June 14, 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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- On The Web This Week
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OSHA: Street Should Have Closed Before Miami Bridge Collapse
Engineers had knowledge of extensive cracking and failed to order a street closed and shore up a pedestrian bridge before it collapsed and killed six people at a Miami university last year, according to findings revealed by a federal workplace safety agency. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concluded in a report released Tuesday, June 11, that the size of the cracks warranted the street be shut down immediately. Investigators say the bridge cracked because of “deficient structural design,” and blame independent inspectors for not instructing that Florida International University and the bridge contractor to stop traffic.
Washington Post [Author: Adriana Gomez Licon]
Two Treated at Hospital After Barrel Leaks Chemical, Fumes Spread
Fumes from a punctured barrel containing a chemical led to two people being treated for exposure in Kalamazoo, police said. Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety officers responded about 10 a.m. Friday, June 7, to 3600 Alvan Road on a report of a 55-gallon drum that had been punctured inside of a trailer. The drum was leaking trimethyl phosphate. The chemical is used as a gasoline additive to prevent spark plug fouling and engine rumble, a flame retardant for paints and polymers and a raw material for making insecticides, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Michigan Live [Author: John Tunison]
New Mexico Governor Says No to High-Level Nuclear Waste
New Mexico’s governor said Friday, June 7, she’s opposed to plans by a New Jersey-based company to build a multibillion-dollar facility in her state to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors around the U.S. In a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the interim storage of high-level radioactive waste poses significant and unacceptable risks to residents, the environment and the region’s economy. She cited the ongoing oil boom in the Permian Basin, which spans parts of southeastern New Mexico and West Texas, as well as million-dollar agricultural interests that help drive the state’s economy.
Associated Press [Author: Susan Montoya Bryan]
Training Workers to Safely Use a Deadly Solvent Won’t Work, Say Occupational Physicians, Others
More laborers working with a toxic solvent will die while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reconsiders the strategy to protect them, occupational physicians, advocates, and researchers predict. At least three workers exposed to the paint stripping solvent, methylene chloride, died since 2017 when the EPA proposed a rule (RIN:2070–AK07) to ban consumer and most commercial uses, said Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, a staff attorney working on labor issues at Earthjustice. Separate research released in April showed that 83 people died from methylene chloride exposure over nearly four decades.
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EPA Grants Award Process Webinar
The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Grants and Debarment is hosting a webinar for the EPA grants community. The webinar will cover grants topics, including: how to find and apply for grant opportunities; EPA's Grants.gov requirement; and preparing a proper budget detail. In addition, EPA will be hosting a Q&A session during the second half of the webinar. The webinar will be held on June 18, 2019, at 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. ET.
New Strategies for Using Patient-Centered Technology to Improve Pain Management and Opioid Treatment Webinar
The Opioid Action Plan outlines a groundbreaking approach for fighting the opioid crisis through Patient-Centered Clinical Decision Support. This plan defines ways to apply computerized clinical decision support tools to address pain management and opioid use disorder treatment. In this webinar, the lead developers of the Opioid Action Plan will walk through the high-value clinical decision support interventions and tools that can be used to fight the opioid crisis and show those tools in action through five future vision scenarios. The webinar will also encourage participants to brainstorm ways to enhance their own efforts around pain management and opioid use and will outline additional steps and recommended actions to help make that vision a reality. The webinar will be held on Wednesday, June 19, 2019, at 1:00 p.m. ET.
Silicone Wristbands: Novel Approach to Assess Personal Chemical Exposure Webinar
Join the Collaborative on Health and the Environment on June 19, 2019, at 1:00 p.m. ET to hear Dr. Kim Anderson discuss the use of silicone wristbands to assess personal chemical exposures. She will outline the results of the study, which found that the wristbands may be used for many chemicals. In comparisons with other technologies such as active samplers and biological samples like urine, evidence suggests that the wristband is as good indicator of chemical exposures. Dr. Anderson will highlight the chemicals tested and the accuracy of this exposure assessment tool.
OSHA International Program Meetings on Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (UNSCEGHS) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
Department of Transportation (DOT) will host two meetings on June 20, 2019. The first, OSHA will conduct a public meeting to discuss proposals in preparation for the 37th session of the UNSCEGHS. The second, PHMSA will conduct a public meeting to discuss proposals in preparation for the 55th session of the United Nations Sub-Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. The meetings will be held at DOT’s Headquarters in SE, Washington, DC. The PMSA public meeting: 9:00 am to 12:00 pm ET, and OSHA public meeting: 1:00 to 4:00 pm ET.
Introduction to the Planning for Natural Disaster Debris Guidance
Natural disasters challenge communities every year and are expected to increase in frequency and intensity. To assist communities (including cities, counties, states, tribes) in planning for debris management before a natural disaster occurs, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery updated its Planning for Natural Disaster Debris Guidance. Pre-incident planning can significantly aid decision-making during a response and enhance a community's resiliency. This webinar will provide an overview of the guidance and highlight lessons learned and best practices. After the presentation, EPA looks forward to answering stakeholder questions. The webinar will be held on June 20, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. ET.
Request for Written Comments on an Updated Health Literacy Definition for Healthy People 2030
The Department of Health and Human Services invites comments on a proposed new health literacy definition for Healthy People 2030. Read the full request for comments and find instructions on how to comment in the Federal Register. Please submit your comments by July 20, 2019. Healthy People sets health promotion goals for the nation. The Secretary’s Advisory Committee on National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives for 2030 has proposed a new definition of health literacy for Healthy People 2030: “Health literacy occurs when a society provides accurate health information and services that people can easily find, understand, and use to inform their decisions and actions.”
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.
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.
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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Are Public Employees Safe at Work?
On May 31, in the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, 11 city workers were fatally killed by a coworker who resigned hours before the shooting. Four other city employees and a police officer were injured. It was one of the deadliest workplace mass shootings since 2000 and conjured up memories of an attack in 2015 that killed 14 people, including 13 county employees at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino County, Calif. Violent attacks in the workplace are not common, but they may leave public employees fearful about going to work, especially in understaffed institutions. Of course, it’s not only violence that threatens the safety of public employees. Some government jobs are dangerous, and accidents happen. But while the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration sets standards for and investigates workplace accidents for the private sector, it doesn't do the same for the public sector.
Governing [Author: Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene]
IG: USPS Is Putting Injured Workers at Risk by Failing to Adequately Reduce Opioid Use
Nearly 3% of U.S. Postal Service employees received opioid prescriptions as a result of injuries sustained on the job, according to a new report, and the average number of such prescriptions per injured worker actually increased over the last several years. The USPS inspector general (IG) flagged those figures as troubling given the current opioid crisis in the country and the nationwide efforts to cut back on prescriptions for the pain medications. The Postal Service provided the drugs through the Federal Employee Compensation Act’s worker compensation program. The mailing agency’s spending on opioids in 2018 dropped compared to two years prior, the IG found, but the decline was only 70% of that seen at other federal agencies.
Parties Anticipate Legal Fight Over Energy Dept. HLW Reinterpretation
A legal fight is considered likely over the Department of Energy’s (DOE) new interpretation of what material should be treated high-level radioactive waste, sources suggested this week. Not all waste resulting from reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel should be considered high-level, the DOE reaffirmed Wednesday, June 12. Going forward, the key question will be “how radioactive it is,” Undersecretary of Energy for Science Paul Dabbar told the House Nuclear Cleanup Caucus in Washington, D.C. Under its new interpretation, DOE says some lower-risk reprocessing waste can be deemed non-HLW and be disposed of according to its radiological traits rather than its point of origin. That could speed up disposal of some waste, the agency said in a press release.
Exchange Monitor [Author: Wayne Barber]
Suicide Seen As ‘Next Frontier’ in Workplace Safety Risks
Health and safety professionals are beginning conversations on a growing workplace safety concern that goes beyond fall protection and chemical hazards: workplace suicide. Steven Guillory, the division manager of risk management for the City of Houston, Texas, admitted that the topic didn’t interest him years ago, speaking during a roundtable discussion at the American Society of Safety Professionals’ Safety 2019 conference in New Orleans on Monday, June 12. In 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) hit a record in its 25-year tally of workplace suicides at 291. The number dipped in 2017 to 275 but has generally shown a gradual climb over the past decade, according to BLS statistics. Guillory called these statistics “sobering” and in line with the national rise in suicide in general.
Business Insurance [Author: Louise Esola]
Nine Years After BP Spill, Some Cleanup Workers Still Feel Sting of Dispersants
BP had released an unprecedented amount of chemical dispersant into the Gulf. Close to two million gallons of Corexit were sprayed on top of mile-long oil slicks and — for the first time — below the sea into the wellhead. It was a never-before-tried attempt to prevent oil from washing into the pristine marshes and public beaches, one that involved tradeoffs for organisms that live or feed on the seafloor and for the workers involved in the cleanup. Today, the science on the health effects of dispersants is catching up. A 2013 study found that Corexit made oil 52-times more toxic to certain marine life. In 2017, a landmark National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences study of tens of thousands of oil cleanup workers found that those exposed to dispersants had increased risks of symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and burning eyes and lungs.
Undark Magazine [Author: Rocky Kistner]
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CSB Issues Final Report into Fatal Gas Well Blowout
The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released its final investigation report into the blowout that fatally injured five workers at the Pryor Trust gas well located in Pittsburgh County, OK. The CSB’s final report identifies a lack of regulations governing onshore drilling safety as well as shortcomings in safety management systems and industry standards utilized by the industry. The report calls on regulators, industry groups, the state of Oklahoma and companies to address such gaps. The CSB’s report determined that the cause of the blowout and rig fire was the failure of two preventive barriers that were intended to be in place to stop a blowout. Those were the primary barrier—hydrostatic pressure in the well, produced by drilling mud—and the secondary barrier—human detection of gas flowing into or expanding in the well and activation of the rig’s blowout preventer.
GAO Report: Illicit Opioids: While Greater Attention Given to Combating Synthetic Opioids, Agencies Need to Better Assess their Efforts
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a new report on illicit drugs. Federal agencies collaborate with foreign governments, such as China, Mexico, and Canada, as well as with international organizations, to limit the production of illicit synthetic opioids. They do this by enhancing investigations, sharing information on emerging trends, helping to expand the regulation of illicit substances, and building capacity to thwart the distribution of illicit drugs. Federal agencies have ongoing efforts to limit the domestic availability of and enhance their response to illicit synthetic opioids. For example, federal efforts include treating overdose death scenes as crime scenes where officers collect evidence to investigate and identify the drug source. GAO is making six recommendations, including that agencies develop performance metrics.
New Podcast Available on Case Investigations of Infectious Diseases in the Workplace
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently published a podcast for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Emerging Infectious Diseases series. The podcast is based on the manuscript led by Chia-ping Su, featuring coauthors from Hazard Evaluations and Technical Assistance Branch, and Respiratory Health Division. The manuscript, entitled Case Investigations of Infectious Diseases Occurring in Workplaces, United States, 2006–2015, was published in the March 2019 issue of Emerging Infectious Disease. Dr. Marie de Perio, a physician and an infectious disease expert with NIOSH, discusses her article about how infectious diseases can spread in the workplace.
EPA Prepares the Public for the 2019 Hurricane Season by Focusing on Waste Mitigation
The Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1 and ends November 30. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is calling on the public to prepare now for natural disasters to aid recovery efforts. Debris and household hazardous waste management is always challenging during natural disasters and has a great impact on public safety. Based on the 2017 and 2018 responses to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Florence, EPA responders were in the field during the aftermath of the hurricanes and managed a tremendous amount of waste as part of the recovery efforts.
Just Released: Environmental Justice Grants and Communities Story Map
The Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) is pleased to announce the release of our new EJ Grants and Communities story map. The story map showcases three recent EJ grantees and their projects, which include job training in green infrastructure and environmental restoration, multi-lingual outreach and education on stormwater management, and youth environmental education. Since 2014, the EJ Collaborative Problem-solving (CPS) Grants program and the EJ Small Grants (EJSG) program have provided more than $6 million to 112 communities. The CPS program funds up to $120,000 to 10 community-based organizations for a 2-year project. The EJSG program funds projects up to $30,000 for a 1-year project. This funding goes to organizations working with vulnerable, low-income, minority, tribal and indigenous communities to address their environmental and health concerns. All projects must demonstrate work that supports at least one qualified national environmental statute.
OSHA Safety and Health Page on Measles
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently published a new Safety and Health Topics page on measles, a highly contagious, potentially serious disease that is currently spreading in several communities across the United States. Measles is primarily spread by infected people when they breathe, cough, or sneeze and through contact with an infected person’s respiratory secretions or saliva, including on contaminated surfaces. Measles is still common in other parts of the world and every year unvaccinated people traveling abroad bring measles back to the U.S. where it can spread to others who do not have immunity. Workers in childcare and healthcare, laboratories, and environmental services and those who travel abroad may have the greatest risk of exposure and infection—especially if they are not vaccinated. The new webpage provides information about preventing and reducing workers’ measles exposure risks along with information on vaccination and treatment.
DOL Urges Caution to Avoid Hazards During Tornado and Storm Cleanup
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is urging employers, workers, and the public to be aware of the hazards that may exist while conducting cleanup work following the recent tornados in Kansas and Missouri. After a tornado has occurred, as steps are taken to recover from the storm, workers may face significant hazards including the potential for additional storms, downed electric lines, and sharp debris. Employees should also be aware of hazards from heat stress and from equipment used during response/recovery operations, such as portable generators.
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Even Mild Head Injuries Can Affect Your Mental Health
According to research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), construction workers sustain more traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) than any other profession. This article focuses on mild TBIs, also known as concussions. A concussion is the most common type of head or brain injury. Laborers’ International Union of North America General Secretary-Treasurer and Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA) Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni contributed to the article: “Any blow to the head must be taken seriously. While most people will recover from concussion symptoms relatively quickly, continued monitoring of the person’s physical and mental health may be necessary. It’s possible for even a mild concussion to cause long-term symptoms that require additional care.”
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The Southern California Coalition For Occupational Safety And Health (SoCalCOSH) Is Hiring An Organizer/Trainer
The Southern California Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (SoCalCOSH) is hiring an organizer/trainer to advance worker health and safety in the Southern California region. This work will include a focus on worker health and safety in the context of addressing the rise of insecure employment, attacks on immigrant, low-wage, LGBTQ, and workers of color, and the prevalence of workplace sexual harassment & retaliation. SoCalCOSH is looking for someone who is innately creative, excited about intersectional worker organizing, and enjoys collaboration and relationship-building. To apply, please send a cover letter, resume, and contact information for three references to firstname.lastname@example.org with SoCalCOSH Organizer/Trainer in the subject line of the email. The position will remain open until filled. We will consider applications on a rolling basis but those received by June 21, 2019 will receive priority consideration.
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