Category Archives: Health & Safety

Shift Work and Sleep: Optimizing Health, Safety, and Performance

Source: Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, Volume 53, S1, May 2011

Shift work is a fundamental component of the US workforce and an integral part of the lifestyles of a large proportion of the population. More than 22 million Americans work on shifts as part of their work life. Emerging research suggests that shift workers are at higher risk for a range of metabolic disorders and diseases (eg, obesity, cardiovascular disease, peptic ulcers, gastrointestinal problems, abnormal blood glucose levels, and metabolic syndrome). Sleep disorders associated with shift work also pose a serious public health risk, as they can impair an individual’s ability to perform effectively and may lead to occupational and traffic accidents.

Home Care Occupational Safety Subject of Conference

Source: Deane Beebe, PHI Policy Works blog, May 26, 2011

Occupational hazards and safety in home care were the focus of “Home Health Care Health and Safety: Emerging Occupational and Patient Safety Issues in Home Care for Patients,” a conference sponsored by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health (MSPH).

At the May 19 conference, three researchers presented their findings on the many serious health risks that home care aides and nurses face while on the job:

Hazards in the Home, by Jane Lipscomb, PH.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., of the University of Maryland Baltimore Schools of Nursing and Medicine
Summary of findings on sharps injuries and blood exposures, by Margaret Quinn, Sc.D., of the University of Massachusetts Lowell
Home Health Care Patient/Worker Health and Safety Issues, by Robyn RM Gershon, MHS, DrPH, Mailman School of Public Health Columbia University

Shift Work in Nurses: Contribution of Phenotypes and Genotypes to Adaptation

Source: Karen L. Gamble, Alison A. Motsinger-Reif, Akiko Hida, Hugo M. Borsetti, Stein V. Servick, et al., PLoS ONE, Vol. 6 no. 4, 2011

From the abstract:
Daily cycles of sleep/wake, hormones, and physiological processes are often misaligned with behavioral patterns during shift work, leading to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular/metabolic/gastrointestinal disorders, some types of cancer, and mental disorders including depression and anxiety. It is unclear how sleep timing, chronotype, and circadian clock gene variation contribute to adaptation to shift work.

Night-shift nurses who used sleep deprivation as a means to switch to and from diurnal sleep on work days (~25%) were the most poorly adapted to their work schedule. Chronotype also influenced efficacy of adaptation. In addition, polymorphisms in CLOCK, NPAS2, PER2, and PER3 were significantly associated with outcomes such as alcohol/caffeine consumption and sleepiness, as well as sleep phase, inertia and duration in both single- and multi-locus models. Many of these results were specific to shift type suggesting an interaction between genotype and environment (in this case, shift work).

Sleep strategy, chronotype, and genotype contribute to the adaptation of the circadian system to an environment that switches frequently and/or irregularly between different schedules of the light-dark cycle and social/workplace time. This study of shift work nurses illustrates how an environmental “stress” to the temporal organization of physiology and metabolism can have behavioral and health-related consequences. Because nurses are a key component of health care, these findings could have important implications for health-care policy.

Sleep Deprivation Weighs On Night Shift Workers

Source: Scott Hensley, NPR, Shots Health Blog, April 21, 2011

You can only will yourself to stay awake for so long. Eventually, the brain decides it has had enough and you’ll conk out.

In the wake of the problems with air traffic controllers snoozing on the job, Morning Edition host Mary Louise Kelly talks with Harvard sleep specialist Dr. Charles Czeisler about the limits of human endurance — especially for people on the night shift….

…Just to be clear, chronic sleepiness isn’t confined the those on the graveyard shift. A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more a third of Americans had less than 7 hours the night before they were question. And 38 percent of respondents said they had fallen asleep without meaning to during at least one day in the previous month.

At California Mental Hospitals, Fear Is Part Of The Job

Source: Ina Jaffe, NPR, Morning Edition, April 7, 2011

First of a two-part series.

The tipping point for major change is often tragedy. That may be the case in California at the state psychiatric hospital in Napa, where an employee was killed last October, allegedly by a patient — one of thousands of violent acts committed at the hospital that year.
Violence Surges At Hospital For Mentally Ill Criminals
Source: Ina Jaffe, NPR, Morning Edition, April 8, 2011

Using Additional Information on Working Hours to Predict Coronary Heart Disease: A Cohort Study

Source: Mika Kivimäki, G. David Batty, Mark Hamer, Jane E. Ferrie, Jussi Vahtera, Marianna Virtanen, Michael G. Marmot, Archana Singh-Manoux, and Martin J. Shipley, Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 154 no. 7, April 2011
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Long working hours have been associated with increased risk for coronary heart disease, but it is unclear whether the addition of working hours improves risk assessment beyond other cardiovascular risk factors. This study of 7095 civil service workers in the United Kingdom found that the addition of self-reported working hours to the Framingham score resulted in better identification of individuals who later developed coronary heart disease.
Work Days of 11 Hours Boost Risk for Heart Disease, Study Says
Source: Nicole Ostrow, Bloomberg, April 4, 2011

Bad Job Hurts Mental Health More Than Unemployment, Study Says

Source: Eva von Schaper, Bloomberg News, March 14, 2011

Working in a job marked by low control, high demands, complexity and the perception of unfair pay may lead to worse mental health than being unemployed, a study says.

Holding a job with little psychosocial quality doesn’t provide any of the benefits of being employed in a more satisfying position, according to the study published today in the journal Occupational Environmental Medicine.

Because paid work is linked to a defined role, structured time and purpose, mental-health researchers have often seen any kind of employment as beneficial. This study found, in contrast, that moving from unemployment to a job of low quality could be detrimental, Peter Butterworth, of Australian National University in Canberra, said in the paper.

Right-to-Work Laws and Fatalities in Construction

Source: Roland Zullo, Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy University of Michigan, March 2011

We compiled state-level data from four public sources to test whether union density and right-to-work laws are associated with worker fatalities in the construction industry and in construction occupations. For both measures, higher levels of unionization equate with lower fatality rates. Right-to-work laws show no association with fatality rates.

Out of the Smoke and the Flame: The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and its Legacy

Source: New Labor Forum, Vol. 20 no. 1, Winter 2011

March of this year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. For an amnesiac culture like our own, this is one of those rare moments that endure in the public memory – our readers hardly have to be reminded of it. So we are instead publishing four articles that commemorate that tragedy by examining its various legacies.

Articles include:
– Why No Fire This Time?: From the Mass Strike to no Strike
By Stephen Pimpare
Exploring the limits of resistance since the days of the Triangle Fire.

– From the Triangle Fire to the BP Explosion: A Short History of the Century-Long Movement for Safety and Health
By Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner
Is the glass half empty or half full?

– Feminism and the Labor Movement: A Century of Collaboration and Conflict
By Eileen Boris and Annelise Orleck
Is the feminization of the labor movement an indicator of its decline or a harbinger of its renewal?