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Your Environment. Your Health.

NIEHS WTP: September 20, 2019 Newsbrief

Weekly E-Newsbrief, September 20, 2019

Weekly E-Newsbrief

September 20, 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

Three Firefighters and Maintenance Worker in Critical Condition After Deadly Farmington Explosion

Four of the seven people who were injured in the Sept. 16 explosion in Farmington that killed a fire captain are in critical condition at hospitals in Portland and Boston. Maine Medical Center announced that Farmington fire Chief Terry Bell, Capt. Scott Baxter and his father, Theodore Baxter, are in critical condition, while Capt. Timothy Hardy and Joseph Hastings are in fair condition. The building’s maintenance manager, Larry Lord of Jay, is in critical condition at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. A sixth firefighter was treated at a Farmington hospital Monday and released.

Bangor Daily News [Authors: Caitlin Andrews and Christopher Burns]

Preparation Is Key in Caring for Loved One With Alzheimer’s During a Natural Disaster

In a 2018 study, family caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, known as ADRD, said that while they had experienced a natural disaster previously, none had done so in a caregiving role. The study is titled, “A perfect storm: Challenges encountered by family caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease during natural disasters”. Family caregivers were interviewed about their experience with South Carolina floods in 2015, but researchers have moved to examine best practices for disaster response for the elderly and aging populations since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Houston Chronicle [Author: Julie Garcia]

Union Leaders, Elected Officials Vow to Extend Worker Protections to Public Sector Employees

Thousands of public sector workers in Pennsylvania do not have on-the-job health and safety protections, so local union leaders are urging state lawmakers to support a bill that would change that. About 100 union workers, organizers and elected officials rallied in the portico of the City-County Building in Downtown Pittsburgh on Sept. 11, asking lawmakers to move on the Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health Act — or the Jake Schwab Worker Safety Bill, named after an Erie mechanic who died on the job.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [Author: Ashley Murray]

Purdue Pharma, Drugmaker Accused of Fueling the Opioid Epidemic, Files for Bankruptcy

Purdue Pharma, the drug manufacturer accused of triggering the nation’s epidemic of opioid addiction through its sale of the profitable but highly addictive painkiller OxyContin, filed for bankruptcy Sept. 15. The Chapter 11 filing is expected to lead to the ultimate demise of a company that sold a fraction of the opioid prescriptions in the United States but nonetheless is most closely identified with the epidemic because of its pioneering role in the sale of narcotic pain pills.

Washington Post [Author: Christopher Rowland]

Agency Could Keep Three Mile Island Nuclear Debris in Idaho

The partially melted reactor core from the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history could remain in Idaho for another 20 years if regulators finalize a license extension sought by the U.S. Energy Department, officials said Sept. 16. The core from Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania partially melted in 1979, an event that changed the way Americans view nuclear technology. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has determined there would be no significant impact from extending the license to store the core at the 890-square-mile (2,305-square-kilometer) site that includes Idaho National Laboratory.

Associated Press [Author: Keith Ridler]

Workers Who Die in Accidents to Be Named in Safety Probes Again

The names of workers who died in industrial chemical accidents will again be named in federal investigative reports. The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), which stopped naming the workers because doing so implied fault in their deaths, announced Sept. 17 that it reversed a stance it adopted earlier in the summer. The CSB first changed its policy in June when it released reports on the 2014 Pryor Trust gas well blowout in Oklahoma and the 2018 DuPont fertilizer plant chemical release in La Porte, Texas.

Bloomberg Environment [Author: Fatima Hussein]

DHS Official to Congress: Letting Program Lapse Leaves Chemical Plants Prone to Terrorism

Chemical plants could be vulnerable to attacks if a program regulating how the industry handles terror threats expires next year, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official warned Sept. 11. The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program is set to officially sunset in April 2020, prompting concern from industry executives, administration officials and lawmakers. Enacted in 2007, CFATS applies to more than 33,000 facilities that store any chemical on a list of more than 300 substances that could be used to create an explosive device.

Washington Times [Author: Jeff Mordock]

She Begged Them to Take His Police Weapon

For more than two months, Eileen Echeverria, the sister of a New York City Police Department officer, pleaded with department supervisors to take away her older brother’s service weapon. She believed he was dangerously unraveling under emotional problems and crippling debt. Her fears were realized: When they got to the house, the detectives confirmed that her brother, Robert Echeverria, 56, had shot himself in his home in Laurelton, Queens, and had died at a nearby hospital. Robert Echeverria’s death on Aug. 14 was the ninth officer suicide this year in New York City, a record for a department that has struggled to identify troubled officers in its ranks and direct them toward help.

The Daily Gazette [Author: Edgar Sandoval]

Calendar FeaturesBack to Top

American Lung Association and NEHA Host Two Webinars

The American Lung Association and the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) are hosting two webinars on extreme storms and flooding on Sept. 24. Both webinars will give an overview of the health impacts of extreme storms and flooding, including lung health impacts, and practical tips from local environmental health professionals. Extreme Storms, Flooding, and Health Impacts: Guidance for Environmental Health Professionals on the Ground is 1:00-2:00 p.m. ET and is geared for environmental health professionals and the communities they serve. Extreme Storms, Flooding, and Health Impacts: Overview for the Health and Policy Professionals is 3:00-4:00 p.m. ET and is targeted for Congressional staff and members of the broader health policy community.

Extreme Storms, Flooding, and Health Impacts: Guidance for Environmental Health Professionals on the Ground Webinar

Extreme Storms, Flooding, and Health Impacts: Overview for the Health and Policy Professionals Webinar

CPWR Webinar: An Overview of Health Hazards Associated with the Aftermath of Hurricanes

The U.S. has experienced a number of severe hurricanes and other natural disasters over the last couple decades. In response, The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) operates a Disaster Response Training program with North America's Building Trades Unions that prepares skilled construction workers to safely use their skills in support of disaster response efforts, restoring essential services and removing hazards without interfering with the vital activities of first responders. The webinar will be held on Sept. 26 at 1:00 pm ET.

Webinar Registration

After the Storm: Equitable Recovery and Resilient Adaptation

The webinar is part of the Urban Waters Learning Network series on climate and community resilience. This session will focus on two organizations that work to build resilience as part of recovery and adaptation, while also facing displacement pressures and inequities. The speakers include Yvette Chen of the Fair Share Housing Center and Arthur Johnson of the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development. The webinar will be held on Oct. 9 at 1:00-2:00 pm ET.

Webinar Registration

2019 EPA International Decontamination Research and Development Conference

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 chemical, biological, or radiological (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 in Norfolk, VA.

Conference Details

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 in Baltimore.

Conference Registration

On The Web This WeekBack to Top

Protecting Outdoor Workers from Wildfire Smoke

A new California Division of Occupational Safety and Health emergency regulation, effective July 29, requires that when the Air Quality Index is 151 or higher due to wildfire smoke, employers must: Allow workers to work indoors in effectively filtered buildings when feasible; or relocate workers to areas with better air quality; or provide outdoor workers with approved respirators, such as N95 respirators. Employers must also check air quality at outdoor work sites at the start of each shift when they anticipate workers may be exposed to smoke.

California Department of Health

Two Urban Waters Learning Network Webinars

The Urban Waters Learning Network launched a webinar series on community resilience: community-based climate resilience planning. Community members who are most vulnerable to climate impacts are in the best position to make decisions about how to be better prepared. Their two recent webinars, Building Community Resilience: Climate Change Education as a First Step and Centering the Community in Resilience Planning are now available online. The webinar provides a framework for raising community voices and provides examples of resiliency plans that benefit the most vulnerable areas in our cities.

Building Community Resilience: Climate Change Education as a First Step

Centering the Community in Resilience Planning

The Office of Environmental Management Story Video

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management released a video on the history of the office. The video talks about its mission to address the nation’s Cold War environmental legacy resulting from five decades of nuclear weapons production and government-sponsored nuclear energy research. This legacy includes some of the world’s most dangerous radioactive sites with large amounts of radioactive wastes, spent nuclear fuel, excess plutonium and uranium, thousands of contaminated facilities, and contaminated soil and groundwater.

DOE YouTube Page

NIOSH Examines Hospital, Ergonomic, Opioid Hazards

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) fielded 221 requests for Health Hazard Evaluations (HHEs) in 2018, according to a recently released annual report. The 34 HHE reports published last year examined hazards ranging from hospital disinfectants and repetitive pharmacy tasks to emergency responders’ exposure to opioids. NIOSH teams performed 32 site inspections, visiting 29 workplaces in 18 states.

Safety BLR

UK Health Officials Launch New Infectious Disease Strategy

In response to rising antibiotic resistance, the re-emergence of vaccine-preventable diseases, and the spread of novel pathogens around the globe, Public Health England (PHE) announced a new 5-year strategy aimed at strengthening the agency's ability to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious diseases. The strategy includes a focus on containment and control of antibiotic-resistant infections. PHE said its national reference laboratory has identified 19 novel antibiotic-resistance mechanisms from patient clinical samples in the United Kingdom over the past decade, and 32 bacterial samples that were resistant to all antibiotics over the last 5 years.


Washington State, Feds Plan ‘Holistic’ Talks on Hanford Waste Disposal

Washington state and federal officials are ready for negotiations on “a holistic and realistic path forward” on the schedule for disposal of radioactive tank waste stored at the U.S. Energy Department’s (DOE) Hanford Site, the top official at the facility said in a letter. Brian Vance, DOE manager for both the Richland Operations Office and the Office of River Protection at Hanford, on Sept. 18 formally agreed to negotiations with senior representatives from the Washington state Department of Ecology.

Exchange Monitor [Author: Wayne Barber]

Federal Agency UpdateBack to Top

U.S. Department of Labor Selects New Director For OSHA’s Construction Directorate

The U.S. Department of Labor has selected Scott Ketcham as the new director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Directorate of Construction (DOC) in Washington, D.C. Ketcham had served as deputy director of DOC since February 2017. Prior to coming to OSHA’s national office, Ketcham worked for 19 years as an OSHA acting deputy regional administrator, area director, assistant area director, and compliance officer and manager in offices in the Seattle, Dallas and Philadelphia regions. Before joining OSHA, he spent five years as a staff industrial hygienist with the U.S. Army Medical Activity at Bassett Army Hospital on Ft. Wainwright, Alaska. He retired from the U.S. Army after 24 years of active and reserve service.


EPA Awards $6 Million to Research Potential Environmental Impacts of PFAS Substances in Waste Streams

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced approximately $6 million to fund research by eight organizations to expand the understanding of the environmental risks posed by per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in waste streams and identify practical approaches to manage the potential impacts as PFAS enters the environment. EPA’s recently released PFAS Action Plan identifies both short-term solutions for addressing PFAS chemicals and long-term strategies that will help provide the tools and technologies states, tribes and local communities need to clean up sites and provide clean, safe drinking water to their residents.


Awardee Highlights/Online LearningBack to Top

An Interview With Yanira Merino, LIUNA’s National Immigration Coordinator

Yanira Merino is a proud member of Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) and works as the Union’s National Immigration Coordinator. Last year, Merino made history as the first woman and immigrant to win election as president of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA). It is a continuation of the work she has been doing since the 1990s—as an advocate for workers, immigrants, unionism, and economic and social justice. LIUNA sat down with Ms. Merino to discuss the state-of-affairs, her work, and one thing we should consider during National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15th to October 15th).


Job OpeningsBack to Top

CPWR Announces Career Opportunities

The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) supports construction safety and health research and drives efforts to put research findings into practice on job sites. CPWR is currently looking to fill various positions in program support, communications, and research. This includes a full-time Program Assistant opportunity within their Opioid-Related Harms initiative. CPWR is undertaking a new set of activities to address the high rate of opioid-related deaths among construction workers.


NNU Seeks Health and Safety Representative

National Nurses United (NNU), the nation’s largest union and professional association for nurses, seeks a Health and Safety Representative for a position based in the San Francisco Bay area. NNU leads the bedside nurses’ movement to transform the market-driven healthcare industry in the United States into a healthcare system driven by patient needs. The representative will serve as a general resource on work-related health and safety issues, appropriate and effective employer prevention measures, and occupational and environmental health advocacy issues for the organization.

Job Posting

NENYCOSH Is Looking to Hire an Outreach and Training Coordinator

Northeast New York Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NENYCOSH) provides training and technical assistance on a wide range of occupational health and safety topics. NENYCOSH is looking to hire an outreach and training coordinator. The outreach and training coordinator will conduct outreach to local organizations, non-profits, and unions to collaborate in offering workplace health and safety trainings to populations of vulnerable workers, and coordinate various aspects of the trainings, including scheduling training, securing space for the trainings, and communicating with the host organization to schedule trainings.

Job Posting

UCLA-LOSH Seeks HazMat Trainer/Coordinator

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program (LOSH) is seeking an experienced hazmat professional. LOSH leads the NIEHS-funded HazMat Training Consortium. The HazMat Trainer/Coordinator will oversee Southern California training initiatives to protect workers who handle hazardous materials, clean up hazardous waste, and respond to emergencies. S/he coordinates LOSH’s program of quality courses that meet the needs of workers covered by OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard and related state and federal standards.

Job Announcement

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