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NIEHS WTP: May 15, 2020 Newsbrief

Weekly E-Newsbrief, May 15, 2020

Weekly E-Newsbrief

May 15, 2020

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

Hanford Strategy for Worst Nuclear Waste Criticized. Plant Estimates Skyrocket to $41 Billion

The U.S. Department of Energy’s strategy for pretreating high-level waste at Hanford is “unclear” 20 years after construction of a massive glassification plant began, while costs continue to soar, says a new federal report. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report to Congress this week focusing on the plant’s Pretreatment Facility, where construction stopped seven years ago because of technical issues.

Tri City Herald [Author Annette Cary]

GAO Report

Federal Officials Recommend Storage of Nuclear Waste in West Texas

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission released a report recommending the approval for radioactive waste to be transported across Texas and stored in Andrews County. The existing facility near the Texas-New Mexico Border is operated by Waste Control Specialists, and a joint venture called Interim Storage Partners hopes to bring the nation’s high-level nuclear waste to the facility.

CBS 7 News

Workers in Pennsylvania with Preexisting Health Conditions Fear a Call to Return to Work

As two dozen Pennsylvania counties begin to reopen, bringing many people out of their homes and back into the workplace for the first time in weeks, those living with a wide range of preexisting health conditions are scared they won’t be protected. With no guarantee that they can continue to collect unemployment if they refuse to go to work, this segment of workers fears a near-impossible choice.

The Philadelphia Inquirer [Author: Brett Sholtis]

The Opioid Epidemic Was Already a National Crisis. Covid-19 Could be Making Things Worse

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation was in the throes of another public health crisis: the opioid epidemic. More than 2 million Americans struggle with opioid use disorder. Opioids account for a majority of drug overdose deaths, the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. Now, the coronavirus has disrupted all matters of life across the country – including efforts to combat the nation's opioid problem.

CNN [Author: Harmeet Kaur]

Minnesota Has Opened 10 Formal COVID-Related Workplace-Safety Investigations

Minnesota workplace safety regulators have received 159 coronavirus-related complaints since March 1. They opened 10 formal investigations, including three involving food-processing facilities. Three of the 10 cases have been closed without any citations levied against the employers, according to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.

Minnesota Star Tribune [Author: Mike Hughlett]

Business Groups Call on Government to Improve Federal Guidance for Worker Safety

Industry groups that represent food, agriculture and consumer packaged goods are urging the federal government to improve its coordination and provide specific guidance on worker safety and supply chain reliability as businesses prepare to reopen. The groups are urging for immediate coordination between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The Hill [Author: Alex Gangitano]

Calendar FeaturesBack to Top

Virtual Town Hall: Workers’ Speak Out/Take Action

The Protecting Workers Alliance-National Conference on Worker Safety and Health (COSH) is hosting a webinar on May 20 at 1:00-2:30 p.m. ET. The bilingual English/Spanish gathering will cover essential workers on current conditions, campaigns for protections, and a discussion of a new COSH comprehensive blueprint for a Safe and Just Return to Work.

Meeting Registration

EPA Environmental Justice Grants Opportunity to Address COVID-19 Impacts Faced by Vulnerable Communities

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is making $1 million in grant funding available to states, local governments, tribes, and territories for projects to improve the health and welfare of low income, minority, tribal and indigenous communities. EPA will give special consideration to those applications aimed at addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic communities with EJ concerns. The deadline to apply is June 30.

EPA

Superfund Research Program Occupational Health and Safety Education Programs on Emerging Technologies

The NIH Research Education Program (R25) supports research education activities in the mission areas of the NIH. The overarching goal of this R25 program is to support educational activities that complement and/or enhance the training of a workforce to meet the nation’s biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research needs. The deadline to apply is Aug. 3 by 5:00 p.m. local time.

NIEHS Grants

New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the Workplace – Risk Factors and Solutions

New Solutions seeks manuscripts on the subject of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and its occupational and environmental health policy impacts from the local to international levels. Manuscripts can be submitted immediately and for the foreseeable future. Accepted papers will be published as quickly as possible.

Call for Papers

On The Web This WeekBack to Top

Older, Larger Companies Benefit From Not Investing in Worker Safety, Study Finds

Companies best equipped to provide safe workplaces are the least likely to do so, because they benefit financially from forgoing the cost of enacting workplace safety practices, a recent study found. In some cases, companies with worker injury claims were more than 50% more likely to survive than their safer counterparts.

Phys.org

Maryland Becomes Latest State to Restrict Flame Retardants

Maryland will soon begin the process of imposing restrictions on the sale or import of children’s products, mattresses and upholstered furniture that contain more than 0.1% of flame-retardant chemicals. Maryland now becomes the latest to join a growing list of states to set 1,000 parts per million (ppm) limit on the amount of flame retardants permitted in various consumer products.

Chemical Watch

Washington State Issues Guidance for Restarting Essential Workforce Development Programs

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee issued guidance for restarting essential workforce development programs under the Safe Start Phase 1 recovery plan. Through the Washington "Safe Start" plan, more businesses and activities will re-open in subsequent phases with adequate social distancing measures and worker safety and health standards in place. Each phase will be at least three weeks – metrics and data will guide when the state can move from one phase to another.

Safe Start

Increasing Signs Point Toward DOE Cleanup Sites Getting Back to Work Soon

Even as the Energy Department stays mum on the schedule for staffing up operations that have been depopulated during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are increasing indicators that nuclear remediation sites will gradually start bring more workers back inside the fence before the end of June.

Exchange Monitor [Author: Wayne Barber]

How to Talk to Your Employer About Coronavirus Concerns at Work

With many essential workers already upholding grocery stores, hospitals, banks and post offices, many more workers will soon go back to work (if they already haven’t) in places like restaurants, gyms, movie theatres and more. If you are like many, you might be worried about your health if you are asked to return to work.

Occupational Health and Safety

Federal Agency UpdateBack to Top

CSB Releases New Guidance Document for Boards of Directors and Executives Focused on High Hazard Accident Prevention

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has released a new guidance document entitled, “CSB Best Practice Guidance for Corporate Boards of Directors and Executives in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry for Major Accident Prevention.” The new seven-page document is focused on the importance of the role of boards of directors and executives in ensuring that there are effective safety management systems in place to properly manage risks, with the goal of preventing major accidents and protecting workers, the public, and the environment.

CSB

National Tribal Toxics Council Technical Support Request for Applications

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) is announcing a five year assistance agreement to eligible applicants to provide technical support to OPPT's National Tribal Toxics Council (NTTC). Applicants must represent tribal interests in the development and implementation of chemical risk assessment, risk management and pollution prevention programs. Applications are due on June 15.

EPA

GAO Priority Open Recommendations: Environmental Protection Agency

In April 2019, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified 17 priority recommendations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since then, EPA has implemented three of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to assess established timeframes for each step in the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) process and publish current information about chemicals being assessed.

GAO

Awardee Highlights/Online LearningBack to Top

Back to Work Safely

The industrial hygienists of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) launched a new site that features expert, industry-specific guidance for both businesses and consumers to safely re-open and re-engage as they emerge from the COVID-19 quarantines. These resources are free and available to the public.

AIHA

Plans to Reopen U.S. Economy Must ‘Talk About Worker Safety,’ Says AFL-CIO President

On May 8, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka warned that workers will be at risk of getting sick with the coronavirus if restrictions on businesses are lifted without robust safety protocols in place. The failure to prioritize worker safety while restarting the economy will only multiply the threat of additional COVID-19 outbreaks, Trumka argued.

CNBC [Author: Kevin Stankiewicz]

New COVID-19 Resources: Standards for Construction Sites, Construction Clearinghouse

The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) and North America’s Building Trades Union have released the COVID-19 Standards for U.S. Construction Sites. The standards have been updating since early March. The guidance identifies what steps should be taken to reduce construction worker exposure to the virus on the job.

CPWR

Job OpeningsBack to Top

OSHA Seeks Supervisory Safety and Occupational Health Specialist

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is hiring a supervisory safety and occupational health specialist position. The position leads and supervises a team of safety, data, and jurisdiction professionals. The specialist serves on multiple project teams comprising OSHA staff, solicitors, private sector stakeholders, and other agency representatives. Deadline to apply is May 26.

Job Posting

UCLA-LOSH Seeks Health and Safety Training Coordinator

The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program (LOSH) is hiring a new position. The Health and Safety Training Coordinator is responsible for providing open-enrollment and contract courses related to hazardous materials handling, hazardous waste cleanup, and hazmat emergency response.

Job Posting

We Want Your FeedbackBack to Top

We Want Your Feedback

What kinds of stories or other content would make this newsletter especially valuable to you?

Send your ideas for this newsletter to: wetpclear@niehs.nih.gov

To go back and subscribe to the newsletter, click here

Back issues of our Newsbrief are available at our archives page

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