Total Worker Health Coming to Oregon Department of Corrections

Winds of change are blowing to improve the health and safety of ODOC staff.  Last month with 70 MPH winds and rain blasting the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution Wellness Symposium in Pendleton, Oregon, Dr. Kerry Kuehl presented the occupational health and safety risks associated with corrections work.

Some of the important findings from the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center (OHWC) DOC funded study conducted from 2011-2014 include:

  • 1 out of 2 Correctional Officers (CO’s) have metabolic syndrome (combo of elevated BP and blood sugar, Central Obesity, Dyslipidemia, and Hypertriglyceridemia)
  • High stress related illness and absenteeism rates
  • Highest worker compensation claims of state workers
  • Nationally, corrections work associated with some of the highest PTSD and suicide related deaths

Leading the charge to change the course of these alarming stats are Oregon DOC Director Peters and Deputy Director Morrow.  Mr. Mitch Morrow is on a personal crusade to improve the health and safety of his DOC staff. Mr. Morrow – with 32 years with Oregon DOC, beginning as a correctional officer – knows too well the extreme demands of this work including the negative effects of hypervigilence (always being on guard with elevated cortisol, adrenaline, and high blood pressure). He says this work is taking a toll on his staff and it is time to address the premature mortality occurring 15 years earlier than U.S. adults.  Mr. Morrow opened by stating “we can no longer have a blind eye to these unacceptable health statistics” and is making health promotion and protection of his staff the number 1 priority in 2015.

Corrections Staff with Dr. Kuehl (far right).

Dr. Kuehl and his research team have now toured 7 of the 14 prisons in the state to better understand these occupational risks.  Working with all public safety sector workers, Dr. Kuehl sees corrections research being 20-30 years behind fire and police research, and believes it is essential to focus on this occupational group.

Correctional officers have a unique job of protecting the public from society’s most violent criminals, while at the same time being dedicated to the mission of rehabilitating these inmates for return and productivity to society. DOC staff lay their life on the line every day and bear the brunt of this stress-related occupation.

With a national effort underway from the National Institute of Justice initiated by the NIOSH Total Worker Health Centers, Dr. Kuehl is encouraged corrections work is now a high priority and will receive the necessary resources to study effective interventions on this high risk occupation.

Submitted by Kerry S Kuehl, MD DrPH MS
Professor of Medicine
Chief Division of Health Promotion & Sports Medicine
Director Human Performance Lab
Oregon Health & Science University

OHWC Correctional Officers Project
OccHealthSci Topic Page: Corrections


Happy New Year!

On the Road Again for the Holidays?

Part of that work life balance we all strive to achieve means meeting family and friends, and that often requires time traveling. Sitting at times other than work isn’t good for you either. Here are some tips from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) for staying active when traveling.

Aerobics at the Airport
More and more airports are also getting in on the fitness trend. Some have gone beyond your own making laps around the terminal. For example, The Phoenix Airport offers a 2-mile walking path with views of mountain peaks and Boston’s Logan Airport has a walking path with health checkpoints where you can check your height, weight, blood pressure, and BMI. Download Gate Guru to identify what your airport offers.

Even when you are confined at the gate or on a train, you can exercise. The AICR has a video at, and the Centers for Disease Control also shows and describes a workout for a small spaces.

Rest Stops Where You Can Workout
Apps like USA Rest Stops has information about rest stops, but many state transportation departments highlight the locations and features of each rest area. Look for rest stops with a pet-friendly or picnic table icon – these are more likely to have green areas where you can take a brisk 5- or 10-minute walk before getting back in your car. See the link to rest stops in  Oregon, Washington and California.

Submitted by Diane Elliott, MD, (OHWC Internal Steering Committee Chair)

Aging and Longer Working Careers

Sabine Sonnentag, U of Mannheim, Germany; Donald Truxillo, Portland State University (blog author), Franco Fraccaroli, U. of Trento (conference organizer)

An international conference on occupational safety and health was held earlier this month at the University of Trento, Italy. The University of Trento is a leading research institution in Italy in the areas of psychology and neuroscience, and I’m pleased to be a member of the doctoral training committee there.  Sabine Sonnentag (U. of Mannheim, Germany) and I were asked to give keynote talks at the conference. She spoke about recovery from work, and I focused on one of my passions, ways to address age issues in the workplace.

Because of the economic crisis, Italian workers are facing a number of serious challenges, including job insecurity, delayed retirements even for the most physically demanding jobs, and unemployment rates as high as 50% for people under 25.

A consistent theme at this conference was the challenge facing Italy and other countries where people are suddenly being asked to work much longer than they had planned without adequate support or preparation.  One salient group: People (mostly women) working into their sixties, caring for preschool kids on their own. A typical situation might involve one of these older teachers caring for a group of as many as 25 young kids – singlehandedly. This includes not only the psychological strain of such work, but physical as well, including having to lift and carry their charges throughout the day.

The bureaucratic system does little to accommodate the needs of these older workers. The idea of redesigning a job or moving an older worker into other, less physically demanding government jobs – which might also free up much needed work for younger people – is nearly impossible because of the rules. And because of the economic crisis, there is really no money to provide supports such as aides or other assistance for these teachers. Even requesting to go down to half-time work seems to be difficult. In the end, these workers feel spent, with insufficient time at the end of the day to recover from their grueling jobs.

We already know how important it is for employers to provide flexibility to workers – be it for taking care of non-work needs or helping a dedicated, long-term worker adapt to a difficult situation. And most employers do so if they can. But the other side – extreme inflexibility among some employers – is a deadly situation that we need to pay attention to. This is reality for many people, and it has profound effects on these workers’ emotional and physical health.

Submitted by Donald Truxillo, Ph.D., Oregon Healthy Workforce Center, Portland State University Occupational Health Psychology Program.

OccHealthSci Topic: Aging Workforce

2014 Western Pulp, Paper, & Forest Products Safety & Health Conference Appears to be Going “Viral”

The Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences has been attending this conference for many years, and this year, we noticed something extraordinary. A formerly sleepy conference has taken on new energy and is attracting attendees from as far away as South Carolina and surrounding states. And all participants, from health and safety managers to loggers in the field, showed an eagerness to improve safety in their workplaces.

Perhaps it is because this conference is one of only a few health and safety conferences in the United States addressing the needs of the woods products industry. Or maybe it’s because this conference offered timely topics for both loggers and forest products operators…who knows? Nevertheless, this is great news for those concerned about safety, health and wellbeing in an industrial sector that has traditionally been one of the most hazardous.

We were interested in learning about what most concerns wood products workers in their jobs, so we posed the following questions (see photo): What’s on your mind? What’s of concern in your workplace? The most common expressed concern related to sleep; workers often feel as though they are not able to get enough. Sound familiar? Sleep is a hot topic, because research is showing that abnormal sleep is a major factor in a variety of disease states, including obesity and heart disease, among others. Our institute is conducting a variety of research in this area. The many other concerns posted by participants can be seen in the photo.

And finally, we have to mention our Oregon Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (OR-FACE) program. OR-FACE is producing a wide variety of Tool Box Talks that address workplace fatalities in Oregon and how to avoid them. These were very popular at this conference. You can access and download the OR-FACE Tool Box Talks series on the OR-FACE website.

This conference was a joint effort of the Oregon/Idaho/Utah Pulp & Paper Workers Council of AWPPW, Oregon Occupational Safety & Health Division (Oregon OSHA), the Washington/Alaska Council of AWPPW, the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (DOSH), USW, the pulp and paper manufacturing, and forest products industries.

Online inventory of fall protection devices

Falls from height continue to be the most common cause of construction worker fatality. This is especially true in residential construction. In the latest Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) update, they announced the online inventory of fall protection equipment. The Fall Protection Resource for New Home Construction website was developed by faculty members at Washington University in St. Louis and supported by CPWR through a NIOSH cooperative agreement. It is a catalogue of fall preventions devices utilized in residential construction and contains links to equipment manufacturer/distributor websites. A snapshot  of the 1st page of the website is shown here. The page can be searched by the type of fall protection desired or by the phase of construction applicable to the device.

More information related to fall protection can be found on the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences web resource page.

SERVe Serves Employers of Veterans

Portland State University, in partnership with OHSU and the VA, is working on a $5 million Department of Defense grant offering free training to organizations who want to be the employer of choice for Oregon’s returning veteran population.

The Veteran Supportive Supervisor Training (VSST), developed by Dr. Leslie Hammer and her team focuses on teaching supervisors supportive behaviors and military culture in order to increase veteran job retention.  Dr. Hammer saw a need due to Oregon being the second most deployed state in the last decade and wanted to give organizations and employees a leg up in the reintegration process.

This training will not only bolster an organization’s bottom-line, but facilitate better communication between supervisor and employee, reduce intent to turnover, and ultimately improve work/life balance for the whole organization.

Currently, SERVe (Study for Employment Retention of Veterans) is looking for employers to take part in the free training.  Veterans who work at least 20 hours a week at participating organizations and are post 9/11 can take part in surveys measuring how the training is affecting their work and family life balance; they will be compensated $25 per survey (3 surveys in total).

The list of current participants includes private companies such as Intel, EID Passport and Bend Research, as well as state and local governments: Multnomah and Clackamas Counties among others.  Other participating organizations can be seen at www.

Organizational training recruitment continues through Fall 2015.  Please contact Michelle Matthews, Military Project Coordinator for a packet of information about how to get involved:

Submitted by Michelle Matthews, Portland State University

Look Who is Standing Now

Director Dr. Steven Shea inspects a shipment.

Occupational Health Sciences prioritized the installation of sit-stand work stations for our employees this past year. And as organizations have learned, we had to plan ahead to budget for this process.

Arranging standing options for desk-bound work was an important priority for our overall health and safety – we have closely followed and in some cases added to the research demonstrating the importance of standing and moving during the work day.

Here’s some of what we learned:

  • If funds are limited, prioritize allocation of work stations by total amount of time seated during the day, and personal interest, or develop a rotation plan.
  • Install one or more sit-stand devices in communal areas to give staff an opportunity to test out if this is a good option for them, and to assist with selection of different options.
  • Emphasize best practices for use – most people are best served by a combination of sitting and standing throughout the day: It is generally best to alternate standing and sitting.  So, the stations should be easy to raise or lower.
  • Encourage movement throughout the day. Download our tip sheet: Solutions to Get People Moving.

What’s happening in your workplace?

Sedentary, Stationary and Physically Demanding Work - (symposium recorded on 6/14, available to view at no cost)
Total Worker Health and Wellness Topic
– OccHealthSci online library


OR-FACE Collaborates with Associated Oregon Loggers

Keynote Joe Estey addresses AOL.

According to the Associated Oregon Loggers (AOL), Oregon has 30 million acres of forestland and AOL represents over 1000 member companies statewide that are involved in the harvest and sustainable forest management. This year AOL invited OR-FACE to present at their annual safety conference held on Saturday, November 8, in Eugene, OR.

The forestry/logging industry each year has consistently had high numbers of occupational fatalities.  Since 2003 there have been 91 cases and is second only to the transportation industry for total fatality cases. OR-FACE is pleased to expand collaboration with AOL to further efforts to prevent occupational injuries and fatalities.

The 185 conference attendees were provided information on the available OR-FACE resources and how to access them:  hazard alerts, annual reports, investigation reports, brochures, toolbox talks, and interactive maps.
The newly proposed collaboration between AOL and OR-FACE is a mobile system to promote and evaluate toolbox talks and hazard alerts.  Given that loggers are dispersed and work at remote locations, this proposal will explore utilizing smart phone capabilities to distribute talks and alerts to AOL members who subscribe.

Submitted by Illa Gilbert-Jones, Oregon FACE Program Manager. Contact the OR-FACE Program.

OR FACE Resources:

Hazard Alerts

Annual Reports

Toolbox Talks



Calling all AEDs

You likely know the location of any automated external defibrillators (AEDs) that may be placed in your work facility. But do you happen to know where other AEDs are located in the greater Portland and Vancouver areas?

The Portland Metro HeartMap Challenge is a month-long community scavenger hunt encouraging citizens to map AEDs in the four metro area counties – Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Counties in Oregon and Clark County in Washington. This challenge is being conducted by OHSU’s Department of Emergency Medicine. The HeartMap Challenge is a multi-city community improvement project conducted by the University of Washington in collaboration with local agencies. Learn more about how to add to the inventory, and perhaps win a prize.

Oregon public schools and public buildings meeting certain specifications were required by legislation effective in 2010 to place AEDs in buildings. Immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use of an AED can more than double a victim’s chance of survival. Early defibrillation, along with CPR, is the only way, in many cases of cardiac arrest, to restore the victim’s heart rhythm to normal.

Other Resources: Topic: Emergency Preparedness in the Workplace


Participation Guidelines

Remember: information you share here is public; it isn't medical advice. Need advice or treatment? Contact your healthcare provider directly. Read our Terms of Use and this disclaimer
Visit CROETweb

Visit CROETweb

Follow OHSUOccHealth on twitter

Follow OHSUOccHealth on twitter

Monthly Archives

Yearly Archives