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Occupational Health and Safety
Section Newsletter
Spring 2008

OHS Section Chair

Robert J. Harrison, MD, MPH

Professor of Medicine

Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

University of California, San Francisco

2380 Sutter Street, Third Floor

San Francisco CA 94115

415/885-7580, Fax 415-771-4472

Robert.harrison@ucsf.edu

 

OHS Section Newsletter Editor

Ingrid A. Denis, MA

Association of Occupational & Environmental Clinics (AOEC)

1010 Vermont Ave, NW Ste. 513

Washington, DC  20005

888/347-2632  Fax 202-347-4950

idenis@aoec.org

 

Chair's Message

Robert Harrison, MD, MPH, Chair

OHS Section

Robert.Harrison@ucsf.edu

 

Since my last message to the Occupational Health & Safety Section, the choices for November 2008 have now become clear.  I know that many of us may be working over the next several months on the national, state and local elections. Some of you may not be attending the APHA Annual Meeting in October to devote the election campaign full-time before Nov. 4, 2008. 

 

Over the past 25 years of my career in occupational safety and health, the number of critical issues for improving the workplace environment has perhaps never been greater.  The list of needed interventions to improve worker health and safety is long and the challenges daunting.  Just to name a few: reducing the racial and ethnic disparities in workplace fatalities, adopting tougher crane safety and combustible dust standards, banning asbestos use, and accurately tracking injuries and illnesses.  What about the list of chemicals needing stronger Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs)?  From old hazards (such as silica) to new hazards (such as diacetyl), there is a large backlog of scientific data that should be driving the prompt adoption of protective PELs.  The adoption of the REACH initiative in Europe is stimulating greater discussion in the United States of eliminating hazards at the “source” such that worker exposures could cease completely. And lest we not forget about the ergonomic standard that quickly came and went in the early 1990s, what about the continued enormous morbidity and cost of musculoskeletal disorders?

 

In the next few months, our Section leadership will be engaging the OHS Section membership in discussions with our colleagues in the health and safety movement to debate and discuss priorities for the next administration.  I am certain this will be a robust topic during our San Diego meeting as well – including a special Monday afternoon session with John Howard, Michael Silverstein, Linda Rae Murray and Jordan Barab.  This should be an opportunity to collaborate and strategize so we can maximize our opportunities to improve worker safety and health as we head into 2009.

 

P.S.  For those of you who haven’t seen the documentary series “Unnatural Causes,” which aired on many PBS stations this past spring, it is one of the best films I have seen on the relationship between health and wealth.  Although there is a relatively short discussion of the relationship between the work environment and health, this series is a powerful presentation of the well-known social gradients of health, combining human stories with epidemiological data.  More information about the film can be found at http://www.pbs.org/unnaturalcauses/about_the_series.htm.

Congratulations to OHS Section Awardees

The recipients of this year’s OHS Section Awards are listed below.  Join us in celebrating the achievements of the award recipients at the OHS Section Awards Luncheon, Oct. 28, 2008 at the 2008 APHA Annual Meeting in San Diego. Visit the OHS Section Web site, http://www.apha.org/membergroups/sections/aphasections/occupational/,  for more information.

 

Alice Hamilton Award:

David Kotelchuck, PhD

 

Now a professor emeritus, Dr. David Kotelchuck was a professor in the Urban Public Health Program of the Hunter College School of Health Sciences, City University of New York, from 1984 – 2006. He was a founding Co-Director of the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at Hunter College in 1987, and later became its director. He has written numerous books, book chapters and scientific and policy articles. His research has addressed workers’ health issues including toxic exposures, public employee health and safety, and medical needlestick injuries.

 

Dave has a long record of labor, H&S, and environmental and public health activism. In 1972 he began his 25 years of service to Health/PAC. His ground-breaking 1973 article “Your Money or Your Life” exposed the Johns Mansville Company for its decades-long malfeasance. Dave became a leading voice of the new public/environmental/occupational health movements that emerged in the 1970s.

Dave has worked closely with unions including the UAW and the Professional Staff Congress of the AFT. He served as the Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) from 1980 – 1984, and then served as an H&S consultant until 2004. He has been writing a column, Health on the Job, in the union’s newspaper for nearly 30 years. He has also served continuously on the NYCOSH Board since its establishment in 1980.

Dave has been a member of the APHA OHS Section since 1978, serving as Chair in 2003-2004, and a Nominations Committee member (2004-2005). He served on APHA’s Governing Council from 1990-1994, its Action Board from 1997- 2000, and then its Policy Committee from 2000-2002.

 

Now early in his retirement, Dave continues his lifetime record of service and progressive activism to build with others a just and healthy organization of human society.

 

Nominated by Craig Slatin, Joel Shufro, and Chuck Levenstein

 

Lorin Kerr Award (2):

Diane E. Bush, MPH

 

Diane has been a leader in the movement to advance protections for young workers in the area of health and safety. Her activism and organizational skills have help advance the resources available to professionals, parents and youth to elevate this issue in our field. Diane’s accomplishments include:

 

  • Developed community-based interventions to prevent occupational injury among young employees. These include educational, enforcement and other policy level strategies. One of Diane’s recent undertakings has been to coordinate several “Youth Leadership Institutes” where young workers participate in week-long conferences to help them develop leadership skills to be involved in health and safety activism.
  • Co-wrote and conducted research for one of the first reports characterizing the problem of young workers' health and safety. This report helped generate NIOSH funding as well as a California task force on this issue.
  • Established a statewide Resource Center on Young Workers' Health and Safety at LOHP.

Diane’s leadership in the area of young worker health and safety has made a tremendous impact on the advancement and recognition of this long neglected topic in health and safety. Her ability to reach out to target groups including professional and young workers themselves has created excitement and energy to continue to make major improvements in the years to come. 

Nominated by Peter Dooley, Robin Baker, Mary Miller, and Linda Delp

 

Tony Oppegard, JD

 

Tony Oppegard of Lexington, Kentucky is a compassionate ear, a steadfast voice, and an influential activist for workers' rights, especially their right to a safe workplace, free of discrimination for raising safety concerns.  He has been seeking justice on behalf of miners' families in eastern Kentucky for nearly 30 years.

 

A graduate of Antioch School of Law, Tony began his legal career in  Hazard, Kentucky at the Appalachian Research & Defense Fund.  He used the labor protections provided under OSHA, MSHA, NLRA, FLSA, the Civil Rights Act and State laws to insist on redress for miners, widows and other workers in the Appalachian region.

 

For his clients -- whether the coal miner threatened for complaining about unsafe conditions, or a widow whose true love was killed at work -- Tony is both legal advisor and personal advocate.  His knowledge, attention to detail, and persistence have led to favorable resolutions in at least 120 safety discrimination cases.

          

Tony established the Mine Safety Project in 1991 to focus almost exclusively on safety discrimination cases.  Later, he served as a senior advisor at MSHA (1998-2000) and then was appointed as the general counsel of Kentucky's newly created Mine Safety Board.  There, he prosecuted 117 cases against mine management.  Tony's successes didn't sit well with all of Kentucky's elite; he was dismissed from his job in May 2005, with no reason given.  Undeterred, Tony established a private law practice and continues to represent miners in discrimination and workers' compensation cases, and widows and children in wrongful death proceedings.  He not only represents them but encourages them to organize, protest and speak-out for change.  Tony is a" one-man army in representing eastern Kentuckian families affected by some of the most noted mining disasters in Appalachia. But to the Kentucky families he's represented, he's just 'Tony.'"1

 

1.    Deanna Lee-Sherman, Harlan Daily Enterprise, Dec. 30, 2006.

 

Nominated by David Michaels, Celeste Monforton, and Carol Rice

 

Tony Mazzocchi Award:

Carmen Hacht

 

Carmen has been the Recording Secretary at Local 222 for eight years.   She worked at Tyson Foods, Inc. meatpacking plant (formerly IBP) in Dakota City, Nebraska for 20 years.  She was an active steward from the very beginning of her work at the plant.  In the mid-1980s, IBP workers were suffering from high rates of MSDs.  The Local Union and the International's S&H department filed an OSHA complaint, and IBP received one of the highest fines ever for failing to provide a safe and healthy workplace.  

 

Settlement of the citations led to the most successful ergonomic programs in meatpacking. IBP, the International Union and OSHA developed the Red Meat Guidelines based on the program. Carmen became an "ergonomic monitor," a line worker trained in ergonomics.  Her duties over the years were myriad and included job analysis, audits of workers on light duty jobs, advocacy for workers who were injured and needed to get through the medical system, monitoring the lines for "manning" and "overload,"  monitoring workers' training and knife skills, and essentially keeping the company's feet to the fire!


Carmen’s work at the Local Union includes overseeing the ergonomics program at the meatpacking plant.  She teaches new monitors all that their job will entail on the shop floor. Everyone who knows Carmen knows that the company is on notice that if there's a problem, Carmen will get it addressed.  The workers in the plant trust her.  Carmen can be proud of the contributions she has made over the years to improving the working conditions for thousands of workers. She is the face of local union activism on health and safety and ergonomics.

 

Nominated by Jackie Nowell and Dorothy Wigmore.

 

International Health and Safety Award:

Jaime Cota

 

Jaime Cota, a labor and political activist in Mexico for more than 30 years, is a founder and the director of Centro de Informacion para Trabajadoras y Trabajadores (CITTAC, Information Center for Working Women and Men), a labor rights non-governmental organization in Tijuana.  For more than two decades, CITTAC has been the outstanding pro-worker NGO in Tijuana, which has assisted, advocated for and defended working women and men in Tijuana in legal suits, union organizing campaigns, and health and safety initiatives.  Health and safety trainings, campaigns and technical assistance have been at the heart of CITTAC’s work, and CITTAC has played in critical role in coordinating numerous international efforts by U.S. unions and occupational health professionals to assist maquila workers in Tijuana.  CITTAC has made gender issues – an implacable defense of women’s rights – a key aspect of its work among Tijuana’s maquila workers, who are overwhelmingly female. 

 

Jaime has played an indispensable role in the development and implementation of CITTAC’s work.  He is a widely recognized leader of grassroots labor activism in Tijuana, and is one of the “stars” of the outstanding documentary “Maquilapolis,” which profiled worker and community struggles in Tijuana for safe and healthy neighborhoods and workplaces.  Jaime Cota is a shining example of a dedicated, courageous H&S and labor rights activist playing a leadership role in a city wracked by deep-seated political corruption, terrifying narco violence, and domination by Asian and U.S. transnational corporations. 

 

Nominated by Garrett Brown

Food & Environment Working Group - Seeking OHS Section Collaboration

Roni Neff, PhD, MS

rnell@jsph.edu

 

For four years, the Environment and Food and Nutrition Sections have collaborated around public health issues at the intersection of food, agriculture and environment.  We would love to expand this collaboration to the OHS Section, bringing in members interested in agricultural and food production/processing/distribution worker safety and health, and helping to forge better cross-disciplinary discussion and work on opportunities to improve food, environment and worker rights and health simultaneously. 

 

Public health issues, as described in the Association's new (2007) position paper "Towards a Healthy, Sustainable

Food System," http://www.apha.org/advocacy/policy/policysearch/default.htm?id=1361, arise from the industrialization of agriculture, its intensive use of water, antibiotics, chemical inputs, fossil fuels and other resources, low regulation of worker safety and health, an often low wage and immigrant workforce and powerful agribusiness firms.  The results include significant worker safety and health threats in the United States and abroad, and contributions to climate change, environmental pollution, water and soil depletion, the rise in antibiotic-resistant infections, and other infectious and non-infectious health threats to workers, communities and food consumers.  This industrialized food system also has nutritional implications, such as its contribution to the lack of access to healthy foods and to obesity. Public health professionals are increasingly at the forefront of challenging these threats, and also of promoting alternatives. Food and environment issues continue to gain visibility and traction with increased public interest in local and sustainably produced foods, the obesity epidemic, the recent passage of the Farm Bill, and the international crisis of rising food prices.

 

Bridging sections, the "food and environment working group" has sought to encourage interdisciplinary scientific, social and policy interchange.  Four years ago, the group began efforts to bring people together through the APHA scientific program; we have continued to highlight sessions of joint interest, now formalized in a joint track of sessions.  In last year’s flyer, we also highlighted relevant OHS Section sessions.  To encourage informal interchange, we’ve also organized social events; two years ago at the APHA Annual Meeting in Boston, at least 70 people attended an evening event featuring locally sourced food and wines.  At last year's conference in D.C., more than 100 came out to Clyde's of Gallery Place to eat, drink and share ideas.  The event coincided with APHA's August 2007 W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant to support organizing in selected communities around public health and agricultural policy issues.

 

Planning is well under way for the 2008 social event, to be held on Tuesday, Oct. 28 at 6:30 p.m.  We hope you will join us to sample San Diego's freshest and local-est.  We are also seeking to raise money to bring individuals engaged in the San Diego food system to the conference, and to support other activities to build the profile of food and agriculture issues within public health.  Many of us are already looking to "Farm Bill 2012" and developing activities aimed at building a stronger and more influential public health voice in the debates.

 

We hope to work more closely with the OHS Section.  If you're interested in joining our active working group, e-mail Roni Neff, PhD, rneff@jhsph.edu.  And stay tuned for information about participating in San Diego activities.

Saving Lives Saves Paychecks

Jeff Quam-Wickham is a graduate of Antioch College.  He applied its deep and wide experimental philosophy to many aspects of his life.

 

In the 1920s the California Oil Producers’ Association editorial headline read, "The Open Shop Must Precede the Open Door." They wanted to bust unions at home, and they exported their open door foreign policy. That’s still their policy today. In 1935, oil producers split apart the industrial organizing of the Maritime Federation of the Pacific by fomenting a tanker strike without the democratic workers’ consent. In 1941, the Exxon sailors’ union -- a company union -- formed.  Ten years after the wreck of the Exxon Valdez, the Exxon sailors' union finally organized into the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific.

 

The Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers -- led by Anthony Mazzocchi and Steve Wodka -- held hearings about cancer-causing oil cargoes, in 1977. Epidemiologist Peter Infante testified, among others. But company unions were still in the tanker fleet, including ARCO ships now owned by Conoco Phillips. In 1987, a strike by the ILWU Inland Boat Union demonstrated by crude political arithmetic that oil cargo longshoremen had the highest mortality rate in the state.  This statistic was later confirmed by California Department of Health Services. Preventive and precautionary engineering was first voted in California Air Districts in late 1988, just before the wreck of the Exxon Valdez early in 1989.

 

These twin events -- precautionary engineering against air pollution by tankers and a ship wrecked by a haphazard anti-democratic Exxon Shipping Company -- created a classic contrast. Democratic trade unionism won preventive controls, while Exxon created a second massive disaster for thousands of oil spill clean-up workers who are still sick today. The oil spill clean-up workers need health studies and health care now! Current nationwide campaigns against air pollution in ports owe much to these earlier labor and environmental efforts. Together, democratic trade unions have been fostering port security, environmental and occupational health, and creating many green jobs along the way. Si se puede!

 

Jeff Quam-Wickham

Oil and Shipping Hazards Committee
for Occupational Safety and Health (OSHCOSH)

Events...Call for Abstracts

Network, Learn, and Rally for Health Justice.   Attend the National Summit of Clinicians for Healthcare Justice, Oct. 23-25, 2008, Washington, D.C.  www.allclinicians.org .  For general questions contact: Jillian Hopewell, jhopewell@migrantclinician.org, (530) 345-4806

 Call for Abstracts

 

ASSE Professional Development Conference and Exposition “SAFETY 2009”
June 23 – July 1, 2009, San Antonio, Texas. Deadline is July 18, 2008.
http://www.asse.org

29th Triennial Congress of the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH 2009) March 22 – 27, 2009, Cape Town, South Africa. Deadline is July 31, 2008. http://www.icoh2009.co.za