Category Archives: Health & Safety

Home Economics: The Invisible and Unregulated World of Domestic Work

Source: Linda Burnham, Nik Theodore, National Domestic Workers Alliance, 2012

From the summary:
Domestic workers play an increasingly significant role in the U.S. economy. Yet the labor of domestic workers is invisible and unregulated. These factors combine to make domestic workers especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse on the job….

…Home Economics: The Invisible and Unregulated World of Domestic Work presents the results of the first national survey of domestic workers in the US. It breaks new ground by providing an empirically based and representative picture of domestic employment in 21st century America. We asked a sample of domestic workers a standardized set of questions focusing in four aspects of the industry:
• pay rates, benefits, and their impact on the lives of workers and their families;
• employment arrangements and employers’ compliance with employment agreements;
• workplace conditions, on-the-job injuries, and access to health care;
• abuse at work and the ability to remedy substandard conditions.

We surveyed 2,086 nannies, caregivers, and housecleaners in 14 metropolitan areas. The survey was conducted in nine languages. Domestic workers from 71 countries were interviewed. The study employed a participatory methodology in which 190 domestic workers and organizers from 34 community organizations collaborated in survey design, the fielding of the survey, and the preliminary analysis of the data.
See also:
Key Findings
Explore the Data

Home Economics: A Discussion about the Unregulated World of Domestic Work
Source: Aspen Institute, February 4, 2013

DataCenter and NDWA at 2013 CBPR Institute
Source: DataCenter and National Domestic Workers Alliance, July 23, 2013
DataCenter and National Domestic Workers Alliance present the details of the research project that produced the groundbreaking report “Home Economics: The Invisible and Unregulated World of Domestic Work.”

Legal And Policy Standards For Addressing Workplace Racism: Employer Liability And Shared Responsibility For Race-Based Traumatic Stress

Source: Robert T. Carter, Thomas D. Scheuermann, University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, Religion, Gender and Class, Volume 12, Number 1, 2012

…Despite progress in the half century since Brown v. Board of Education and the demise of the “separate but equal” doctrine, harmful and costly levels of discrimination, racism, and racial harassment continue to exist, including in the workplace. Attempts to redress these ills, particularly in the employment setting, have been cumbersome and often ineffective for aggrieved employees as they have sought redress either administratively through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or in the federal courts. One indication of the dismal prospects for employees injured by racial discrimination and harassment is that, in spite of diligent efforts (and until recently a shrinking staff), the EEOC backlog of cases numbered 86,338 as of September 2010. Furthermore, when employee-plaintiffs seek to pursue their cases through state or federal administrative agencies or courts, the standards established in federal statutes and court rulings present a daunting “web” of choices for them. The choices are complex for defendant employers and their respective counsel as well. This confusion is most acutely felt in the case of employees who have experienced severe injuries such as race-based traumatic stress (RBTS) resulting from workplace harassment, as they seek just compensation for their injuries and for the harassment to cease.

This Article proposes a legal and policy framework for more effective prevention of and legal redress for workplace harassment and discrimination. This approach focuses on employees who have suffered a severe, demonstrable emotional and psychological injury due to harassment or discrimination, i.e. race-based traumatic stress (RBTS). The Article begins with the assertion that America is not in a “post-racial” stage and that racism and racial harassment, both intentional and more subtle, are unfortunately still present in various settings including the workplace. A brief overview of current federal employment law related to racial harassment and discrimination, and its deficits, is provided, and the use of tort concepts to complement and strengthen current avenues to legal redress is proposed and discussed. Finally, this Article proposes a comprehensive approach to workplace harassment and discrimination….

Updated BLS Occupational Injury and Illness Classification System

Source: Joyce M. Northwood, Eric F. Sygnatur, and Janice A. Windau, Monthly Labor Review, Vol. 135, No. 8, August 2012

The evolving nature of the U.S. workplace, along with medical and technological advances, necessitated a revision to the Occupational Injury and Illness Classification System employed by the bls Occupational Safety and Health Statistics program; the new version also incorporates a number of enhancements to the original, first released in 1992.

Non-violence-related Workplace Injuries Among Emergency Nurses in the United States: Implications for Improving Safe Practice, Safe Care

Source: Cydne Perhats, Vicki Keough, Jeanne Fogarty, Nancy L. Hughes, Carol J. Kappelman, Mary Scott, Jason Moretz, Journal of Emergency Nursing, Volume 38, Issue 6, November 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Introduction: Health care workers are more likely than most other occupations to experience work-related injuries, and emergency nurses frequently encounter job-related hazards in their daily routine. Risk factors for non-violence-related workplace injuries among nurses include heavy workloads, aging of the nursing workforce, workplace environmental factors, obesity, and non-standard work schedules. These factors impact nurses’ decisions regarding whether or not to return to their job or to stay in their field of practice, thereby exacerbating workforce shortages and hindering recruitment and retention efforts.Methods: To better understand non-violence-related workplace injuries among emergency nurses, ENA conducted a survey of its members in 2009. Of the 2294 nurses who responded to the survey, one in five nurses (n = 440) reported that they experienced a non-violence-related injury while working in their emergency department during the previous year.Results: The logistic regression model found three factors that were related to the occurrence of a non-violence-related workplace injury: (1) hospitals having safe patient handling policies and programs, (2) access to decontamination and post-exposure treatment, and (3) emergency nurses’ perception of staffing in their emergency department.Discussion: While these results provide only a preliminary understanding of ED non-violence-related workplace injuries, they form the basis of a fundamental model for prevention of workplace injuries among emergency nurses. The model can be used to help establish a culture of ED workplace safety through the integration of safety policies and programs, access to safety equipment and controls, and optimal staffing levels. Support from hospital administrators for ED workplace safety initiatives that address these three components, along with current best practice recommendations from the field of occupational health and safety, have the potential to improve workplace safety for emergency nurses.

National Census Of Fatal Occupational Injuries In 2011 (Preliminary Results)

Source: U.S. department of Labor, Economic News Release, USDL-12-1888, September 20, 2012

A preliminary total of 4,609 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2011, down from a final count of 4,690 fatal work injuries in 2010, according to results from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) program conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate of fatal work injury for U.S. workers in 2011 was 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, as compared to a final rate of 3.6 per 100,000 for 2010.

Lack of national paid sick day policy hurts caregives nationwide

Source: Elisa Batista, PRI, September 9, 2012

As the American population ages, more Americans are in need of some degree of in-home care and assistance. Many of those willing to do the hard work an unpleasant tasks are immigrants. But for all of these caregivers, there’s a big hole in their compensation. Whether they’re sick or in need of medical care, they can’t take time off — not only endangering themselves but those they care for as well.

Burnout among mental health care providers

Source: Gila M Acker, Journal of Social Work, Vol. 12 no. 5, September 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
• Summary: The new mental health care delivery system in the USA strives to provide efficient quality care at a lower cost. This cost-effective approach and focus on short-term treatment modalities and measurable outcomes has created new challenges especially for those who work with clients with severe mental illness. This study explores the relationships between workplace conditions, role stress, burnout, and intent to quit. The direct and indirect effects of role stress on emotional exhaustion and emotional exhaustion on intent to quit are illuminated in order to better understand the complex process of becoming stressed and disillusioned with one’s work.

• Findings: The results support the author’s expectations that role stress mediates the association between workplace variables and emotional exhaustion; and that emotional exhaustion mediates the association between role stress and intent to quit.

Overtime Work as a Predictor of Major Depressive Episode: A 5-Year Follow-Up of the Whitehall II Study

Source: Marianna Virtanen, Stephen A. Stansfeld, Rebecca Fuhrer, Jane E. Ferrie, Mika Kivimäki, PLoS ONE, Vol. 7 no. 1, January 25, 2012

From the abstract:
The association between overtime work and depression is still unclear. This study examined the association between overtime work and the onset of a major depressive episode (MDE)…. Data from middle-aged civil servants suggest that working long hours of overtime may predispose to major depressive episodes…

Whole-body vibration exposure in metropolitan bus drivers

Source: C. A. Lewis, P. W. Johnson, Occupational Medicine, First published online: July 9, 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Back injuries are common in transit drivers, and can result in substantial direct and indirect cost to the employer and employee. Whole-body vibration (WBV) is one risk factor for drivers. Standards have been adopted (ISO 2631-1) to guide researchers in measuring and analysing WBV levels. Lately, a new standard has been added (ISO 2631-5) that takes impulsive exposures into account….The aims of this study were to determine the levels of vibration for bus drivers using both ISO 2631-1 and 2631-5 standards, and whether there are differences in vibration levels and seat transmissibility between different road types….Conclusions: Bus drivers are potentially being exposed to daily vibration levels higher than recommended especially on certain road types. The current seat in this study does not attenuate the vibration….

Influenza Pandemic – Agencies Report Progress in Plans to Protect Federal Workers but Oversight Could Be Improved

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office, GAO-12-748, July 25, 2012

From the summary:
In 2012, federal agencies reported they had made progress in planning to protect their federal employees during an influenza pandemic. For example:

– Twenty-three of 24 federal agencies reported they had completed influenza pandemic plans that address the operational approach they would use to protect their employees in the event of an influenza pandemic. In 2009, 20 agencies reported completing such plans.

– All 24 agencies reported that, to reduce employees’ risk of exposure to influenza, they developed policies or procedures such as telework and avoiding all unnecessary travel. In the 2009 survey, 22 agencies reported developing the former policy and 18 the latter.

– All of the agencies reported that they planned for the distribution of hygiene supplies to protect employees whose duties require them to work onsite during an influenza pandemic. In 2009, 18 agencies reported taking this planning step.

However, the agencies reported uneven status in some key areas suggesting some additional oversight is needed. For example, only nine agencies reported they have classified all or most jobs for onsite mission essential functions by exposure risk level. Additional oversight could help in ensuring that, by classifying jobs by exposure risk level, agencies have appropriate measures in place to protect those employees who must carry out mission essential functions that cannot be performed remotely during an influenza pandemic.