Category Archives: Health & Safety

He Says His Agency Is At Fault: Record-Keeping Chief Says OSHA Lets Companies Underreport Injuries

Source: Kerry Hall and Ames Alexander, Charlotte Observer, February 11, 2008

Bob Whitmore is doing what few career government employees dare — publicly criticizing his own agency.

Whitmore, an expert in record-keeping requirements for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said OSHA is allowing employers to vastly underreport the number of injuries and illnesses their workers suffer.

The true rate for some industries — including poultry processors — is likely two to three times higher than government numbers suggest, he said.

Studies Suggest Higher Risk for Contingent Workers Than in Traditional Employment, NIOSH Researchers Report

Source: NOISH Update, February 5, 2008

Studies in the U.S. and Europe suggest that contingent workers such as part-time, temporary, or contract workers are at higher risk for occupational injuries and illnesses than workers in traditional employment situations, researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) report.

Several possible reasons for the higher risk are suggested in the increasing scientific evidence, and warrant further scientific investigation, the researchers stated. The article, “Contingent Workers and Contingent Health: Risks of a Modern Economy,” by Kristin J. Cummings, M.D., M.P.H., and Kathleen Kreiss, M.D., was published in the January 30 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Mine Fines Routinely Ignored: MSHA Leaders Promise Reforms

Source: Ken Ward Jr., Charleston Gazette, January 27, 2008

Federal regulators have allowed mine operators to avoid fines for thousands of health and safety citations, despite a federal law that requires monetary penalties for such violations, government officials have confirmed.

Over the last six years, the Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration did not assess civil penalties for about 4,000 violations, according to preliminary MSHA data.

Preparing and Protecting Security Personnel in Emergencies

Source: Occupational Health and Safety Administration

Security personnel (i.e., guards) potentially risk occupational exposures to hazardous substances including chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) materials during emergencies. Emergencies involving the release of hazardous chemicals at industrial facilities, including chemical manufacturers and industrial facilities utilizing hazardous substances, are the most likely and predictable incidents that may involve security personnel. Security personnel, however, work at a variety of locations with the potential for emergency incidents. Although general chemical release emergencies may be the most likely, incidents resulting from natural disasters or involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are also of concern to both private and public sector employers and the security personnel they employ. Security personnel working at companies for the protection of the facilities, materials, and products, as well as those employed by government agencies, are often called upon to provide support during hazardous substance emergencies and the emergency planning in preparation for such incidents is key to successful implementation of emergency response operations.

This document specifically addresses emergencies involving hazardous substance releases and provides guidance for employers, and their security personnel, who may be involved in the emergency response. It does not address other safety and health hazards (e.g., workplace violence) that security personnel may be exposed to while performing their routine duties.

Full Report (PDF; 662 KB)

Survey Finds U.S. Healthcare Facilities Not Doing Enough to Curb MRSA

Source: Association for Professionals in Infection Control (APIC)

From press release (Consumers Union):
U.S. healthcare facilities aren’t doing enough to protect patients from Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections, according to a new poll of infection control professionals released today.
The online poll conducted by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control (APIC) found that 59 percent of those responding said their healthcare facility has stepped up efforts to curb MRSA in the past six months. But 50 percent said their healthcare facility is “not doing as much as it could or should to stop the transmission of MRSA.”

Poll results (PDF; 92 KB)

Hospitalizations and Deaths Caused by Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, United States, 1999-2005

Source: Emerging Infectious Diseases (via Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

From press release:
Hospitalizations related to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections more than doubled, from 127,000 to nearly 280,000, between 1999 and 2005, according to a new study in the December issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. During that same period, hospitalizations of patients with general staph infections increased 62 percent across the country.

Staph, or Staphylococcus aureus, are a kind of bacteria that attack wounds and cause life-threatening infections, such as blood poisoning and pneumonia. Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) are “superbugs” that have evolved resistance to most commonly used antibiotics, so they are more difficult and expensive to treat.

The study, which is the first to examine the recent magnitude and trends related to staph and MRSA infections, found that such infections are now “endemic, and in some cases epidemic,” in many U.S. hospitals, long-term care facilities and communities. Study researchers say that control of the infection should be made a “national priority.”

Full Document (PDF; 192 KB)

Vaccine Prioritization During an Influenza Pandemic

Source: Critical Infrastructure Protection Program, George Mason University School of Law

Preparing for an influenza pandemic is a monumental challenge and requires participation from federal, state and local governments as well as the private sector. It is with great pleasure that the George Mason University School of Law’s Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Program publishes a collection of essays (PDF; 737 KB) on vaccine prioritization during an influenza pandemic. The United States government is spending a significant amount of time and resources examining and preparing for the possible threat of an influenza pandemic. A major challenge in preparing for an influenza pandemic encompasses vaccine prioritization. Specifically, if a pandemic were to occur and vaccines needed to be distributed, who should be first to receive vaccines? Should first responders or critical infrastructure employees have priority to receive the vaccines?

The CIP Program invited leading scholars to address this important issue. The essays focus on different concerns about vaccine prioritization. The first essay, submitted by Dr. Colleen Hardy, of the George Mason University School of Law’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Program, provides an overview of current federal response plans to an influenza pandemic. Specifically, it summarizes the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) influenza plan concerning vaccine prioritization. In addition, the essay describes the National Infrastructure Advisory Council’s (NIAC) Working Group on Pandemics’ recommendations to the Department of Homeland Security and HHS.

CDC estimates 94,000 invasive drug-resistant staph infections occurred in the U.S. in 2005

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Methicillin-resistant staph aureus (MRSA) caused more than 94,000 life-threatening infections and nearly 19,000 deaths in the United States in 2005, most of them associated with health care settings, according to the most thorough study of life-threatening infections caused by these bacteria, experts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report.

The study in the Oct. 17 edition of the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) establishes the first national baseline by which to assess future trends in invasive MRSA infections. MRSA infections can range from mild skin infections to more severe infections of the bloodstream, lungs and at surgical sites. The study found about 85 percent of all invasive MRSA infections were associated with health care settings, of which two-thirds surfaced in the community among people who were hospitalized, underwent a medical procedure or resided in a long-term care facility within the previous year. In contrast, about 15 percent of reported infections were considered to be community-associated, which means that the infection occurred in people without documented health care risk factors. The 2005 rates of invasive infection were highest among people 65 years of age or older. Black people were affected at twice the rate of whites, which could be due to higher rates of chronic illness among blacks.

MRSA Toolkit for Middle & High Schools

Source: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department

This toolkit has been designed to help prevent and stop or reduce the spread of Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) skin infections in middle and high schools. It contains educational materials targeted to the school health team, athletic directors/coaches, custodians, athletes/students and parents.

See also: MRSA Toolkit for Elementary Schools

MRSA Toolkit for Childcare Centers

MRSA Toolkit for Outpatient Clinics/Offices

Nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work: 2006

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Both the rate and the number of occupational injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work decreased from 2005 to 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department Labor. The 2006 rate was 128 per 10,000 workers, a decrease of 6 percent from 2005. There were 1.2 million cases requiring days away from work in private industry, which represented a decrease of 51,180 cases (or 4 percent). Median days away from work–a key measure of the severity of the injury or illness–was 7 days in 2006, the same as the prior two years.

News release (PDF; 227 KB)