July 26, 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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A Fire in Idaho Grew to 90,000 Acres in Less Than a Day
An Idaho wildfire sparked by a lightning strike July 23 burned 90,000 acres in less than 24 hours, forcing the partial evacuation of the nation's leading nuclear energy research laboratory. The Sheep Fire quickly grew after starting around 6:30 p.m. near Idaho Falls, in the southeastern part of the state about 70 miles from Wyoming, according to the Idaho National Laboratory's (INL) emergency Joint Information Center. It forced the INL, one of the Department of Energy's national laboratories, to suspend some operations on July 24. Non-essential employees were evacuated at several facilities, the laboratory said in a news release.
CNN [Authors: Chris Boyette and Hollie Silverman]
Refinery Explosions Raise New Warnings About Deadly Chemical
Philadelphia Energy Solutions knows that exposure to hydrogen fluoride was a possibility. Its worst-case disaster scenario includes 143,262 pounds of hydrogen fluoride released over 10 minutes, which could travel as a toxic cloud for more than 7 miles and impact more than a million people, including in schools, homes, hospitals, prisons, playgrounds, parks and a wildlife sanctuary. City, state and federal officials say none of the air monitors in or around the refinery — or the air samples collected by the city's health department — detected the chemical, often referred to as HF. And a spokeswoman for Philadelphia Energy Solutions says no workers were exposed.
NPR [Author: Susan Phillips]
Philadelphia Oil Refinery Files for Bankruptcy, Again
Philadelphia Energy Solutions is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 21 for the second time in less than two years, court filings show, after an explosion and fire ravaged its already financially struggling oil refinery complex in South Philadelphia last month. The newest attempt to restructure the refinery's heavy debt load comes on the heels of both PES' decision to close the complex entirely after the fire, laying off more than 1,000 workers, and efforts by elected officials and union leaders to keep the plant open for a potential sale, although analysts doubt there will be buyer interest.
Philadelphia Business Journal [Author: Michelle Caffrey]
People Caused the Wildfire That’s Burned More 40,000 Acres Near Hanford Nuclear Site; Investigation Continues
Officials have determined a wildfire on the Hanford Reach National Monument that burned an estimated 42,000 acres was caused by humans, but the circumstances remain under investigation. The blaze, known as the Cold Creek Fire, is now 80 percent contained and crews are in mop-up mode, said Captain Ron Fryer of Benton County Fire Protection District 1. The cost to fight the fire is an estimated $550,000, not including money spent on aircraft, Fryer said. Nearly 300 firefighters have been battling the wildfire, since it began July 18 near Highway 24 in Benton County just east of the Yakima County line. Fryer said crews still expect to have the fire completely contained by July 21, unless unforeseen wind gets in the way.
This Texas Oil Town Actually Wants the Nation’s Nuclear Waste
Blake Roberts, president of the local chamber of commerce, is supporting a plan to establish a repository in the desert about 30 miles outside of town for as much as 40,000 metric tons of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel and waste from power plants. If approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission the project could bring jobs and revenue to the area and help break a political logjam that has stranded tons of the waste at 72 power plants and other sites across the country.
Bloomberg [Authors: Ari Natter and Will Wade]
It Took Days to Put Out the ITC Tank Fire That Sent Plumes of Dark Smoke Over Houston.
For about three weeks, a barge loaded with hazardous wastewater from the Deer Park chemical fire sat in limbo in the Houston Ship Channel. No one was quite sure whether the shipyard where it had been sent could process it. Ultimately, it was returned to the storage terminal from which it originated. Four months after the International Terminals Co. (ITC) explosion, fire and chemical leak put the Houston region in the national spotlight, the work to dispose of the millions of gallons of waste and contaminated water generated in the incident is taking place quietly in the background and is far from finished. ITC must comply with a 31-page management plan that details how the waste is sampled and identified, stored and finally disposed of. It dictates how it’s transported and where it can go. But details about the status of the work and where exactly the waste is going are hard to come by.
The Houston Chronicle [Author: Perla Trevizo]
Texas Workers Are Dying on the Job at Alarming Rates
In 2017, a worker in Texas died on the job every 16 hours. They died from electrocution, asphyxiation, falls from roofs, exposure to toxins, equipment malfunctions, heat stroke and automobile collisions. The death toll exceeded the number of murders in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin combined. 2016 and 2017 were among the deadliest years for workers in the state in two decades. Every year since 2009, Texas has registered more deaths on the job than any other state. Texas also had the highest worker death rate per capita in 2017 among the nation’s 10 most populous states.
The Texas Observer [Author: Gus Bova]
N.J. Chemical Plant Where Fire Broke Out Cited for 5 Safety Violations in 6 Years, OSHA Says
The East Rutherford plant where a fire broke out July 18 was cited at least five times in the past six years for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, according to government records obtained Friday by NJ Advance Media. Diamond Chemical Company, which is located on Union Avenue and Dubois Street off Route 17, was most recently cited for safety violations on May 28. The soap-and-detergent manufacturer was also cited on Feb. 8, Oct. 5, 2018, Jan. 1, 2014 and on Feb. 15, 2013, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) records.
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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.
National Cleanup Workshop: Advancing Goal-Oriented Nuclear Waste Cleanup, Today and Tomorrow
Join senior Department of Energy (DOE) executives and site officials, industry leaders, national and local elected officials, and other stakeholders September 10-12, 2019 in Alexandria, Virginia, for the fifth annual National Cleanup Workshop to discuss the DOE’s progress on the cleanup of the environmental legacy of the nation's Manhattan Project and Cold War nuclear weapons program.
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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How States Are Changing the Face of Emergency Management
Every disaster or emergency presents a challenge to emergency managers – what resources to commit, who is needed to respond, when to pull what levers for support, where to put people, and how to recover. Lessons from past events inform how we respond to future emergencies but are only part of the equation. Emergency managers need to look at innovative methods, technologies, and tools to prepare for disasters and make our communities more resilient.
IAEA Establishes International Network of Capacity Building Centres on Emergency Preparedness and Response
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has established an international training and educational network aimed at strengthening emergency preparedness and response around the world. At a workshop held from 8 to 11 July 2019 in Vienna, the operational strategy for the International Network for Education and Training in Emergency Preparedness and Response (iNET-EPR) was developed. The network's membership will be inclusive, engaging Member States that designated national Capacity Building Centres for emergency preparedness and response (CBCs-EPR) to work in partnership with the Agency, Member States that plan to establish such centers, and Member States that join the network to learn and exchange expertise yet do not plan to designate a CBC-EPR.
Methodologies for Evaluating and Grading Evidence: Considerations for Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief
On July 26, 2018, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine held a 1-day workshop featuring two panel sessions on evidence synthesis and grading. The purpose of this workshop was to gather and evaluate existing public health emergency preparedness and response research and to provide recommendations about future research possibilities and actions that could improve preparedness and response practices. This publication briefly summarizes the presentations and discussions from the workshop.
Some Urinary Tract Infections Are Becoming Antibiotic-Resistant, Making Them Potentially Deadly Even for Healthy People
If you've ever developed a urinary tract infection, you probably took a course of antibiotics to kill the bacteria in your body and moved on with your life. But the ease with which UTIs are currently treated is in jeopardy because some of the bacteria that cause them have learned to survive the most common treatments and become antibiotic-resistant, the New York Times reported. Around 60% of women and 12% of men are expected to get at least one UTI in their lifetime, according to the Urology Care Foundation. The standard course of treatment involves a prescription oral antibiotic like Bactrim, Septra, or Monurol, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Insider [Author: Julia Naftulin]
SHEA Survey Finds Increasing Support for Hospital Stewardship Programs
A survey of hospitals in the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) Research Network shows an increase in antimicrobial stewardship programs (ASPs) and more financial support for ASP personnel since 2013, as well as concerns about ASP funding and staffing levels. The results of the survey, which appeared July 24 in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, also show a shift in surveillance focus to multidrug-resistant gram-negative organisms.
OSHA Redesigns Whistleblower Protection Program Website. Is your Anti-Retaliation Program up to Date?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently modernized its Whistleblower Protection Program Website. The redesigned site includes useful and interactive materials regarding whistleblower statutes enforced by OSHA, including a video that highlights industries that may fall under its jurisdiction. While the site includes an abundance of information regarding whistleblower laws and protections, employers should take note of the section highlighting the importance of an effective anti-retaliation program. These programs ensure that employees feel conformable reporting safety and other compliance issues to their employer without fear of retaliation.
An ‘Emerging Pollutant’ in the Farmington River Triggers Claims About Misinformation, Worries About Burning Contaminated Sludge
When potentially toxic firefighting foam began flowing through the sewers into a Windsor waste treatment plant last month, MDC officials who run the facility asked state environmental officials for a list of the chemicals involved in the June 8 spill. An MDC spokesperson said the state initially sent an incorrect chemical listing, and a week later provided a list of what was in the firefighting foam that was 25 years old “and the specific [chemical] materials were not listed due to ‘trade secrets,’” said MDC spokesperson Kerry Martin. The foam spilled during a June 8 malfunction at a Bradley International Airport hangar contained PFAS compounds, hazardous substances linked to human health problems ranging from cancer to obesity. Thousands of gallons of the chemical mixture bubbled through the Windsor plant and out into the Farmington River.
Hartford Courant [Author: Gregory B. Hladky]
Don’t Slip Up: When Are California Employers Required to Pay for Employees’ Shoes?
A hot-button issue in California is whether an employer is required to pay for or reimburse an employee for shoes that are required as a condition of employment. A recent ruling by the California Court of Appeal highlights the complexity of the issue and lack of concrete guidance on a critical question: whether California workplace safety law requires an employer to pay for nonspecialty safety shoes, such as generic steel-toe boots, that the employer allows the employee to wear off the jobsite.
The WHO Finally Sounds Its Loudest Alarm Over Ebola in the Congo
Almost a year after the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history began in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Health Organization finally declared the crisis a “public health emergency of international concern” (or PHEIC for short)—a label that it has only used four times before. The decision was made at an emergency meeting July 19, on the recommendations of a panel of independent experts. More than 2,500 people have become infected since the outbreak was officially declared on August 1, 2018. Almost 1,700 of those have died, while more than 700 have been cured. A few hundred cases are still being investigated, and new ones arise on an almost daily basis. These numbers make the outbreak worse than all of the Congo’s nine past encounters with Ebola put together, although they are still well below the scale of the West African epidemic of 2014 to 2016, which infected 28,000 people and killed 11,000.
The Atlantic [Author: Ed Yong]
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Ebola Outbreak 2018-Present Guide
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has developed an Ebola outbreak guide. On 1 August 2018, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared a new outbreak of Ebola virus disease in North Kivu Province. Since, on July 17, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. The guide features resources from U.S. federal agencies, international organizations, medical journals and more.
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New Louisiana PTSD Law for First Responders Stands Out in the Region
Louisiana state Senator Ryan Gatti's bill SB107 was signed by Governor John Bel Edwards and is now Act 122, set to go into effect on August 1st, 2019. The bill adds post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of compensable presumptions under workers' comp for first responders (state police, emergency medical personnel, volunteer firefighters, sheriff and sheriff's deputies). The presumption may only be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. This new law is part of a larger national trend that seeks to address, in part, public outcry from what some considered to be negligent treatment of first responders struggling after mass shootings like that at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
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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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