Occupational Health and Safety
Section Newsletter
Winter 2007

Chair's Message

I am honored to chair the Occupational Health and Safety Section for the next year.  My last term as chairp was in the early 1980s, and much has changed in our section since then.  I look forward to working with you this next year.   

The Annual Meeting in Boston in early November was a major success for the Occupational Health and Safety Section, thanks particularly to the work of the Section leadership, chaired by Rachel Rubin, and the Program Planning Committee, chaired by Butch DeCastro.  The overall meeting theme, Public Health and Human Rights, was particularly relevant to our section, and was reflected by many activities of our section.   At the meeting, our section continued its ongoing work in solidarity with hotel workers who face increasing ergonomic hazards.  As documented by a recent participatory action research study by Nick Krause, T. Scherzer and Reiner Rugulies, most hotel room cleaners experience severe back or neck pain. Severe pain was found to have strong associations with physical workload, work intensification, and ergonomic problems[1].  Thanks to Pamela Vossenas for facilitating Section activities during the Annual Meeting around this issue.

Some of the current policy challenges that face us in occupational health and safety include:

a.  Health care reform – How do we insure that reforms address issues of worker health and safety, workers’ compensation, and specifically health care worker health and safety?

b.  Immigrant workers, day laborers, contingent work force – How can we adapt traditional approaches or develop innovative, new approaches to training, enforcement of standards, and other public health prevention to reduce the relatively unsafe jobs faced by these growing sectors of workers?

c.  How do we promote an effective rights-based approach to occupational health and safety? 

Thanks for activities by Section members, particularly chairpersons of our Section committees.  Please see the OH&S Section’s new e-Communities Web page (https://secure.apha.org/source/communities/userhomepage.cfm) for a current list of chairpersons (it is posted as a bulletin board listing as: Current OH&S Section Leadership 1_4_07.pdf).  Please let me know if you are interested in contributing to the Section in any way; joining an existing committee, or helping to start a new initiative are excellent ways to get more involved and active.

New initiatives for 2007 include:

d.  E-Communities – The new APHA-wide communication center for sections, including news postings, online discussions of important section issues, and a bulletin board for key documents.   Please let me know if you would like an interactive orientation to this great new tool, currently being tested by OH&S and several other APHA sections.

e.  Immigrant Worker H&S Institute – This idea was proposed at the November 2006 Annual Meeting, to provide a focus for activities around occupational health and safety among immigrant worker populations.  Please contact me if you would like to join this effort.

f.   Expanding our Membership.  Our section had 716 members as of Nov. 30, 2006.  Thanks to Paul Landsbergis, chair of our Membership Committee, we have been increasingly active in recruiting new members.  Attendees at the final Section Meeting in November agreed to join a campaign, “each one recruit one”, as we set a goal to expand our Section’s membership to over 750 members by August 2007.   

g.  Policy Reviews – At the suggestion of members attending our Section meeting in November, we would like to increase our Section’s input on the various resolutions that APHA considers each year in hearings at Annual Meeting.  To do this, we need volunteers to review resolutions that will be submitted to APHA in the spring.  If you are interested in helping, please contact Policy and Resolutions Committee Co-Chair, Mary Miller, (360)902-6041.

h.  Proposing a progressive OH&S Agenda for next administration.  Now is an excellent time to put forward proposals to change the direction for occupational safety and health at the federal level, particularly in light of the current change of leadership in Congress, and preparing for the next administration in 2008 in Washington, D.C.   Health and safety activists in various states have developed policy proposal initiatives for changes of players at the state government level, which can serve as good models for a national proposal.  If you are interested in helping with this effort, please let me know.


[1] Am J Ind Med. 2005 Nov;48(5):326-37.

 

 

submitted by Jim Cone, MD, MPH
Environmental and Occupational Disease Epidemiology
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
253 Broadway, Room 402, CN34-C
New York, NY 10007
Main Office Phone 212-788-4290
Fax 212-788-4299

Environmental and Occupational Health and Primary Care: Working Together for the Health of Vulnerable Workers in Hazardous Industries

There are numerous barriers to recognizing and treating occupational and environmental health (EOH) problems in the primary care setting. Some of the underlying reasons are the limited EOH training front line providers receive as well as institutional challenges that prevent clinicians from adequately addressing EOH problems.  For migrant farmworkers and other vulnerable populations working in hazardous industries such as construction, an occupational injury or exposure is often the reason for first point of contact with the health care system, underscoring the need to begin addressing EOH concerns at the primary care level.

 

To address these concerns, the Migrant Clinicians Network (MCN), the nation’s oldest clinical network for the under-served, has developed a program to focus on EOH in the primary care setting. MCN’s program, Saving Lives by Changing Practice, is part of a five-year cooperative agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pesticide Programs, to address pesticides and other EOH issues in primary care practice setting.

 

MCN will ultimately recruit and work with six to eight federally funded Migrant and Community Health Centers (M/CHC) to develop a flexible, center-based model to integrate EOH in the primary care setting.  This will involve incorporating key practice skills outlined in National Environmental Education Training Foundation’s, National Pesticide Practice Skills Guidelines for Medical and Nursing Practice (2003).  These skills include:

 

  • Taking an environmental history.
  • Awareness of community and individual pesticide risk factors.
  • Knowledge of key environmental/occupational health principles.
  • Clinical management of pesticide exposure.
  • Reporting pesticide exposure and supporting surveillance efforts.
  • Providing prevention guidance and education to patients.

 

The first M/CHCs MCN has recruited are the Maine Migrant Health Program and Golden Valley Health Centers, in Merced, Calif.  The Maine Migrant Health Program is a primary and preventative health care delivery system that serves migrant and seasonal farm workers throughout Maine.  Golden Valley provides comprehensive primary medical and dental care to an ethnically diverse population, including migrant and seasonal farm workers, Southeast Asian refugees, and the homeless population throughout Central Valley of California. 

 

Key to the success of these partnerships is both administrative and clinical “buy in” to the project.  At both of these health centers, MCN works directly with a “clinician champion,” or a clinician who is interested in environmental and occupational health and willing to spearhead the clinic-based program.  Additionally, MCN has contractual agreements signed by the executive directors and provides the health care centers with a $5,000 stipend to offset the costs. In the case of the Maine Migrant Heath Program, the stipend will be used to conduct a pre and post chart evaluation to determine if the intervention improves the recognition of occupationally related injuries and exposures.

 

Another integral aspect of this program is its expert advisory committee made up of primary care clinicians, occupational and environmental medicine specialists, and representatives from pesticide regulatory agencies and farm worker advocacy groups.  The Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (AOEC), the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), the University of Washington and the National Pesticide Medical Monitoring Program are part of the advisory committee.  MCN not only looks to these experts to guide the program, but uses these partnerships to link primary care clinicians in Migrant and Community Health Centers with occupational and environmental specialists and clinics by: 

 

  • Training primary care providers in occupational/environmental medicine.
  • Facilitating clinical consults between the primary care clinician and the occupational medicine clinician.
  • Developing referral mechanisms for complicated pesticide cases.
  • Supporting clinicians and clinics with workers compensation.

 

The expert advisory panel is currently assisting MCN to develop a prioritized list of occupational/environmental screening questions for primary care.  If a clinic is only able to ask one occupational screening question, then this list will identify the most critical question to ask.  If the clinic is able to include more questions, then the list will offer additional pertinent questions. 

 

The key issue for any product or resource developed through this project is that it must be reasonable and practical for a primary care setting where time is extremely limited and the number of topics covered quite extensive.  MCN feels that the equal partnership between occupational medicine specialists and primary care providers offers a needed balance and is critical to bringing about real improvement in care for migrants. 

 

MCN welcomes the participation of occupational health professionals, primary care clinicians and clinics interested in EOH.  If you would like to be involved or would simply like more information about this effort, please contact Amy K. Liebman at (410)860-9850 or aliebman@migrantclinician.org.

 

submitted by Amy K. Liebman

aliebman@migrantclinician.org

 

 

Online Discussion: “Getting Home Safe and Sound? OSHA at 35”

This is an invitation to members of the OHS Section to join an online discussion about the future of workplace safety and health in the United States.  To get this discussion going, a few weeks ago I distributed a draft paper, titled “Getting Home Safe and Sound? OSHA at Thirty-Five.”  For those who have not yet seen the draft it is available on The Pump Handle blog ( http://thepumphandle.wordpress.com / ) and the Defending Science website ( http://www.defendingscience.org / ).

 

The basic theme is that 35 years after passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the promise of worker protection remains substantially unfulfilled.  There is much challenging work left to be done that can’t be accomplished by simply trying harder to do more of the same.  The paper suggests three areas for change:

 

  • stronger and more creative implementation of the OSHAct;
  • statutory improvements to the OSHAct; and
  • a variety of measures outside the OSHA framework. 

Numerous possible improvements to the OSHA model have been proposed by many individuals and organizations over the years.  However, even with the best list of reforms in hand and the best people in key leadership positions, success will be beyond reach without significant change in the political landscape so that worker protection becomes a much higher and more visible national priority.   The paper suggests several measures to help achieve this change:

 

  • reframing the language of worker protection to link it with broad resonant themes of health and human rights;
  • assembling coalitions around issues of shared importance to labor and environmental groups, community organizations and public health professionals;
  • building an institutional infrastructure; and
  • strengthening our scientific base.  

The paper begins with a short stand-alone set of principles, priorities and practical actions – a roadmap or framework for change.  The choice of a limited framework rather than a long shopping list is rooted in the belief that accomplishing change requires sharp focus by multiple parties on a common set of objectives so energies can be concentrated and coordinated instead of diffused.  Thus, while this list of principles, priorities and practical actions is a working draft and suggested changes are invited and needed, improvements should be along the lines of achieving a more compelling and better articulated short list rather than expanding into a more inclusive longer one.  The roadmap is followed by a set of questions to help focus discussion and commentary.  This is followed in turn by the main narrative, appendices and references. 

 

I look forward to your review, comments, and suggestions for improvement.  I am interested in four types of comments:  1) reactions to the roadmap; 2) feedback on the supporting arguments in the main narrative; 3) commentary on the issues raised in the discussion questions; and 4) thoughts about next steps.  While I would be happy to get comments sent directly to me at masilver@u.washington.edu or silvermas@comcast.net, I strongly suggest that you contribute to the online discussion at The Pump Handle (http://thepumphandle.wordpress.com/).

 

submitted by Michael Silverstein

masilver@u.washington.edu

 

Confined Spaces says So Long

Four years and 2,800 posts later, Jordan Barab has made the difficult decision to move on to the House, Education and Labor Committee.  While this is a plus for the government, it is a loss for all of us in the OHS community who have come to depend on Confined Spaces—the premier web site for looking at workplace safety and health in a political context.  There are not enough words to express appreciation for the endless hours that Jordan has devoted to bringing us this comprehensive vehicle.  What’s next?  He has assured us that he will try to keep us up to date on places where we can go to find similar information and analysis.  Among some of the sites listed are: The Pump Handle http://thepumphandle.wordpress.com/ , Hazards Magazine http://www.hazards.org/ , and Labourstart http://www.labourstart.org/cgi-bin/hs/showarchive.cgi .  For complete listing visit: http://spewingforth.blogspot.com/ (Post = Beyond Confined Spaces).

APHA Concludes 134th Annual Meeting

Last November, thousands of public health professionals gathered in Boston for the APHAs 134th Annual Meeting.  The theme of the meeting was: Public Health and Human Rights. Sessions and posters focused on pressing issues in public health for 2006 and the future. 

 

To view snapshots (courtesy: Katherine Kirkland) from OHS Section activities, click here.

 

OHS Section E-Community

APHA is launching a new technology available to us to encourage better communication among members. OHS and a few other sections are involved in a sort of test run before it gets distributed to all sections.  Below is the link to get there.  A few of us are considered "managers" [we need a new name] for posting things to the Web newsletter and bulletin board.  Jim Cone, myself and Tim Morse can post new items to the site, so don't hesitate contacting any one of us.  Anyone who is still a member of the listserv will still be able to post e-mail notices just as before.

 

Once things are posted everyone has access to the materials and to respond to the e-mail option for the discussion topics.  Take a cruise through the site: https://secure.apha.org/source/communities/userhomepage.cfm and check things out.  We will pass you feedback for improvements along to APHA. For complete instructions, click here.

 

submitted by Mary Miller

mmar235@Lni.wa.gov

 

Resolution on the Right for Employee Free Choice to Form Unions

Introduced in 2005, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is an example of landmark legislation intended to strengthen protections for workers and their freedom to unionize by requiring employers to recognize a union after a majority of workers authorize representation.  It also would provide for mediation and arbitration of first-contract disputes and authorize stronger penalties for violation of the law when workers seek to form a union. This resolution advances the agenda for current and future public health by supporting the organizations that defend the rights of workers to improved access to health care. 

 

To view the complete resolution, click here.

 

submitted by Peter Dooley

LaborSafe@aol.com

 

2007 Call for Award Nominations Awards Program

The Oral Health Section is now accepting nominations for several public health leadership awards. For more information about the awards, visit http://www.apha.org/membergroups/sections/2007secawards.htm. The deadline for nominations is June 1, 2007. The awards will be presented at the APHA 135th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. Awards Committee Chair Peter Dooley (LaborSafe@aol.com ) will provide the Section with more information in the coming months.

Coming to a Theater Near You....An Unreasonable Man: Ralph Nader. How Do You Define a Legacy?

Go see the current documentary, An Unreasonable Man about Ralph Nader http://www.anunreasonableman.com/ . It has references to his key role in furthering occupational safety and health, as Ralph Nader was a key supporter of the OSHA Act.  The film is a great inspiration, illustrating the ethics of one of the greatest activists ever in public health and safety.  Take a young person with you when you see the film. 

 

submitted by Jim Cone

jcone998@aol.com

 

Seeking Former Student Assembly Section Members: APHA Student Assembly Alumni Database

This year, the APHA-Student Assembly Opportunities Committee provided more resources to students regarding scholarships, conferences, job postings, potential employers, and fellowships/internships. In addition to these endeavors, the committee revamped the Student Assembly Alumni Database. The Alumni Database is meant to not only allow the Student Assembly to keep track of their past members, but it also provides current and potential students access to learn about possible careers in the public health field.

 

To access the Alumni Database, students can visit www.aphastudents.org and click on the Opportunities Committee Web page. Here students can look at job positions currently held by public health professionals. Prospective public health students could access this database and view jobs that people with public health degrees have to gain a better understanding of the wide variety of career paths available to them. Alumni range from recent graduates working in fellowships or entry-level positions to seasoned health professionals with well-established research agendas.

 

The Student Assembly Opportunities Committee co-chairs are working to increase participation of Student Assembly alumni in the Alumni Database. Anyone who at one time was a member of the Student Assembly (previously entitled Public Health Student Caucus) can visit the Web site, complete the form available on the Opportunities Committee Web page (www.aphastudents.org/phso_alumni_db.php) and return it to jlcremeens@aol.com. This endeavor depends on the cooperation of the Student Assembly alumni. With alumni support, the Database can become a wonderful resource for the next generation of public health students. We hope you will consider taking a few moments to add yourself to the Alumni Database. 

 

If you have any questions or want more information, please feel free to contact Jennifer Cremeens or Anna Pollack, the Opportunities Committee co-chairs at opportunities@aphastudents.org.

submitted by Jennifer Creemens
opportunities@aphastudents.org

National Public Health Week Set for April 2-8

Thousands of partners across the country will join APHA in celebrating National Public Health Week, April 2-8, 2007.  The theme of this year’s observance is, “Preparedness and Public Health Threats: Addressing the Unique Needs of the Nation’s Vulnerable Populations.” To learn more, visit: http://www.nphw.org/ .  

Announcements

March 2007

Spirometry Update: Interpretations and Pitfalls (Pittsburgh). March 23, 2007.  MC Townsend Associates. For course description and more information, call: (412)343-9946 or visit: http://www.mctownsend.com

University of Cincinnati: Respirator Selection & Change Out Schedule Workshop. (Salt Lake City). March 7-8, 2007.  To register and for more information visit: www.DrMcKay.com.

 

Central States Occupational Medicine (CSOMA): Occupational Medicine-Where Medicine Meets the Workplace, March, 15, 2007 and the 83rd Annual Spring Seminar: The Big Bang-The Universe of Occupational Medicine, March 16-17, 2007. (Lisle, Ill.)  For more information, visit: www.csoma.org.

 

The Northwest Center for Occupational Health & Safety at the University of Washington is offering: Occupational Allergy (March 16, 2007).    To find more information about this course, call (206) 543-1069 or visit http://depts.washington.edu/ehce/.

 

Acute and Chronic Noise Exposure: Strategies for Preventing, Diagnosing and Treating Hearing Loss. (Boston). March 29-30, 2007.  For more information, visit http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/ccpe/programs/ACNE.shtml.

 

April 2007

 

2007 AAOHN Symposium and Expo (Orlando, Fla.) April 13-20, 2007.  For more information, visit: http://www.aaohn.org/education/symposium-expo/index.cfm.

 

2nd Nanotoxicology Conference 'Progress and Future Perspectives,' (Venice, Italy). April 19-21, 2007. Visit http://www.informaworld.com/nanotoxconference for further details. 

 

The University of Cincinnati is pleased to announce the following courses:

Overview of Respiratory Protection
                April 23, 2007

Fit Testing Workshop:
                April 24-25, 2007

For more information visit: www.DrMcKay.com.

 

The Northwest Center for Occupational Health & Safety at the University of Washington is offering the following Continuing Education courses. To confirm this schedule, or find more information about these courses, call (206) 543-1069 or visit http://depts.washington.edu/ehce/. Courses are in Seattle unless otherwise noted.

April 10 – Ergonomic Quality in Facility Design http://depts.washington.edu/ehce/NWcenter/course/ERGO-07.html

April 25 – A Smal Dose of Toxicology: How Chemicals Affect Your Health (Anchorage, Alaska). http://depts.washington.edu/ehce/NWcenter/course/STOX-07.html

 

June 2007

 

The American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition (AIHce): Sparking Tradition with Invention. June 2-7, 2007. (Philadelphia)  Conference information can be found at http://www.aiha.org/Content/CE/aihce/aihce.htm

 

August 2007

 

PREMUS 2007: 6th International Scientific Conference on Prevention of Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (Boston). August 26-30, 2007.  (This is the first time PREMUS has been held in North America in 10 years).  For complete details and more information, go to www.premus2007.org.

October 2007

7th International Conference on Occupational Health for Health Care Workers (Vancouver, British Columbia). Oct. 26-28, 2007. Organized by: ICOH Scientific Committee on Health Care Worker Health and American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. For more information, visit: http://www.acoem.org/icoh.aspx.

3rd International Symposium on Work Ability: Promotion of Work Ability Towards a Productive Aging.  (Hanoi, Vietnam). October 22-24, 2007.  Deadline for abstracts: May 1, 2007.  For complete details and information contact Symposium Secretary, Jean-Luc Malo: malo-j-l@med.uoeh-u.ac.jp.

Newsletter Information and Accessibility

You might have noticed that the OHS Section newsletters are automatically “published” online shortly after each issue’s deadline.

 

The most common reason people might not be receiving this notification is that their e-mail address is not in the APHA database. You can update your member records on the APHA Web site at http://www.apha.org/about/membership/profile/

or call the membership department at (202) 777-2400.

 

Although we realize the importance of receiving the newsletter notifications, they aren't needed to access the newsletters, so members can visit the Web site at any time to view their newsletters at http://www.apha.org/membergroups/newsletters/sectionnewsletters/occupat/

 

If members are still concerned they aren't receiving the notification, they can contact APHA Component Affairs Coordinator Tanisha Battle at (202) 777-2485 or tanisha.battle@apha.org.