Category Archives: Health & Safety

OSHA Forms Alliance With Waste And Recycling Industry Associations

Source: Employment Alert, Volume 36, Issue 23, November 12, 2019
(subscription required)

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has formed a national alliance with the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA), and Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) to protect the safety and health of workers in the solid waste industry. During the two-year agreement, the Alliance will address transportation hazards, including backovers and distracted driving; slips, trips, and falls; musculoskeletal injuries; heat and cold stress; and needle stick and other hazards. Participants plan to develop and share information about preventing and mitigating these hazards through articles, toolkits, fact sheets, exhibits at local and national industry conferences, and discussions at forums and other meetings. Participants will focus their efforts and outreach on small- and medium-sized employers…..

Occupational exposure to disinfectants and asthma incidence in U.S. nurses: A prospective cohort study

Source: Orianne Dumas, Krislyn M. Boggs, Catherine Quinot, Raphaëlle Varraso, Jan‐Paul Zock, Paul K. Henneberger, Frank E. Speizer, Nicole Le Moual, Carlos A. Camargo Jr., American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, November 6, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background:
Exposure to disinfectants among healthcare workers has been associated with respiratory health effects, in particular, asthma. However, most studies are cross‐sectional and the role of disinfectant exposures in asthma development requires longitudinal studies. We investigated the association between occupational exposure to disinfectants and incident asthma in a large cohort of U.S. female nurses.

Methods:
The Nurses’ Health Study II is a prospective cohort of 116 429 female nurses enrolled in 1989. Analyses included 61 539 participants who were still in a nursing job and with no history of asthma in 2009 (baseline; mean age: 55 years). During 277 744 person‐years of follow‐up (2009‐2015), 370 nurses reported incident physician‐diagnosed asthma. Occupational exposure was evaluated by questionnaire and a Job‐Task‐Exposure Matrix (JTEM). We examined the association between disinfectant exposure and subsequent asthma development, adjusted for age, race, ethnicity, smoking status, and body mass index.

Results:
Weekly use of disinfectants to clean surfaces only (23% exposed) or to clean medical instruments (19% exposed) was not associated with incident asthma (adjusted hazard ratio [95% confidence interval] for surfaces, 1.12 [0.87‐1.43]; for instruments, 1.13 [0.87‐1.48]). No association was observed between high‐level exposure to specific disinfectants/cleaning products evaluated by the JTEM (formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol quats, or enzymatic cleaners) and asthma incidence.

Conclusions:
In a population of late career nurses, we observed no significant association between exposure to disinfectants and asthma incidence. A potential role of disinfectant exposures in asthma development warrants further study among healthcare workers at earlier career stage to limit the healthy worker effect.

Let’s Get To Work: Empowering Employees to Take Action on Domestic Violence

Source: Holly Rider-Milkovich and Elizabeth Bille, Ms., October 24, 2019

Americans spend more waking hours at work, on average, than we do anywhere else. The positive and negative aspects of our lives come to work with us, and our experiences at work impact our overall quality of life. During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we’re reminded both of the devastating national impact of domestic violence on many individuals’ lives as well as the essential role that workplaces play in addressing this issue. ….

Together, we bring nearly a half century of experience in addressing domestic violence in the workplace and in our communities: Holly as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence on college campuses and in communities for over 20 years, and Elizabeth as an employment law attorney whose experience includes serving as General Counsel and Ethics Officer of SHRM and as a legal and policy advisor to the Vice Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In our current roles at EVERFI, we spearhead efforts to address sexual and gender-based violence in the workplace.

From this vantage point of both experience and expertise, we have identified three critical questions you can ask your company to assess whether your organization is ready to support employees who are experiencing domestic violence. ….

Testing a Path Model of Organizational Justice and Correctional Staff Job Stress Among Southern Correctional Staff

Source: Eric G. Lambert, Linda D. Keena, Stacy H. Haynes, David May, Rosemary Ricciardelli, Matthew Leone, Criminal Justice and Behavior, Volume 46 Issue 10, October 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Job stress has many negative effects on correctional staff. We proposed and tested a path model of transactional, procedural, and distributive justice’s direct and indirect effects on the job stress of 322 surveyed correctional staff, including 219 correctional officers, at a maximum security Southern prison. Findings indicated that procedural, distributive, and transactional justice affected job stress. Specifically, the proposed path model was supported, such that procedural justice had an indirect effect on job stress through distributive justice, and transactional and distributive justice had direct, negative effects on job stress. Transactional justice also had indirect effects on job stress through procedural and distributive justice. Taken together, the results suggest that organizational justice plays an important role in reducing correctional staff job stress.

Workers Are Falling Ill, Even Dying, After Making Kitchen Countertops

Source: Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR, Morning Edition, October 2, 2019

Artificial stone used to make kitchen and bathroom countertops has been linked to cases of death and irreversible lung injury in workers who cut, grind and polish this increasingly popular material.

The fear is that thousands of workers in the United States who create countertops out of what’s known as “engineered stone” may be inhaling dangerous amounts of lung-damaging silica dust, because engineered stone is mostly made of the mineral silica…… While all this silica isn’t a concern once the countertop is installed in a kitchen or bathroom, it is a potential problem for the businesses that cut slabs of this artificial stone to the right shape for customers…..

….In 2016, OSHA issued new workplace limits on how much silica could be in the air. This controversial new rule reduced the permissible exposure level to half of what it had been. Safety experts hailed the new, tighter limit as an important step forward; the previous regulations had been based on decades-old science, they said. But many industry groups opposed it. A year later, the incoming Trump administration ended the safety agency’s national emphasis program for silica. That program would have allowed OSHA to target the countertop fabrication industry for special inspections, says Michaels. …. Without that program, says Michaels, OSHA is limited in what it can legally do. OSHA can investigate a workplace injury or a complaint. But these workers, some of whom are undocumented immigrants with few employment options, are unlikely to complain…..

Highlights from occupational safety and health continuing education needs assessment

Source: Joshua G. Scott, Erin Shore, Carol Brown, Carisa Harris, Mitchel A. Rosen, American Journal of Industrial Medicine,
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background:
There is a lack of trained Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) professionals able to meet the current and future demand for such expertize in the United States. Many OSH professionals are required to perform duties, which are outside of their primary area of expertize; thus, expansion of continuing education (CE) may be necessary to properly train individuals for new OSH responsibilities.

Methods:
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health‐funded Education and Research Centers collectively developed and distributed an internet‐based survey to gauge the CE needs and interests of the OSH workforce.

Results:
A total of 2064 responses were received. The most common primary professions represented were safety (28%), occupational health nursing (18%), and industrial hygiene (12%). The majority of respondents (61%) reported that they perform work activities outside of those associated with their primary OSH profession. The CE offerings with the highest interest among respondents were related to safety. Other courses with high levels of interest included topics such as legal issues in OSH (88%), compliance (88%), risk management (85%), OSH management (83%), risk communication (83%), and communication in accident prevention (81%). Health and safety leadership (82%), health and safety culture (78%) and total worker health (74%) were also significant interests.

Conclusions:
It is important to be responsive to the evolving needs of the OS&H community. Developing relevant courses will help ensure that OS&H professionals have access to the training they need to perform essential job functions and keep employees healthy and safe.

After The Fall: Safeguarding Employees’ Mental Health After Workplace Injuries

Source: Maureen Minehan, Employment Alert, Volume 36, Issue 18, September 4, 2019
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An employee trips and falls at work and sustains a significant knee injury. She needs surgery and misses months of work while recovering. You know she’s receiving good care for her physical injuries, but do you need to also be concerned about her mental health?

Related:
Suicide and drug‐related mortality following occupational injury
Source: Katie M. Applebaum, Abay Asfaw, Paul K. O’Leary, Andrew Busey, Yorghos Tripodis, Leslie I. Boden, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 62 Issue 9, September 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background:
Drug overdoses and suicides have been rising since 2000 and are major contributors to a 3‐year decline in US life expectancy. Studies suggest that injured workers have elevated rates of depression and opioid use, but no studies have measured excess mortality related to these risks.

Materials and methods:
We linked New Mexico workers’ compensation data for 100 806 workers injured in 1994 through 2000 with Social Security Administration earnings and mortality data through 2013 and National Death Index cause of death data. We then estimated the association between receiving lost‐time workers’ compensation benefits and mortality hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) based on Fine and Gray cause‐specific subdistribution hazards for common causes of death and for drug‐related, suicide, and alcohol‐related mortality.

Results:
There was almost a 3‐fold increase in combined drug‐related and suicide mortality hazard among women (HR = 2.63, 95% CI = 1.91‐3.64) and a substantial increase among men (HR = 1.42, 95% CI = 1.13‐1.79). Circulatory disease mortality hazard was elevated for men (HR = 1.25, 95% CI = 1.05‐1.50).

Conclusion:
Workplace injuries severe enough to require more than a week off work may impair workers’ long‐term health and well‐being. Drug‐related deaths and suicides may be important contributors to the long‐term excess mortality of injured workers. Improved workplace conditions, improved pain treatment, better treatment of substance use disorders, and treatment of postinjury depression may substantially reduce mortality consequent to workplace injuries.

Artificial intelligence: Implications for the future of work

Source: John Howard, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, August 22, 2019

From the abstract:
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a broad transdisciplinary field with roots in logic, statistics, cognitive psychology, decision theory, neuroscience, linguistics, cybernetics, and computer engineering. The modern field of AI began at a small summer workshop at Dartmouth College in 1956. Since then, AI applications made possible by machine learning (ML), an AI subdiscipline, include Internet searches, e‐commerce sites, goods and services recommender systems, image and speech recognition, sensor technologies, robotic devices, and cognitive decision support systems (DSSs). As more applications are integrated into everyday life, AI is predicted to have a globally transformative influence on economic and social structures similar to the effect that other general‐purpose technologies, such as steam engines, railroads, electricity, electronics, and the Internet, have had. Novel AI applications in the workplace of the future raise important issues for occupational safety and health. This commentary reviews the origins of AI, use of ML methods, and emerging AI applications embedded in physical objects like sensor technologies, robotic devices, or operationalized in intelligent DSSs. Selected implications on the future of work arising from the use of AI applications, including job displacement from automation and management of human‐machine interactions, are also reviewed. Engaging in strategic foresight about AI workplace applications will shift occupational research and practice from a reactive posture to a proactive one. Understanding the possibilities and challenges of AI for the future of work will help mitigate the unfavorable effects of AI on worker safety, health, and well‐being.

Survey: What Employees Want Most from Their Workspaces

Source: Jeanne C. Meister, Harvard Business Review, August 26, 2019

…. Surprisingly, we found employees want the basics first: better air quality, access to natural light, and the ability to personalize their workspace. Half of the employees we surveyed said poor air quality makes them sleepier during the day, and more than a third reported up to an hour in lost productivity as a result. In fact, air quality and light were the biggest influencers of employee performance, happiness, and wellbeing, while fitness facilities and technology-based health tools were the most trivial.

Organizations have the power to make improvements in these areas, and they need to, both for their workers and themselves. A high-quality workplace — one with natural light, good ventilation, and comfortable temperatures — can reduce absenteeism up to four days a year.  With unscheduled absenteeism costing companies an estimated $3,600 annually per hourly worker and $2,650 each year for salaried workers, this can have a major impact on your bottom line. ….

“Felony assault should stick:” Assaulted EMS responders’ frustration and dissatisfaction with the legal system

Source: Jasmine Y. Wright, Andrea L. Davis, Sherry Brandt‐Rauf, Jennifer A. Taylor, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: August 16, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Introduction:
The prevalence of violence to first responders is reported in ranges of approximately 40% to 90%. Pennsylvania has a felonious assault statute to address such violence, but the prosecutorial process has been noted to cause first‐responder dissatisfaction.

Methods:
An exploratory qualitative study using individual interviews with snowball sampling was conducted with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office to understand the prosecutorial process when a first responder is assaulted and injured in a line of duty. The Philadelphia Fire Department provided a list of first responders who sustained a work‐related injury from a patient or bystander assault so that particular cases could be discussed during the interviews.

Results:
Emergent themes fell into two categories: factors that lead to a charge (prosecutorial merit, intent, and victim investment), and the judge’s discretion in sentencing (“part of the job” mentality, concern for the defendant, and the justice system’s offender focus). Immediately actionable tertiary prevention recommendations for fire departments, labor unions, and district attorney’s offices were developed.

Conclusion:
Violence against fire‐based emergency medical service (EMS) responders is a persistent and preventable workplace hazard. While felonious assault statutes express society’s value that it is unacceptable to harm a first responder, this study found that such statutes failed to provide satisfaction to victims and that support when going through the court process is lacking. Assaulted EMS responders, their employers, and labor unions would benefit from the recommendations provided herein to help them extract a stronger sense of procedural justice from the legal process.