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Your Environment. Your Health.

NIEHS WTP: November 22, 2019 Newsbrief

Weekly E-Newsbrief, November 22, 2019

Weekly E-Newsbrief

November 22, 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.

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

Climate Said to Imperil 60% of Superfund Sites

At least 60% of U.S. Superfund sites are in areas vulnerable to flooding or other worsening disasters of climate change, according to a new report from a congressional watchdog agency. In a report released Nov. 18, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) called on Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler to state directly that dealing with the rising risks of seas, storms or wildfires breaching Superfund sites under climate change is part of the agency’s mission.

Associated Press [Author: Ellen Knickmeyer]

GAO Report

Hundreds of SFPD Officers Sue Hunters Point Contractor Over Health Problems

According to a federal lawsuit brought by nearly 400 current and former officers and staff of the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), the engineering and consulting firm Tetra Tech Inc. and a pair of subsidiaries exposed hundreds of police employees to unsafe levels of hazardous materials at the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, leading to chronic health problems and at least two deaths. The shipyard, which is owned by the Navy, was named a Superfund waste site in 1989 because it was heavily contaminated by radioactive substances and industrial chemicals.

San Francisco Chronicle [Authors: Jason Fagone and Cynthia Dizikes]

Federal Court Rules EPA Unlawfully Excluded Dangerous Chemicals From Review

A federal appeals court ruled this week that the current administration illegally excluded millions of tons of dangerous and toxic materials in public use from a safety review. A three-judge panel in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Nov. 14 that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must include risks from asbestos, lead and other toxins regardless of whether or not they are currently being produced. The substances are still present in some homes, including in home insulation, house paint and other products.

The Hill [Author: Marina Pitofsky]

Activists Honor Kingston Coal Ash Cleanup Workers and Announce Upcoming Protest Against Jacobs

Activists are organizing a protest of a global government contractor accused in a federal lawsuit of failing to protect hundreds of workers who cleaned up the nation’s largest coal ash spill. The Rev. Jim Sessions announced the planned protest of the Knoxville office of Jacobs Engineering at a Jobs with Justice of East Tennessee annual meeting and awards ceremony. Jacobs, now based in Texas, was paid $64 million to safely clean up the Tennessee Valley Authority’s spill of 7.3 million tons of toxic coal ash waste and wastewater in December 2008.

Knoxville News Sentinel [Author: Jamie Satterfield]

Court: Company Must Pay for Toxic Waste on Idaho Tribal Land

A U.S. appeals court has ruled that a Philadelphia-based agribusiness company that left millions of tons of toxic waste on tribal land in Idaho must pay the tribes nearly $20 million plus $1.5 million annually. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Nov. 15 upheld a lower court ruling against FMC Corp. involving a now-shuttered Idaho plant that turned phosphate into fertilizer. For about 50 years until 2001, FMC operated the fertilizer plant that produced 22 million tons (20 million metric tons) of waste stored on the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Fort Hall Indian Reservation.

Associated Press [Author: Keith Ridler]

A Superfund Site in Montana Sold Bags of Hazardous Waste As Souvenirs

On Nov. 18, the oversight body of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter that it had recently become aware that “a certain unapproved use of slag taking place in Anaconda, Montana.” The slag, a toxic waste product from decades of mining and copper smelting in Anaconda, was being sold as a souvenir. Anaconda is a Superfund site, a designation given to the most contaminated areas in the country. This particular 300-square-mile plot overlaps with and surrounds the town of Anaconda, also known as the Smelter City.

Quartz [Author: Zoe Schlanger]

Proposed Bill Would Give Wisconsin First Responders Easier Access to PTSD Treatment

Studies show more first responders are dying from suicide than in the line of duty. Some Wisconsin lawmakers, however, are working to put a stop to that trend by proposing a new bill that would give first responders in the state easier access to PTSD. Area first responders believe it’s a nationwide mental health crisis that needs to be addressed and, often times, when they seek mental health help, it’s money out of their pocket.

WAOW Wisconsin

House Passes Bill Aimed at Speeding Up Disaster Recovery Funding

Texans are still waiting for more than $4 billion in federal funding meant to brace homes and neighborhoods for future storms — nearly two years after Congress authorized the spending in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The money, likely still months from being released, was long delayed while the Department of Housing and Urban Development drafted new rules for how it would be doled out — a process the agency has to follow every time Congress gives it the green light to offer up new disaster relief funding.

Houston Chronicle [Author: Benjamin Wermund]

Calendar FeaturesBack to Top

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 Dec. 3-5 in Baltimore.

Conference Registration

The Perilous State of Federal Scientific Research: Retired NIEHS Director Discusses how Sidelining Science Threatens Health

The Alaska Community Action on Toxics is hosting recently retired NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. to present The Perilous State of Federal Scientific Research: How Sidelining Science Threatens Public Health on the next CHE-Alaska call, which will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 9:00 a.m. Alaska Standard Time/1:00 p.m. ET. In this call, Birnbaum will share her perspective on the current state of federal scientific research, the public health consequences of sidelining science, and what organizations can do to restore the role of science in policy.

Webinar Registration

NACOSH Notice of Membership Meeting

The National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) will hold a meeting in Washington D.C. on Dec. 12 at 9:30 a.m. ET. NACOSH is comprised of 12 members appointed by the Secretary of Labor who advise, consult with, and make recommendations to the Secretary of Labor on matters relating to safety and health in the workplace. The Committee meets at least two times a year. Attendees who want to address NACOSH at the meeting must submit a request to speak, as well as any written or electronic presentation by Dec. 5.

Meeting Details

Spring 2020 NIEHS WTP Awardee Meeting and Workshop Hotel Information

Emory University Woodruff Health Sciences Center, in conjunction with the NIEHS Worker Training Program (WTP), is sponsoring a workshop on Bio-Preparedness. The workshop will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, March 17-18, 2020. The workshop is tentatively scheduled from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday and 9:00 a.m. until noon on Wednesday. A limited number of rooms have been reserved at an area hotel for this meeting. Participants are encouraged to book their room early, as the block will fill up quickly.


On The Web This WeekBack to Top

Workshop Report on Management of Highly Pathogenic Medical Waste

The Maryland Department of Health Environmental Health Bureau released a report from a 2017 Workshop on "Managing Highly Pathogenic Medical Waste: Finding a Way Forward." The report, which highlights some of the challenges and opportunities for Maryland in addressing Category A infectious waste, is particularly relevant for those interested in preparing for the possibility of highly pathogenic emerging infectious diseases in the hospital or community setting.

Workshop Report

OSHA Releases Two New Temporary Worker Guidance Documents

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released a Temporary Workers' Rights Pamphlet (TWI Pamphlet) and a Temporary Worker Initiative pamphlet on "Safety and Health in Shipyard Employment." The TWI Pamphlet is a small handout card that reminds staffing agency employees that they "have the same rights as permanent workers." The second TWI pamphlet, on Safety and Health in Shipyard Employment, is a ten-page summary of staffing employee safety law, rules, and policy for shipyard employers and workers.


Sanitation Workers: Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Sanitation workers are vital to the functioning sanitation systems that underpin daily life, and many of them are needed to achieve the ambitious agenda of Sustainable Development Goal 6 to bring safely managed sanitation to everyone, everywhere by 2030. Yet sanitation workers are often invisible and too often subject to conditions that expose them to the worst consequences of poor sanitation: debilitating infections, injuries, social stigma, and even death in their daily work.

The World Bank

As California Burns, Scientists Search the Smoke for Threats to Firefighter Health

Matt Rahn was about 200 feet away when flames started climbing up the side of the garage and creeping toward the car inside. A wildfire researcher with California State University San Marcos, Rahn was at the edge of a fire that would go on to burn 4,240 acres across California’s Amador and El Dorado counties. He was there to study the smoke rising off blackening shrubs and trees. Watching the garage burn, though, he realized that firefighters fending off flames without any real lung protection were inhaling more than airborne remnants of burnt plants.

Chico Enterprise-Record [Author: Rachel Becker]

How Sustainability Can Increase Worker Safety

Economies all over the world are feeling the pressure to invest in new energy, manufacturing, and construction technologies. The overarching goal is to transition to more environmentally sustainable practices from top to bottom. This is an important moment for the health of the planet. But what about worker health and safety? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that for products to be sustainable, the work must be sustainable as well. True sustainability needs to include worker safety in addition to environmental sustainability.

The Environmental Magazine [Author: Emily Folk]

OSHA Stresses Limits on Computer-Based Training

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) takes employee safety training very seriously, and in support of that commitment the agency recently reinforced its stated policy that online and computer training alone for employees is not adequate to meet federal training requirements. In this age of high-tech wonders, with everyone glued to their smart phones and relying on Google the way they once used Encyclopedia Britannica, it’s not surprising that some employers would be tempted to believe that computer training could be enough to meet the agency’s requirements.

EHS Today [Author: David Sparkman]

Job Flexibility, Control and Salary Play a Role in Worker Health and Safety, Researchers Say

The way your job is structured, how much you’re paid and how flexible your schedule is, among other factors, could affect your health and workplace injury risk, according to the results of a recent study out of the University of Washington. Researchers used 2002-2014 data from the General Social Survey to look at links among employment quality, self-rated health, mental health and workplace injuries.

Safety and Health Magazine

Federal Agency UpdateBack to Top

EPA FY 19 Environmental Justice Report Shows Notable Progress in Vulnerable Communities

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Environmental Justice Progress Report highlighting the agency’s progress in advancing environmental justice for minority, low-income, tribal, and indigenous communities across the country. The FY 2019 Report describes how the Agency is working to meet the needs of vulnerable communities to address disproportionate environmental impacts, health disparities, and economic distress.

EPA Report

Awardee Highlights/Online LearningBack to Top

Trends of Musculoskeletal Disorders and Interventions in the Construction Industry

The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) published their third quarterly data report. This report looks at injuries in the workplace. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are soft-tissue injuries caused by sudden or sustained exposure to repetitive motion, force, vibration, and awkward positions. In addition to discomfort, pain, and physical suffering for injured workers, MSDs have brought financial burdens to workers and their families, employers, and society with loss of income and productivity, increasing medical expenses and workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability payments.

CPWR Report

OH&S SafetyPod: A More Effective Safety Training Experience

In the second episode of OH&S SafetyPod, Editor Sydny Shepard sits down with Mike Holmes, Product Marketing Manager at Honeywell and Chris Waeir, Gas Detection/First Responder Expert at Honeywell. The two regularly find themselves fighting the stigma against the “boring safety trainings” and spoke about how emotion, hands-on training and technology can change the way workers interact with safety.

Occupational Health and Safety

Job OpeningsBack to Top

Casa Latina Seeks Development & Communications Director

Casa Latina is a social justice organization that advances the power and well-being of Latino immigrants through employment, education, and community organizing. The Development & Communications Director (DCD) is responsible for raising and growing revenue to fund Casa Latina’s mission and programs, including a model, day labor worker center. The DCD leads fundraising and communications strategy, managing and executing on diverse revenue streams and powerfully telling the story of Casa Latina’s impact to a broad audience.

Job Announcement

BGA Seeks Policy Advisor

The BlueGreen Alliance (BGA) seeks qualified candidates for the position of Policy Advisor in their Washington, D.C. office. The Policy Advisor will be responsible for designing, coordinating, and implementing legislative and policy efforts around core organizational issues. The Policy Advisor will work in close coordination with BGA national staff and BGA partner organizations to develop and implement BGA’s policy and legislative agenda on a variety of issues, including clean vehicles and technology, manufacturing, trade, and other BGA priorities.

Job Posting

MassCOSH Seeks Full-Time Health and Safety Trainer and Worker Center Organizer

The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) is hiring a health and safety trainer and a worker center organizer. The Health and Safety Trainer helps to lead MassCOSH in meeting its goals for providing worker-oriented training, building the regional health and safety movement and developing working relationships with labor, environmental organizations, government and business. The Worker Center Organizer will provide training and support organizing and advocacy efforts of immigrant workers seeking to address unsafe and unhealthy workplace conditions, discrimination, wage and hour violations, etc.

Health and Safety Trainer Position

Worker Center Organizer Position

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