August 2, 2019
The E-Newsbrief of the National Clearinghouse is a free weekly newsletter focusing on new developments in the world of worker health and safety. Each issue provides summaries of the latest worker health and safety news from newspapers, magazines, journals, government reports, and the Web, along with links to the original documents. Also featured each week are updates from government agencies that handle hazmat and worker safety issues such as DOE, EPA, OSHA and others. Subscribing to the National Clearinghouse Newsbrief is the best way to stay on top of the worker health and safety news.
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Birnbaum Announces Upcoming Retirement
On July 9, NIEHS and National Toxicology Program Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., announced that she will retire on Oct. 3. Deputy Director Rick Woychik, Ph.D., will step up as acting director until new leadership is selected after a national search by the National Institutes of Health. Birnbaum's career as a federal scientist and leader spans more than 40 years, including work at the U.S Environmental Protection Agency.
66 Treated After Fire Breaks Out at ExxonMobil Plant in Baytown, Texas
Residents were urged to shelter in place for several hours after an explosion and fire broke out July 31 at a massive ExxonMobil plant in Texas, officials said. City officials said via Twitter that the advisory had been lifted after monitoring failed to detect "any levels of concern" in the air. Officials said 66 employees and contractors were examined at a health clinic, with some receiving first aid. All were released. The fire had been contained by the evening. The fire occurred at the company's Baytown Olefins Plant, ExxonMobil spokeswoman Sarah Nordin said. The company website describes the complex as one of the largest refining and petrochemical complexes in the world. It's located about 25 miles east of Houston.
CNN [Authors: Ray Sanchez and Marlena Baldacci]
Houston Chronicle [Story Update]
Workers Return to Idaho Nuke Facility After Fire Evacuations
Employees returned to work Thursday at a sprawling nuclear research site in southwestern Idaho after a wildfire forced two days of evacuations. The lightning-caused wildfire at the Idaho National Laboratory is one of several burning across the U.S. West. "The fire is anticipated to be 100% contained," said Idaho National Laboratory spokesman Mike Johnson. The nuclear research complex sits on a parcel of desert that is nearly the size of Rhode Island, and facilities there include nuclear reactors, high-level nuclear waste treatment plants and various nuclear research projects.
Associated Press [Authors: Rebecca Boone and Felicia Fonseca]
Scientists: Oregon Lags in Disaster Preparedness
Oregon state lawmakers abandoned a multimillion-dollar project to develop early warning systems for earthquakes and wildfires, and scientists warn that the funding shake-up could endanger public safety and put Oregon further behind other West Coast states in preparing for natural disasters. Researchers were shocked when nearly $12 million to expand ShakeAlert and AlertWildfire, early warning systems to help detect significant earthquakes and wildfires, unexpectedly went up in smoke last month, just days before the end of the legislative session. Money for the projects was included as part of a larger funding package but was stripped in a last-minute amendment.
Associated Press [Author: Sarah Zimmerman]
Environmental Groups Raise Alarm Over Mislabeled Nuclear Waste Shipments Through Utah
Environmental activists say Utahns living near freeways and railroads may have been endangered by recent shipments of incorrectly labeled radioactive waste headed to Nevada. They are calling on Gov. Gary Herbert to protest such action by the U.S. Department of Energy, and to say whether Utah and its first responders were warned about the shipments. The letter comes after Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak earlier this month said the DOE told him it sent 32 shipments of radioactive material incorrectly labeled as low-level waste into Nevada from Tennessee between 2013 and 2018.
The Salt Lake Tribune [Author: Lee Davidson]
New Rules to Protect Workers When Wildfires' Smoke Fills the Air
California's garbage collectors, grape pickers, landscapers and other outdoor workers won't have to hold their breath or call in sick this year when wildfire smoke wafts into town, according to new worker safety regulations that go into effect next month. The emergency workplace standards, approved this month by the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, require employers to protect workers from the kind of choking soot that blanketed the Bay Area during major fires over the past two years.
San Francisco Chronicle [Author: Peter Fimrite]
Worcester Employee's Health Damaged from Mold Exposure at Compost Site
When Edmund T. Kochling began managing the city's large composting operation in 2007, he felt proud knowing the effort to reduce solid waste would save the city money and help the environment. But little did he know the job would nearly kill him. "There is an extreme danger here that's not well understood. People should be aware of it," the 55-year-old Charlton resident said, referring to health problems he suffered from inhaling large levels of biological aerosols, including aspergillus, a fungus that can cause respiratory and other health problems, and in rare cases even death, while working at the city's industrial compost operation, one of the largest in the region.
Worchester Telegram [Author: Elaine Thompson]
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NLM Webinar: Are You Ready? Essential Disaster Health Information Resources for Keeping Your Loved Ones Safe"
This class covers National Library of Medicine (NLM) disaster health information and other emergency preparedness resources for community educators, families, friends and caregivers. Resources for special populations and those with special needs are highlighted. Audience: consumers, public and consumer health librarians, pre- hospital responders, health care professionals, first-responders, or disaster preparedness administrators. The webinar is Wednesday, August 28, 2019 2-3 pm ET.
Notice of Funding Opportunity: FY 2019 Brownfields Training, Research, and Technical Assistance Grant
This notice announces the availability of one $1,400,000 Brownfields Training, Research, and Technical Assistance Grant and solicits proposals from eligible entities to conduct research and provide technical assistance to new, existing, and/or prospective U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) grantees. In addition to providing on-going technical assistance throughout the project period, the successful applicant will be responsible for developing an annual meeting to facilitate peer-to-peer networking and provide training to the EWDJT grantees. The award is anticipated to be funded incrementally on an annual basis over seven years, at approximately $200,000 per year. Proposals must be submitted through www.grants.gov by 11:59 p.m. ET on September 20, 2019.
APHA Annual Meeting: Creating the Healthiest Nation: For Science. For Action. For Health.
Everyone has a role to play in creating a healthier nation. In light of today's most pressing health issues, science and advocacy are the keys to developing health equity to improve the lives of people locally, nationally and worldwide. The American Public Health Association (APHA)'s Annual Meeting and Expo will be held November 2-6, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Annual Meeting gives more than 12,000 public health professionals an opportunity to put science and action to work to achieve a healthier nation.
National Conference on Worker Safety and Health
The National Conference on Worker Safety and Health (#COSHCON19) brings together a diverse, inclusive and bilingual group of participants of workers, occupational health and safety experts, unions, activists and academics united around common goals. The conference aims to empower workers, make workplaces safer and reduce the toll of on-the-job injuries, illnesses and fatalities. The conference will take place December 3-5, 2019 in Baltimore, MD.
2019 National Brownfields Training Conference
Cosponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International City/County Management Association, the National Brownfields Training Conference will take place December 10-13, 2019, in Los Angeles, CA at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Offered every two years, the conference is the largest gathering of stakeholders focused on cleaning up and reusing formerly utilized commercial and industrial properties. Registration is now available.
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America Is Drowning in Garbage. Now Robots Are Being Put on Duty to Help Solve the Recycling Crisis
The U.S. is facing a recycling crisis that is burying cities and towns in tens of millions of tons of garbage a day. The problem began last year when China, the world's largest recyclable processor, stopped accepting most American scrap plastic and cardboard due to contamination problems, and a glut of plastics overwhelming its own processing facilities. Historically, China recycled the bulk of U.S. waste. Contamination in the U.S. is high since recyclables are often dumped into one bin instead of multi-streamed or separated from the source. Now China has strict standards for recycling materials it will accept, requiring contamination levels in a plastic bale, for example, contain one-tenth of 1%.
CNBC [Authors: Lori Ioannou and Magdalena Petrova]
Valley Fever Is a Work-Related Illness
People who work outdoors or on jobs that disturb dirt are at risk of becoming sick with Valley fever, a potentially deadly illness caused by a fungus found in the soil in parts of California. Symptoms of Valley fever include fatigue, cough, fever, and chest pain that can last for weeks or months. California's Central Valley and Central Coast regions have the most cases of Valley fever. There is no reliable way to test soil for the fungus that causes Valley fever.
Cal/OSHA Reminds Employers About Heat Illness Prevention Standards
Temperatures are expected to reach triple digits across the Central Valley in California, and Cal/OSHA is reminding employers with outdoor workers that shade must be made available at all times and must in place when temperatures reach 80 degrees or above. In addition, employers should encourage workers to take cool-down rests in the shade to prevent overheating. The workers affected by California's heat illness prevention standard include agriculture, construction and landscaping workers, as well as security guards, groundskeepers, and transportation and delivery drivers in non-air-conditioned vehicles.
PrepTalk Released, Brian Fennessy's "Building a Mission-Driven Culture"
FEMA along with its emergency management partners, released Chief Brian Fennessy's PrepTalk "Building a Mission-Driven Culture." He shares the values of a mission-driven culture and the importance of intent-based leadership in emergency management. Fennessy is Fire Chief of the Orange County Fire Authority in California. He also serves as the representative for the nine Western Division FEMA Urban Search & Rescue Task Force Sponsoring Agency Chiefs, the vice-chair of the California Fire Chiefs Association Metro Chiefs, and vice-chair of the FIRESCOPE Board of Directors. In his PrepTalk, Chief Fennessy discusses his path to leadership and why he firmly believes that a mission-driven culture is critical to organizational success in times of chaos and during daily operations.
Hazard App 'To Save Construction Workers' Lives'
A new app that shows potential dangers at building sites could save the lives of construction workers, experts say. It contains a database of potentially hazardous scenarios, with pictures and video, which architects and designers can use to improve their own plans. The technology was developed by a team of researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU). Project leader Billy Hare said it had the potential to prevent mistakes which cause accidents. Fire containment, heavy lifting and trip hazards are among the problems designers are able to browse and troubleshoot.
All Spent Nuclear Fuel in the U.S. Will Soon End Up in One Place
Nuclear power is sometimes touted as a solution to looming climate catastrophe: Reliable on cloudy and windless days, it produces electricity without releasing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, at least once power plants are up and running. While the world looks to shift away from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources, global demand continues to climb. Nuclear fission currently generates about 11 percent of electricity worldwide every year, and 20 percent in the United States. Proponents of nuclear believe it is uniquely able to be scaled up quickly and reliably enough to displace fossil fuels and meet the world's growing energy demands.
National Geographic [Author: Sammy Feldblum]
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NIOSH Report Details Role of Exposure Banding in Chemical Management
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published a technical report intended to help safety and health professionals, employers, trade associations, labor organizations, and state-level programs control chemical exposures in the workplace. The NIOSH Occupational Exposure Banding Process for Chemical Risk Management, released in July, details a strategy for managing the many chemical substances that don't have an authoritative occupational exposure limit. About 99% of the more than 85,000 commercially available chemicals in the United States fall under that category. NIOSH defines an "authoritative limit" as one that comes from consensus, government or peer-reviewed sources.
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Instructor Certification Program Sets LIUNA Training Apart
When LIUNA Training set out to define excellence in training, the organization knew that validation had to come from an independent, third-party accrediting body. Because workforce development, education and training has become increasingly competitive, it's easy to say you are the best, but proving it is another matter. More and more phrases like "interactive" are used in training with little understanding of what it really means. Death by PowerPoint and asking an entire class "Do you understand?" is mistakenly seen as interactivity, according to John LeConche, Executive Director of LIUNA Training.
The Opioid Crisis Is Hitting One Industry Particularly Hard
As opioid addiction increased exponentially over the last two decades, American construction workers have been among those hit the hardest. According to a note from Barclays Research, construction workers are nearly six times more likely than other industries to develop an opioid addiction. "In Massachusetts," the analysts noted, "~25% of all opioid overdose deaths were from construction." Chris Cain, the executive director of The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), stressed that the trend is less "about a worker who's in the industry" than "about the construct of the industry."
Yahoo Finance [Author: Adriana Belmonte]
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CSB Seeks a Supervisory Chemical Incident Investigator
The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board is seeking a Supervisory Chemical Incident Investigator. The position is located in the Office of Investigations. The incumbent serves as the supervisor of experts in industrial chemical safety and nationwide incident investigation and analysis of major incidents involving the accidental release of hazardous materials and, developing and presenting reports with safety recommendations for adopting by the Board. The deadline to apply is August 5, 2019.
Drexel University and City of Philadelphia Seek Public Health Emergency Preparedness Librarian Fellow
The Public Health Emergency Preparedness Librarian fellowship is a collaboration between Drexel University and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness. At Drexel, the fellow will work with a team of researchers on a CDC-sponsored project to address the disaster information needs of families with special health care challenges and support the Center's web-based information dissemination platforms including diversitypreparedness.org. At PDPH, the fellow will lead the creation of an electronic resource library for staff and external partners, to support internal educational programming and communication with health care partners. The deadline to apply is August 17, 2019.
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