May 21, 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 Stories
- Calendar Features
- On The Web This Week
- Federal Agency Update
- Awardee Highlights/Online Learning
- Job Openings
- We Want Your Feedback
- Newsbriefs Past Issues
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WTP Spring Awardee Meeting and Workshop Materials Are Now Available
The WTP Spring Awardee Meeting and Workshop, "Using Best Practices to Sustain Training Programs During COVID-19 and Other Disasters," was held in April 2021. While we heard many stories of challenges and frustration during the COVID-19 pandemic, people adapted to overcome gaps in worker training and protection. The workshop reviewed the best practices of WTP, awardees, and partnering organizations to sustain training programs during COVID-19 and other disaster preparedness and response efforts. Presentations are now available. Videos will be coming soon.
Protecting Workers Exposed to Oregon’s Heat Waves and Wildfire Smoke
Oregon is considering ways to protect workers required to labor in extreme weather conditions, which are becoming more common in this age of climate change. The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or Oregon OSHA, has started the rulemaking process to protect workers whose jobs keep them outside of climate-controlled settings during conditions of wildfire smoke or excessive heat.
OPB [Author: Monica Samayoa]
WIPP: Nuclear Waste Shipments from Washington Delayed 20 Years by 2014 Release
Full disposal of nuclear waste from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford Site in Benton County, Washington, at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) repository in Carlsbad, New Mexico, could be delayed by 20 years following an accidental radiological release in 2014 at the WIPP site.
Carlsbad Current Argus [Author: Adrian Hedden]
U.S. Department of Energy Seeks to Modify N.M. Plant's Nuclear Waste Permit
Federal officials say a new air shaft is needed at the nuclear waste disposal site in Southern New Mexico to keep workers safe and run more efficiently. But antinuclear watchdogs contend the real motive behind adding a shaft to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is to enable the underground site to expand and operate indefinitely.
Santa Fe New Mexican [Author: Scott Wyland]
Escape from Yucca Mountain: Biden Administration Promises Progress on Nuclear Waste
The U.S. Department of Energy takes on the politically radioactive issue of nuclear-waste disposal, which the past several administrations have tried and failed to resolve. The only federally designated long-term disposal site for waste from the nuclear power industry is at Yucca Mountain in Nevada (there is also a site near Carlsbad, N.M., for waste generated by the government’s nuclear weapons program).
Wall Street Journal [Author: Gabriel Rubin]
Thyroid and Prostate Cancer in Georgia Firefighters Linked to Potentially Dangerous Chemical Used on the Job
When Mark Johnson signed up to be an Atlanta Firefighter in 1980, he knew the big risks. “Being caught in a flashover or a collapse,” Johnson said, “we’re not thinking about the foam agent we might be using.” Fellow retired firefighter Craig Chait didn’t think about that either. “I never assumed or thought there were any issues with Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) or that it could cause cancer or that it could hurt you in the future,” said Chait.
11 Alive [Authors: Lindsey Basye and Kristin Crowley]
Toxic Chemicals Sullied a Lincoln Heights Site. Now, New Housing Is Planned Next to It
Decades after the old Welch’s laundry was shuttered, California regulators worked to clean up the soil and check the groundwater for the chemicals used there — volatile organic compounds such as tetrachloroethylene that could damage the human liver and nervous system and have been tied to an increased risk of cancer. The Department of Toxic Substances Control oversaw a cleanup effort that lasted for years and has continued to monitor groundwater at the site.
Los Angeles Times [Author: Emily Alpert Reyes]
Disaster Declared After an Alaskan Village Was Inundated by More Than Five Feet of Floodwater
Residents of an Alaskan village were forced to evacuate after it was inundated by more than five feet of floodwater caused by an ice jam. On May 18, Gov. Mike Dunleavy declared a disaster in the city of Buckland, Alaska.
CNN [Authors: Jennifer Henderson and Hollie Silverman]
Employers Face Compliance Questions Over CDC Mask Guidance
Employers are caught between outdated workplace safety guidance and new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations that vaccinated workers can drop masks in most situations, leaving workplaces to navigate the conflicting federal guidelines. The guidance the CDC issued wasn’t rolled out along with new advice from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Bloomberg Law [Author: Bruce Rolfsen]
States Are Turning Away Unemployment Aid. Workers Fear Choice Between Health and a Paycheck.
In interviews over the past week, economic experts, labor advocates and social service providers said that while people are choosing not to take jobs for many reasons, concern about health and safety has been left out of the conversation. Despite rising vaccination rates, many people don't feel comfortable returning to jobs they see as risky — particularly if they haven't been vaccinated or if they have young children or vulnerable relatives at home.
NBC News [Authors: Bracey Harris and Daniella Silva]
New OSHA Standards Are Coming for COVID-19.
President Joe Biden wasted no time in signaling a long-awaited shift for protecting workers during the pandemic, issuing an executive order that called for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to enact emergency rules (called an emergency temporary standard or ETS) for the first time since 1983.
Medscape [Author: Sheila Mulrooney Eldred]
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EPA Webinar: Innovative Technologies and Approaches to Address Decentralized Wastewater Infrastructure Challenges in the Alabama Black Belt
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is hosting a webinar on May 26 at 1:00-3:00 p.m. ET. The webinar, titled “Innovative Technologies and Approaches to Address Decentralized Wastewater Infrastructure Challenges in the Alabama Black Belt,” will focus on proposed solutions for the various challenges of adequate decentralized wastewater management in the underserved and disadvantaged Black Belt region of Alabama.
Essential Issues Around COVID-19 Vaccines for Vulnerable Populations
Seeking to respond to critical gaps in knowledge and provide resources necessary to respond to the pandemic, Migrant Clinician Network (MCN) has developed an educational series in Spanish on COVID-19 vaccines for Community Health Workers. This series consists of four sessions and will provide resources and training to combat myths about vaccines, address clinical questions about the available vaccines, discuss the impact of vaccines on the workplace, and to explore the mental health implications of COVID-19. The sessions are through May 25-June 15 at 4:00 p.m. ET.
Exploring the Future of Worker Health and Safety in the Post-Pandemic World
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Expanding Research Partnerships Webinar Series is hosting a webinar on the occupational safety and health challenges facing workers in the post-pandemic world. The speakers will include Gary Childress, Oil States Energy Services, Barbara Dawson, DuPont, Brian Fielkow, JetCo, and Paul Riley, Agriculture Safety and Health Council of America. The webinar will be held on June 9 at 12:00 p.m. ET.
Stigma of Addiction Summit
The National Academy of Medicine, Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin, and Shatterproof are pleased to announce the Stigma of Addiction Summit on June 10. It is a half-day, virtual, action-oriented summit entirely dedicated to understanding, addressing, and eliminating the harmful impacts of stigma on people who use drugs. The goal of the Summit is to elevate current efforts at reducing stigma, identifying successes and gaps in the evidence base, and prioritizing and identifying areas for future research.
SRP Risk Communication Strategies to Reduce Exposures and Improve Health
This virtual workshop on June 21-22, sponsored by the NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP), will bring together SRP grantees, partners, and colleagues to discuss strategies to communicate potential health risks with the goals of preventing and reducing exposures, and improving health.
Save the *NEW* Dates for Brownfields 2021!
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and ICMA are committed to ensuring the National Brownfields Training Conference provides the best networking and learning environment possible for the brownfields community. Several considerations were made related to the current, and anticipated, COVID-19 situation. The event has been rescheduled from its September dates to December 8-11, 2021, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
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Pain in the Nation Series Update: Alcohol, Drug and Suicide Deaths at Record Highs
Trust for America’s Health/Well Being Trust Pain in the Nation report series has tracked the nation’s deaths of despair crisis since 2017. This latest report includes newly released data showing that 156,242 Americans died due to alcohol, drugs or suicide in 2019, a record number of such deaths in a single year. Broken out by category, during 2019, alcohol and drug-induced deaths increased, while suicide rates were slightly lower.
Report Maps Hundreds of Toxic Waste Sites in the Path of 2020's Record-Shattering Atlantic Hurricane Season
The U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Environment America Research and Policy Center released a report highlighting the serious threat posed by toxic “Superfund” waste sites in the paths of hurricanes and tropical storms during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. The report, “A Perfect Storm: When Tropical Storms Meet Toxic Waste,” pulled together data from the National Hurricane Center and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to show that 810 sites were affected.
West Virginia University School of Public Health Takes Over Workplace Health Major
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed what we know about safety at home and work. With that, the West Virginia University (WVU) Master of Science in Industrial Hygiene program is now part of the WVU School of Public Health.
‘Green’ Jobs Are Booming in New York and the Tri-State Area
Some people equate having buckets of money with success. Others favor fancy job titles and power. For 31-year-old Patrick O’Gara, it’s all about eliminating carbon emissions. O’Gara spends his days helping people make their homes friendlier to the environment by powering heating and air conditioning systems with geothermal energy “instead of lighting fires in their basements.”
New York Post [Author: Virginia Backaitis]
Massachusetts Health Boards Overwhelmed, Unready to Protect Workers
With federal regulators missing from the field and state leaders scrambling to manage the COVID-19 crisis, Massachusetts’ 351 overtaxed local boards of health were unwittingly thrust into a new role last year – overseers of workplace safety. The challenge created by forcing that responsibility on the municipal agencies.
Insurance Journal [Authors: Shannon Iriarte, Shwetha Surendran, and Maggie Mulvihill]
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GAO: Environmental Protection Agency Should Take Additional Actions to Manage Risks from Climate Change Effects
In October 2019, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that available federal data on flooding, storm surge, wildfires, and sea level rise suggested that about 60 percent (945 of 1,571) of all nonfederal Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) sites—which have serious hazardous contamination--are located in areas that may be impacted by these potential climate change effects.
EPA Scientists Test Non-Targeted Analysis Methods Using Drinking Water Filters
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) researchers can rapidly search for thousands of never-before studied chemical compounds in a wide variety of environmental, residential, and biological media. This approach is called “non-targeted analysis” (NTA). It differs from targeted analysis because researchers do not have to know what specific chemical they are looking for in a sample. They can use high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) to rapidly identify many of the chemicals present in a sample.
EPA Researchers Release Updates to Environmental Quality Index
A look at the broader environmental context can help researchers better understand health outcomes and how they relate to cumulative environmental exposures. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) researchers created the Environmental Quality Index (EQI) to do just that. The EQI is a national-level index that helps improve understanding of how multiple environmental conditions affect the 3,143 counties across the U.S.
EPA EJ Small Grants and Collaborative Problem-Solving Grants Extended to June 1
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) anticipates the potential for additional funds up to approximately $10.5 million to be made available through the 2021 Environmental Justice (EJ) Small Grants and EJ Collaborative Problem-Solving funding opportunities along with the original amount of EJ funds. These potential additional funds can be used for COVID-19 projects specifically to address clean air issues and/or training for a safe drinking water workforce.
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Scientific Brief: Multiple Measures, Including Masks, Needed to Curb COVID-19
In a new scientific brief, National Nurses United (NNU) analyzes how all the most recent, respected research on COVID-19 supports a robust public health program that uses multiple measures of infection control – including vaccination as one component as well as masking, distancing, testing, contact tracing, isolation, and ensuring workplace protections for essential workers – and how, on the contrary, the studies cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its new guidance present data that is incomplete, not yet peer reviewed, potentially biased, or show poor statistical certainty.
The Paindemic Webinar Video and Presentations Are Now Available
Increased stress related to pandemic conditions and its effect on mental health are important factors driving an increase in opioid overdoses and fatalities as well as increased suicides and alcohol consumption. On April 8, this WTP webinar reviewed interventions such as peer assistance programs, training, and increased access to mental health and substance use care in the workplace.
NIEHS/DOE Nuclear Worker Training Program Annual Report Now Available
The NIEHS/U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Nuclear Worker Training Program annual report for program year Sept. 1, 2019-Aug. 31, 2020, is now available. The report includes grantee responses to COVID-19. Grantee activities reflect the impacts and necessary adjustments for the pandemic, including the introduction of infectious disease curricula. It also highlights work in partnering with DOE site contractors.
CPWR Small Study Grant Funding Available
The Center for Construction Research and Training’s (CPWR) Small Study Program, which supports promising new research initiatives on improving construction safety and health, has a particular interest in studies that plan to work with and/or target small employers, those with 19 employees or fewer. CPWR is also interested in innovative approaches to reducing the spread of COVID-19 through ventilation, distancing, and respirators.
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OSHA Seeks Safety Instructor
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Office of Training and Education is seeking applications for a Safety Instructor (Safety and Occupational Health Specialist) for the Occupational Safety Training Branch. This position serves as a senior instructor and highly qualified occupational safety specialist responsible for teaching general industry related subjects. The deadline to apply is June 1.
NIHB Public Health Project Coordinator (Emergency Preparedness)
The National Indian Health Board (NIHB) seeks an experienced public health professional to work on current and future public health projects and initiatives. The position will have a focus on emergency preparedness and response and will work with a Public Health Program Manager, Director and Deputy Director of Public Health Policy and Programs Department to coordinate NIHB’s response to current and future public health threats and emergencies, such as COVID-19.
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