Category Archives: Health & Safety

Interim Guidance for Protecting Workers from Occupational Exposure to Zika Virus

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Fact Sheet, 2016

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are monitoring the Zika virus outbreak spreading through Central and South America, Mexico, and parts of the Caribbean, including U.S. territories. For the most up-to-date information, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Zika website frequently. Some U.S. states have mosquitoes that can become infected with and spread Zika virus, and travel-associated Zika virus infections in U.S. states may result in local spread of the virus. Visit the CDC Areas with Zika website to learn where there is current transmission. Workers who are exposed on the job to mosquitoes or the blood or other body fluids of infected individuals may be at risk for occupationally acquired Zika virus infection. This interim guidance provides employers and workers with information and guidance on preventing occupational exposure to the Zika virus. The guidance may be updated as additional information becomes available.
Zika and the Workplace: What Employers Must Know
Source: Christopher Duke, JD Supra, August 16, 2016

How work can lead to suicide in a globalised economy

Source: Sarah Waters, Jenny Chan, The Conversation, August 16, 2016

….Workplace suicides are sharply on the rise internationally, with increasing numbers of employees choosing to take their own lives in the face of extreme pressures at work. Recent studies in the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea, China, India and Taiwan all point to a steep rise in suicides in the context of a generalised deterioration in working conditions…..

Fire Departments, Airports and Military Bases May Be More Toxic to Workers Than You Think

Source: Elizabeth Grossman, In These Times, Working in These Times blog, August 11, 2016

Drinking water supplies for at least six million Americans contain toxic industrial chemicals at levels that exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recommended safety limit. This number is likely an underestimate since the information available through the EPA does not include data for about one-third of Americans—those 100 million or more people who rely on private wells or the vast majority of public water systems that serve communities with populations of 10,000 or less. These are the conclusions of a new study whose authors include scientists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the University of California at Berkeley and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

The study “is just showing us the tip of the iceberg,” says author Philippe Grandjean, Harvard T.H. Chan adjunct professor of environmental health and University of Southern Denmark professor of environmental medicine. What also remains largely undocumented is the extent of exposure to workers on the frontline of this chemical use.

While industrial sites were previously recognized as sources of these highly fluorinated, toxic and environmentally-persistent compounds, this is the first nationwide study to document that wastewater treatment plants, along with military bases and airports where these chemicals are used in fire-fighting foams, are also contributing significantly to drinking water contamination. The study reports groundwater and surface water near some of these bases and airports with concentrations of these chemicals 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the EPA’s health advisory level for drinking water….
Detection of Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) in U.S. Drinking Water Linked to Industrial Sites, Military Fire Training Areas, and Wastewater Treatment Plants
Source: Xindi C. Hu, David Q. Andrews, Andrew B. Lindstrom, Thomas A. Bruton, Laurel A. Schaider, Philippe Grandjean, Rainer Lohmann, Courtney C. Carignan, Arlene Blum, Simona A. Balan, Christopher P. Higgins, and Elsie M. Sunderland, Environmental Science & Technology Letters, August 9, 2016
(subscription required)

Motivational Incongruence and Well-Being at the Workplace: Person-Job Fit, Job Burnout, and Physical Symptoms

Source: Veronika Brandstätter, Veronika Job and Beate Schulze, Frontiers in Psychology, August 11, 2016

From the abstract:
Person–environment fit has been identified as a key prerequisite for employee well-being. We investigated to what extent a misfit between motivational needs and supplies at the workplace affects two key health outcomes: burnout and physical symptoms. Individual needs (implicit affiliation and power motives) and environment supplies (motive specific job characteristics) were assessed in an online survey of full time employees (n = 97), using a picture story exercise measuring implicit motives and a scale listing affiliation and power related job characteristics. Outcomes were assessed using the Maslach Burnout Inventory and a checklist of physical symptoms. We conducted polynomial regressions with response surface analysis. Results reveal that motivational incongruence with respect to the affiliation motive was related to high job burnout, while motivational incongruence concerning the power motive predicted increased physical symptoms. This was true for both those with a strong affiliation or power motive and low corresponding job characteristics and those with a weak affiliation or power motive and job characteristics demanding the respective motive. Results hint at potential interventions toward preventing or remedying a lack of needs-supply fit and reducing the risk of impairments of well-being.

Office Ergonomics Evaluation in a Naturalistic Work Environment

Source: Jia-Hua Lin, Stephen Bao, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, Publication #:62-3-2016, 2016

An ergonomics evaluation study was conducted for Insurance Services – Support Services within Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. The objectives ofthe study were:
1) To identify ergonomic risk factors that may be associated with updated technologies that the existing guidelines might not take into account.
2) To measure physical exposures to workers from current tasks and office equipment, and compare with historical trends

….The results showed that workers spent a slightly more time on computers than 7 years ago, with an additional increase of other tasks at the desk. The employees were at their desk, sitting or standing, for about 74% of the time, and 44% of the work shift was spent for data entry in the current study. In comparison, 80% time at desk (performing data entry and other desk tasks) and 60% for data entry in the 1991 study…..

Job stress and needlestick injuries: which targets for organizational interventions?

Source: G. d’Ettorre, Occupational Medicine, Advance Access, First published online: July 31, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background: Needlestick injuries (NSIs) represent a major concern for the safety of health care workers involved in clinical care. The percentage of health workers reporting these injuries varies between 9 and 38% and the occurrence of NSI is most frequent among employees having close clinical contact with patients or patient specimens. These injuries appear to occur most frequently where organizational factors contribute to the risk.

Aims: To investigate the interactions between organizational level interventions focused on work-related stress (WRS) and the occurrence of NSIs among nurses employed in hospital departments, and to determine the impact of such interventions on the safety budget.

Methods Comparison of NSI occurrence among nurses employed in hospital health care departments in two 3-year periods, before and after interventions aimed at minimizing WRS. The economic cost of NSIs occurrence was calculated.

Results: The study group consisted of 765 nurses. The cumulative 3-year incidence of NSIs after the implementation of management stress interventions was significantly lower than the cumulative 3-year incidence observed before implementation (OR 0.60; 95% CI 0.43–0.83). A cost saving from managing fewer NSIs than during the first study period was found.

Conclusions: This study found a reduction in NSI occurrence and associated costs following an intervention to bring about proactive, integrated and comprehensive management of stress in the workplace.

Further Inspection Into the Effects of Correctional Officers’ Sex, Race, and Perceptions of Safety on Job-Related Attitudes

Source: John Wooldredge, Benjamin Steiner, The Prison Journal Vol. 96 no. 4, September 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article examines more closely the empirical relationships between correctional officers’ job attitudes and officer demographics and perceptions of safety. Bi-level analyses from 1,740 officers in 45 prisons revealed that officers’ sex and race mattered for shaping an officer’s pride with co-workers, consideration of transferring to another facility, and perceptions of co-workers’ job satisfaction, but only as they were linked to perceptions of sexism and racism. Perceptions of safety also mattered. Yet, levels of inmate crime and victimization were irrelevant for shaping attitudes. Positive attitudes were also more common in facilities housing higher risk populations, and in facilities for men.

A Special Issue on Work and Employment Relations in Health Care

Source: ILR Review, Vol. 69 no. 4, August 2016
(subscription required)

From the introduction:
Editorial Essay: Introduction to a Special Issue on Work and Employment Relations in Health Care
Ariel C. Avgar, Adrienne E. Eaton, Rebecca Kolins Givan, and Adam Seth Litwin

…..This special issue of the ILR Review is designed to showcase the central role that work organization and employment relations play in shaping important outcomes such as the quality of care and organizational performance. Each of the articles included in this special issue makes an important contribution to our understanding of the large and rapidly changing health care sector. Specifically, these articles provide novel empirical evidence about the relationship between organizations, institutions, and work practices and a wide array of central outcomes across different levels of analysis. This breadth is especially important because the health care literature has largely neglected employment-related factors in explaining organizational and worker outcomes in this industry. Individually, these articles shed new light on the role that health information technologies play in affecting patient care and productivity (see Hitt and Tambe; Meyerhoefer et al.); the relationship between work practices and organizational reliability (Vogus and Iacobucci); staffing practices, processes, and outcomes (Kramer and Son; Hockenberry and Becker; Kossek et al.); health care unions’ effects on the quality of patient care (Arindrajit, Kaplan, and Thompson); and the relationship between the quality of jobs and the quality of care (Burns, Hyde, and Killet). Below, we position the articles in this special issue against the backdrop of the pressures and challenges facing the industry and the organizations operating within it. We highlight the implications that organizational responses to industry pressures have had for organizations, the patients they care for, and the employees who deliver this care……

Articles include:
Nurse Unions and Patient Outcomes
Arindrajit Dube, Ethan Kaplan, and Owen Thompson
The authors estimate the impact of nurse unions on health care quality using patient-discharge data and the universe of hospital unionization in California between 1996 and 2005. They find that hospitals with a successful union election outperform hospitals with a failed election in 12 of 13 potentially nurse-sensitive patient outcomes. Hospitals were more likely to have a unionization attempt if they were of declining quality, as measured by patient outcomes. When such differential trends are accounted for, unionized hospitals also outperform hospitals without any union election in the same 12 of 13 outcome measures. Consistent with a causal impact, the largest changes occur precisely in the year of unionization. The biggest improvements are found in the incidence of metabolic derangement, pulmonary failure, and central nervous system disorders such as depression and delusion, in which the estimated changes are between 15% and 60% of the mean incidence for those measures.

How Do Hospital Nurse Staffing Strategies Affect Patient Satisfaction?
Jason M. Hockenberry and Edmund R. Becker
In this article, the authors evaluate the role of the nurse staffing mix on hospital patient satisfaction. Using three years (2009 to 2011) of hospital patient satisfaction data linked to data on the productive staffing hours of registered nurses (RNs), licensed vocational nurses, nurse’s aides, and contract nurses for 311 California hospitals, the authors analyze how nurse staffing levels affect 10 dimensions of patient satisfaction. The findings indicate that a higher level of RNs per bed appears to increase overall patient satisfaction. Conversely, hospitals with a higher proportion of nursing hours provided by contract nurses have significantly lower levels of patient satisfaction on scores related to overall patient satisfaction and nurses’ communication with the patient. The results have implications for RN staffing strategies and inform the broader literature on worker-skill mix and employment arrangements.

Who Cares about the Health of Health Care Professionals? An 18-Year Longitudinal Study of Working Time, Health, and Occupational Turnover
Amit Kramer and Jooyeon Son
Health care workers are employed in a complex, stressful, and sometimes hazardous work environment. Studies of the health of health care workers tend to focus on estimating the effects of short-term health outcomes on employee attitudes and performance, which are easier to observe than long-term health outcomes. Research has paid only scant attention to work characteristics that are controlled by the employer and its employees, and their relationship to employees’ long-term physical health and organizational outcomes. The authors use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) from 1992 to 2010 to estimate the relationships among working time, long-term physical health, job satisfaction, and turnover among health care employees. Using a between- and within-person design, they estimate how within-person changes in work characteristics affect the within-person growth trajectory of body mass index (BMI) over time and the relationship between working-time changes and physical health, and occupational turnover. The study finds that health care employees who work more hours suffer from a higher level of BMI and are more likely to leave their occupation.

Health Care Information Technology, Work Organization, and Nursing Home Performance
Lorin M. Hitt and Prasanna Tambe

The Consequences of Electronic Health Record Adoption for Physician Productivity and Birth Outcomes
Chad D. Meyerhoefer, Mary E. Deily, Susan A. Sherer, Shin-Yi Chou, Lizhong Peng, Michael Sheinberg, and Donald Levick

Creating Highly Reliable Health Care: How Reliability-Enhancing Work Practices Affect Patient Safety in Hospitals
Timothy J. Vogus and Dawn Iacobucci

Filling the Holes: Work Schedulers As Job Crafters of Employment Practice in Long-Term Health Care
Ellen Ernst Kossek, Matthew M. Piszczek, Kristie L. McAlpine, Leslie B. Hammer, and Lisa Burke

How Financial Cutbacks Affect the Quality of Jobs and Care for the Elderly
Diane J. Burns, Paula J. Hyde, and Anne M. Killett

The Workplace and Health

Source: National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, July 2016

A new poll of working adults in the U.S. by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health was conducted to examine workers’ perceptions of health problems, experiences, issues, and challenges in the workplace. This poll sought to answer seven main questions related to health in the workplace:

1. What relationship do adults see between their workplace and their health?
2. What health benefits are offered to workers to improve their personal health, do workers use these benefits, and what are the reasons why they use or do not use these benefits?
3. What are the experiences of those who are working while they are sick or are caring for sick family members?
4. How does the workplace affect the health of different types of workers, including shift workers, workers in dangerous jobs, disabled workers, and workers in low-paying jobs?
5. How do jobs impact workers’ levels of stress?
6. How do adults rate their workplace in terms of supporting their health?
7. How do paid vacation benefits in the U.S. compare to Europe?

The findings of this survey demonstrate that a significant portion of working adults say that their current job impacts their health. In particular, a considerable share of working adults believe their current job affects their overall health, family life, social life, stress level, weight, eating habits, and sleeping habits. Almost half of all working adults give their workplace only fair or poor ratings in its efforts to reduce their stress. In particular, a majority of workers in low-paying jobs, dangerous jobs, disabled workers, workers in medical and restaurant jobs, and people who work 50 or more hours per week in their main job say their job has a bad impact on their stress level.

Working adults in our sample lived up to America’s reputation for being ‘workaholics,’ as almost two-thirds of them say they often or sometimes work overtime or on the weekends, and about one in five say they work 50 or more hours per week in their main job. Despite most working adults being offered paid vacation days by their workplace, less than half of all workers who receive paid vacation days have used all or most of them in the past year. On the issue of paid vacation, the U.S. also stacks up poorly compared to Europe: while nine in ten full-time working adults in the European Union (EU) have at least four weeks’ of paid vacation, less than four in ten full-time workers in the U.S. say that they are offered this same benefit.

A majority of working adults say they still go to work when they are sick. Half of restaurant workers and more than half of workers in medical jobs say they still go to work always or most of the time when they have a cold or the flu. Many workers have also had experiences in caring for family members who were seriously ill, injured, or disabled while working at their current job.

Overall, a majority of working adults say their workplace provides a healthy work environment, most say their workplace is supportive of them taking steps to improve their personal health, and about half say their workplace offers formal wellness or health improvement programs to help keep themselves healthy.
Work Can Be A Stressful And Dangerous Place For Many
Source: Joe Neel, NPR, July 11, 2016

Employers’ efforts to reduce stress get low grades in a new poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In particular, among those working adults who say they’ve experienced a great deal of stress at work in the past 12 months, the vast majority, 85 percent, rate the efforts of their workplace to reduce stress as fair or poor.

Overall, 43 percent of working adults told us their job negatively affects their stress levels. Others said their job negatively affects their eating habits (28 percent), sleeping habits (27 percent) and weight (22 percent)….

Poll: More than four in ten working adults think their work impacts their health /Most say their workplace is supportive of actions to improve their health
Source: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Press Release, July 11, 2016

A new NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll finds that more than four in ten working adults (44%) say their current job has an impact on their overall health, and one in four (28%) say that impact is positive.

However, in the survey of more than 1,600 workers in the U.S., one in six workers (16%) report that their current job has a negative impact on their health. Workers most likely to say their job has a negative impact on their overall health include those with disabilities (35%), those in dangerous jobs (27%), those in low-paying jobs (26%), those working 50+ hours per week (25%), and those working in the retail sector (26%).
Poll: More Than Four in Ten Working Adults Think Their Work Impacts Their Health /Most say their workplace is supportive of actions to improve their health.
Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Press Release, July 11, 2016

….Key Findings:
Chemicals and contaminants top list of biggest health concerns in the workplace ….
About one in four workers rate their workplace as fair or poor in providing a healthy work environment; about half are offered wellness or health improvement programs ….
A majority of ‘workaholics’ say they work longer hours because it is important to their career; half say they enjoy working longer hours ….
A majority of working adults say they still go to work when they are sick ….
Low-wage workers often face worse conditions than high-wage workers ….

Should Working in Retail Require a Health Warning?
Source: Erin Johansson, Jobs With Justice, July 12, 2016

A recent study has proven what millions of working people have known for years: Work is stressful, and many employers only make things worse.

Process evaluation of two participatory approaches: Implementing total worker health® interventions in a correctional workforce

Source: Alicia G. Dugan, Dana A. Farr, Sara Namazi, Robert A. Henning, Kelly N. Wallace, Mazen El Ghaziri, Laura Punnett, Jeffrey L. Dussetschleger and Martin G. Cherniack, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, July 5, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background: Correctional Officers (COs) have among the highest injury rates and poorest health of all the public safety occupations. The HITEC-2 (Health Improvement Through Employee Control-2) study uses Participatory Action Research (PAR) to design and implement interventions to improve health and safety of COs.

Method: HITEC-2 compared two different types of participatory program, a CO-only “Design Team” (DT) and “Kaizen Event Teams” (KET) of COs and supervisors, to determine differences in implementation process and outcomes. The Program Evaluation Rating Sheet (PERS) was developed to document and evaluate program implementation.

Results: Both programs yielded successful and unsuccessful interventions, dependent upon team-, facility-, organizational, state-, facilitator-, and intervention-level factors.

Conclusions: PAR in corrections, and possibly other sectors, depends upon factors including participation, leadership, continuity and timing, resilience, and financial circumstances. The new PERS instrument may be useful in other sectors to assist in assessing intervention success.