December 20, 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.
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|Top Stories||Back to Top|
Waukegan Plant Explosion That Killed Four Workers Was Preventable, Federal Officials Say
The May 3, 2019 explosion at AB Specialty Silicones in Waukegan, which was felt throughout Lake County, killed four workers and severely injured another, should not have happened, federal officials said Dec. 18. That said, officials admitted there were no regulations in place that required safety equipment that may have prevented the explosion. Lead investigator Tamara Qureshi went on to say that there were no flammable gas or hydrogen detectors in the plant.
Chicago Tribune [Author: Frank Abderholden]
Texas Found a Cancer Cluster in Houston in August. Residents Didn’t Find Out Until December.
The Texas Department of State Health Services assessment that found a cancer cluster in the north Houston neighborhoods of Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens was not disclosed to residents for nearly four months after the conclusion was reached. The study, which was public in August but not communicated to residents until early December, according to residents and city officials, has spurred calls from politicians and local officials for more health studies and environmental testing.
Houston Chronicle [Author: Erin Douglas]
This Map Shows How the Opioid Epidemic Varies in Different Parts of the US
A new study suggests that the U.S. opioid epidemic is actually several different epidemics occurring at the same time – and finds the epidemic varies in different parts of Massachusetts, too. The study, published in the journal Rural Sociology, looked at opioid deaths across the United States, county by county, and found regional differences in the types of opioids that caused the most overdose deaths.
The Boston Globe [Author: Martin Finucane]
Disposal Begins for Michigan’s Fire-Fighting Foam Containing PFAS
Lansing on Dec. 12 became the first city in Michigan to send its PFAS-based fire-fighting foam to a hazardous waste landfill. Stacks of five-gallon buckets, totaling 1,260 gallons and some dating back from at least decade ago, were carted to trucks operated by US Ecology. The company was the winning bidder of the $1.4 million contract to remove at least 34,000 gallons of the chemicals from hundreds of departments statewide.
Michigan Live [Author: Paula Gardner]
Environmental Justice Activism and Actions
June 26 was an extremely significant day for environmental justice. The historic Congressional Environmental Justice Summit was held that day. This convening was the first of its kind and was reminiscent of the days when EJ Conferences, like the 1991 First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, held in Washington, DC in October 1991 and described by some as “the most important single event in the EJ Movement’s history,” and also where the Principles of Environmental Justice were adopted.
Union of Concerned Scientists Blog [Author: Adrienne Hollis]
How A California Port Is Creating Its Future Workforce
The maritime business at Long Beach Port, the second-largest container port in the U.S, is crucial to the area with one in five jobs directly or indirectly, totaling 50,000 jobs. This translates to about $9 billion in economic output and $3 billion in income in the City of Long Beach. While the Port has always been active in creating programs to fill its pipeline, such as Julio’s New Ride, a video that introduced high school kids to marine and logistics back in 2005, lately it has been stepping up its efforts from the high school level to the college-level internship programs.
Material Handling and Logistics [Author: Adrienne Selko]
The Hidden Drug Epidemic Among Older People
While news reports focus on an epidemic of opioid abuse among young adults, another totally legal and usually hidden drug epidemic is occurring at the other end of the age spectrum: the fistfuls of remedies – both prescription and over-the-counter – taken by older adults. According to the American Association of Consultant Pharmacists, people aged 65 to 69 take an average of 15 prescriptions a year, and those aged 80 to 84 take 18 prescriptions a year.
The New York Times [Author: Jane Brody]
Environmental Report Details Potential Plans to Treat, Truck Radioactive SRS Waste
A trio of plans that could ultimately rid the Savannah River Site of thousands of gallons of radioactive waste years ahead of schedule would have little to no negative impact or effect on workers, the public and the surrounding air and environment, according to a recently published U.S. Department of Energy draft report. That's welcome news for both the plans and the overarching mission at the site: nuclear cleanup. But it's not the final word.
Aiken Standard [Author: Colin Demarest]
|Calendar Features||Back to Top|
NIH Seeks Data Policy Input
On Nov. 8, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a Draft NIH Policy for Data Management and Sharing and supplemental draft guidance for public comment. The purpose is to promote data management and sharing that furthers NIH’s commitment to making results and accomplishments of the research it funds and conducts available to the public. Stakeholders may comment on any aspect of the draft policy, the supplemental draft guidance, or other considerations relevant to NIH’s data management and sharing policy efforts by Jan. 10, 2020.
NSC 2020 Congress and Expo Call for Papers
The National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expo is the world's largest annual event for safety, health and environmental professionals. The event attracts decision makers, end users, and distributors from a wide variety of industries including manufacturing, construction, petrochemical and utilities. They are currently accepting papers for their technical sessions and professional development seminars. Proposals must be submitted by Jan. 31, 2020.
PEPH 2020 Annual Meeting: Past, Present, and Future
The Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH) Annual Meeting will bring the environmental health network together to reflect on the past, discuss the present, and consider future opportunities. In addition to learning about strategies and approaches used to improve environmental public health, the PEPH2020 meeting will be an occasion to inform a new 10-year vision for the PEPH program in the context of the NIEHS Strategic Plan and the new Translational Research Framework. The meeting will be held Feb. 12-13, 2020 in Durham, North Carolina.
Spring 2020 NIEHS WTP Awardee Meeting and Workshop Hotel Information Available
Emory University Woodruff Health Sciences Center, in conjunction with the NIEHS Worker Training Program (WTP), is sponsoring a workshop on Bio-Preparedness. The workshop will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, March 17-18, 2020. The workshop is tentatively scheduled from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday and 9:00 a.m. until noon on Wednesday. A limited number of rooms have been reserved at an area hotel for this meeting. Participants are encouraged to book their room early, as the block will fill up quickly.
NACCHO 2020 Preparedness Summit Registration Open
Registration is now open for the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) 2020 Prep Summit, which will be held March 31-Apr. 3, 2020, in Dallas. This year’s theme, Fixing Our Fault Lines: Addressing Systemic Vulnerabilities, will focus on methods to identify systemic weaknesses and highlight tools and policies that can empower all communities, and particularly the ones that are most vulnerable, to address those weaknesses and become more resilient.
2020 Health Disparities Research Institute Save the Date
The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) will host the Health Disparities Research Institute (HDRI) from August 3-7, 2020, in Bethesda, Maryland. The online application system will open in early February 2020. The HDRI aims to support the research career development of promising early-career minority health and health disparities research scientists and to stimulate research in disciplines supported by health disparities science.
|On The Web This Week||Back to Top|
In Victory for Harvey Victims, Army Corps Found Liable for Flooding Damage Upstream of Addicks, Barker Reservoirs
A federal judge on Dec. 17 ruled the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was liable for damage caused by its decision to retain floodwaters upstream of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs during Hurricane Harvey, a move that caused severe and widespread flooding to homes and businesses on the far-west outreaches of the Houston region. In a historic victory against the federal government, a judge from the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled the flood damage above the two World War II-era dams that span Harris and Fort Bend counties was a foreseeable result of government’s actions.
Houston Chronicle [Author: Gabrielle Banks]
BLS: Collection Worker Fatalities Up Dramatically in 2018
The number of workplace fatalities increased dramatically for U.S. solid waste collection workers in 2018, up to 57 compared with 32 in 2017, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. This marks the highest recorded total for this category of the decade. Following a multi-year trend, the separate classification category of "refuse and recyclable material collectors" had the fifth-highest fatality rate of any occupation. Only workers in the roofing, aircraft, fishing, and logging industries had higher fatality rates.
WasteDive [Author: Cole Rosengren]
Chemical Safety Board Proposes Accident Reporting Rule
The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) proposes that companies report immediately and directly to the CSB accidental chemical releases sufficient to trigger an investigation. CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating and finding the root cause of chemical accidents that result in a fatality, serious injury, or substantial property damages. The 1990 legislation that created the CSB required the board to create a reporting regulation, but it has never finalized one.
Chemical and Engineering News [Author: Jeff Johnson]
Medical Marijuana in the Workplace: Striking a Balance Between Safety, Disability Rights
Now that medical marijuana is available to patients in Louisiana, employers in the industrial sector face a potential balancing act between workplace safety and workers' disability rights. They might also face the challenge in the workplace of differentiating between the medically approved marijuana being used and recreational marijuana that by law is illegal. The issue was brought to the forefront of a recent panel discussion held at the Pelican Chapter Associated Builders and Contractors in Baton Rouge for its members.
The Advocate [Author: Kristen Mosbrucker]
PG&E Employee: Wildfire Safety Complaints Lead to Firing
A former Pacific Gas & Electric lineman who was fired after he says he raised safety concerns about a potentially dangerous piece of power equipment, installed in high fire-risk areas in Northern California, is suing the utility for more than $7 million. PG&E operates more than 2,800 devices called “reclosers” that shoot bursts of electricity to reenergize a line and restore power when a bird, branch, or something else causes the line to turn off.
FOX KTVU Napa [Author: Brooks Jarosz]
Duke University Report Raises Concerns About Alcoa Contamination
Though Alcoa enacted some temporary measures to try and limit damage of the hazardous waste at its Badin Works site, a report from Duke University makes clear that those measures have not been enough. After speaking at a November public meeting about on-site hazardous waste from Alcoa Badin Works that has leaked into nearby bodies of water, Duke University Environmental Law and Policy Clinic submitted a comprehensive report Dec. 12 to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.
The Salisbury Post [Author: Chris Miller]
|Federal Agency Update||Back to Top|
Statement from OSHA Regarding Occupational Fatalities in 2018
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Report, released Dec. 17, shows the rate of fatal work injuries remained unchanged in 2018. Tragically, unintentional overdoses at work increased by 12 percent – the sixth consecutive annual increase and a reflection of the broader opioid crisis that our nation is facing. To combat this problem, President Trump has declared the opioid epidemic a National Health Emergency.
Walking-Working Surfaces Corrections Notice
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a notice in the Federal Register that corrects minor errors and clarifies requirements in the Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment standards. The general industry standards on walking-working surfaces prevent and reduce workplace slips, trips, and falls, as well as other injuries and fatalities associated with walking-working surface hazards. The correction revised provisions addressing, for example, ladders; stairways; scaffold and rope descent systems; and fall protection systems and criteria, including personal fall protection systems.
|Awardee Highlights/Online Learning||Back to Top|
Community College Program Advances Worker Safety and Confidence
With National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) funding, thousands of employees of private companies and municipalities across Minnesota and nearby states annually receive health and safety training from South Central College. The community and technical college has campuses in Faribault and North Mankato, Minnesota, and receives funding as part of the Community College Consortium for Health and Safety Training (CCCHST), a grantee of the NIEHS Worker Training Program (WTP).
NIEHS State Success Story [Author: Simone Depew]
Duke University Investigator Presents Bioremediation Research
On Oct. 3, Investigator Claudia Gunsch, Ph.D., presented her lab's bioremediation research as part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Contaminated Site Clean-Up Information (Clu-In) webinar. Gunsch leads a research team developing a framework for precision bioremediation. The team seeks to maximize biodegradation potential by identifying optimal microbial targets for biostimulation, bioaugmentation, and genetic bioaugmentation given a site's microbial and biogeochemical fingerprints. This work includes characterization of several Superfund sites in North Carolina and Virginia.
Liberty Mutual Safety Innovation Award in Construction
The new Liberty Mutual Safety Innovation Award in Construction recognizes innovative evidence-based technologies, work practices, and programs (interventions) designed to reduce or eliminate construction hazards that lead to injuries and pain in the construction industry. The Award is sponsored by Liberty Mutual Insurance and administered by the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR). The winner will receive a $15,000 cash prize and a plaque. Applications must be submitted no later than Feb. 29, 2020.
|Job Openings||Back to Top|
LHSFNA Seeks Safety and Health Specialist
The Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA) is seeking a highly motivated Safety and Health Specialist to provide technical health and safety support to the members and affiliates of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA). The position reports to the Director of Occupational Safety and Health. LHSFNA is a joint labor-management trust fund dedicated to enhancing jobsite health and safety, bolstering the health of Laborers and their families, boosting the competitiveness of LIUNA signatory employers, and supporting LIUNA.
Teamsters Seek Industrial Hygienist
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) is seeking a highly motivated Industrial Hygienist in comprehensive practice to provide technical and regulatory health and safety support to Teamster members and affiliates. The position reports to the Director and Deputy Director of the IBT Safety and Health Department. The Industrial Hygienist conducts workshops, seminars, and meetings on occupational safety and health topics to Teamster membership, and drafts comments and testimony on safety and health related technical, regulatory, and policy issues.
CPWR Announces Career Opportunities
The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) supports construction safety and health research and drives efforts to put research findings into practice on job sites. CPWR is currently looking to fill various positions in program support, communications, and research. This includes a full-time Program Assistant opportunity within their Opioid-Related Harms initiative. CPWR is undertaking a new set of activities to address the high rate of opioid-related deaths among construction workers.
UW Announces Two Assistant Professor Positions Available
The Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences (DEOHS) within the School of Public Health at the University of Washington (UW) invites applications for two tenure track faculty positions at the rank of Assistant Professor, beginning in Fall 2020. UW seeks candidates particularly interested in the following areas of expertise: disaster preparedness, resilience and policy; and toxicology. Initial application review will begin on Jan. 6, 2020.
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