September 6, 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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|Top Stories||Back to Top|
Texas Regulators May Raise the Acceptable Level of a Toxic Chemical. Activists and East Harris County Residents Are Worried.
Many of the primary sources of pollution in Greater Houston converge in east Harris County. The Houston Ship Channel passes through the area, major highways intersect it, and petrochemical plants and refineries border its neighborhoods. The state is considering changes that could increase levels of a toxic gas believed to be responsible for some of the highest cancer risks in the country, particularly in east Harris County, where its production is concentrated. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is proposing raising the acceptable threshold for long-term exposure to ethylene oxide from 1 part per billion to 4 parts per billion. The agency says the proposed new standard is a level that “any person could breathe during the course of a lifetime and not experience a significant increased risk of adverse health effects.” Public comments are due by Sept. 26.
Houston Chronicle [Author: Perla Trevizo]
Louisiana Officials Say They Will Conduct ‘Comprehensive Study’ of Cancer Risks Near Denka Plant
After years of outcry by some neighbors of the Denka neoprene plant in St. John the Baptist Parish, Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration has promised to conduct a “comprehensive study” in conjunction with the state’s tumor registry to establish definitively whether people living in the vicinity of the plant have elevated rates of cancer. Details on the study’s design and timeframe were not immediately available. The Edwards administration notified The Times-Picayune, New Orleans Advocate of its plan Aug. 30. The newspaper had asked if state health or environmental officials — who over the years have often portrayed neighbors’ cancer concerns as overblown — planned to do anything to better understand the risks of living near the plant.
Nola [Author: Gordon Russell]
Energy Department: Progress at Idaho Nuclear Waste Plant
An East Idaho nuclear facility is getting closer to successfully treating high-level liquid radioactive waste stored in tanks above a massive aquifer, federal officials have said. The U.S. Department of Energy said Aug. 27 that tests on liquid that simulates radioactive waste have proven the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit can operate as designed to treat 900,000 gallons of liquid waste. The most recent test lasted 50 days and treated about 62,000 gallons of non-radioactive “simulant” that mimics the liquid radioactive waste.
Key Shaft at U.S. Nuclear Waste Dump May Be Built by 2020
A major part of a multimillion-dollar effort to rebuild a ventilation system at the U.S. government's only underground nuclear waste repository is expected to be done by next year, officials recently announced. The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded a contract for the construction of a utility shaft essential to the project, the Carlsbad Current Argus reports. The shaft was designed with a 26-foot (7.9-meter) diameter, extending 2,275 feet (693 meters) underground. The rebuilt system of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico, is intended to add air to the underground and allow the placement of mining and other waste to occur simultaneously.
Former FEMA Chief Says Agency Is Burdened by “Unrealistic” Disaster Response Expectations
As authorities prepare for a potentially devastating blow from Hurricane Dorian in the Southeast, the former top official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said the agency is burdened by "unrealistic" disaster response expectations, from both lawmakers and the public. "FEMA faces unrealistic expectations by Congress and the American public, and the standards in which we declare major disaster declarations need to be increased," Brock Long, who resigned from his post as FEMA administrator earlier this year, said on "Face the Nation" Sept. 1. Long said that local and state jurisdictions need to step up and help FEMA respond to natural disasters.
CBS News [Author: Camilo Montoya-Galvez]
Labor Law: As We Celebrate Labor Day, Employers Should Set Clear Expectations for Safety and Health
As Americans celebrate Labor Day, some people view the day as an end to summer, engaging with family and friends at the pool and hosting barbecues. While Labor Day for many simply represents a day off work, it was established as a federal holiday in 1894 as a tribute to the contributions of American workers, including advocates who fought for workers’ rights over the years. One of those critical worker rights includes workplace health and safety, enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational and Safety Health Administration. Under the law, employees have a right to a safe and healthy work environment and be free from retaliation for raising workplace safety concerns.
Richmond Times-Dispatch [Author: Karen Michael]
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Bridging Silos: Collaborating for Environmental Health and Justice in Urban Communities
Please join the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Sustainable and Healthy Communities Research Program for a presentation and discussion with Dr. Katrina Korfmacher on her new book about how communities can collaborate across systems and sectors to address environmental health disparities; with case studies from Rochester, New York; Duluth, Minnesota; and Southern California. The event will be held on Sept. 16, 2019 1-2 pm ET at the U.S. EPA-RTP Main Campus in Durham, North Carolina.
Syringe Service Programs: State and Local Perspectives on the Role of Policy, Funding, and Partnerships
The Health and Human Service’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health is hosting a webinar September 16, 2019 from 2:00-3:15 pm ET. This webinar will use examples from state government to showcase effective implementation of syringe services programs (SSPs) through policy and practice. Presenters will highlight experiences in gaining statewide support and community buy-in, crafting policy and bringing it to practice, and building strong partnerships with local communities to support SSP growth. This webinar is the second in a three-part series addressing SSPs, an important community-based prevention program that can save lives, combat the nation’s opioid crisis, reduce the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C and support individuals in accessing substance (SUD)/opioid (OUD) use disorder treatment services.
Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board Public Business Meeting
The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) will convene a public meeting on Tuesday, September 17, 2019, at 11:00 am ET in Washington, DC, at the CSB offices located at 1750 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 910. The meeting is free and open to the public. The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating incidents and hazards that result, or may result, in the catastrophic release of extremely hazardous substances. The agency’s Board Members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents and hazards, including physical causes, such as equipment failure, as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.
HHS and CDC Recommendations to Expand the Use of Naloxone—A Life-saving, yet Underutilized Drug for Reversing Opioid Overdose
About 48,000 drug overdose deaths involved opioids in the United States in 2017. Naloxone is a life-saving drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Despite recent progress in naloxone dispensing, naloxone remains under-prescribed and underused, often in a variable pattern. Healthcare providers and pharmacists play a critical role in ensuring patients receive naloxone, as they have a frontline view and can make progress in prescribing and dispensing of naloxone. The 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain recommends that healthcare providers consider prescribing or dispensing naloxone to patients at risk for overdose. During this Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity Call, clinicians will learn about the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CDC recommendations for the prescribing or dispensing of naloxone to patients at risk for opioid overdose. The webinar is on Tuesday, September 17, 2019 from 2:00-3:00 pm ET.
Upcoming Webinar on Expanded Focus for OSH
Registration is open for the last installment of the 2019 Expanding Research Partnerships Webinar Series! The webinar is on Sept. 18 on the expanded focus for occupational safety and health. Paul A. Schulte, Ph.D., National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Director of the Division of Science Integration, will present “Towards An Expanded Focus for Occupational Safety and Health,” and George Delclos, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., Professor, University of Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health, will present “The Expanded Focus for Occupational Safety and Health (OSH): Implications for Research and Training of OSH Professionals.” The event is 12:00–1:30 p.m. ET.
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.
2019 EPA International Decontamination Research and Development Conference
Whether an industrial accident affecting water, or a viral outbreak such as African Swine Fever, or even a radiological accident like Fukushima, decontamination is one of the critical challenges facing our communities. When communities are faced with recovering from a major chemical, biological, or radiological (CBR) incident, as well as natural disasters such as hurricanes that result in contaminated waste, it is important to have all the relevant research and science available. This conference is designed to facilitate presentation, discussion, further collaboration on research and development, and application of tools and research focused on an all-hazards approach to cleaning up contaminated buildings (both interior and exterior), infrastructure, and other areas/materials. The conference continues to focus strongly on matters involving CBR threat agents, but also includes all hazard elements. The conference brings together researchers, first responders, community leaders and planners, and industry. It will be held November 19-21, 2019 in Norfolk, VA.
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.
|On The Web This Week||Back to Top|
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, and Prolonged Grief Disorder in Families Bereaved by a Traumatic Workplace Death: The Need for Satisfactory Information and Support
The impact of traumatic workplace death on bereaved families, including their mental health and well-being, has rarely been systematically examined. A recent study aimed to document the rates and key correlates of probable posttraumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, and prolonged grief disorder in family members following a workplace injury fatality. The hidden nature of the target population necessitated outreach recruitment techniques, including the use of social media, newspaper articles, radio interviews, and contact with major family support organizations. Data were collected using a cross-sectional design and international online survey.
OSHA Cautions Employers to Focus on Worker Fatigue to Reduce the Risk of Fatigue-related Injuries and Illnesses
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Training Institute Education Center at Chabot-Las Positas Community College District, the only OSHA authorized OTI Education Center headquartered in Northern California, is highlighting an OSHA initiative focused on reducing the risk of workplace injuries and illnesses due to worker fatigue. OSHA's worker fatigue web page features information on the impact of demanding work schedules and provides strategies to help workers and employers reduce fatigue and fatigue-related injuries and illnesses. It's estimated that 13% of workplace injuries can be attributed to fatigue, and 43% of Americans admit they may be too tired to function safely at work.
National Academies Review of Report on Supplemental Low-Activity Waste at Hanford Nuclear Site Now Available for Public Comment
A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine – which reviews a separate report by a federally funded laboratory that examines options for treating low-activity radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation – is available for public comment until Oct. 31. A survey that can be used to comment on the National Academies report or the federally funded laboratory’s report is available online, along with links to both reports. Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state, which produced about two-thirds of the U.S. plutonium stockpile for nuclear weapons between 1944 and 1987, is one of the nation’s largest and most complex nuclear cleanup challenges.
Duty of Care and Health Worker Protections in the Age of Ebola: Lessons From Médecins Sans Frontières
Recent review of the largely WHO-led Ebola response of 2014 to 2015 examined health worker infections and deaths, published in the British Medical Journal. Protecting health workers from preventable illness, disability and death must become a fundamental first step in building resilient health systems capable of planning for and effectively responding to public health emergencies while maintaining core services. The health sector is already known as a ‘high-hazard’ employment zone, even when workers provide routine clinical care under circumstances clearly safer than an emergency response. Beyond the anticipated infectious agents such as tuberculosis and hepatitis that a worker might encounter, other hazard categories include chemical, physical and psychological risks which threaten worker health and safety.
Celebrating 100 Years of Respiratory Protection: Looking Back and Moving Forward
This week, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is celebrating 100 years of respiratory protection as part of its first annual Respiratory Protection Week. This event honors a century of respiratory protection research, evaluation, and testing and celebrates how far we have come in this effort to protect workers. Today an estimated 5 million U.S. workers are required to wear respirators for their jobs. More than 11 million U.S. healthcare workers would need respiratory protection during an infectious respiratory pandemic. Respirators are critical for many workers, and our research helps to inform and improve the design and application of respirators to ensure worker safety and health.
|Federal Agency Update||Back to Top|
CSB Releases New Safety Digest on Worker Participation to Help Prevent Catastrophic Chemical Incidents
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) issued a new safety digest on the value of worker participation to prevent chemical incidents. The digest notes that lack of worker participation was a factor in several major incidents investigated by the CSB because workers and their representatives were not engaged to help identify hazards and reduce risks. The digest discusses four incidents that led to a total of 13 employee deaths, many injuries, and, in one case, 15,000 residents living near the facility seeking medical evaluation. The incidents took place at an explosives manufacturing site, a chemical production facility, and two oil refineries. They occurred in Nevada, Washington, California, and Louisiana. Each of these CSB investigations found that worker participation programs were inadequate, despite the existence of federal regulations and industry standards.
EPA Seeks Input for Hazardous Waste Worker Protections, Incinerator Emissions
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) submitted two information collection requests (ICR) just published in the Federal Register—one for EPA’s Worker Protection Standards for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response, as well as Emission Guidelines for Existing Commercial and Industrial Solid Waste Incineration Units. Both ICRs have been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for review and approval, with public comment periods ending September 30. EPA’s Worker Protection Standards for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response is a proposed extension of the ICR currently approved through August 31. Public comments were previously requested via the Federal Register on November 27, 2018, during a 60-day comment period.
Nanotechnology Research Center Needs Input
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is working with RTI International to distribute a survey to companies that manufacture, distribute, fabricate, formulate, use, or provide services related to engineered nanomaterials. The goal of the survey is to assess the impact of NIOSH's contribution to guidelines and risk mitigation practices for the safe handling of engineered nanomaterials in the workplace. Feedback from this survey will inform NIOSH’s research agenda to enhance relevance and impact on creating guidance to manage nanomaterial workers safety and health. The survey will only take about 20 minutes to complete. If you or someone you know receives an invitation to complete this survey, please know that we look forward to and value your input! If you have any questions, contact Adrienne Eastlake, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Wildfire — A Tragedy Years in the Making, Says Steelman
A warming planet brings drier vegetation, more lightning, and more wildfires. The typical three-month fire season now stretches to nearly a year, according to Toddi Steelman, Ph.D., dean of the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment. That new reality has grave implications for firefighters who now put themselves at risk year-round, she said. Steelman spoke July 23 at a lecture sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Office of the Director.
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Teamsters Seek Industrial Hygienist/Safety Professional
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) is seeking a highly motivated Industrial Hygienist in comprehensive practice to provide technical and regulatory health and safety support to Teamster members and affiliates. The position reports to the Director and Deputy Director of the IBT Safety and Health Department. The successful candidate will have a strong technical background in occupational safety and health and/or transportation safety; create and develop communication materials and work products related to technical, regulatory, and policy issues that are relevant to the Union; possess excellent public speaking and presentation skills; and have comprehensive knowledge of Federal and State regulations relating to occupational safety and health.
Worksafe Seeks Legal Fellow
Worksafe is committed to increasing occupational safety and health (OSH) knowledge in the legal field. Accordingly, we are offering a new or emerging attorney the opportunity to be trained in legislative and administrative policy advocacy, legal support services, and other aspects of public interest practice. The fellow will be mentored by our Legal Team and will become familiar with OSH laws and standards, relevant scientific and technical issues, workers’ compensation law, and other areas of labor and employment law in order to provide legal and strategic advice. They will also be introduced to the social justice legal community and play an important role in coalition efforts to improve health and safety for California workers. The deadline to apply is Sept.18, 2019.
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