December 1, 2023
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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New Workshop Pages Available on the WTP Website
The post-workshop webpages for the Worker Training Program (WTP) Disaster Act Funding Kickoff Meeting that was held September 28-29, 2023, and the Fall 2023 WTP Awardee Meeting and Workshop that was held October 17-19, 2023, are now available on the WTP website. The pages contain meeting information, agendas, and presentations.
Union Pacific Fired Him Rather Than Heed His Warnings of Dangerous Rail Conditions
As the nation’s rail companies double down on increasing the speed and frequency of trains to grow their profits, managers at all levels must fulfill that vision and decide if keeping the trains moving requires them to neglect repairs, ignore safety issues and fire those who complain. ProPublica uncovered 111 instances of workers who claimed in federal court that they had been disciplined or fired for reporting safety concerns like failing brakes and damaged tracks. Rail workers have gotten the message loud and clear: Their bosses make examples of those who speak up — or, worse, work with regulators to force fixes. As a result, workers said they have struggled with whether to risk their jobs to raise safety issues.
ProPublica [Authors: Danelle Morton, Topher Sanders, & Jessica Lussenhop]
Overdose Deaths During Pregnancy Spiked Over the Past Few Years, Study Says
Overdose deaths among pregnant or postpartum people skyrocketed between 2018 and 2021, according to new research. The study compared the incidence of maternal deaths for overdose of commonly misused psychotropic drugs (such as heroin and other opioids, including synthetic ones, or cocaine) among girls and women aged 10 to 44. In 2018, the rate was 4.9 overdose maternal deaths per 100,000 mothers with a live birth; in 2021, the rate was 15.8 per 100,000. The increase in pregnancy-related overdose deaths overall is in line with the worsening of the public health crises stemming from opioids and other drugs, according to the study.
STAT News [Author: Annalisa Merelli]
Addressing the ‘What-Ifs’ of Workplace Violence
Preparing and practicing a response plan to workplace violence is crucial in every industry, experts say. Workers should start by surveying their immediate work area. Take note of exit locations and possible places where you can hide and barricade yourself from a perpetrator. Employers, as well as workers, should look at the larger layout of the building or facility when assessing possible threats or vulnerable areas. Experts recommend practicing facility evacuations or simulated active shooter protocol, along with reviewing the response plan and putting it into action.
Safety + Health Magazine [Author: Kevin Druley]
3 Climate Impacts the U.S. Will See If Warming Goes Beyond 1.5 Degrees
As world leaders gather at COP28, the annual climate change negotiations held in Dubai this year, one number will be front and center: 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). That's the amount countries have agreed to limit warming to by the end of the century, however, the world is currently on just under 3 degrees Celsius of warming (more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. At 1.5 degrees of warming worldwide, the U.S. will experience more extreme temperatures, accelerated warming, and heavier rainfall.
NPR [Author: Lauren Sommer]
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Confronting Workforce Shortages and Health Worker Well-Being
The National Academies of Medicine (NAM)’s Clinician Well-Being Collaborative is hosting an engaging hybrid event on Confronting Workforce Shortages and Health Worker Well-Being: Harnessing Lessons from Rural Health Settings. Clinicians and leaders from health systems, public and private entities, as well as regional stakeholders will hear direct experiences and have opportunities to discuss how to apply innovative strategies to achieve the quadruple aim in light of the current state of the health workforce. The event will take place on December 4, 2023, in person at the University of Kansas Medical Center and online from 12 p.m. - 5 p.m. ET.
TRB Webinar: Understanding Evacuation Behavior and Regional Resilience
The National Academies Transportation Research Board (TRB) is hosting a webinar about how global positioning system (GPS) data, virtual reality (VR), games, and digital twin models can help researchers understand evacuation behaviors and regional resilience. The three presentations will highlight how these technologies are utilized as unique automated ways to understand both the transient evacuation behaviors during natural hazards and long-term resilience needs. Presenters will share how these new developments can be leveraged to benefit research, policy making, or transformed into business opportunities. The webinar will take place on December 11, 2023, from 4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. ET.
|On The Web This Week
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Environmental Justice a Key Theme Throughout Biden’s National Climate Assessment
Whether it’s the likelihood of living in a flood zone, lacking access to parks or having fewer resources to recover from a destructive storm, the consequences of climate change are not experienced equally in the United States. That’s a key message from some of the nation’s leading climate scientists, public health experts and economists in a newly released landmark federal report. It’s the first time a National Climate Assessment has placed such a heavy emphasis on the concept of environmental justice—that low-income families and communities of color have historically borne the brunt of the nation’s environmental harms while benefiting least from environmental regulation.
Inside Climate News [Authors: Kristoffer Tigue, Georgina Gustin, Liza Gross, & Victoria St. Martin]
Wildfires Are Thawing the Tundra
Chunks of carbon-rich frozen soil, or permafrost, lay under much of the Arctic tundra. This perpetually frozen layer sequesters carbon from the atmosphere, sometimes storing it for tens of thousands of years beneath the boggy ground. The frozen soil is insulated by plant litter, moss and peat, but if the ground is incinerated by a tundra wildfire, the permafrost becomes vulnerable to thawing, which will release carbon and, subsequently, methane. New research found that methane hot spots on the tundra are more likely to be found in places where wildfires burned recently. Wildfire’s impact on frozen permafrost propels a climate feedback loop: Wildfires release methane, which accelerates climate change, which causes more frequent wildfires.
High Country News [Author: Kylie Mohr]
Stress, Mental Health, and Coping Among Workers in the Northern California Cannabis Industry: A Qualitative Descriptive Analysis
New research on stress, mental health, and coping mechanisms among cannabis workers has been published in NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy. Participants reported sources of stress including production pressure and isolation, and mental health outcomes such as depression and mental fatigue. They described primarily maladaptive coping mechanisms. Unique characteristics of the cannabis industry, including criminalization and isolated, remote farms, make interventions challenging. However, policy approaches that involve community organizations could promote worker health.
NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy [Authors: Stella Beckman, Xóchitl Castañeda, Likhi Rivas, & Marc B. Schenker]
New "Improving Air Quality at Work" Webpage
The California Department of Public Health’s Occupational Health Branch has released a new webpage on COVID 19 & Improving Indoor Air Quality at Work that highlights how the spread of COVID-19 at work can be reduced by improving the air quality indoors, since improving indoor air quality can help lower the amount of virus in the room. Diluting, mixing, and filtering the air are three ways you can improve indoor air quality. The page includes graphics, additional tips, and tools for workplaces, skilled nursing facilities, and schools.
|Federal Agency Update
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Biden-Harris Administration Proposes to Strengthen the Lead and Copper Rule to Protect All Communities in America from Lead in Drinking Water
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposal to strengthen its Lead and Copper Rule that would require water systems across the country to replace lead service lines within 10 years. EPA is also proposing additional improvements to protect public health, such as lowering the lead action level and improving sampling protocols utilized by water systems. The proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements are a major advancement in protecting children and adults from these significant, and irreversible, health effects from lead in drinking water.
Biden-Harris Administration Announces $2 Billion to Fund Environmental and Climate Justice Community Change Grants as Part of Investing in America Agenda
The Biden-Harris administration announced approximately $2 billion in funding available to support community-driven projects that deploy clean energy, strengthen climate resilience, and build capacity for communities to tackle environmental and climate justice challenges. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Community Change Grants are the single largest investment in environmental justice going directly to communities in history, and will advance collaborative efforts to achieve a healthier, safer, and more prosperous future for all. The Community Change Grants will deliver 100 percent of the benefits of this program to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution.
Biden-Harris Administration Announces Actions to Strengthen Clean Energy Supply Chains and Accelerate Manufacturing in Energy and Industrial Communities
As part of the inaugural meeting of the White House Council on Supply Chain Resilience, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $275 million for seven projects to strengthen clean energy supply chains and accelerate domestic clean energy manufacturing in seven states across the nation. Each project positions the U.S. to enhance its global competitiveness and national security by building domestic supply chains for existing and emerging technologies, built with American labor and materials. These projects will leverage over $600 million in private sector investments into small- and medium-sized manufacturers and create nearly 1,500 high-quality, good-paying jobs in cutting edge technologies.
|Awardee Highlights/Online Learning
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Energy Communities Alliance: Guide to Successful Environmental Cleanup
The Energy Communities Alliance (ECA) recently released the Guide to Successful Environmental Cleanup, an interactive online resource that provides frequently asked questions, case studies, and recommendations regarding nuclear waste cleanup. To assist local government officials, their communities, and federal agencies in deciphering the complexities of the environmental cleanup process, ECA developed this guide to facilitate future successful cleanups. The guide includes information on cleanup basics, site priorities, budget issues, environmental cleanup laws, case studies, and other helpful maps and tools.
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United Steelworkers Is Seeking an Industrial Hygienist
The United Steelworkers (USW) Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Department advocates for safer workplaces, worker’s rights, improved regulations, and building the union with member involvement to make a stronger labor movement. The successful candidate would work with HSE staff to provide technical and strategic assistance with workplace HSE issues, respond to HSE incidents, conduct HSE investigations; assist with and conduct HSE education and training programs, and work for better HSE regulations and legal standards with allies who support workers' rights.
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