Occupational Health and Safety
Section Newsletter
Winter 2008

 


OHS Section Chair

Robert J. Harrison, MD, MPH

Professor of Medicine

Division of Occupational & 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 J. Harrison, MD, MPH

robert.harrison@ucsf.edu

 

As we look ahead to 2008 and beyond, one change is certain: we will have a new administration in Washington, D.C. and a potential opportunity to significantly strengthen our policies and programs for worker protection. The list of needed improvements is long:  restoring scientific integrity to new standards setting; vigorously enforcing existing standards; increasing extramural and intramural research budgets; building epidemiological capacity for state-based surveillance and intervention programs; integrating occupational health into chronic disease, environmental and injury prevention programs; and increasing the occupational health work force.  An ultimate goal is to put our scientific and technical knowledge in the hands of workers and their organizations, reminding us that many of the accomplishments of health and safety professionals are ultimately tied to coalitions forged with our friends and colleagues in the labor movement.

 

The Occupational Health and Safety Section of APHA has been guided by this principle for many decades, and much of our work within and outside of APHA has been the product of joint efforts between safety and health professionals and the labor movement.  At this year’s meeting in San Diego - just one week before the election - no doubt the formal breakouts and hallway discussions will focus on strengthening health and safety in the next administration. Over the next several months, we need to begin the process of defining our priorities, sharpening our agendas and strategies, and forging alliances and coalitions with organizations allied with our common interests.  The theme of this year’s meeting, "Public Health Without Borders,” will address a diversity of topics including immigrant and refugee health, health disparities and the critical importance of cross-national health and safety struggles in the global economy.  Many of these topics should be highly relevant to our strategic goals over the next four years.  On behalf of our Section leadership, I look forward to working together with you in the coming year.

 

 

Tomorrow's OSH Professionals

Established in 1999, the James P. Keogh Memorial Scholarship Fund  honors the enormous contribution Dr. James (Jim) Keogh made to occupational health and safety. Dr. Keogh was an outstanding colleague, generous mentor and teacher who nurtured and influenced the work of many others.

 

The Keogh Scholarship Fund helps the OHS Section to promote and strengthen the participation of students and union representatives in APHA.  Scholarship awardees are provided with the Annual Meeting registration fee, a one-year student membership and a $300 stipend for conference-related expenses.  With your generous support, the Keogh Scholarship Fund enabled five students to attend last year's APHA Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

 

In order to sustain this effort we need continued support from all OHS members.  Please be generous in your tax-deductible contribution to the James P. Keogh Memorial Scholarship Fund. Checks should be made out to APHA-Jim Keogh Scholarship. Please include “Account # 328066-OHS Section” on the check. Send your contributions to APHA, Attn. Natasha Williams, 800 I Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001.  For more information, contact Karen B. Mulloy, chair, Scholarship Committee, Karen.Mulloy@dhha.org.

Celebrate National Public Health Week 2008

Kaitlin Sheedy, kaitlin.sheedy@apha.org

 

The health effects of climate change will take center stage during National Public Health Week, April 7-13, 2008. As part of the weeklong observance, themed "Climate Change: Our Health in the Balance,"  APHA will lead the charge in helping people, communities, and families recognize that adapting to climate change and mitigating its impact is critical not just for the health of our planet, but for the health of the people in our nation and around the world.

 

Changes in our climate are causing more severe weather events. Extreme weather conditions such as heat waves, high winds, snowstorms, floods and hurricanes have the potential to dramatically affect the health and safety of both individuals and our communities. Changing ecosystems allow for emerging or re-emerging infectious diseases such as dengue or malaria, which are changing the spectrum of disease risks affecting populations. In poorer parts of the world, drought and floods often force people to move away from lands no longer producing enough food, often resulting in hunger and malnutrition. Moreover, contaminated drinking water can result in outbreaks of diarrheal diseases, leading to dehydration or death.

 

Few Americans will ever see the melting Greenland ice cap up close, or interact with an arctic polar bear facing extinction as its habitat melts.  But local public health professionals around the country increasingly will be dealing with the impacts of climate change on the ground, every day. Join APHA as we work to create a healthier planet. Visit the official National Public Health Week Web site at www.nphw.org to check out the climate change blog and brochure, sign up to be a National Public health Week partner, or add your week's event to the national calendar.  For more information about National Public Health Week, contact kaitlin.sheedy@apha.org.

Beyond Texas City...

It’s been nearly two years since the blast at the BP refinery in Texas City, Texas on March 23, 2005, killed 15 workers and injured 180 others.  Nine months following the Texas City disaster, The Tony Mazzocchi Center for Health, Safety and Environmental Education sent a survey to local unions at each of 71 United Steelworkers-represented refineries. The survey sought to determine the extent to which conditions similar to those that led to the BP Texas City catastrophe exist at the nation’s other refineries and what is being done to correct those conditions. 

 

The report from the study: Beyond Texas City: The State of Process Safety in the Unionized U.S. Oil Refining Industry, October 2007 can be found at www.usw.org/usw/program/content/BeyondTexasCity.php. The participatory research team for the study included OHS section Members Tobi Lippin and Kristin Bradley-Bull of New Perspectives Consulting Group, and Tom McQuiston of the Tony Mazzocchi Center for Health, Safety and Environmental Education.  Also, an article by Leo Gerard based on the study appears in the Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leo-w-gerard/texas-city_b_75839.html .

Indiana University, University of Wisconsin Partner to Offer Federal Safety Training

Indiana University (IU) and its partner, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (UW-W), were selected as one of eight new education centers to provide training for OSHA.  The selection will allow the consortium, led by IU and the Safety Program in IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, to provide health and safety training to private-sector and federal employees throughout OSHA's Region V, which encompasses Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. "The center will allow Indiana University to provide employers with expert OSHA regulatory compliance training and opportunities to promote health and wellness in the workplace," said Kevin Slates, clinical assistant professor and OHS Section member.  Dr. Slates will serve as the education center's course chair and advisory board member.

 

IU's Safety Program offers various levels of safety management education, as well as options for undergraduate and graduate degrees. Students also can pursue a doctorate degree in applied health science with an option in safety management. Students will be able to take the OSHA courses in addition to college credit safety and health classes.

 

The Department of Occupational and Environmental Safety & Health at UW-W offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in occupational safety and health and includes coursework covering a wide range of subjects including ergonomics, accident prevention, security and environmental protection.

 

For more information, contact Kevin Slates at (812) 856-3766 or kslates@indiana.edu.

Occupational Health & Safety Video Clips

Mark Catlin, mdcatlin@earthlink.net

 

Below is a short list of some clips recently placed on Google Video that can be used in presentations.  Clips on Google Video can be downloaded as mpeg4 files that can be used in PowerPoint.

 

A four-minute clip from Davitt McAteer’s 1985 video (25-min.) about the 1907 Monongah, West Virginia mine disaster is now available on Google Video at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4244458261387667011

 

·         The entire video, Monongah 1907, rich with detail about this disaster, also traces the development of mine safety laws in the US.  Monongah 1907 is now available on DVD for $14.95.  For ordering information, send an e-mail to: droberts@mcateer-assoc.com.  McAteer’s new book, Monongah: The Tragic Story of the 1907 Monongah Mine Disaster, the Worst Industrial Accident in U.S. History, was recently published by the WVU Press (2007)  http://www.wvupress.com.

 

The following are other occupational health and safety related clips recently added to Google Video: 

 

·         Dr. Irving Selikoff Pioneering Asbestos Disease Research from a 1993 tribute by the Asbestos Workers Union.

·         How to Explain Safety Rules to Women Workers, 1944 (from a WWII supervisor training film).

·         Worker Health and Safety during the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Cleanup in Alaska in 1989.

·         Worker Health and Safety in Alaska in the Early 1990s.

·         Asbestos Managing Problems Addressing Concerns from 1999.

·         Denny Farm Hazardous Waste Site Cleanup 1980 US EPA (the original hazwaste site cleanup video).

 

·         and the entire unedited version of the 2007 APHA Occupational Safety and Health Section Awards Luncheon skit.

 

To view all of the more than 40 health and safety related videos on Google Video and You Tube (mostly from historical government and industrial films from the 1920s to 1990s) link to:

 

Google Video:  http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=markdcatlin&sitesearch

You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=markdcatlin&p=v

 

Copies of these and other similar clips are available by contacting me at mdcatlin@earthlink.net.

A Classic Revisited: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

Jocelyn Winter is an undergraduate student in Public Health at George Washington University (GWU) and she wrote this review 2007 for Celeste Monforton's "Health and the Environment" class.  Jocelyn is a registered nurse who works at the GWU Hospital, and as a research assistant at the NIEHS for a project examining environmental risk factors and autoimmune diseases.

 

The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair, is a vivid account of living, working and social conditions of the working classes of urban America in the early 1900s.   Sinclair uses the story of Jurgis Berczynskas, a Lithuanian immigrant to inner-city Chicago, to represent the hardships faced by America's blue collar working class.

 

Jurgis Berczynskas is newly married and living near his sister and other Lithuanian immigrants in a slum of Chicago. He, his wife, his sister and the other adults in his circle of friends and family are poor, lack secondary education, vocational skills and proficiency in English.  The search and procurement for jobs is depicted as excessively difficult and unfair.  Insufficient jobs existed for persons with their backgrounds, and job positions were distributed by corrupt managers to persons without ensuring proper qualifications.  The working conditions in the factories, meat packing houses, stockyards, and plants are described in great detail as deplorable environments with inhumane conditions.

 

A typical section of this area of Chicago included 40,000 families living in cheap, unsuitable housing in one square mile.  Poor or absent regulations of water and sanitation systems, food, and medicine caused millions of poor persons to suffer mental and physical illnesses of wide varieties and severity.(1)  Often men and women worked these dangerous, physically fatiguing jobs only to be unable to actively participate in raising their children because of lack of time and energy.  Children often were removed from school in order to supplement their families' incomes and were heavily maltreated both physically and mentally by the adults they interacted with at home, school and at work centers. 

 

Jurgis worked a succession of unrealistically difficult jobs with exposure to noxious environmental agents and unethical treatment.  His hopes of coming to America to attain prosperity destroyed, he joined a union in hopes of receiving more steady work and better working conditions but found only corrupt union leaders and business owners on all sides.

 

Jurgis' wife was intimidated and coerced into sexual exploitation.  Jurgis was imprisoned for assaulting the perpetrator of the sexual crimes committed against his wife.  While in jail, he lost his job, and his family and friends were evicted from their home.   Shortly after his release, his wife died from inadequate medical care while prematurely giving birth, and his infant son died from an accident resulting from unsafe living conditions in their neighborhood.  Jurgis left Chicago for over a year, traveling the Midwest while begging and working odd jobs.

 

Returning to Chicago, he met with discrimination while searching for work.  As a result, he turned to petty crime, including involvement in illegal political activities.  He was imprisoned for again attacking the man who took advantage of his wife.  After his second release, he was reunited with his family. Jurgis found hope in joining the socialist movement, and much of the latter part of the story focuses on expounding socialist ideology.

 

Sinclair’s expose on Packingtown, the Chicago stockyards in which the story takes place, revealed the nauseating details of the unregulated meat packing industry.  His book told of such atrocities as dead rats being swept into sausage machines and how meat inspectors were bribed to ignore the inclusion of diseased animal carcasses in meat production for public consumption.

 

Sinclair portrays the life of the working class, particularly of immigrants, minorities and women, as deplorable in order to illustrate how capitalism can cause exploitation of the working class and can produce mass suffering.  His book has influenced: the treatment of animals; improvements in buildings and working conditions; political agenda; sanitation regulations; formal acknowledgement and enforcing of rights of workers, women, and children; regulation on prostitution; immigration proceedings; banking practices; city planning; civil engineering; and ethical standards of many institutions' codes of conduct.

 

This edition of The Jungle included informative footnotes on the politicians, business owners, methods of work (including the processes of many production activities and supplies used), geography, financial practices, literary terms and definitions applicable to the time. 

 

Sinclair wrote The Jungle at the request of a socialist newspaper for a serial.  Shortly after a workers’ strike in Packingtown, Sinclair lived among the residents for nearly two months, carefully recording observations and firsthand accounts of the people with whom he interacted.  He not only spoke with the workingmen and their bosses, but with politicians, doctors, lawyers, clergymen, and many other assorted members of society.  He studied the systems and processes of numerous industries, and used accounts of current events from newspapers and periodicals. 

 

He expounded on the information from these sources to write a visceral account of what he saw.  The sources were more than sufficient for providing relevant, adequate information. Reading the story was enthralling; I felt compelled to read this fascinating account of these mistreated people. 

 

The exploitation of immigrants and the development of laws and policies to protect workers was an area of U.S. history of which I had very little knowledge until reading this book.  The history of forced prostitution is also discussed in this book and opens the reader’s eyes to the depravities of human beings.

 

Shortly after the book was published, public fury was raised by the book’s content. This spurred President Roosevelt to send inspectors to Chicago to confirm the accounts.  The inspectors reported that the situation was actually worse than Sinclair described.  Roosevelt, with the consultation of Sinclair, was key in the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which regulates meat for consumption even today.  Sinclair's contributions caused radical reforms, particularly in the meat packing industry, and has influenced historians, politicians, policymakers, literary experts and consumers for over a century.

 

1.  “Upton Sinclair and the Pure Food and Drug Acts of 1906," by Arlene Finger Kantor, MPH, American Journal of Public Health, 1976, Vol 65, No 12. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=1653522&blobtype=pdf

Join Newly Formed Genomics Forum

Elizabeth J. Levy

ejk9@cdc.gov  

 

Members of the OHS Section are invited to join the new Genomics Forum of APHA. This Forum will be one of the first to represent a new structure within APHA that was created to address cross-cutting issues and facilitate communication across Sections and Special Primary Interest Groups (SPIGs). By joining the Genomics Forum, APHA members retain their affiliation with their Sections.

 

Genomics – the study of genes and how they relate to each other and with the environment - is increasingly a public health issue. Expanding research and new applications of genomics in clinical and public health settings provide challenges and opportunities for public health professionals to promote equitable access to genetic services, and prevent misuse of genetic information and technology. For example, multiple government agencies are placing substantial funds into clinical applications such as pharmacogenomics (i.e. personalized medicine) without assessing this agenda from a public health perspective and its relative impact on individual rights and community health. To ensure that personalized medicine means public medicine, APHA must be at the forefront of conversations about how genomics will be used in relationship to population health in America and worldwide. This Forum will contribute to the realization of that goal.

 

With the support of the Community Health Planning and Policy Development and Maternal and Child Health Sections, the Genomics Forum was approved as an official APHA component in November 2007. Over 130 APHA members have currently enrolled in the Genomics Forum, representing a growing, interdisciplinary group of individuals including practitioners, researchers, students and community members from state and federal governmental agencies, advocacy groups, academia and health care organizations. The Forum is committed to a diverse membership from APHA Sections, SPIGs and Caucuses and hopes to work with the OHS Section and its members on issues of mutual interest.

 

The Forum currently communicates via listserv, in regular conference calls, and through the development of a Web site. The Forum is currently accepting abstracts for the 2008 Annual Meeting and is working through its Policy, Membership and Communications, Special Projects, and Program Committees on activities in work force development, policy development, advocacy, research and other areas. Activities are based on the needs and interests of our members. All are invited to participate in one of the general membership calls and to join any of the Forum’s committees.  

 

Please visit our Web site to see a schedule of upcoming activities and to sign-up for the Forum: http://www.GenomicsForum.org

Call for Abstracts

The Third International Scientific Conference on Occupational and Environmental Health will be held in Hanoi, Vietnam, Oct. 21-23, 2008. The University of Washington's Collaborative Center for Healthy Work and Environment is a co-sponsor. The call for abstracts can be downloaded at http://depts.washington.edu/cchwe/. The deadline for submissions is March 15.

Upcoming Events

March 2008

Work, Stress, and Health 2008: Health and Safe Work through Research, Practice, and Partnerships (Washington, D.C.) March 6 – 8, 2008, http://www.apa.org/pi/work/wsh.html.

 

4th Annual Asbestos Awareness Day Conference (Detroit) March 28 - 30, 2008. For more information, visit http://www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org/cure/Newsletters/Conference.html

April 2008

2nd East Asia Conference of the ISEE: Opportunities and Challenges of Environmental Health (Jeju, Korea) April 17-19, 2008. More information can be found by visiting www.isee-eac.or.kr.

 

Course: Northwest Center for Occupational Health & Safety.  Puget Sound OEM Grand Rounds: Precarious Employment- Health and Safety for Day Laborers and Other Contingent Workers (Seattle) April 17, 2008.  For more information, call (206) 543-1069 or visit the Continuing Education Web site at http://depts.washington.edu/ehce.

 

American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (Salt Lake City) April 25 – May 2, 2008, http://www.aaohn.org/education/symposium-expo/index.cfm.

 

Course: Northwest Center for Occupational Health & Safety. Safe Patient Handling: Implementing Best Practices under the Washington State Law (Seattle) April 30, 2008.  For more information, call (206) 543-1069 or visit the Continuing Education Web site at http://depts.washington.edu/ehce.

 

May 2008

2008 American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition (Minneapolis) May 31 – June 5, 2008. http://www.aiha.org/aihce08/.

 

SUMMER 2008

 

20th Annual International Conference on Epidemiology in Occupational Health (EPICOH-2008) and the 10th International Symposium on Neurobehavioral Methods and Effects in Environmental and Occupational Health (NEUREOH-2008) June 9-11 and June 11-13, 2008, (San Jose, Costa Rica) http://www.epicoh-neureoh2008.com/.

 

The Center for Science in the Public Interest: The Fourth National Integrity in Science Conference – Rejuvenating Public Sector Science (Washington, D.C.) July 11, 2008, http://www.cspinet.org/integrity/conflictedscience_conf.html.