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Occupational Health and Safety
Section Newsletter
Winter 2010

Green Industry Conference Sparks Call for Cooperation

Laborers Health & Safety Fund of North America

Collaboration is essential when establishing green industry standards. That’s the message from David Michaels, the nation’s newly appointed top occupational safety and health official. 

Michaels, head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, says an OSHA alliance with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the Environmental Protection Agency is a must for sound worksite safety and health. He shared his thoughts during a speech – his first as OSHA chief – at the NIOSH-sponsored Going Green: Safe and Healthy Jobs conference in December.

Michaels introduced five “Green Reform Principles” that he said assure creation of an industry that is truly green, one that is safe both for the environment and for those who work in it.  His principles are:

1.      A Comprehensive Workplace Safety and Health Program that features management leadership and worker participation.

2.      A Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals that contributes to better information about exposure risks.

3.      Prevention through Design (PtD) that builds in protection from the ground up, eliminating the need for expensive retrofitting later.

4.      Creating industry standards with input from scientists, other experts and from the workers.

5.      Enhancing workers’ voices through education about industry hazards and what workers can do to protect themselves.

These are sound principles not only for the green industry, but all industry.

New E-mail Listserv for Health and Safety Advocates

The Occupational and Safety Health Section is now hosting a new listserv to share information about workplace health and safety — open to both APHA members and non-members alike. Participants will be able to share information that is specific to workplace health and safety, such as current events, conferences, advocacy campaigns, job announcements or publications.  The listserv will also provide a forum for asking questions or initiating discussions about occupational health issues, as well as APHA issues that affect the Occupational Health and Safety Section. Many thanks to Amy Liebman and the Migrant Clinicians Network for setting up and housing the listserv!

To sign up, send a blank email to ohssection-join@migrantclinician.com

Please share this information with your colleagues!

Call for Nominations: Occupational Health & Safety Section Awards, 2010

The OHS section offers awards in four categories:  

 
The Alice Hamilton Award:

Alice Hamilton (1869-1970), considered the founder of occupational health in the United States, was a tireless activist and physician who dedicated her life to improving the health and safety of workers. She was committed to science, service and compassion. This award recognizes the life-long contributions of individuals who have distinguished themselves through a career of hard work and dedication to improve the lives of workers 
 
The Lorin Kerr Award:

Lorin Kerr (1909-1991) was a life-long activist and served for over 40 years as a physician for the United Mine Workers.  He was dedicated to improving access to health care for coal miners and other workers and to obtaining compensation for and preventing black lung disease. This award recognizes a younger activist for their sustained and outstanding efforts and dedication to improve the lives of workers.

 
Tony Mazzocchi Award:

Tonzi Mazzocchi (1997-2003) was the most influential labor leader in the Occupational Health and Safety field in the United States. Tony played a key role in the legislative struggles of the 1960s and 1970s, including passage of the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). A founder of the Labor Party, he continued organizing support for the party's national health care program up until his death. He influenced and inspired workers, activists and professionals alike with courageous ideas and political savvy to fight for worker rights. This award gives recognition to grassroots H&S activists in Local Unions or other local organizations fighting for the H&S rights of workers.

 
International Health and Safety Award:

This award recognizes individuals with outstanding achievement in the field of occupational health and safety outside the United States. Individuals and groups for have fought for improved working conditions outside the borders of the United States have been recognized with is award.

OHS Section and ACGIH Begin Discussions

By Dave Kotelchuck

In December, the OHS Section of APHA was approached by ACGIH (the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists) to consider joining ACGIH in its efforts to transform itself from a membership organization to an alliance of professional organizations. In ACGIH’s words:

“ACGIH seeks to transform itself from an organization of individual dues-paying members to an alliance of the key professional organizations that utilize its guidelines and guidance documents. Our goals are to ensure that: 1. Occupational Exposure Guidelines (OEGs) survive; 2. Funding for OEG development is adequate; and 3. The quality and scientific integrity of OEGs are maximized.”

Following the Section’s December leadership conference call, Section Chair Kate McPhaul replied to ACGIH Chair Steve Reynolds that “In concept the Occupational Health Section feels a strong alliance with the important work of ACGIH. The details of the alliance must be better understood before we, as a Section, or APHA as an organization can enter into a formal alliance. Both Bob Harrison and Dave Kotelchuck have volunteered to be our liaisons with you and this project.” 

Bob and Dave, both former Section chairs, held an initial discussion with Reynolds, ACGIH Chair-Elect Lisa Brosseau and ACGIH Executive Director Tony Rizzuto in a conference call on Monday, Jan. 18. ACGIH officers laid out their ideas in greater details, and the group discussed both practical and policy issues from potential costs to APHA to maintain such an alliance to concerns many OHS members might have about the long-term value of lists of specific OEGs in protecting workers’ health and safety. We all agreed that such discussions should continue, and ACGIH expects to call a dedicated conference of various OSH organizations in the spring to further discuss this proposed alliance. Bob and Dave will report back on their talks to Section leaders in future leadership conference calls, and urge our Section to participate in the Spring Alliance Conference, along with representatives from the APHA national organization.

ACGIH is a venerable health and safety organization, founded in 1938, which for many years has published an annual list of recommended exposure limits for various chemical, physical and biological hazards, called TLVs (Threshold Limit Values) and BEIs (Biological Exposure Indices) – both are registered trademarks of ACGIH.

OSHA Testimony

 

Each day, over 145 million workers in the United States -- and several billion individuals around the globe -- face the risk of work-related injuries and illnesses that can cause serious immediate or long-term health problems.  Members of the Occupational Health and Safety Section of APHA are individuals involved in preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, disabilities and deaths through research, training, treatment, advocacy and policy-making. 

 

The OHS Section is one of the oldest within APHA, celebrating its 95th year in 2009. We have 700+ members, representing a multitude of disciplines from medicine, nursing, and industrial hygiene to epidemiology, environmental health, statistics, community organizing, teaching, history, law and journalism.  The Section provides leadership and expertise on occupational health matters, recognizing the intrinsic link between the work environment, and the health and safety of families, communities and the environment at large.

 

Most of our highest priorities align with the fundamental mission of OSHA:

1.                  Ensure health and safety protection for all workers.

2.                  Count all occupational injuries and illnesses.

3.                  Increase worker participation.

4.                  Eliminate disparities.

 

Although we have made some progress in decreasing the numbers and rates of work-related injuries and illnesses, we still have a long way to go. The latest U.S. government data from 2007 showed that 15 workers each day lose their lives from work-related injuries, and four workers each minute suffer work-related injuries that cause them to miss work, modify their job tasks, or transfer to other jobs. These statistics do not include deaths from occupational illnesses, which annually claim the lives of an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 workers.

 

According to the National Academy of Social Insurance, the direct cost to U.S. employers for workers’ compensation alone was $87.6 billion; the total cost to society for all work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses is two to three times greater.  Over the last eight years, federal OSHA and MSHA have not done nearly enough to enforce existing worker health and safety standards, and have done almost nothing to pass tougher new standards based on clear scientific evidence of harm to workers. The U.S. government counts work-related injury and illness every year based only on a survey of employer reports. We know these statistics do not tell the whole story about work-related injuries and illnesses, and we don’t do enough to target the riskiest industries for enforcement and prevention efforts.

 

Many vulnerable worker populations, including people of color and immigrant workers, are at especially high risk of work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses, and fear employer retaliation if they report their injuries and unsafe working conditions.

  

Keeping our workplaces safe and preventing work-related injuries, deaths and illnesses will:

·         Enable workers to stay on the job, earn a living and take care of their families.

·         Boost worker productivity and increase job retention.

·         Reduce workers’ compensation and health care insurance costs.

 

Our first message to OSHA is this:  ENSURE HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTECTION OF ALL WORKERS through tough enforcement of existing regulations, adoption of new worker protection standards such as a Health and Safety Program Standard, well recognized

yet inadequately regulated hazards, such as construction-related confined spaces and excessive noise, combustible dust, respirable crystalline silica and aerosol infectious agents.

 

Our next message to OSHA is: COUNT ALL OCCUPATIONAL INJURIES AND ILLNESSESS.  All work-related injuries and illnesses should be completely reported, counted and tracked as part of a comprehensive state and federal public health surveillance system. Such data is vital for public health prevention efforts, including targeted enforcement of the riskiest industries and occupations. OSHA and MSHA should conduct robust enforcement audits of employers’ injury and illness records to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII). The Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses should include all employer groups, including federal, state and local employees and farms with fewer than 11 workers.

 

The next message to OSHA: INCREASE WORKER PARTICIPATION.

A safe workplace must include workers in identifying and correcting hazards. All workers must be protected from harassment, firing and other forms of discrimination if they report an unsafe workplace or file complaints with OSHA or MSHA. OSHA Susan Harwood grants should be used exclusively for training programs that build workers’ capacity to exercise their rights under the OSH Act, and serve a meaningful and effective role in injury and illness prevention.  OSHA should promulgate standards requiring safety and health committees and annual training in all workplaces, with paid time for worker participation.

 

Our final message to OSHA is ELIMINATE DISPARITIES. The unacceptably high rates of deaths, injuries and illnesses among vulnerable populations, including African-American, Hispanic and immigrant workers, must be eliminated. All workers -– regardless of their ethnicity, race, nationality or the industrial sector in which they work -- have the right to the same safe and healthy working conditions. OSHA should initiate a new Special Emphasis

Program in industries with high rates of injuries and illnesses among vulnerable workers including both teen workers and older workers, and should eliminate barriers that prevent immigrant workers from accessing health and safety protections.

 

This testimony is based on the “Protecting Workers on the Job” agenda document which can be found at the Occupational Health and Safety Section’s Web site. 

http://www.apha.org/membergroups/sections/aphasections/occupational/

 

Current Chair, Kathleen M. McPhaul, PhD, MPH, RN

Immediate Past Chair, Celeste Monforton, DrPH

Chair Elect, Tim Morse, PhD, CPE

TWENTIETH Annual APHA Public Health Materials Contest

TWENTIETH Annual APHA Public Health Materials Contest

The APHA Public Health Education and Health Promotion Section is soliciting your best health education, promotion and communication materials for the 20th annual competition. The contest provides a forum to showcase public health materials during the APHA Annual Meeting and recognizes professionals for their hard work.

 

All winners will be selected by panels of expert judges prior to the 138th APHA Annual Meeting in Denver. A session will be held at the Annual Meeting to recognize winners, during which one representative from the top materials selected in each category will give a presentation about their material.

 

Entries will be accepted in three categories; printed materials, electronic materials, and other materials.  Entries for the contest are due by March 26, 2010. Please contact Kira McGroarty at kmcgroar@jhsph.edu for additional contest entry information. 

OSHA Schedules Conference on Latino Worker Safety and Health

by Amy Liebman and Peter Dooley

 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will hold a National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health and Safety / Cumbre de Acción Nacional para la Salud y Seguridad del Trabajador Latino, April 14-15 at the Hilton Americas Hotel in Houston. The conference is co-sponsored by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The conference will bring together workers and representatives from employer associations, labor unions, the faith community, community organizations, the medical community, safety and health professionals, educators, government officials, consulates, the entertainment community and other non-traditional partners.

Construction will be the primary industry targeted. Latino immigrant workers comprise almost one quarter of the construction industry work force and suffer the highest rate of construction-related deaths. The conference will also target other high-risk industries that employ large numbers of Latino workers.

"Far too many Latino workers have needlessly lost their lives just trying to earn a living and it must stop," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels. "At the summit, we will shine a spotlight on the hazards and challenges faced by this vulnerable sector of the nation's work force so that we can begin crafting new, badly needed strategies to prevent thousands of injuries and deaths every year."

The conference will also showcase innovative partnerships, demonstrate successful education and training strategies, and develop effective enforcement and communication strategies. There will be more information, including registration information, in the next few weeks at <www.osha.gov>.  In the meantime, please save the date.