Category Archives: Health & Safety

No relief: Denial of bathroom breaks in the poultry industry

Source: Oxfam America, May 2016

From the summary:
Chicken is the most popular meat in America, and the poultry industry is booming. But workers on the processing line do not share in the bounty. Poultry workers 1) earn low wages of diminishing value, 2) suffer elevated rates of injury and illness, and 3) often experience a climate of fear in the workplace.
Despite this, though, workers themselves say that the thing that offends their dignity most is simple: lack of adequate bathroom breaks, and the suffering that entails, especially for women.

The top four chicken companies control roughly 60 percent of the domestic market (Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms), and they can and should implement changes that will improve conditions for poultry workers across the country.

This report is part of Oxfam’s continuing campaign to advocate for improved conditions for US poultry workers. The campaign launched in October 2015, with publication of our comprehensive report, Lives on the Line: The Human cost of Cheap Chicken.

The immersive website, Lives on the Line, uses multimedia to convey the experiences of workers inside the poultry plant

Waste Workers’ Exposure to Airborne Fungal and Bacterial Species in the Truck Cab and During Waste Collection

Source: Anne Mette Madsen, Taif Alwan, Anders Ørberg, Katrine Uhrbrand and Marie Birk Jørgensen, Annals of Occupational Hygiene, Advance Access, First published online: April 20, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
A large number of people work with garbage collection, and exposure to microorganisms is considered an occupational health problem. However, knowledge on microbial exposure at species level is limited. The aim of the study was to achieve knowledge on waste collectors’ exposure to airborne inhalable fungal and bacterial species during waste collection with focus on the transport of airborne microorganisms into the truck cab. Airborne microorganisms were collected with samplers mounted in the truck cab, on the workers’ clothes, and outdoors. Fungal and bacterial species were quantified and identified. The study showed that the workers were exposed to between 112 and 4.8×104 bacteria m−3 air and 326 and 4.6×104 fungi m−3 air. The personal exposures to bacteria and fungi were significantly higher than the concentrations measured in the truck cabs and in the outdoor references. On average, the fungal and bacterial concentrations in truck cabs were 111 and 7.7 times higher than outdoor reference measurements. In total, 23 fungal and 38 bacterial species were found and identified. Most fungal species belonged to the genus Penicillium and in total 11 Penicillium species were found. Identical fungal species were often found both in a personal sample and in the same person’s truck cab, but concentrations were on average 27 times higher in personal samples. Concentrations of fungal and bacterial species found only in the personal samples were lower than concentrations of species also found in truck cabs. Skin-related bacteria constituted a large fraction of bacterial isolates found in personal and truck cab samples. In total, six Staphylococcus species were found. In outdoor samples, no skin-related bacteria were found. On average, concentrations of bacterial species found both in the truck cab and personal samples were 77 times higher in personal samples than in truck cab samples. In conclusion, high concentrations of fungi were found in truck cabs, but the highest concentrations were found in personal samples; fungal and bacterial species found in high concentrations in personal samples were also found in truck cabs, but in lower concentrations indicating that both fungi and bacteria are transported by the workers into the truck cab, and are subsequently aerosolized in the truck cab.

2016 Job Outlook

Source: Tom Musick, Safety + Health, April 24, 2016

….How is worker safety affected by more frequent career movement among safety professionals? For Safety+Health’s 2016 Job Outlook survey, almost 800 people helped us find out, responding to questions about the status of their jobs and their organizations and whether they hoped to work somewhere else in the next five years. Most importantly, respondents provided honest, thoughtful answers to open-ended questions about whether the trend of switching jobs is here to stay – and whether that is good for safety…..

Police officers who responded to 9/11: Comorbidity of PTSD, depression, and anxiety 10–11 years later

Source: Rosemarie M. Bowler, Erica S. Kornblith, Jiehui Li, Shane W. Adams, Vihra V. Gocheva, Ralf Schwarzer and James E. Cone, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, April 20, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background: After the 9/11/2001 World Trade Center (WTC) attack, many police-responders developed PTSD and might be vulnerable to develop depression and/or anxiety. Comorbidity of PTSD, depression, and/or anxiety is examined.

Method: Police enrollees from the WTC Health Registry were categorized into four groups based on comorbidity of PTSD, depression, and anxiety. DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for PTSD were used. Depression and anxiety were assessed with standardized psychometric inventories. Multinomial logistic regression was used to identify putative risk factors associated with comorbidity of PTSD.

Results: Of 243 (12.9% of total) police with probable PTSD, 21.8% had probable PTSD without comorbidity, 24.7% had depression, 5.8% had anxiety, and 47.7% had comorbid depression and anxiety. Risk factors for comorbid PTSD, depression, and anxiety include being Hispanic, decrease in income, experiencing physical injury on 9/11, experiencing stressful/traumatic events since 9/11, and being unemployed/retired.

Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, 2016

Source: AFL-CIO, April 2016

From the summary:
This 2016 edition of Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect marks the 25th year the AFL-CIO has produced a report on the state of safety and health protections for America’s workers. More than 532,000 workers now can say their lives have been saved since the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which promised workers in this country the right to a safe job. Since that time, workplace safety and health conditions have improved but at the same time some conditions have gotten worse and too many workers remain at serious risk of injury, illness or death.

• In 2014, 4,821 workers were killed on the job in the United States, and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases, resulting in a loss of 150 workers each day from hazardous working conditions.
• Older workers are at a greater risk. Thirty-five percent of all fatalities occurred in workers age 55 or older, and workers 65 or older have three times the risk of dying on the job as other workers.
• The oil and gas industry remains very dangerous–the fatality rate for oil and gas extraction is nearly five times the national average. States with prominent oil and gas industries continue to be among the most dangerous states to work.
• Latino workers continue to be at higher risk than other workers. There were 804 Latino workers killed on the job in 2014, 64% of whom were immigrant workers.
• Workplace violence is a serious and growing problem for workers, especially for health care professionals and women, who suffered 66% of the lost-time injuries related to workplace violence.
• Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) resources are still too few and declining with only 1,840 federal and state inspectors to inspect 8 million workplaces. This means there are enough inspectors for federal OSHA to inspect workplaces once every 145 years, on average, and state OSHA plans have enough to inspect workplaces once every 97 years.
• The current level of federal and state OSHA inspectors provides one inspector for every 74,760 workers. Despite a new law that will allow OSHA to increase its penalties for workplace safety and health violations, penalties are still too weak to be an effective deterrent for some employers and large corporations…..

Access the Digital Toolkit

2016 Workers Memorial Day Materials:
Workers Memorial Day Fact Sheet (English)
Workers Memorial Day Fact Sheet (Spanish)
Clip Art (PDF)
Sticker Art  (PDF)
Workers Memorial Day Materials Order Form  (PDF)
Report on Workers Memorial Day Events Form (PDF)

Rejecting the Grand Bargain: What Happens When Large Companies Opt Out of Workers’ Compensation?

Source: Alison D. Morantz, Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 488, March 18, 2016

From the abstract:
The “grand bargain” of workers’ compensation, whereby workers relinquished the right to sue their employers in exchange for no-fault occupational injury insurance, was one of the great tort reforms of the Twentieth Century. However, there is one U.S. state that has always permitted employers to decline workers’ compensation coverage, and in which many firms (“nonsubscribers”) have chosen to do so: Texas. This study examines the impact of Texas nonsubscription on fifteen large, multistate nonsubscribers that provided their Texas employees with customized occupational injury insurance benefits (“private plans”) in lieu of workers’ compensation coverage between 1998 and 2010. As economic theory would lead one to expect, nonsubscription generated considerable cost savings. My preferred estimates suggest that costs per worker hour fell by about 44 percent. These savings were driven by a drop in the frequency of more serious claims involving replacement of lost wages, and by a decline in costs per claim. Both medical and wage-replacement costs fell substantially. Although the decline in wage-replacement costs was larger in percentage terms than the drop in medical costs, the latter was equally financially consequential since medical costs comprise a larger share of total costs. The second stage, which compares the effect of nonsubscription across different types of injuries, finds that non-traumatic injury claims were more responsive to nonsubscription than traumatic ones. In part, this disparity reflects the fact that private plans categorically exclude some non-traumatic injuries from the scope of coverage. Yet even those non-traumatic injuries that were not excluded from coverage declined more than traumatic injuries, consistent with aggressive claim screening by employers and/or a decline in over-claiming and over-utilization by employees in the nonsubscription environment. The third stage examines the effect of nonsubscription on severe, traumatic injuries, which are generally the least susceptible to reporting bias and moral hazard. The sizable and significant decline in such injuries is consistent with an improvement in real safety, although it could also be explained by aggressive claim screening. The final stage of the study probes whether four ubiquitous features of private plans – non-coverage of permanent partial disabilities, categorical exclusion of many diseases and some non-traumatic injuries, capped benefits, and lack of chiropractic care – explain the observed trends. Surprisingly, these features account for little of the estimated cost savings. Although many study participants describe limited provider choice and 24-hour reporting windows as major cost drivers, data limitations preclude me from identifying their respective impacts. Overall, my findings suggest an urgent need for policymakers to examine the economic and distributional effects of converting workers’ compensation from a cornerstone of the social welfare state into an optional program that exists alongside privately-provided forms of occupational injury insurance.

Hospital workers suffered 294,000 nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2014

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, TED: The Economics Daily, April 25, 2016

In 2014, workers in hospitals sustained an estimated 294,000 nonfatal work-related injuries and illnesses. Counts and rates of nonfatal injuries and illnesses have been on a downward trend across all industries….

The Price of Life

Source: James Green, Jacobin, April 2016

Like many coal bosses before him, Massey Energy CEO Donald Blankenship put profits before workers’ safety. … While the loss of life in the Montcoal explosion was the coal industry’s worst since 1970, the tragedy fits into a pattern of corporate malevolence going back more than a century. …. American coal miners learned the hard way that they could only rely on themselves and their labor union, the United Mine Workers of America (UMW), for protection while they toiled underground. They knew they would get no help from the federal government: the Bureau of Mines, created in 1910 and controlled by leading industrialists, had no regulatory or enforcement powers of any kind. …. That pattern persists to the present. Since 1995, 330 non-union coal miners have been killed at work, compared to 88 UMW members, according to the union’s health and safety department. ….

Shift work may pose greater risk to women: study

Source: Safety+Health, April 20, 2016

Women are more likely than men to be affected by the adverse ramifications of shift work, a new study out of England suggests.

Researchers from the University of Surrey’s sleep center placed 16 men and 18 women on 28-hour days to desynchronize them from the brain’s typical 24-hour circadian clock. Participants then performed several tasks every three hours when they were awake.

The sleep cycle simulated the effect that shift work or jetlag may have on workers. Researchers found that the desynchronized circadian clock affected sleepiness, mood and effort, as well as working memory and temporal processing to a smaller degree. ….
Sex differences in the circadian regulation of sleep and waking cognition in humans
Source: Nayantara Santhi, Alpar S. Lazar, Patrick J. McCabe, June C. Lo, John A. Groeger, and Derk-Jan Dijk,Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Early Edition, published ahead of print April 18, 2016

Circadian rhythms affect our physiology and psychology, in health and disease. Most of our knowledge about the human circadian timing system is based on research in men. Some circadian characteristics, such as the intrinsic frequency of the circadian clock and the amplitude of the melatonin rhythm, have been shown to differ between men and women. Whether the circadian regulation of mental functions differs between men and women is unknown. Here we show that circadian rhythmicity in mental functions exhibits sex differences so that the night-time impairment in cognitive performance is greater in women than in men. These findings are significant in view of shift-work–related cognitive deficits and disturbances of mood, which are more prevalent in women.

Revisions to the 2014 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 21, 2016

The final count of fatal work injuries in the United States in 2014 was 4,821, up from the preliminary count of 4,679 reported in September 2015 and the highest annual total since 2008. The overall fatal work injury rate for the United States in 2014 was 3.4 fatal injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, slightly higher than the final rate of 3.3 reported for 2013. The higher overall rate in 2014 is the first increase in the national fatal injury rate since 2010.

The final 2014 numbers reflect updates to the 2014 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) file made after the release of preliminary results in September 2015. Revisions and additions to the 2014 CFOI counts result from the identification of new cases and the revision of existing cases based on source documents received after the release of preliminary results. See the table that summarizes the preliminary and revised counts and rates for 2014….

Important note on future data: Beginning with the 2015 reference year, final data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) will be released in December–4 months earlier than in past years. The final 2015 CFOI data are scheduled for release on December 16, 2016. This December release will be the only release of CFOI data for 2015. A similar schedule will be followed in subsequent years. Preliminary releases, which normally appeared in August or September in past years, will no longer be produced….