Category Archives: Health & Safety

Free agents or cogs in the machine? Classed, gendered, and racialized inequities in hazardous working conditions

Source: Jerzy Eisenberg-Guyot PhD, MPH, Seth J. Prins PhD, MPH, Carles Muntaner MD, PhD, MHS, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 65, Issue 2, February 2022
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Few epidemiologic studies have used relational social class measures based on control over productive assets and others’ labor to analyze inequities in health-affecting working conditions. Moreover, these studies have often neglected the gendered and racialized dimensions of class relations, dimensions which are essential to understanding population patterns of health inequities. Our study fills these gaps.

Using data from the 2002–2018 U.S. General Social Survey, we assigned respondents to the worker, manager, petit bourgeois, or capitalist classes based on their supervisory authority and self-employment status. Next, we estimated class, class-by-gender, and class-by-race inequities in compensation/safety, the labor process, control, and conflict, using Poisson models. We also estimated gender-by-race inequities among workers.

We identified substantial class inequities, with worse conditions for workers, which is the largest class within genders and racialized groups, but also disproportionately consists of women and people of color (POC), particularly women of color (WOC). For example, relative to workers, capitalists were less likely to report that safety is not a priority (prevalence ratio [PR]: 0.41, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.21, 0.82), repetitive tasks (PR: 0.36, 95% CI: 0.21, 0.61), and lacking freedom (PR: 0.11, 95% CI: 0.05, 0.24). We also identified inequities among workers, with women and POC, particularly WOC, reporting worse conditions than white male workers, especially greater discrimination/harassment (WOC PR: 1.70, 95% CI: 1.36, 2.13).

We identified substantial inequities in working conditions across intersecting classes, genders, and racialized groups. These inequities threaten workers’ health, particularly among women and POC.

COVID-Related Labor Arbitration Awards in the United States and Canada: A Survey and Comparative Analysis

Source: Richard A. Bales, Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, Vol. 37, No. 1, 2021

From the abstract:
The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-21 has changed working conditions for millions of Americans and Canadians quickly and dramatically. Employers responded by requiring employees to quarantine, implementing workplace COVID policies, disciplining employees who violated those policies, changing work schedules, cancelling leaves or vacations, and furloughing or laying off employees. Unions have challenged many of these actions, raising a variety of novel issues that are now being resolved through labor arbitration. This article surveys those labor arbitration awards and then comparatively analyzes the awards from Canada and the United States.

Standards for Surgical Respirators and Masks: Relevance for Protecting Healthcare Workers and the Public During Pandemics

Source: Rachael M Jones, David Rempel, Annals of Work Exposures and Health, Volume 65, Issue 5, June 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
National standards for surgical respirators and masks are written and enforced to protect healthcare workers from particles and microorganisms such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). In addition to the ability to filter particles (e.g. filtration efficiency, FE), the standards address breathability (e.g. differential pressure), how well the mask seals to a worker’s face (e.g. fit test), the level of protection from a fluid splash, and other factors. Standards used in the USA, European Union (EU), and China were compared with respect to testing methods and certification criteria. Although there are substantial similarities in standards for respirators, such as surgical N95, FFP2, and KN95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs), there are differences with respect to who performs that testing and fit-testing requirements that influence certification. There is greater variation in test methods between countries for surgical (USA) or medical (EU and China) masks than for FFRs. Surgical/medical masks can be certified to different levels of protection. The impact of the similarities and differences in testing methods and certification criteria on FFR and mask performance for protecting healthcare workers from SARS-CoV-2 are discussed, as well as the value of a new standard in the EU for testing fabrics for masks used by the public. Health and safety personnel in healthcare settings must understand the differences between standards so that they can select respirators and masks that provide appropriate protection for healthcare workers.

A rapid scoping review of COVID-19 and vulnerable workers: Intersecting occupational and public health issues

Source: Daniel Côté, Steve Durant, Ellen MacEachen, Shannon Majowicz, Samantha Meyer, Ai-Thuy Huynh MSc, Marie Laberge, Jessica Dubé, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 64, Issue 7, July 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article reports the results of a rapid scoping review of the literature on COVID-19 transmission risk to workers in essential sectors such as retail, health care, manufacturing, and agriculture, and more particularly the experiences of workers in precarious employment and social situations.

Following scoping review methods, we included 30 studies that varied in terms of methodology and theoretical approaches. The search included peer-reviewed articles and grey literature published between March and September 2020.

Based on the studies reviewed, we found that COVID-19 infection and death rates increased not only with age and comorbidities, but also with discrimination and structural inequities based on racism and sexism. Racial and ethnic minority workers, including migrant workers, are concentrated in high-risk occupations and this concentration is correlated to lower socioeconomic conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic appears in the occupational health and safety spotlight as an exacerbator of already existing socioeconomic inequalities and social inequalities in health, especially in light of the intersection of issues related to racism, ethnic minority status, and sexism.

This review provides early evidence about the limitations of institutions’ responses to the pandemic, and their capacity to provide a safe and decent working environment for all workers, regardless of their employment status or the social protections they may enjoy under normal circumstances. It is also important to think about these issues in the postpandemic context, when conditions of precariousness and vulnerability persist and possibly worsen.

The EEOC Confirms Employers Can Mandate a Vaccine, But Should They?

Source: Barbara E. Hoey and Alison Frimmel, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 47 no. 1, July 2021
(subscription required)

This article reviews the highlights of the guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after COVID-19 vaccines were approved and offers practical advice for employers considering rolling out a mandatory vaccination program for their employees.

Worker Power and Voice in the Pandemic Response

Source: Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs, Clean Slate for Worker Power, July 2021

From the summary:
Our country is wracked by two urgent crises – the COVID-19 pandemic and the plague of systemic racism.

COVID-19 presents grave challenges to all of us, but it poses particular – and, in many cases, life-threatening – challenges to working people. Moreover, the costs of the pandemic are being borne disproportionately by low-wage workers, a population made up primarily of women and workers of color. As they work to keep the economy moving despite the pandemic, these workers are being asked to put their lives on the line in ways that are both unacceptable and unnecessary.

Indeed, as the economy reopens, more and more workers will be put in harm’s way. Unless, that is, something fundamental changes about the way we approach worker voice and power.

In this issue brief, we offer a set of recommendations designed to empower workers so that they are better positioned to cope with the ravages of COVID-19, keep themselves and their families safe, and build a more equitable economy than the one the pandemic shut down.

There is strong bipartisan support for the recommendations we are suggesting. A large majority of likely voters support giving workers a formal voice in setting health and safety standards. Only 19% of likely voters said they opposed these reforms. View the full polling results here.

As with the original Clean Slate report, the recommendations here are designed so that they apply to all workers regardless of whether the law classifies them as employees, independent contractors, or otherwise outside of traditional labor law’s protection. And a central premise of the Clean Slate for Worker Power project is that any attempt to empower workers must begin with the effort to make labor law, and the labor movement, fully inclusive of workers of color – workers who have faced exclusion from the start.

When law empowers all workers to demand equitable treatment – including safe and healthy working conditions – workers can build the kind of nation we all deserve.

Effect of Gender Roles and Workplace Violence on the Professional Quality of Life and Wellbeing at Work Among Child Protection Workers

Source: Renaud Dufour, Robert-Paul Juster, Steve Geoffrion, Annals of Work Exposures and Health, Volume 65, Issue 3, April 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Exposure to workplace violence puts child protection workers at risk for adverse occupational outcomes. While previous studies have identified protective and risk factors, individual differences in gender roles have yet to be explored. Moving beyond sex, the present study aims to examine the ways in which gender roles influence exposure to workplace violence, professional quality of life, and wellbeing at work among child protection workers. A randomized sample stratified by sex of 301 Canadian child protection workers (male: 15.6%, female: 84.4%) completed validated questionnaires of gender roles, professional quality of life, and wellbeing at work. We assessed mean differences using analyses of covariances controlling for clinical experience and type of work. We then assessed the moderating effect of gender roles on other variables through hierarchical multiple linear regressions. Androgyny (high masculinity and high femininity) was associated with higher scores on positive indicators of professional quality of life and wellbeing at work. However, gender roles showed no significant moderating effect on the relationship between exposure to violence, professional quality of life, and wellbeing at work. Results suggest that androgyny could be related to potential psychosocial benefits for child protection workers.

Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse

Source: U.S. Department of Education, 2021

The U.S. Department of Education, launched the Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse (the Clearinghouse) in accordance with Executive Order 14000 Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers. The Clearinghouse is designed to support young children, students, families, early childhood providers, teachers, faculty, and staff as early childhood education programs, schools, and campuses continue to reopen following closures due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The Clearinghouse will be a place to share and highlight best practices and lessons learned for operating safely during and after the pandemic submitted by early childhood providers, teachers, faculty, staff, early childhood programs, schools, districts, institutions of higher education, other places providing educational instruction and States.

With the majority of corrections officers declining the COVID-19 vaccine, incarcerated people are still at serious risk

Source: Wanda Bertram and Wendy Sawyer, Prison Policy Initiative, April 22, 2021

Correctional staff in most states have been eligible for COVID-19 vaccination for months, prioritized ahead of many other groups because of the key role staff play in introducing the virus into prisons and jails and then bringing it back out to surrounding communities. Against the recommendations of medical experts, many states chose to vaccinate correctional staff before incarcerated people, often claiming that staff would serve as a barrier against the virus entering prisons and infecting people who are locked up. Now it’s becoming clearer than ever that this policy choice was a gigantic mistake: New data suggests that most prison staff have refused to be vaccinated, leaving vast numbers of incarcerated people- who have been denied the choice to protect themselves – at unnecessary risk.

We compiled data from the UCLA Law COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project, The Marshall Project/AP, and other sources, and calculated the current rate of staff immunizations in 36 states and the Bureau of Prisons. We found that across these jurisdictions, the median vaccination rate — i.e. the percentage of staff who had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose — was only 48%. The numbers are even more disturbing in states like Michigan and Alabama, where just over 10% of staff have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Workers’ compensation costs for healthcare caregivers: Home healthcare, long‐term care, and hospital nurses and nursing aides

Source: Kermit G. Davis, Andrew M. Freeman, Jun Ying, Jeffrey R. Huth, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 64 Issue 5, May 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background: Healthcare workers (nurses and nursing aides) often have different exposures and injury risk factors depending on their occupational subsector and location (hospital, long‐term care, or home health care).

Methods: A total of 5234 compensation claims for nurses and nursing aides who suffered injuries to their lower back, knee, and/or shoulder over a 5‐year period were obtained from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and analyzed. Injury causation data was also collected for each claim. The outcome variables included indemnity costs, medical costs, total costs, and the number of lost work days. The highest prescribed morphine equivalent dose for opioid medications was also calculated for each claim.

Results: Home healthcare nurses and nursing aides had the highest average total costs per claim. Hospital nurses and nursing aides had the highest total claim costs, of $5 million/year. Shoulder injuries for home healthcare nursing aides (HHNAs) had the highest average total claim costs ($20,600/injury) for all occupation, setting, and body area combinations. Opioids were most frequently prescribed for home healthcare nurses (HHNs) and nursing aides (18.9% and 17.7% having been prescribed opioids, respectively). Overexertion was the most common cause for HHN and nursing aide claims.

Conclusions: With the rapidly expanding workforce in the home healthcare sector, there is a potential health crisis from the continued expansion of home healthcare worker injuries and their associated costs. In addition, the potential for opioid drug usage places these workers at risk for future dependence, overdose, and prolonged disability. Future research is needed to investigate the specific and ideally reversible causes of injury in claims categorized as caused by overexertion.