Category Archives: Health & Safety

OSHA Inaction: Onerous Requirements Imposed on OSHA Prevent the Agency from Issuing Lifesaving Rules

Source: Justin Feldman, Public Citizen, October 2011

According to certain pundits, a “regulatory hurricane” is brewing. Yet when it comes to health and safety protections for workers, there has been a regulatory drought. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has produced regulations during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama presidencies at a slower rate than in any other period in the agency’s history, While OSHA was once able to develop a rule in less than a year, the process now exceeds six years on average.

Five pending OSHA standards have been subject to delays ranging from 4 to 31 years. Analyzing OSHA’s risk assessment data, we found that eliminating the delays would have prevented more than 100,000 serious injuries, more than 10,000 cases of occupational illness and hundreds of worker fatalities. Additionally, there are hundreds of chemicals to which workers can be exposed at levels known to be unsafe, but which OSHA has not yet begun to address. Further, protections are lacking for such common hazards as heat stroke, repetitive motion injuries and workplace violence.


Source: Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP), 2011

ResistanceMap is a web-based collection of tools that allow accessible, engaging, and interactive exploration of more than 50 antimicrobial surveillance indicators from North America and Europe.

Researchers, policymakers, and the public can use the Map to gain insight into the trends and magnitude of an unfolding public health crisis. To reach a wider audeince, visualizations may be reembedded on any blog or website.

Sicker And Costlier: Healthcare Utilization Of U.S. Hospital Employees

Source: Thomson Reuters, Research Brief, August 2011
(registration required)

U.S. hospital workers are less healthy, consume more medical services, and accrue higher healthcare costs than the U.S. workforce at large, according to a study conducted by the Healthcare business of Thomson Reuters.

Researchers analyzed the health risk and healthcare utilization of 1.1 million hospital workers and their dependents and compared them with 17.8 million health plan members in all industries for the year ending with the third quarter of 2010. They used the Thomson Reuters MarketScan® databases, a repository of healthcare claims representing the real-world healthcare experience of millions of Americans. This study looked exclusively at workers with employer-sponsored health insurance.

The study found:
• Healthcare costs (medical care and prescription drugs) were 10 percent higher for hospital workers than the general employee population and 13 percent higher when employees’ dependents were included.

•Health risk for hospital employees and their dependents was 8.6 percent higher (based on a research methodology that assesses patient demographics, inpatient and outpatient diagnoses, and prescription drug use).

•Hospital employees and their dependents were more likely to be diagnosed and hospitalized for chronic medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes, congestive heart failure, HIV, hypertension, and mental illness.

•Hospital workers and their dependents were 22 percent more likely to visit the emergency room and spent 18 percent more time hospitalized.

•Hospital employees and their dependents had fewer physician office visits and received less ambulatory care than the employee population at large.

•A hospital or health system with 16,000 employees would save an estimated $1.5 million annually in medical and pharmacy costs for each 1 percent reduction in health risk.

Preventing Violence at Work

Source: Bonnie S. Michelman, Journal of Healthcare Protection Management, Vol. 27 no. 2, 2011
(subscription required)

Workplace violence is a basic concern of all industries, according to the author. Addressing the threat, she says, reduces costs, workplace injuries, and litigation. Above all, it saves lives. With planning, education, drills, and resource deployment, the risk of violence can be reduced. However, failure to recognize the risk factors and red flags that may point to an emerging problem, or doing a poor job of education staff about the issue can have a negative effect.
Related (from the same issue):
– Workplace violence in hospitals: Safe Havens No More
by Bryan Warren
– Workplace Violence Prevention Education After JCSEA
by Scott Buff
– Critical Issues on Gun Violence in the Hospital Workplace
by James Sawyer and Caroline Ramsey-Hamilton

Preventing Another 9/11 First Responders Tragedy – Irresponsible EPA Corrosive Dust Standards Uncorrected a Decade after WTC

Source: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Press Release, September 8, 2011

Washington, DC — On September 11, 2001, “First Responders” to the World Trade Center conflagration and nearby residents waded into dust so corrosive that it resulted in chemical burns to their respiratory system. These New York City police and firefighters were needlessly sacrificed due to woefully lax U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards which remain in effect but need correction, according to a rulemaking petition filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). …WTC First Responders were subjected to dust so caustic as to cause respiratory disabilities and deaths. Yet, if a similar scenario occurred today, the same results would recur. That is because EPA misapplied the international corrosivity standard and then systematically failed to test and communicate the caustic properties of WTC dust. As a result, the EPA standard is ten times more lax than the presumed safe levels for alkaline corrosives set by the United Nations (UN).

Enforcement Databases and Adds Visualizations/Animations

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, 2011

From the press release:
The U.S. Department of Labor today announced enhancements to its online enforcement database designed to improve public access to and understanding of the department’s enforcement actions. The updated website includes a number of new features, including map displays of inspection and violation data from the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and its Mine Safety and Health Administration, as well as the ability to view individual inspection records and the enforcement history of a particular company or mine….

…In addition to mapping capabilities, the updated site allows users to easily view important agency metrics; perform keyword searches; filter data by year, violations or penalties; and export search results or an entire data set into downloadable formats. A new “labs” feature allows users to create data visualizations and animations using several decades of MSHA data.

Influenza Vaccination Coverage Among Health-Care Personnel — United States, 2010-11 Influenza Season

Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC), Vol. 60 no. 32, August 19, 2011

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee recommend that all U.S. health-care personnel (HCP) be vaccinated annually against influenza (1). Nonetheless, influenza vaccination coverage among HCP in the United States has increased slowly over the past decade (2,3); during the 2009-10 influenza season, 61.9% of HCP received seasonal influenza vaccination (4). To update data with estimates from the 2010-11 influenza season, CDC conducted an Internet-based survey of 1,931 HCP who participated in three online survey panels. This report summarizes the results of that survey, which indicated that overall influenza vaccination coverage among HCP was 63.5% during the 2010-11 influenza season, similar to coverage for the 2009-10 season. Among HCP who reported working at a facility where vaccination was required by their employer, 98.1% were vaccinated. Among HCP without such an employer requirement but who were offered vaccination onsite, greater coverage was associated with a personal reminder from the employer to get vaccinated (69.9%), vaccination availability at no cost (67.9%), and vaccination availability for >1 day (68.8%). Influenza vaccination of HCP is needed to protect patients from HCP-transmitted disease. Maximizing influenza vaccination for all HCP is an important part of any comprehensive infection-control program.

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.