Protecting our wildland firefighters

fema photo copy

FEMA Photo Library

I heard a radio interview earlier this week about the challenges facing those fighting wildfires.  A journalist covering the topic shared her belief that it is inevitable that we will lose firefighters in our race to protect forests, structures and the public. Was I alone, wearing my safety professional hat, to be disturbed by this comment? Many of us have been in the safety business long enough to remember when we heard the same comment applied to construction workers working at heights. We know now, that with appropriate planning, training and equipment, no construction worker should die on the job.

As our lands get drier and fires burn hotter, all more closely encroaching on areas where we live and work, what else can we do to best protect these men and women working tirelessly to protect us and the land that we love? I am no fire expert. Traditional emergency response identifies our response priorities to be: 1) life, followed by environment and property or product protection. Most of our firefighters love what they do – and they do it well. Wildland firefighting has always been an unpredictable business – something as common as quick shifting winds creating scary traps.  As we have multiple fires burning for longer periods of time, our resources become strapped. Are we to expect these challenges to become even more difficult to address as our climate gets hotter and drier?

We thank those working so hard to protect what we love. We grieve for Tom, Andrew and Richard, and their families and friends. We are hopeful that safety and incident command experts can help us imagine a time when we don’t believe it inevitable to lose a firefighter during our hot fire seasons.

OccHealthSci subtopic: Wildland Firefighter
Oregon Smoke Information
NIOSH Fighting Wildfires Topic Page

Oregon Building Trades Council is 75!

OreOregon Building Trades 75th year bookgon Building Trades Council celebrated it’s 75th anniversary at the Portland Convention Center on August 20-21.  They are the second oldest building trades council in the US, representing about 25,000 construction workers in 30 affiliated local unions and district councils, and 6 regional councils. They celebrated their history with a book (pictured right) that depicts the leaders and activities over the decades, including construction projects Building Trades members have built such as the Tilicum Crossing bridge and the tram at OHSU.

Their annual meeting began with updates on workers compensation, health care and safety issues. Shown below is their meeting (on right) and the vendors (left) providing information and services.

The signature event was the celebration dinner on Friday evening where Council Executive Secretary John Mohlis (pictured at the podium, below) led the presenters with his stirring endorsement of the value of the Council through its best-in-class training programs that have provided highly skilled workers in the many construction trades over the years.  Over $50M has been invested by industry and labor in Oregon’s joint apprenticeship training programs that train the construction workers.OR Building Trades 75th Celebration Dinnner

Oregon Governor Kate Brown (pictured at the podium, below) led the after-dinner presentations focusing on the many accomplishments of the program.  She particularly featured Oregon Tradeswomen Executive Director Connie Ashbrook and their recent award that will expand their program for women.

OR Governor Kate Brown and OR Building Trades Council 2015 75th year celebration

OR-FACE 2013 Annual Report is out

imageOR-FACE published its 2013 annual report on occupational fatalities in Oregon.

OR-FACE began surveillance over a decade ago and this report includes graphs of cumulative data from 2003 through 2013 as insets of respective graphs for the year. To download the report, go to the OR-FACE website or click on the following URL:

2015 Summer research poster presentation

Congratulations to our eleven research interns, who presented the results of their work in a poster session.

Poster session in progress

Poster session in progress

Summer Student Research Awards are three-month paid summer internships designed to introduce undergraduate students to biomedical and occupational health research across a range of basic and applied research areas. Whether studying molecules, cells, organ systems, non-human organisms, or out gathering data in the community, our students gained valuable experience conducting projects aligned with their host faculty member’s research program.

The 2015 interns were:

Rachael Barton – Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA – Shea Lab
Colin Boehnlein – University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA –Rohlman Lab
Jared Cayton – Oregon State University, Corvallis, WA – Lim Lab
John Donlan – Northeastern University, Boston, MA – Kretzschmar Lab
Aaron Greenfield – University of Oregon, Eugene, OR – Truxillo Lab
Kasey Ha – University of California San Diego, San Diego, CA – Olson Lab
Afsara Haque – University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA – Olson Lab
Christiana Huss – Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR – Turker Lab
Allison Schue – Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR – Anger Lab
Kaycee Smith – Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX – Wipfli Lab
Julia Yu – Emory University, Atlanta, GA – McCullough Lab

*All of the students chosen for the internship program are Oregon residents or attend Oregon schools.

Our 2015 Summer interns.

Our 2015 Summer interns.

Co-winners of the 2015 best poster award, Sara Haque and Kaycee Smith, pose with Institute Director, Steven Shea.

Co-winners of the 2015 best poster award, Sara Haque and Kaycee Smith, pose with Institute Director, Steven Shea.

Jared Clayton describes his research.

Jared Clayton describes his research.

Kasey Ha

Kasey Ha

Kaycee Smith

Kaycee Smith

Steve Shea at Julia Yu's poster

Steve Shea at Julia Yu’s poster

Summer Equity Research Program provides research opportunities

2015 Equity Intern Poster Session

2015 Equity Intern Poster Session

L to R: Amanda McCullough, Eleonora Juarez, Graduate Student in Amanda’s lab, and 2015 Equity Intern, Jose Esquivel, in front of Jose’s poster.

The Summer Equity Internship Program presents an exciting opportunity for underrepresented minority students to spend eight weeks working with OHSU faculty, scientists, and graduate students in a research setting. Equity interns learn new research skills and gain hands-on lab experience in a variety of laboratory settings. This year, Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences faculty Dr. Amanda McCullough, participated as a science mentor to Jose Esquivel. The internship ended with a poster session in which all the interns presented the results from their eight week laboratory experience.

Jose described his experience this way: “If I were to describe these last 8 weeks, I would use the words growth and opportunity. Working in Dr. McCullough’s lab allowed me the opportunity to better understand myself on several levels. I feel that as a lab intern, I have learned a lot about my style of learning and in doing so it has given me a new outlook and appreciation for science and what being a “scientist” really entails. Lab techniques in general were a skill that I did not possess, but I feel that I gained so much more than lab techniques, I have now developed a new mode of thinking. This mode of thinking is invaluable in life, for to really think about what you’re doing, and why you are doing something is to fully understand what may be next. I would highly recommend this experience to anyone who wants to grow and learn about, not only their project, but about themselves. “

See you on September 1?

AHA copyHave you registered yet for the 2015 American Heart Association Worksite Wellness Summit? We are eager to attend again this year as a sponsor and exhibitor. This is a terrific opportunity to connect with others in the region who prioritize healthy workplaces, many of whom have begun initiatives integrating safety with wellness and well-being.

AHA exhibit '14

Staff from the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences and the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center exhibit at the 2014 Summit.

This year’s theme is Building a Culture of Health, with the event to be held at Portland’s Oregon Convention Center. It will kick off with a pre-keynote event to get your body moving and your mind ready to be engaged. Our Institute is pleased to be the sponsor of this pre-event. Then join us as we hear from the keynote presenter, Ryan Picarella, the President of Wellness Council of America (, followed by other presenters, sessions and a full exhibit area.

We appreciate our partners in health, American Heart Association, Worksite Wellness Network, and conference sponsors, for initiating and supporting this great networking event. We hope to see you there! Learn more.

4th Annual Occupational Health Psychology Summer Institute

Peggys CoveThe 3‐day institute hosted this year by Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia featured renowned researchers and practitioners in occupational health psychology, total worker health, and safety research and practice. This fourth annual event was attended by safety and health practitioners, occupational health nurses, human resources/benefits/ training managers, union representatives, and workers’ compensation consultants. Topic included:

  • Finding Solutions to Workplace Burnout presented by Dr. Christina Maslach
  • Interventions to Reduce Work-Life Stress and Improve Health of Workers presented by Dr. Leslie Hammer
  • Leadership, Safety, and Occupational Fatigue presented by Dr. Jane Mullen
  • The Social Context of Burnout and Engagement presented by Dr. Michael Leiter
  • Mental Health Awareness Training presented by Jennifer Dimoff
  • Creating a Climate for Health presented by Dr. Robert Sinclair
  • Understanding the Value of Recognition at Work presented by Dr. Kevin Kelloway
  • Fostering Work-Life Wellness through Resilience presented by Dr. Arla Day
  • Culture First presented by Paul Kells
  • Psychological Standards: What can we Learn from Safety’s Experience presented by Dr. Mark Flemming
leslie 2

Dr. Hammer presents in Halifax.

Starting in 2012, when first hosted by the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center (OHWC) and the Portland State University OHP program, we have been alternating coasts to provide local, regional, and international practitioners and academics the state of the art updates on OHP. Last year the OHWC introduced Total Worker Health to the mix and we plan to continue that focus next year in Portland when we host the 5th Annual OHP-SI July 12-14, 2016 with a current working theme of “OHP Innovative and Creative Strategies leading to TWH.”

Subscribe to Occupational Health Science’s newsletter to stay up to date with our work and events.

Submitted by Leslie Hammer, Ph.D.,  OHWC Associate Director, Project PI

Resources: topic: Total Worker Health and Well-being

Institute postdoc researcher earns investigator award

ThosarSaurabh S. Thosar, Ph.D, a postdoctoral researcher at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences has been awarded the Early Clinical Investigator Award from the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon.

Adverse cardiovascular events such as heart attacks occur most commonly during the early morning hours in the general population. This is also the time when the diurnal rhythm in vascular reactivity is at its lowest point. The goal of this newly funded study is to determine the relative contributions of sleep, physical inactivity and internal circadian rhythms
in the attenuated vascular function during early morning hours.

Dr. Thosar is the principal investigator of this project and Dr. Steven A. Shea is his mentor. Colleagues who will be a part of this research include other institute researchers: Matthew Butler PhD, Michael Lasarev MS, Noal Clemons, Sally Roberts, Alec Berman, and sleep medicine physicians from OHSU (Chad Hagen MD) and the VA Portland Health Care System (Jonathan Emens MD). The work will be performed in a new facility recently built as part of the Oregon Clinical & Translational Research Center at OHSU.

Occupational Health Sciences Director awarded 2.5M grant

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Laboratory Staff of Dr. Steven A. Shea (at far right) L-R: Sally Roberts, Christine Swanson, Saurabh Thosar, Noal Clemons, Matthew Butler

Steven A. Shea, Ph.D., Director, Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences and colleagues were awarded $2.5M from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the role of the internal body clock on cardiovascular risk.

Adverse cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and sudden cardiac death occur most commonly, on average, at about 9 AM in the general population, but most frequently at around 3 AM in people with obstructive sleep apnea. The goal of the newly funded study is to determine if the internal body clock affects cardiovascular function differently in people with sleep apnea compared to healthy people, perhaps explaining the different timing of adverse events in people with sleep apnea.

Dr. Shea is the principal investigator of this project and his colleagues on the award include other Institute researchers: Matthew Butler PhD, Saurabh Thosar PhD, Michael Lasarev MS, Noal Clemons, Sally Roberts, Alec Berman, and sleep medicine physicians from OHSU (Chad Hagen MD) and the VA Portland Health Care System (Jonathan Emens MD). The work will be performed in a new facility recently built as part of the Oregon Clinical & Translational Research Center at OHSU.

Let’s avoid getting stressed over heat

heatfireheatworkerOK – now that the extremely hot weather has (temporarily) passed, let’s not let our guard down about heat-related illness. Many workers do not have the option of getting out of the sun during the hottest time of the day, and it is important to remember that the best way to prevent heat-related illness is to keep workers cool and hydrated throughout the day.

There are many risk factors that can affect a worker’s heat tolerance. Risk factors include high air temperatures and humidity, direct sun exposure, indoor radiant heat sources such as ovens or other equipment, limited air movement, physical exertion, not drinking enough fluids (dehydration), personal protective equipment or clothing, certain medications, physical condition, lack of acclimatization, and advanced age.

So what to do? First, it may be wise to consult your healthcare provider if you think you have any risk factors that predispose you to heat illness. These may include the use of medications, chronic or ongoing disease conditions, advanced age (65+), or if you have a previous history of heat illness.

And even if you are perfectly healthy, always take care to remain hydrated. NIOSH recommends that for moderate activity in moderate conditions, each worker should drink 1 cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes. Workers should be reminded to drink water frequently before becoming thirsty in order to maintain good hydration.

While some workers may prefer the taste of sports drinks, often these types of drinks are not necessary for electrolyte replacement. Workers who eat regular meals and salt-containing snacks will usually be able to replace electrolytes lost during sweating. Energy drinks and other caffeinated drinks should be avoided. In addition to providing plenty of water in convenient locations close to the work site, employers can provide urine color charts near toilet facilities. These charts show the urine colors of a hydrated person compared to a dehydrated person. The darker the urine, the more likely you are dehydrated.

Above all….be prepared. The best preparation is to educate yourself about heat-related illness. A lot of information on heat illness can be found on our Occupational Health Sciences Web Resource site. Here you will find a variety of useful information on the causes of heat illness and prevention strategies. And finally, don’t forget that sun exposure is a major risk factor for skin cancer, so slather on plenty of sun screen several times daily when working outdoors. Here is some Oregon-specific information on heat stress and sun exposure, including en Español.

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