Category Archives: Health & Safety

Smokers Need Not Apply: Hiring Bans in the Public Sector

Source: Heather Kerrigan, Governing, Public Workforce newsletter, January 16, 2013

…Virginia is one of about 29 states plus the District of Columbia with laws preventing “lifestyle discrimination” in the workplace, while the other 21 other states have free reign to explore their options when it comes to cutting health-care costs. … Banning certain subsets of people from employment isn’t a new concept … but the growing number of employment bans on smokers has raised questions about whether the practice is discriminatory. The answer is two-fold: Federal law specifies the factors that employers aren’t allowed to use to refuse hiring someone — such as age, race, disability and gender — and smokers aren’t considered a protected class. On the other hand, there are the 29 states plus the District of Columbia that ban lifestyle discrimination, but some of these laws allow hiring bans on smokers for certain jobs like those in the public safety and nonprofit industries. …

For Safe Food System, Workers Need Earned Sick Days

Source: Liz Ben-Ishai, Center for Law and Social Policy, January 7, 2013

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration proposed two broad new food safety rules – marking the first major food safety rulemaking since the 1930s. These rules came about because of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was passed more than two years ago. Since the passage of the law, consumer advocates have pressured the government to move forward with the rulemaking process, to little avail. While powerful interests and politics held up the process, the human and economic costs of food-borne illness accumulated. One in six Americans becomes sick from contaminated food each year, which adds up to 48 million cases of food-borne disease annually.

These rules are a major step forward for consumer safety. However, policy makers should take note that a major gap in labor protections for workers who handle our food continues to imperil the safety of our food system: most farmworkers and restaurant workers, as well as other food chain workers, receive no earned sick days, which means many are forced to come to work when sick. This lack of protections is not only unfair to workers, but also 1) dangerous for consumers, who risk infection and illness when they eat food handled by sick workers, 2) bad for businesses, and 3) harmful to the U.S. economy….

Association Between World Trade Center Exposure and Excess Cancer Risk

Source: Jiehui Li, James E. Cone, Amy R. Kahn, Robert M. Brackbill, Mark R. Farfel, Carolyn M. Greene, James L. Hadler, Leslie T. Stayner, Steven D. Stellman, JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol 308, No. 23, December 19, 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, resulted in the release of known and suspected carcinogens into the environment. There is public concern that exposures may have resulted in increased cancers…. Among persons enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry, there was an excess risk for prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, and myeloma in 2007-2008 compared with that for New York State residents; however, these findings were based on a small number of events and multiple comparisons. No significant associations were observed with intensity of World Trade Center exposures. Longer follow-up for typically long-latency cancers and attention to specific cancer sites are needed….

Fear is a Disease: The Impact of Fear and Exposure to Infectious Disease on Correctional Officer Job Stress and Satisfaction

Source: Deborah J. Hartley, Mario A. Davila, James W. Marquart, Janet L. Mullings, Journal American Journal of Criminal Justice, June 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study examined individual and work-level factors that impact job stress and satisfaction for correctional officers. Existing research has explored officer job stress and satisfaction, but very few studies have focused specifically on fear of contracting an infectious disease while at work (HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and tuberculosis), and the impact fear of and exposure to infectious disease have on correctional officer job stress and satisfaction. Random sample data were collected from 2,999 male and female officers from across the state of Texas to assess job stress, satisfaction, personal safety, and exposure to infectious disease. Ordinary Least Squares analyses indicated that fear of disease was positively correlated with job stress, and inversely correlated with job satisfaction. Exposure to disease however, failed to yield any significant effects on job stress or satisfaction. Officers who felt that their supervisors were supportive of them on the job reported less stress and higher satisfaction levels, while perceived dangerousness of the job was positively correlated with job stress. These findings highlight the importance of supervisory support as well as continuous, in-depth education and training on infectious diseases for officers.

Dishwashing Won't Kill Tummy-Troubling Norovirus: Study

Source: HealthDay, News & Views, December 13, 2012

Commercial dishwashers can kill everyday bacteria but not norovirus, the cause of stomach flu and many foodborne illnesses around the world, according to a new study.

Although restaurant-industry guidelines for cleaning dishes and silverware eliminate bacteria, they are not effective against norovirus, said researchers from Ohio State University. They found the virus can withstand both manual and mechanical washing….
See also:
Efficacies of Sodium Hypochlorite and Quaternary Ammonium Sanitizers for Reduction of Norovirus and Selected Bacteria during Ware-Washing Operations
Source: Lizanel Feliciano, Jianrong Li, Jaesung Lee, Melvin A. Pascall, PLOS One, December 5, 2012

Stop, drop, and roll: workplace hazards of local government firefighers, 2009

Source: Gary M. Kurlick, Monthly Labor Review, Vol. 135, No. 11, November 2012

From the abstract:
Unlike those in many other professions, firefighters regularly face hazardous working conditions. Candidates undergo rigorous training and generally must pass written, physical, and medical examinations before they are allowed to work in hazardous working environments. Despite the prerequisites, the risk of fatal injuries is 25.7 percent higher and the risk of nonfatal injuries and illnesses to firefighters is over two times greater than to all workers. This article uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) and Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) to observe how often firefighters are injured at work, when they are hurt, where they are injured, and how their injuries compare with those of workers in other professions.

Home Economics: The Invisible and Unregulated World of Domestic Work

Source: Linda Burnham, Nik Theodore, National Domestic Workers Alliance, 2012

From the summary:
Domestic workers play an increasingly significant role in the U.S. economy. Yet the labor of domestic workers is invisible and unregulated. These factors combine to make domestic workers especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse on the job….

…Home Economics: The Invisible and Unregulated World of Domestic Work presents the results of the first national survey of domestic workers in the US. It breaks new ground by providing an empirically based and representative picture of domestic employment in 21st century America. We asked a sample of domestic workers a standardized set of questions focusing in four aspects of the industry:
• pay rates, benefits, and their impact on the lives of workers and their families;
• employment arrangements and employers’ compliance with employment agreements;
• workplace conditions, on-the-job injuries, and access to health care;
• abuse at work and the ability to remedy substandard conditions.

We surveyed 2,086 nannies, caregivers, and housecleaners in 14 metropolitan areas. The survey was conducted in nine languages. Domestic workers from 71 countries were interviewed. The study employed a participatory methodology in which 190 domestic workers and organizers from 34 community organizations collaborated in survey design, the fielding of the survey, and the preliminary analysis of the data.
See also:
Key Findings
Explore the Data

Home Economics: A Discussion about the Unregulated World of Domestic Work
Source: Aspen Institute, February 4, 2013

DataCenter and NDWA at 2013 CBPR Institute
Source: DataCenter and National Domestic Workers Alliance, July 23, 2013
DataCenter and National Domestic Workers Alliance present the details of the research project that produced the groundbreaking report “Home Economics: The Invisible and Unregulated World of Domestic Work.”

Legal And Policy Standards For Addressing Workplace Racism: Employer Liability And Shared Responsibility For Race-Based Traumatic Stress

Source: Robert T. Carter, Thomas D. Scheuermann, University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, Religion, Gender and Class, Volume 12, Number 1, 2012

…Despite progress in the half century since Brown v. Board of Education and the demise of the “separate but equal” doctrine, harmful and costly levels of discrimination, racism, and racial harassment continue to exist, including in the workplace. Attempts to redress these ills, particularly in the employment setting, have been cumbersome and often ineffective for aggrieved employees as they have sought redress either administratively through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or in the federal courts. One indication of the dismal prospects for employees injured by racial discrimination and harassment is that, in spite of diligent efforts (and until recently a shrinking staff), the EEOC backlog of cases numbered 86,338 as of September 2010. Furthermore, when employee-plaintiffs seek to pursue their cases through state or federal administrative agencies or courts, the standards established in federal statutes and court rulings present a daunting “web” of choices for them. The choices are complex for defendant employers and their respective counsel as well. This confusion is most acutely felt in the case of employees who have experienced severe injuries such as race-based traumatic stress (RBTS) resulting from workplace harassment, as they seek just compensation for their injuries and for the harassment to cease.

This Article proposes a legal and policy framework for more effective prevention of and legal redress for workplace harassment and discrimination. This approach focuses on employees who have suffered a severe, demonstrable emotional and psychological injury due to harassment or discrimination, i.e. race-based traumatic stress (RBTS). The Article begins with the assertion that America is not in a “post-racial” stage and that racism and racial harassment, both intentional and more subtle, are unfortunately still present in various settings including the workplace. A brief overview of current federal employment law related to racial harassment and discrimination, and its deficits, is provided, and the use of tort concepts to complement and strengthen current avenues to legal redress is proposed and discussed. Finally, this Article proposes a comprehensive approach to workplace harassment and discrimination….

Updated BLS Occupational Injury and Illness Classification System

Source: Joyce M. Northwood, Eric F. Sygnatur, and Janice A. Windau, Monthly Labor Review, Vol. 135, No. 8, August 2012

The evolving nature of the U.S. workplace, along with medical and technological advances, necessitated a revision to the Occupational Injury and Illness Classification System employed by the bls Occupational Safety and Health Statistics program; the new version also incorporates a number of enhancements to the original, first released in 1992.

Non-violence-related Workplace Injuries Among Emergency Nurses in the United States: Implications for Improving Safe Practice, Safe Care

Source: Cydne Perhats, Vicki Keough, Jeanne Fogarty, Nancy L. Hughes, Carol J. Kappelman, Mary Scott, Jason Moretz, Journal of Emergency Nursing, Volume 38, Issue 6, November 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Introduction: Health care workers are more likely than most other occupations to experience work-related injuries, and emergency nurses frequently encounter job-related hazards in their daily routine. Risk factors for non-violence-related workplace injuries among nurses include heavy workloads, aging of the nursing workforce, workplace environmental factors, obesity, and non-standard work schedules. These factors impact nurses’ decisions regarding whether or not to return to their job or to stay in their field of practice, thereby exacerbating workforce shortages and hindering recruitment and retention efforts.Methods: To better understand non-violence-related workplace injuries among emergency nurses, ENA conducted a survey of its members in 2009. Of the 2294 nurses who responded to the survey, one in five nurses (n = 440) reported that they experienced a non-violence-related injury while working in their emergency department during the previous year.Results: The logistic regression model found three factors that were related to the occurrence of a non-violence-related workplace injury: (1) hospitals having safe patient handling policies and programs, (2) access to decontamination and post-exposure treatment, and (3) emergency nurses’ perception of staffing in their emergency department.Discussion: While these results provide only a preliminary understanding of ED non-violence-related workplace injuries, they form the basis of a fundamental model for prevention of workplace injuries among emergency nurses. The model can be used to help establish a culture of ED workplace safety through the integration of safety policies and programs, access to safety equipment and controls, and optimal staffing levels. Support from hospital administrators for ED workplace safety initiatives that address these three components, along with current best practice recommendations from the field of occupational health and safety, have the potential to improve workplace safety for emergency nurses.