2009
Internal, Contracted
– Staff Changes From 2008 to 2009
Increased, Decreased, Same, and Reasons for Change

Nurses’ Health Studies

Source: Principal investigators: Frank E. Speizer, Susan E. Hankinson, Walter C. Willett, Affiliated institutions: Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Children’s Hospital Boston, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Channing Laboratory, 2011

The Nurses’ Health Studies are among the largest and longest running investigations of factors that influence women’s health. Started in 1976 and expanded in 1989, the information provided by the 238,000 dedicated nurse-participants has led to many new insights on health and disease. While the prevention of cancer is still a primary focus, the study has also produced landmark data on cardiovascular disease, diabetes and many other conditions. Most importantly, these studies have shown that diet, physical activity and other lifestyle factors can powerfully promote better health.

Shiftwork and Medication Use: What Does the Research Tell Us

Source: Circadian, Managing 24/7, 2011

Do shiftworkers have higher rates of medication use than daytime workers? While anecdotal evidence supports this hypothesis, there are few studies on this issue…In conclusion, the data does suggest that shiftworkers have higher rates of medication use than daytime workers. The good news is that research has also shown that through training, and health and wellness programs you can improve shiftworker health and reliance on medications.

Are brand-name hospitals better?

Source: ConsumerReports.org, Last Reviewed: June 2011

Most hospitals don’t operate independently but instead are part of a large health-care system that often has a well-known name. Think Baylor Health Care, the Cleveland Clinic, the Henry Ford Health system, and the Mayo Clinic.

We recently took a close look at 61 systems with at least five hospitals that publicly report data on hospital-acquired infections. We focused on bloodstream infections in their intensive-care units that stemmed from central-lines, which are large catheters used to deliver fluids, medication, and nutrition to patients. They are the most common hospital-acquired infections, and kill up to 25 percent of the people who develop them….

….Bottom line: A famous name doesn’t guarantee low bloodstream-infection rates, and results can vary considerably, even among hospitals in the same system.

Assault Rates and Implementation of a Workplace Violence Prevention Program in the Veterans Health Care Administration

Source: David C. Mohr, Nicholas Warren, Michael J. Hodgson, David J. Drummond, Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, Volume 53 Issue 5, May 2011
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Objective: This study examined the relationship between changes in assault rates over time and the implementation of a workplace violence prevention (WVP) program in 138 Department of Veterans Affairs health care facilities.

Results: Training implementation was negatively associated with assault rates. Facilities with smaller bed sizes and without academic affiliates had lower assault rates.

Conclusions: Particular attention should be given to these dimensions because they may be associated with lower facility-level assault rates.