Category Archives: Health & Safety

National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2006

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, USDL 07-1202, August, 9, 2007

There were 5,703 fatal work injuries in the United States in 2006, down slightly from the revised total of 5,734 fatalities in 2005. The rate of fatal work injuries in 2006 was 3.9 per 100,000 workers, down from a rate of 4.0 per 100,000 in 2005. The numbers reported in this release are preliminary and will be updated in April 2008.
Key findings of the 2006 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries:
• The overall fatal work injury rate for the U.S. in 2006 was lower than the rate for any year since the fatality census was first conducted in 1992.
• Coal mining industry fatalities more than doubled in 2006, due to the Sago Mine disaster and other multiple-fatality coal mining incidents.
• The number of workplace homicides in 2006 was a series low and reflected a decline of over 50 percent from the high reported in 1994.
• Fatalities among workers under 25 years of age fell 9 percent, and the rate of fatal injury among these workers was down significantly.
• The 937 fatal work injuries involving Hispanic or Latino workers in 2006 was a series high, but the overall fatality rate for Hispanic or Latino workers was lower than in 2005.
• Fatalities among self-employed workers declined 11 percent and reached a series low in 2006.
• Aircraft-related fatalities were up 44 percent, led by a number of multiple-fatality events including the August 2006 Comair crash.

OSHA Dictionaries (English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English)

Source: Occupational Safety & Health Administration, Hispanic Task Force

OSHA’s Hispanic Task Force developed these English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English dictionaries. The dictionaries include over 2,000 general OSHA, general industry, and construction industry terms. They are intended to assist OSHA, Susan Harwood Training Grant applicants and recipients, and others in their Spanish-language translations. Phonetic pronunciation guides are included in the dictionaries for frequently used general industry and frequently used construction industry terms.

New Report: Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR-TB): Quarantine and Isolation

Source: Kathleen S. Swendiman and Nancy Lee Jones, CRS Report for Congress, Order Code RS22672, June 5, 2007

The recent international saga of a traveler with XDR-TB, a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis, has placed a spotlight on existing mechanisms to contain contagious disease threats and raised numerous legal and public-health issues. This report will briefly address the existing law relating to quarantine and isolation, with an emphasis on the interaction of state and federal laws and international agreements. It will not be updated.

Occupational Cancer / Zero Cancer : Work started it. Unions will stop it.

Source: International Metalworkers’ Federation, March 23, 2007

The International Metalworkers’ Federation has launched a global union campaign, “Occupational Cancer/Zero Cancer.”

Occupational cancer is the most common work-related cause of death. The International Labor Organization estimates the human toll at over 600,000 deaths a year – one death every 52 seconds. At least 1 in every 10 cancers – probably many more – is the result of preventable, predictable workplace exposure. Today, more people face a workplace cancer risk than at any other time in history. It’s just that most of them don’t know it. Unions have won recognition of causes of occupational cancer, restrictions on their use and compensation for their victims. By finding out about workplace risks and taking action to eliminate, substitute or control the risks, workers and their unions can make the workplace safer. Occupational Cancer/Zero Cancer is a global union campaign to prevent occupational cancer. On this campaign page you will find links to campaign materials, background information and other relevant resources.

Medical Surveillance for Health Care Workers Exposed to Hazardous Drugs Recommended in New NIOSH Report

Source: National Institute For Occupational Safety And Health, NIOSH Publication No. 2007-117, April 2007

A new report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that employers institute medical surveillance programs for health-care workers who are occupationally exposed to hazardous drugs, and suggests practical strategies and components for such programs.

The document, Workplace Solutions: Medical Surveillance for Health Care Workers Exposed to Hazardous Drugs, supplements previous NIOSH resources that highlighted potential health risks for health-care employees who are exposed to hazardous drugs.

The U.S. health care industry is one of the fastest growing sectors, with over 16.6 million workers in 2005. It is estimated that 5.5 million of these health care workers are potentially exposed to hazardous drugs or drug waste, including pharmacists, nurses, physicians, maintenance workers, operating room personnel, and others who may come into contact with these drugs while performing their job.

Hazardous drugs are those that have been determined through research studies to have a potential for causing harm to healthy individuals, including potential risks of cancer, skin rashes, birth defects, and reproductive toxicity. These same drugs also play a critical role in treatment of patients with serious illnesses like cancer and HIV infection. Although the potential therapeutic benefits of hazardous drugs outweigh the risks of side effects for ill patients, exposed health care workers risk these same side effects with no therapeutic benefit.

Washington State Bill Addresses Safety Concerns of Mental Health Workers

Source: Mental Health Weekly, Vol. 17 no. 17, April 30, 2007
(subscription required)

Legislation, which includes violence protection training, soon to become law.

House bill 1456, also known as the Marty Smith bill would provide backup for mental health professionals during home visits. The bill is names in honor of Smith, a County Designated Mental Health Professional (CDMHP) at Kitsap Mental Health, a private not-for-profit community mental health center in Bremerton, Wash., who was killed on Nov. 4, 2005 when he went to provide care for a client during a home visit.

Shafted: How the Bush Administration Reversed Decades of Progress on Mine Safety

Source: Ken Ward Jr., Washington Monthly, Vol. 39 no. 3, March 2007

…More than five years later, the Bush Administration can claim that, indeed, no more terrorist attacks have occurred on American soil. But its record on mining safety is decidedly more troubling. As of mid-January of this year, 165 coal miners had been killed on the job since the Jim Walter disaster…. While administration supporters can point to a steady drop in the number of coal mining deaths through 2005, when a record low of twenty-two occurred, those numbers don’t tell the whole story…. [Elaine] Chao’s promise to the families of Brookwood was not, as many probably assumed, a call for tighter rules and stricter enforcement. Instead it was a signal for greater cooperation with mining companies. Under the Bush appointee Dave Lauriski… he filled the agency’s top jobs with former industry colleagues, dropped more than a dozen safety proposals initiated during the Clinton administration, and cut almost 200 of the 1,200 coal mine inspectors. Mine-safety experts have linked many of these actions to the causes of deadly mine accidents since 2001.

Steel Magnolias: Labor Allies With the Environmental Movement

Source: David Foster, New Labor Forum, Vol. 16 no. 1, Winter 2007

The Donora disaster was the root cause of the USW’s subsequent embrace of environmental issues that led eventually to the founding on June 7, 2006 of a new Strategic Alliance between North America’s largest private sector manufacturing union, and the Sierra Club, the country’s oldest and largest grass-roots environmental organization. While the decision to align the USW and the Sierra Club originated in their shared history of supporting environmental protections like the Clean Air Act, the new Alliance was sparked by the accelerating pace of globalization and the seismic social shifts accompanying it. Both organizations realized that for the first time in human history any meaningful improvement in the economic well-being of the world’s population was dependent on the sustainable management of our planted and its resources.

Shiftwork and the Law

Source: Robert C. Bird and Niki Mirtorabi, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, 2006, Volume 27, no. 2

… Professors Bird and Mirtorabi examine and describe shiftwork, the growing practice of working non-traditional hours, particularly in the evening and at night. … ” Shiftwork weakens these bonds between parent and child by reducing contact time and requiring children to remain quiet when the shiftworker sleeps during daylight hours. … If the court in Witter can reject ADA coverage for an employee claiming a psychiatric disability not related to shiftwork, then a court likely will have little difficulty rejecting a pilot’s ADA claim based upon an impairment tied to a particular shift. … Furthermore, the employer’s actions changing the plaintiff to the night shift to accommodate a white employee constituted a component of the harassment leading to an intolerable work environment, and thus constructive discharge. … Without much discussion, the court concluded that “it could not be determined as a matter of law that a permanent transfer to the night shift cannot constitute an adverse employment action. … If at least one court can conclude that working in the face of unnecessary pain and injury can constitute a material disadvantage in employment, certainly transfer to shiftwork, with its host of physical and mental risks, can constitute an adverse employment action under conditions where the effect of shiftwork will be the most severe. …

Labor’s Critical Role in Workplace Health and Safety in California and Beyond—As Labor Shifts Priorities, Where Will Health and Safety Sit?

Source: Marianne P. Brown, NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, Volume 16 no. 3, 2006

Organized labor has been largely responsible for the health and safety protections many U.S. workers take for granted. This article provides a brief history of labor’s influence on California’s health and safety policies—sometimes with ripple effects beyond its borders. Six cases where various successful strategies were used are examined. These gains were achieved with strong support from international health and safety staff, and, on some issues, support from the state labor federation. But in most cases local union staff involvement was key. Now that labor mobilizes to build its shrinking membership—with only 1 out of 12 workers in the private sector organized—resources are being re-directed toward organizing. Understandably, health and safety advocates have expressed concern that worker protections may suffer. Time will tell, but there is evidence that health and safety demands are front and center in a number of current and upcoming organizing campaigns. Now more than ever, it is in health and safety professionals’ interest to tie their research and clinical work into these emerging campaigns.