NIOSH eNews

Volume 16, Number 7 (November 2018)

From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH

Preparing and Protecting the Emerging Workforce

The “skills gapExternal”—the mismatch between the knowledge, skills, and abilities employers seek in potential employees and the competencies workers actually bring to the job—has been a topic of national conversation, concern, and even controversyExternal for many years. Young people have often been at the center of these discussions. So, too, has the need to prepare new workers with “soft skillsExternal,” related to communication, problem solving and critical thinking, and collaboration (to name a few). Recent, national effortsExternal to advance skills-based training and apprenticeshipExternal and employment opportunities for youth provide a timely opportunity to integrate knowledge and skills related to workplace safety and health into the soft skills delivered through workforce development programs and initiatives.

Young workers (15–24 years old) make up a small (roughly 13%) yet important component of the U.S. labor force. The benefits of paid work for young people are well known and include the opportunity to earn money, gain independence, and build self-confidence. So are the risks. Young workers require treatment in a hospital emergency department due to work-related injuries at about twice the rate of adult workers (age 25 and up). These incidents can have a lasting impact on quality of life and future workforce participation. A lack of adequate safety training may contribute to adverse health outcomes for young workers. Therefore, safety education and training may play an essential role in promoting the long-term health, well-being, and prosperity of our workforce and of our nation.

To address this important issue, NIOSH and the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) Foundation recently entered into a five-year partnership to create and disseminate an online workplace safety and health training for youth. Once developed, it will be available free of charge for use in school CTE (career and technical education), STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), and apprenticeship programs. This new training will build on Youth@Work—Talking Safety, a foundational curriculum developed by NIOSH and its partners for middle school and high school students. This training will promote core competencies for workplace safety and healthExternal, such as identifying workplace hazards and methods to eliminate or control those hazards; demonstrating knowledge of young worker rights, responsibilities, and roles; and understanding how to communicate effectively about safety and health concerns at work. These competencies are portable to all jobs and sectors of the economy.

As part of the partnership, NIOSH and the BCSP Foundation will conduct outreach to raise awareness about young worker safety and health among educators, high school administrators and counselors, businesses, and labor and trade/professional organizations. These collaborative efforts will also leverage ongoing activities of NIOSH researchers and numerous partners and stakeholders, many of which we highlighted in this column.

For instance, NIOSH recently wrapped up a four-year study in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), the nation’s fourth largest school system. Approximately 7,500 eighth grade students received training on Talking Safety in their science classes. Preliminary results indicate positive, significant shifts (post-training) in eighth graders’ knowledge and attitude about workplace safety and health, and in their self-efficacy and reported intention to use the skills they learned through the curriculum training. The OSH competencies that young people learn early in life, before they enter the formal labor market, may serve as a critical foundation on which skills gained through on-the-job training, apprenticeships, and related programs will be built.

How to best prepare our workforce for the jobs of the future, and what skill sets workers need to be productive and competitive, is a national concern that requires large-scale and long-term strategies. How to keep current and future workers, our country’s most valuable resourceExternal, safe and healthy is a critical part of that conversation.


Highlights

logo for Expanding Research Partnerships: State of Science

Join NIOSH on November 14 for the Final Installment of the 2018 Expanding Research Partnership Webinar Series!

The Expanding Research Partnership Webinar Series continues the learning and discussions on NIOSH research and partnerships from the Expanding Research Partnerships: State of the Science ConferenceExternal. Past presentations featured intramural and extramural research within the NIOSH Program Portfolio. Please join us on November 14 from 12–1 p.m. ET for two exciting presentations on health and safety in construction. Additional information about this webinar and registration information is available.

NIOSH Releases Beta Version of New Respirable Crystalline Silica Monitoring Software

Mines can now monitor worker exposure to hazardous respirable crystalline silica more effectively thanks to new software developed by the NIOSH Mining Program in beta version. This novel, field-based tool called “FAST” (Field Analysis of Silica Tool) works together with commercially available FTIR analyzers (Fourier Transform Infrared) to determine a worker’s exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust, providing detailed results immediately following a worker’s shift. Learn more about this monitoring software.

Article Emphasizes Need for Safety and Wellness Culture in Vet Clinics

A recent articleExternal in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association features a presentation given by NIOSH epidemiologist CDR Christa Hale about preventing injuries to workers in veterinary clinics. The veterinary services industry ranks among the highest in terms of nonfatal injuries to workers, even higher than many industries traditionally considered dangerous. CDR Hale’s article emphasizes the need for veterinary clinics to embrace a culture of safety and wellness.

Global Research in Small Business Safety

Last year NIOSH cohosted the international Understanding Small Enterprises Conference. Two new publications spurred by this conference have recently been published: a special issue in the Annals of Work Exposure and HealthExternal, and the conference proceedings. The articles in these publications address themes such has industry-specific interventions, stakeholder involvement, and barriers to safe and healthy practices in small businesses.


Monthly Features

NIOSH Congratulates

National Academy of Construction Inductee

The National Academy of Construction elected NIOSH Principal Associate Director and Director of the Office for Construction Safety and Health Dr. Christine Branche as a member of its class of 2018. There were 37 new inductees out of 300 nominations. The academy selected Dr. Branche for her outstanding service to improve construction industry safety and health.

2018 MacArthur Fellowship Genius Grant Winner

Ken Ward Jr. was one of 25 winners of the 2018 MacArthur Fellowship AwardExternal. Ken is an investigative journalist who reports on economic, social, and health impacts of the coal, natural gas, and chemical industries in rural West Virginia. Ken has reported on NIOSH’s work for many years.


NORA

NORA Traumatic Injury Prevention Council Update

Many members of the NORA Traumatic Injury Prevention (TIP) Council recently participated in the NIOSH National Occupational Injury Research Symposium. This included moderating and presenting in plenaries and breakout sessions. As a follow up to the meeting, the National Safety Council is sponsoring a special issue of the Journal of Safety Research devoted to work presented at the conference. The submissions will be organized according to the objectives in the NORA TIP Agenda.

New NORA Manufacturing Sector Council Website

A new website from the NORA Manufacturing Sector Council features ways in which businesses and companies can safeguard employees from the release of hazardous energy during service and maintenance activities. The website provides current and adapted resources to help companies and businesses start or improve and maintain any existing lockout/tagout programs they may already have in place. It features a resource guide with step-by-step guidance and customizable materials and templates to help with the implementation of effective strategies for the control of unsafe hazardous energy release.


News From Our Partners

Occupational Fatalities in North Carolina Are Still a Problem

In 2017, the United Health Foundation ranked North Carolina (NC) as the tenth healthiest state for occupational fatalities in their America’s Health Rankings report. Although this status is encouraging, occupational fatalities still present a public health problem in NC, especially among vulnerable working populations, such as low-wage or foreign-born workers. The NC Department of Health and Human ServicesExternal recently completed an updated report on trends of occupational fatalities from 2007 through 2016 to provide additional context on the burden of this problem and to profile the populations most affected. The report is available for view or downloadCdc-pdfExternal as part of the NC Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health, Epidemiology Section’s EpiNotes fall 2018 newsletter.

New Report on Mercury Exposure as Wisconsin Fluorescent Lamp Recycling Facility

Americans installed about 3.8 billion fluorescent lamps in the U.S. in 2010. Recycling used fluorescent light bulbs helps to prevent the release of mercury—but workers recycling them may be at risk. A July Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MWWR) discusses the related investigation at a Wisconsin fluorescent lamp recycling facility where investigators found elevated mercury levels in five of seven workers, clinical signs of mercury toxicity in two workers, and mercury contamination in the cars of two workers. The report suggests that mitigating worker risk for adverse health effects, take-home exposure, and environmental contamination requires engineering control technology, regular mercury control housekeeping, and worker personal protective equipment training.

New OSHA Resources Available

OSHA recently announced the availability of new resourcesExternal to keep workers safe during trenching and excavation. Trench collapses, or cave-ins, pose a great risk to construction workers’ lives. OSHA has made reducing trenching and excavation hazards the Agency’s priority goal.

OSHA has also newly released its Quarterly Update on the New Compliance Assistance ResourcesExternal covering the period of July 1 to September 30.

Opioids in the Maryland Workplace: Challenges and Solutions

A conferenceExternal on strategies to address opioids in the workplace kicks off November 5 at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. This event will feature presentations on evidence-based approaches from Maryland state agencies and employers. The conference is sponsored by multiple organizations, including two NIOSH grantees—the Maryland Department of Health (State Surveillance Program) and Johns Hopkins Education and Research Center. For the latest information on NIOSH-funded extramural activities, visit Extramural Research and Training Programs.

Grant-Funded Study Aims to Save Lobstermen’s Lives through Improved Life Jackets

Boston National Public Radio recently highlighted a NIOSH extramural studyExternal that aims to redesign life jackets to make them safer and easier for lobstermen to use. NIOSH funds the project through an investigator-initiated research grantExternal. For the latest information on NIOSH-funded extramural activities, visit Extramural Research and Training Programs.


New FACE Reports


New Fire Fighter Investigations and Prevention Program Reports

Volunteer Fire Fighter Dies in Tanker Rollover Responding to Structure Fire—Oklahoma
A volunteer fire fighter died when the water tanker he was driving while responding to a structure fire rolled over. He ran the tanker off the side of the road and then steered it back onto the pavement. While the fire fighter attempted to maintain the tanker, it overturned, rolled, and came to rest upside down on the pavement. The fire fighter was ejected from the tanker cab and died.

Two Fire Fighters Die and One Fire Fighter Injured When Struck at a Roadway Incident—Mississippi
A volunteer deputy chief and a fire fighter died and another fire fighter was injured while operating at an incident scene. The fire fighters were providing traffic control when a vehicle drove through the area and stuck the deputy chief and two fire fighters. The vehicle left the scene. Following the incident, dispatch was advised that two fire fighters were deceased and one fire fighter was injured.

Career Fire Fighter Dies and Another is Seriously Burned Fighting Arson Fire at a Commercial Strip Mall—Texas
A career fire fighter died and another fire fighter was seriously burned after fire conditions rapidly deteriorated inside a commercial strip mall, trapping both fire fighters in the structure. Following a May Day, Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) crews looked for the missing fire fighters. One of the fire fighters was found and transported for medical treatment. During recovery operations, the crew removed the second fire fighter from the structure. He was pronounced dead at the scene.


Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program Update

Evaluation of Exposures at an Electronics Recycling Company

HHE investigators found metals in the air and elevated blood lead levels. They also discovered flame-retardants in the air, on employees’ hands, and in workers’ blood and urine. Investigators recommended adding local exhaust ventilation, stopping dry sweeping, and providing onsite laundering facilities or contracting with a laundering service. Read the HHE report to learn more.

Characterizing Exposures during Laser Tattoo Removal in a Hospital Dermatology Center

Although HHE Program investigators measured low levels of some metals, VOCs, bacteria, and particles, none of the results were above occupational exposure limits. Investigators recommended strengthening the laser safety program by replacing laser protective equipment when worn out or damaged. They also recommended only using “laser in use” signs when lasers were actually in use. Read the HHE report to learn more.


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Federal Register Notices of Public Comment

Solicitation of Nominations for Appointment to the World Trade Center Health Program Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee (STAC)
The noticeExternal was posted on September 7. Nominations for membership on the STAC must be received no later than November 16.

Partnership Opportunity To List in a Public Database (PPE-Info) Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment Products That Protect Workers Against Fentanyl Exposure
The noticeExternal was posted on October 18. Comments must be received by November 19.

Removal of Compliance Deadline for Closed-Circuit Escape Respirators
The noticeExternal was posted on October 25. Comments must be received by November 26.

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus Compressed Breathing Gas Containers; Request for Information
The noticeExternal was posted on October 1. Comments must be received by November 30.

Implementation of Section 2695 (42 U.S.C. 300ff-131) Public Law 111-87: Infectious Diseases and Circumstances Relevant to Notification Requirements: Definition of Emergency Response Employee
The noticeExternal was posted on October 17. Comments must be received by December 17.

World Trade Center Health Program; Request for Nominations of Scientific Peer Reviewers of Proposed Additions to the List of WTC-Related Health Conditions
The noticeExternal was posted on March 22, 2017. Nominations must be postmarked or submitted electronically by February 1, 2019.


Call for Proposals

Work, Stress and Health ConferenceExternal
Deadline for paper and presentation proposals is January 28, 2019.


Upcoming Seminars/Conferences

Kentucky Crushed Stone Association (KYCSA) Underground Stone Safety SeminarExternal
November 13–14, Louisville, KY

2019 National HIV Prevention Conference
March 18–21, 2019, Atlanta, GA

29th Annual Art & Science of Health Promotion ConferenceExternal
April 1–5, 2019, Hilton Head, SC

2019 Wisconsin Health Literacy SummitExternal
April 2–3, 2019, Madison, WI

Twenty-Fourth International Symposium on Shiftwork & Working TimeExternal
September 9–13, 2019, Coeur d’Alene, ID

Working Hours, Sleep & Fatigue Forum: Meeting the Needs of American Workers & Employers
September 13–14, 2019, Coeur d’Alene, ID

Work, Stress and Health Conference 2019External
November 6–9, 2019, Philadelphia, PA

A comprehensive list of upcoming conferences is available on the NIOSH conferences and events web page.


This Month in History

More than a quarter of a century ago, NIOSH issued a nationwide alert warning about the risk of silicosis among rock drillers. Silicosis is an ongoing, irreversible lung disease that can cause difficulty breathing and even death. It is also entirely preventable by avoiding breathing in fine particles of a chemical compound—crystalline silica—found in much of the earth’s crust, including sand, rock, and soil.

Page last reviewed: November 5, 2018