Occupational Health and Safety
Section Newsletter
Winter 2011

Message from the Chair

Tim Morse

OHS Section Chair

tmorse@uchc.edu

 

 

The OHS Section is active both inside and outside APHA.  On the advocacy front, we have worked with APHA to send a letter to Canada’s premier urging Quebec to not underwrite a $58 million loan that would allow an asbestos mine to be re-opened. APHA is one of a large number of scientist and public health groups to oppose the plan, which would result in the export of the cancer-causing material to developing countries.  As of this writing, a decision on the loan had not been made.

 

There is widespread concern among Section members on the Obama administration’s moves to step back from OSHA regulations, such as an administrative interpretation of the noise standard that would place more emphasis on the higher levels of the hierarchy of controls in eliminating noise hazards rather than using personal protective equipment as a long term solution, as well as not moving forward on having a checkbox for cumulative musculoskeletal disorders on the recordkeeping form. While the Section has great confidence in the current leadership of OSHA (David Michaels, the head of OSHA, is a long-time OHS Section member, as is Jordan Barab, the deputy assistant secretary), there is a clear anti-regulatory push after the last election and in the current unemployment crisis that is resonating throughout the government. Past Section chair Celeste Monforton is coordinating our advocacy activities, and her award of an Energizer bunny at the last meeting is a good indicator of her energy level.

 

The OHS Section will be celebrating our 100th anniversary at the 2014 meeting in New Orleans, and planning is already beginning, with APHA President (and OHS Section member) Linda Rae Murray and Bob Harrison leading the way. If you would like to be involved or have suggestions for ways to celebrate, please contact Bob at Robert.Harrison@ucsf.edu.

 

The Section is very happy to have a new and very active OHS Section liaison to the APHA student assembly, Alberto Caban-Martinez, who is generating a lot of ideas for involving more students and young occupational health professionals. We are planning to have an awards program for best posters at the next meeting, and we will be extending the deadline for submitting student posters so that we can take advantage of spring semester projects. We also expect to have more activities directed to career paths and mentorship, which will include involving the more than 40 OHS professionals who signed up to be mentors at the last meeting. Members interested in these activities can contact Alberto at acaban@med.miami.edu.


We encourage you to become involved in the Section in leadership activities or submitting abstracts or award nominees. More information is available on our newly revitalized website being overseen by Brad King at http://www.apha.org/membergroups/sections/aphasections/occupational.

OHS is on Facebook!

The Occupational Safety and Health Section of APHA would like to invite you to join the Section's Facebook community by "liking" the new Section page.

We are currently adding content to this page, and in particular, we'd like to provide a place for students and new OHS professionals to network and share valuable information. Feel free to post information and questions to the Wall and feel free to suggest content and links that would make the page more valuable to the OHS community!

From Capitol Hill and the White House

by Celeste Monforton

 

In the first week of the 112th Congress, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.)

introduced on Jan. 5, 2011 the Protecting America’s Workers Act (HR190), [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.190.IH:] a bill to modernize some provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.  Key provisions of the bill include (1) extending coverage to the 8 million state and local employees not currently covered by the OSH Act; (2) enhancing whistleblower protections for workers who have safety complaints; (3) increasing the maximum penalty from $7,000 to $12,000 for a serious violation, and from $70,000 to $120,000 for a willful or repeat violation; (4) strengthening criminal penalties against employers who “knowingly” violate a standard or rule, including as much as 10 years in prison; (5) granting additional oversight authority to federal OSHA over State Plan States; (6) giving family-member victims of workplace fatalities new rights; and (7)  requiring abatement of violations during the contest period.  To-date, a companion bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate.  In the 111th Congress, OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels, PhD, MPH and Deputy Asst. Secretary Jordan Barab (both members of the APHA OHS Section) testified on behalf of the Obama administration in support of a very similar bill. 

 

President Obama issued on Jan. 18, 2011 Executive Order 13563 on “Improving Regulations and Regulatory Review.” It generally reaffirms the principles and procedures outlined in the existing executive order (EO 12866) which guides rulemaking activities for regulatory agencies like OSHA, MSHA and EPA.  In this new order, the President directs agency heads to ensure the public has opportunities to participate in the rulemaking process and seek in particular the input of those who will be affected by proposed rules.  He calls on agencies to coordinate across agencies to identify rules that are redundant or inconsistent, and develop plans to periodically review existing regulations to determine if any are outmoded, ineffective or excessively burdensome.  “The current executive order (12866) contains much of the same direction to agencies,” observes Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH, OHS Section member and regulatory expert.  “I don’t see this new directive as a heavy lift for either OSHA or MSHA.”   In addition, the president issued two other memorandums to agency heads, one called “Regulatory Flexibility, Small Business, and Job Creation, and the other titled “Regulatory Compliance.”  In the first, the president writes: “In the current economic environment, it is especially important for agencies to design regulations in a cost-effective manner consistent with the goals of promoting economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation.“  He directs agency heads to assess whether a proposed rule will have a “significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities,” and identify ways to make the rule more flexibility for small employers.   OSHA and MSHA already make such determinations in the required regulatory flexibility analyses, and OSHA already goes one step further by convening special panels of small business representatives who would be affected by a proposed OSHA health or safety standard.  These SBREFA panels (named after the law that requires them (Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act)) give the small business reps the opportunity to review OSHA’s draft regulation before it is even proposed and make suggestions on ways to make it less burdensome.  The memorandum called “Regulatory Compliance” says enforcement agencies, like MSHA and OSHA, should make their inspection, citation and related date available on-line, and develop means to share such data across agencies. Think of the possibilities: Does the company that has just been cited for illegal discharges into a waterway also violate worker safety or wage and hour rules?   The big caveat with the President’s announcement is the phrase “to the extent feasible.”   In other words, as their budgets allow.  Given the financial constraints already in place at agencies, and promises from Capitol Hill to slash budgets further, this is a good idea whose time is years down the road.

New documentary seeks to shed light into workplace deaths in construction

by CPWR

 

CaveLight Films will release this documentary exposing the failings that allowed six construction workers to die on one Las Vegas project over just 19 months. The filmmaker is seeking funds to complete his work.

APHA’s focus on occupational safety and health for 2011 may get a boost from “Cost of Construction,” a new documentary that will examine the complex safety issues and failings that allowed six construction workers to die while building CityCenter, the $9.2 billion Las Vegas strip project of six skyscrapers holding cutting-edge hotels, casinos, restaurants, spas and luxury condos. Filmmaker Jordan Ehrlich and his team have been documenting the events and underlying issues behind the deaths on the project, shooting high-definition film to capture workers on the site, researching documents, collecting footage, and interviewing those involved.

 

“These deaths shone a light on a subject that really goes unnoticed by the media,” said Ehrlich. “Four construction workers die every day on U.S. worksites, on average, but until CityCenter and the crane collapses that killed a number of workers in early 2008, it’s not gotten the attention it deserves.”

 

Ehrlich and his team interviewed Las Vegas Sun reporter Alexandra Berzon, who won a Pulitzer for her coverage of the CityCenter deaths and issues, as well as federal officials, union leaders, and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee. In addition, APHA Occupational Health and Safety Section member Dr. Janie Gittleman was interviewed for the film. Gittleman led a team of researchers from her organization, CPWR-The Center for Construction Research and Training, and from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, in a site safety assessment of CityCenter. The team developed four reports, along with a list of 17 recommendations found in this report.


Although Ehrlich’s team has acquired hundreds of records and information from the closed death investigation reports plus footage of interviews, news reports, and congressional hearings, Ehrlich needs additional resources to interview key federal officials and contractors who are no longer connected with the project and want to go on record about their experience.

 

“These interviews can expose the national significance buried in the controversy that surrounds the deaths and 1,000 injuries at CityCenter,” said Ehrlich, who has written and produced documentaries for Discovery Channel, New Line Cinema, A&E Network and Animal Planet. “What happened at CityCenter has implications that reach beyond the construction industry. At its core, this is a story about the complexity of corporate and personal responsibility during an era of massive government deregulation.”

 

A trailer of the film, which gives an overview of the project, one family’s tragic loss, and some of the key people interviewed, along with time-lapse photography of the site’s progress, can be found at CaveLight Films’ website, http://www.cavelightfilms.com/cost-of-construction. The site also provides links to the film’s synopsis and a way to make a tax-deductible contribution fund the film’s completion. “Cost of Construction” is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

 

National Public Health Week

by Karla Armenti

 

National Public Health Week is April 4-10, and this year's theme "Safety is No Accident: Live Injury Free" focuses on injury prevention.  One day of the week will be devoted to preventing injuries in the workplace.  This provides a great opportunity to share information with the larger public health community and general public about worker health and safety.

 

Members of the APHA Occupational Health and Safety Section worked with APHA to ensure that their safety tips “at work” appropriately addressed the responsibilities of the employer in providing a safe workplace to their employees.  Much of what the OHS Section suggested has been incorporated into the National Public Health Week (NPHW) website (under Safety Tips): http://www.nphw.org/nphw11/tips_work.htm.

 

The theme of “living injury free” allows all OHS members the opportunity to get involved in their local or state public health association’s planning for their own Public Health Week events.  It’s important to ensure attention to the workplace is part of “community based” public health. 

 

We are fortunate to have Dr. Linda Rae Murray as president of APHA this year.  APHA is planning an “Injury Prevention Road Tour” that includes Dr. Murray’s participation in several state public health association annual meetings.  New Hampshire is one of the lucky states!  In addition to having her speak at our annual meeting where the focus will be on the work environment and the prevention of work-related injuries, we will be working with other organizations in the state to plan another event where we can build awareness about the importance of ensuring a safe workplace for our New Hampshire workers.  These include the NH Businesses for Social Responsibility and NH State Health and Equity Partnership.

 

APHA will be posting a toolkit that states can use to create and promote their own events.  The main NPHW is at:  http://www.nphw.org/nphw11/first1.htm.  You can write Op-Eds, articles in newsletters, letters to the editor, and much more to get your word out.

 

We all know that workers have little control over the workplace and that the employer has a statutory requirement to create a safe working environment. As Walter Jones wrote during exchanges with APHA on creating the safety tips, “Effective injury prevention occurs when the community, employers and employees work together to build safer and healthier workplaces through the implementation of policies, practices and trainings that remove hazards rather than relying on an individual’s behavior.”   We have an opportunity to make sure those not in the world of “OHS” understand this too!

 

Members of the OHS Section leadership have been discussing this and welcome your thoughts, ideas or comments that will help raise awareness of occupational hazards and the strategy of reducing hazards to reduce work-related injuries.

APHA Visit to Cuba, November 2010

by Jean Rabovsky

 

In November 2010 a delegation from APHA traveled to Cuba to learn about that nation's public health system.  During an interval of less then one week, more than 70 participants representing a broad spectrum of health-related backgrounds met with Cuban public health officials and visited many facilities devoted to specific public health programs.  Among these facilities and programs were primary care clinics (polyclinics), maternity homes, elder care, HIV/AIDS prevention, public health information/communication technology, vaccine production, ophthalmology and oncology.  A program providing treatment to child victims of the 1986 Chernobyl explosion highlights Cuba’s sense of internationalism and the provision of health services to people in need throughout the world.  A major hallmark of the Cuban public health approach is health promotion/prevention and access to health care by all people throughout the country.  Notable outcomes of the Cuban public health system include significant reductions in infant/childhood mortality and increased life expectancy statistics.

 

Although many facilities were visited, some public health issues, such as the relationships between occupational and/or environmental exposures, were not explored.  The contribution of workers to the development of Cuba is acknowledged by the nation, as demonstrated by a prominently placed plaque honoring early 20th century Chinese railroad workers.  Current occupational health/safety issues that are of concern include truck driver/taxi driver safety due to use of aging vehicles, exposures during cigar manufacturing, and industrial safety during nickel extraction/refining.  Exposures that occur during such activities include respirable size particulate matter, diesel exhaust, tobacco smoke and nickel, which also affect the general population.

 

In conclusion, the delegation learned a great deal about the public health system during this short visit, including the public health approaches and accomplishments of this nation.  Hopefully future travel to Cuba will include discussions about the impact of occupational/environmental exposures on health status.  The next delegation will travel to Cuba in May of this year.  More information can be found at: http://professionalsabroad.org/overview?program=apha&overview=apha.

 

Mentoring is an Integral function of the APHA Occupational Health and Safety Section

by Alberto Caban-Martinez

 

Hello, OHS Section Members!  I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself and tell you a little about our Section’s mentoring program. I’m Alberto and a student member of the Occupational Health and Safety Section of the APHA. Regardless of your level of training and professional career development, we could all use a little independent and unbiased advice from our peers from time to time. So why not let the OHS Section support your efforts to receive (or give) advice to other OHS Section members? In collaboration with the national office the OHS Section will be supporting an exclusive OHS mentoring program. The program is in its initial phases and throughout the year will solicit invitations for senior OHS experts to serve as mentors. They will complete a brief informative data sheet that will collect information on their area of expertise, strengths, demographics and desire and type of mentorship they can provide. Simultaneously, the OHS mentoring program will invite junior members of the Section to express interest in being paired with a mentor by providing simple information on their career interests. Throughout the year the mentorship program will check in with the mentorship dyad to assess how periodic meetings are unfolding. The OHS mentoring program is open to suggestions for improving the program, so please feel free to e-mail me with constructive comments that enhance the activities provided to our Section. Send e-mail to: acaban@med.miami.edu (Alberto Caban-Martinez) with your interest to serve as a mentor or to be a mentee.

 

 

TWENTY-FIRST 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 21st 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 139th APHA Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.  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 the winning material.

 

Entries will be accepted in three categories; printed materials, electronic materials, and other materials. Entries for the contest are due by March 25, 2011.  Please contact Stephanie Parsons at sparsons@jhsph.edu for additional contest entry information. 

APHA Midyear Meeting

Registration Now Open for APHA Midyear Meeting — "Implementing Health Reform: A Public Health Approach"

 

Registration is now open for APHA’s Midyear Meeting: Implementing Health Reform — A Public Health Approach. Join public health colleagues and partners in Chicago, June 23-25, to better understand the health reform law and its implications from a public health perspective. Gain the tools needed for implementing the provisions of the Affordable Care Act and for improving health outcomes in communities across the country. The early-bird registration deadline is April 15. To register or for more information, visit http://www.apha.org/midyear.