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TRANSPORTATION, WAREHOUSING AND UTILITIES

train, airplane, ship, truck

Inputs: Emerging Issues

There are a number of emerging issues within the TWU sector that impact occupational safety and health. For example, in the transportation industry subsectors, the psychosocial impacts of stress are being recognized and beginning to draw increased attention. Business practices and response to the national and global economy affect the sector through issues such as an increased use of contractors, and flexible “just-in-time” business models; these models often necessitate frequent changes in work schedules and shift work that can result in increased worker stress. The threat of terrorism and subsequent security procedures have added new and time-consuming requirements that can increase stress in this sector. Finally, financial concerns often result in increased worker stress within the sector as companies strive to compete in the face of rising fuel and other costs.

TWU sector workers are exposed to many of the same safety hazards as other sectors; however, there is increased concern with fatigue as a potential contributing factor. The impact of fatigue on traumatic injuries, musculoskeletal disorders, and worker health and wellness is of increased interest. Workplace violence continues to be an issue to subsector workers such as taxi cab drivers and aviation employees who interact with the public. New and innovative methods to address this issue are necessary.

Many transportation industry subsectors have occupations that are sedentary in nature. This is a marked concern in relation to long haul truck drivers whose extensive time on the road provides minimal opportunities for stretching and exercise. The long-term impacts of inactivity have been tentatively associated with increased obesity and cardiovascular disease within the trucking population; additional research is necessary to fully characterize the extent and magnitude of this issue and identify needed interventions.

Because the TWU sector is diverse and encompasses many occupations, TWU workers can be exposed to a wide range of chemical, biological, psychosocial, and physical exposures. For many workers in this sector, exposures have not been identified or remain uncharacterized. Subsequently, adverse health effects associated with many of these exposures have not been determined or evaluated. Known exposures in this sector include diesel exhaust and fuel particulate in trucking, hexavalent chromium, noise and heat stress exposure in utilities, endotoxin and dust in agricultural commodity storage, and contaminated bleed air in aviation.

New hazards, yet uncharacterized, may emerge as the nation strives to relieve our dependence on foreign oil and identify new sources of energy. The increasing manufacture and operation of wind generators and increasing development of nuclear power reactors, for example, may bring unique occupational safety and health concerns to this industry, particularly among workers in the Utilities subsector.

Finally, efforts for emergency preparedness and response involve workers in TWU subsectors. For example, in the case of many manmade and natural disasters, utilities workers must be available and responsive following the disasters to maintain critical infrastructure. This may entail long working hours and unsafe conditions. In the case of infectious illness (e.g., influenza pandemic), as truckers continue to transport supplies across the country, they may also become ill themselves and unintentionally serve as vectors of the illness to uninfected areas. Aviation workers would be similarly affected in such a pandemic when conducting cabin operations with potentially ill passengers.

 
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  • Page last reviewed: November 14, 2012
  • Page last updated: November 14, 2012
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