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Your Environment. Your Health.

NIEHS WTP: February 5, 2021 Newsbrief

Weekly E-Newsbrief, February 5, 2021

Weekly E-Newsbrief

February 5, 2021

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.

Top StoriesBack to Top

WTP Clearinghouse Fact Sheets on COVID-19 Vaccines Now Available

Given the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, information about health and safety for workers is in high demand. In response, WTP and the National Clearinghouse for Worker Safety and Health Training developed three new fact sheets. The first fact sheet, COVID-19 Vaccine Information for Workers, offers important facts to help workers make an informed decision about being vaccinated. The Injection Safety for COVID-19 Vaccinators and Vaccine Administrators fact sheet covers sharps and needle safety to protect vaccinators from needlestick injuries and blood exposures. The third fact sheet, Key Elements of a Model Workplace Safety and Health COVID-19 Vaccination Program, includes a step-wise plan and key elements to help employers and workers implement a safe and effective workplace vaccination program.

COVID-19 Toolbox

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Stronger Workplace Guidance on Coronavirus

The U.S. Department of Labor announced that its Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued stronger worker safety guidance to help employers and workers implement a coronavirus prevention program and better identify risks which could lead to exposure and contraction. Last week, President Biden directed OSHA to release clear guidance for employers to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure.


Joint Consensus Statement on Addressing the Aerosol Transmission of SARS CoV-2 and Recommendations for Preventing Occupational Exposures

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) developed a joint consensus statement on aerosol transmission of SARS CoV-2. This document is designed to summarize what is currently known about inhalation transmission and the need for regulation, research, and funding to prevent airborne transmission. This statement was co-signed by several other organizations.


Investigation into Fatal Gas Leak at Georgia Poultry Plant Could Take Years

A fatal nitrogen gas leak at a poultry processing plant in Georgia last week occurred as unplanned maintenance was being done on a recently installed processing and freezing line, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board said on Feb. 1. The leak at the Gainesville, Ga., Foundation Food Group plant killed six people, sent 12 others to the hospital, and forced the plant's 130 other workers to evacuate. A release of liquid nitrogen gas pushes out oxygen from the air and makes it unbreathable.

NPR [Author: Jaclyn Diaz]

Six COVID-19 Cases Reported at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Total at 243 Infections

Only six new cases of COVID-19 were reported at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) last week, after weeks of double-digit increases at the nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad. Between Jan. 20 and 27, the U.S. Department of Energy was notified of the cases – all from employees of WIPP’s main operations contractor Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP).

Carlsbad Current Argus [Author: Adrian Hedden]

U.S. Congress Panel Investigating COVID-19 Worker Safety at Meatpacking Firms

A U.S. congressional panel is investigating three large meatpacking companies for possible worker-safety violations following reports that hundreds of industry workers have died of COVID-19, the subcommittee said on Feb. 1. The House of Representatives’ coronavirus subcommittee asked JBS USA, Tyson Foods Inc and Smithfield Foods Inc to provide records of inspections, complaints and other internal documents.

Reuters [Authors: Andy Sullivan and Tom Polansek]

First Wildfires, Now Mudslides. California Endures Year-Round Disaster Season.

Mudslides and wildfires are what scientists call concurrent disasters, with one setting the stage for another. After the worst fire season in California’s history last year, during which five of the six largest fires to burn in the state started within a two-month period, rainfall not only brings the wicked season to an end but carries the possibility of more disaster.

NBC News [Author: Joe Purtell]

With Biden Team Focused on Other Crises, Experts Say Drug Epidemic Is Exploding

There was a team for the coronavirus, a team for climate change, a team for racial justice and a team for the stricken economy. But despite a soaring death rate from drug overdoses, which hit a grim new record in 2020, President Biden hasn't named permanent leaders for three key agencies tasked with tackling the drug epidemic: The Food and Drug Administration, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

NPR [Author: Brian Mann]

Hope and Skepticism as Biden Promises to Address Environmental Racism

Across the country, disproportionate exposure to pollution threatens the health of people of color, from Gulf Coast towns in the shadow of petrochemical plants to Indigenous communities in the West that are surrounded by oil and gas operations. Generations of systemic racism routinely put factories, refineries, landfills and factory farms in Black, brown and poor communities.

WBFO NPR [Author: Rebecca Hersher]

Calendar FeaturesBack to Top

Community Engagement and Environmental Health in Louisiana

The Louisiana State University Superfund Research Center's Community Engagement Core is hosting a webinar series on community-engaged research in environmental health as part of the annual (virtual) Dellinger Symposium. On Feb. 9 from 3:00-4:30 CST, Wilma Subra and Jennifer Abraham Cramer will speak on “Community Engagement and Environmental Health in Louisiana”.

Webinar Information

The Air-Surface Interface of Viral Contamination: What Can Exposure Modeling Tell Us?

The University of California Los Angeles Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH) is hosting a webinar on Feb. 9 at 3:00-4:00 p.m. ET. This presentation will explore examples of exposure modeling used to investigate connections between air and surface contamination and potential implications for 1) healthcare workers’ occupational exposures and 2) risk reductions offered by interventions.

Webinar Information

Evaluation of Exoskeleton Use in Construction

The University of California Los Angeles Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH) is hosting a webinar on Feb. 17 at 3:00-4:00 p.m. ET. Construction workers continue to experience high rates of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs), with the back and shoulder being the most impacted body regions. This webinar will explore survey data collected from stakeholders in construction on the perceived benefits, barriers, and facilitators of adoption.

Webinar Information

NYNJERC Annual Scientific Meeting - COVID-19, Infectious Diseases, and Worker Safety and Health

The New York New Jersey Education and Research Center (NYNJERC) and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai are hosting their 41st Annual Scientific Meeting on Feb. 19 on COVID-19, Infectious Diseases, and Worker Safety and Health. The meeting will include a welcome by John Meyer, M.D., and Mitchel Rosen, Ph.D., and guest speakers to discuss COVID-impacts to worker safety and health, mental health, HVAC, aerosols, and more.

Meeting Information

Community Visions for Environmental Justice Organizing

How can technical assistance providers such as researchers, lawyers, academics and students support community-led movements for environmental justice? The Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic is hosting three Saturday panels featuring community leaders and assistance providers, followed by moderated small-group discussions with speakers and attendees. Panels run from 1:30-2:45 p.m. ET, and discussions run from 3:00-4:15 p.m. ET on Feb. 27, March 6, and March 13.

Meeting Registration

CSB's January 2021 Business Meeting Will Be Held in February

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) will reschedule their January CSB Business Meeting for February 2021. Additional details regarding time and date will follow in the coming days. The meeting will cover the 2020 Impact Report, summarizing CSB's efforts last year.

2020 Impact Report

Online Abstract Submissions for APHA’s "Creating the Healthiest Nation: Strengthening Social Connectedness"

The American Public Health Association (APHA) is now accepting abstract submissions for oral and poster presentations for the APHA 2021 Annual Meeting and Expo. Authors are encouraged to submit abstracts on the meeting theme, “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Strengthening Social Connectedness," and current and emerging public health issues. The deadline to submit is March 21.

More Information

EPA Nominations for NEJAC Membership is Now Open

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) invites nominations from a diverse range of qualified candidates to be considered for appointment to its National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC). The Agency is seeking nominations to fill approximately eight (8) new vacancies for terms through September 2022. Any interested person or organization may nominate qualified persons to be considered for appointment to this advisory council. The deadline to apply is March 24.


On The Web This WeekBack to Top

Meet OSHA's New Leadership

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officially has a new team of leaders working to improve worker safety around the country. Following the inauguration of President Joe Biden, James Frederick was announced as the new Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health, Joseph Hughes, Jr. was appointed as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Pandemic and Emergency Response and Ann Rosenthal transitioned into her new role as Senior Advisor.

Occupational Health and Safety Online [Author: Sydny Shepard]

County Commission Wants Los Alamos Lab to Conduct Study

The Santa Fe County Commission wants Los Alamos National Laboratory to conduct a site-wide environmental review of the potential effects of ramping up production of the plutonium cores used in the nation’s nuclear arsenal. The commission on Jan. 26 approved a resolution outlining its wishes. It comes as the lab plans to increase production to 30 cores per year by 2026.

Associated Press

The Dark Side of ‘Green Energy’ and Its Threat to the Nation’s Environment

Although countries are feverishly looking to install wind and solar farms to wean themselves off carbon-based, or so-called “dirty” energy, few countries, operators and the industry itself have yet to fully tackle the long-term consequences of how to dispose of these systems, which have their own environmental hazards like toxic metals, oil, fiberglass and other material.

Deseret [Author: Amy Joi O’Donoghue]

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency News Release on Renewable Energy Waste Management

Get the Upper Hand on GHS Label Compliance

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration required businesses to transition to Globally Harmonized System (GHS) standards for chemical safety and hazard communication in 2016. While most employers are now informed and working within the new standards, it can still be difficult to find the exact information needed to create compliant GHS labels.

Occupational Health and Safety Online [Authors: JoAnn Mrgich and Colwin Chan]

Biden’s Climate Change Plan and the Battle for America’s Most Threatened Workers

Market and political forces have reshaped — and in some cases, wreaked havoc on — local economies powered by a single industry. Now as the Biden administration outlines its climate change policies, one of the more challenging goals is making sure fossil-fuel driven economies, like coal towns from Appalachia to the Illinois Basin, tribal nations and Powder River Basin in the Western U.S., are not left behind.

CNBC [Author: Eric Rosenbaum]

Virginia Establishes Permanent COVID-19 Workplace Safety and Health Standards

On Jan. 27, the Commonwealth of Virginia became the first state in the country to adopt permanent COVID-19 workplace safety and health standards. Virginia adopted an emergency temporary workplace safety and health standard in July 2020 to aid in preventing the spread of the pandemic. With Gov. Ralph Northam’s approval, the permanent standard superseded the July 2020 emergency temporary standard.

National Law Review

Hundreds of Scientists Lost at the EPA During Past Four Years

Union of Concerned Scientists released an analysis that investigated the loss or gain of scientific experts across multiple science-based federal agencies during the past four years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a hard hit, losing 672 scientific experts between 2016 and 2020. In fact, the EPA’s total workforce was down by 21% in 2018 compared to an all-time peak in staffing at the agency during 2000.

Union of Concerned Scientists [Author: Jacob Carter]

Biden's Climate Change Executive Order Aims to Spur Job Growth

President Joe Biden's "Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad" signed Jan. 27 included directives to put the U.S. on a path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050, which will include "opportunities to create well-paying union jobs to build a modern and sustainable infrastructure," according to the order. U.S. electric vehicle makers, in particular, will receive a direct boost from the federal government.

HR Dive [Author: Sheryl Estrada]

Official: Inmate Transfer Caused Health Disaster at Prison

California prison officials wanted to shield inmates from the coronavirus at one facility by transferring them to another but instead unleashed a "public health disaster" that led to thousands of prisoners being infected and 28 dying, along with a correctional officer, the state inspector general said Feb. 1. The report provided new details on last spring's catastrophic decision to move inmates from the California Institution for Men east of Los Angeles to San Quentin State Prison north of San Francisco.

Minnesota Tribune [Author: Don Thompson, Associated Press]

Federal Agency UpdateBack to Top

NIH Study Shows Hyaluronan Is Effective in Treating Chronic Lung Disease

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and their collaborators found that inhaling unfragmented hyaluronan improves lung function in patients suffering from severe exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Hyaluronan, a sugar secreted by living tissue that acts as a scaffold for cells, is also used in cosmetics as a skin moisturizer and as a nasal spray to moisturize lung airways.


U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA Issues Proposed Rule to Update Hazard Communication Standard

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a proposed rule to update the agency’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to align with the seventh revision of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

Press Release

Awardee Highlights/Online LearningBack to Top

Montgomery Proffit – Making an Impact Through Employment Opportunities

Montgomery Proffit is director of the NIEHS-funded OAI Environmental Career Worker Training Program (ECWTP) Consortium in Chicago. He helps individuals from disadvantaged communities obtain the necessary skills for work in environmental careers, such as construction and hazardous waste cleanup.

2021 Grantee Highlights

CNHP to Add Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health Program

To support the demand for occupational safety and environmental health professionals by a diverse range of industries, the College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNHP) at Arkansas State University is introducing a new baccalaureate (B.S.) program in occupational and environmental safety and health (OESH).

Arkansas State University

NIEHS Program Builds Careers, Changes Lives

In 2020, the NIEHS Environmental Career Worker Training Program (ECWTP) celebrated its 25th anniversary. The program trains people from underserved communities to protect their own health and safety in environmental careers such as site cleanup, hazardous waste removal, construction, and emergency response. In January, NIEHS released the second of a pair of podcasts that take a closer look at the program and its impact on workers’ lives.

Environmental Factor

CSEA Safety and Health Webinars

CSEA, one of New York’s largest worker unions, has been offering safety and health webinars to answer the most asked questions regarding how the vaccines work, employee rights, the New York State Roll Out Plan, and post-vaccine protocols in the workplace. Past webinar recordings are available to the public at no cost.


Addressing the Role of the Vaccine in Workplace COVID-19 Prevention Webinar Recording Available

The recording and presentations from the Jan. 14 webinar, “Addressing the Role of the Vaccine in Workplace COVID-19 Prevention: How to Weed through Misinformation, Mistrust, and Improve Worker Protection,” hosted by the NIEHS Worker Training Program (WTP) and the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), are now available online, along with a host of other COVID-19 materials.

Webinar Recording and Presentation

Upcoming WTP Webinars

Job OpeningsBack to Top

USC Seeks Postdoctoral Fellowship in Environmental Justice and Health Disparities

The Division of Environmental Health in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC) has announced a new Postdoctoral Research Fellow position available in Summer 2021. The successful candidate will conduct investigations around community-driven epidemiology for environmental justice in both urban and rural contexts.

Job Posting

Duke University Health Systems Seeks Safety and Health Specialist

Duke University Health Systems (DUMS) is seeking a safety and health specialist within their Occupational and Environmental Safety Office (OESO). This office provides the focus for the administration of all safety programs to Duke University, Duke University Medical Center, and Duke University Health System.

Job Posting

UCLA LOSH Is Seeking a HAZMAT Outreach and Education Specialist

The UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program (LOSH) is currently seeking a Hazmat Outreach and Education Specialist to lead LOSH’s efforts to prevent worker and community exposures to hazardous materials, toxic releases, and environmental hazards. The Specialist oversees high-quality hands-on training programs, including the 40-hour HAZWOPER, 24-hour Hazardous Waste Operations, 8-hour annual Refresher, First Responder Operations, and other courses based on need.

Job Posting – Requisition No. 32961

Remote Positions in Promoting Health Equity for Farmworkers

The National Center for Farmworker Health (NCFH) has posted 12 new job openings. All jobs can be remote and are part of a cooperative agreement program between NCFH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address COVID-19 in farmworker communities. Jobs range from helping build national partnerships to helping farmworkers find health care providers to research and evaluation.

Job Postings

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