The Institute’s 2012-2013 Biennial Report is now available. Find out more about who we are, what we do and what we have been up to the last two years by downloading the Report from our Publications page.
Temporary workers often lack consistent workplace safety protections. This has been discussed at a recent Occupational Health Sciences symposium, as well as at Oregon Construction Advisory Committee meetings.
This week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute of Occupational Health Sciences released recommendations for host employers to better protect this group of workers. Upon the launching of OSHA’s Temporary Worker Initiative last year, OSHA received reports and investigated cases of temporary workers suffering serious or fatal injuries, often within the first few days of a job. OSHA and NIOSH assert in the new guidance, that “all workers always have a right to a safe and healthy workplace, whether temporary or permanent.”
Key provisions of the new recommendations:
- Evaluate the Host Employer’s Worksite
- Train Agency Staff to Recognize Safety and Health Hazards (i.e., staffing agencies)
- Ensure Employer Meets or Exceeds Other Employer’s Standards
- Assign Occupational Safety and Health Responsibilities and Define the Scope of the Contract
- Injury and Illness Tracking
- Conduct Safety and Health Training and New Project Orientation
- Injury and Illness Prevention Program; Assessments; Investigations
- Maintain Contact with Workers
We are hopeful that implementation of these guidelines together with other initiatives and measures will better protect this group of workers. Access the recommended practices.
Learn more about Occupational Health Sciences summer intern program.
How lucky we are to work with such bright, energetic college students each summer. Our 2014 summer interns are no exception! A summer highlight for our staff is the presentation of research posters by each of our summer interns, of which we had 14 this year.
Our summer student research awards are three-month paid internships designed to introduce college undergraduate students to various fields of biomedical and occupational health research. All selected students are either Oregon residents or attend Oregon schools. Visit our blog next week to learn about all 14 interns and their projects. Read poster abstracts.
Skin cancer is becoming a young person’s disease, with melanoma (the most deadly kind of skin cancer) being the 2nd most common form of cancer for people aged 15-29. What’s more, reducing exposure to the sun is a preventable risk factor that can reduce a person’s risk of getting the disease. But as we know, it’s not easy to get people to permanently change their health behaviors.
However, there are many educational strategies that can be successful in changing health behaviors. I’d like to turn to Patient H, a case study showing how an intervention program drastically improved a young worker’s attitude and behavior towards sun safety. Even though Patient H began the intervention with many misconceptions about UV radiation, tans, and sun protection, the intervention was wildly successful in permanently changing her behaviors.
How do I know so much about Patient H? Because Patient H is me! I used to be pretty bad when it came to sun safely. When I was younger, I prided myself on not having to wear sunscreen because of my brown skin. While I never succumbed to the tanning bed, I could certainly be found lying out in the sun throughout our precious summer months. And on cloudy days, it would never even occur to me to use sunscreen.
Since beginning this internship at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences, I’ve changed my ways (a public health miracle!): I have started wearing sunscreen everyday (even on cloudy days), could care less about having an even tan (I’d rather be patchy than skin cancer-y, thank you), and I even bought a pink parasol for portable shade (which I have already gotten a compliment on).
As a “sun safety” intern, it’s been my job to develop sun safety trainings for young workers. To do this, I’ve had to learn as much as I can about skin cancer and sun safety. After learning as much as I have, it just makes sense to protect my skin from the sun. I had to discover much of this information on my own, so I feel a sense of ownership and responsibility to understanding it fully. Having knowledge about sun safety, from how often to reapply sunscreen to the way UV rays damages DNA, feels empowering and has influenced me to make a personal decision to take care of my skin.
While not everyone can have an OHSU summer internship, I think there’s something to having people educate themselves via teaching others. It’s like a covert way of getting someone to learn about something: no one made me learn all this stuff about skin cancer and sun protection, but I needed to know it to be able to help others, which has made me think about my own behaviors and how I should change them. Perhaps in the future we can create programs that employ high school students and young adults to teach younger children about sun safety, which I believe would be effective in educating both groups. When it comes to educating about sun safety, it seems to me that we should look for the double whammy!
 Bleyer A, O’Leary M, Barr R, Ries LAG (eds): Cancer epidemiology in older adolescents and young adults 15 to 29 years of age, including SEER incidence and survival: 1975-2000. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2006.
Portland was the location of the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America national Safety & Health Committee Meeting held July 16-18, 2014, and I was fortunate to be asked to present information about the toxicology of crystalline silica at one of their sessions. The AGC is dedicated to construction safety and health and plays an active role in improving safety and health through participation in the development of regulatory and legislative activity at both the national and local level as well as assisting in the development and creation of new safety training programs and products. Members attended this year’s meeting from all across the nation.
Among the highlights of the meeting was a presentation by Dr. John Gambatese from the Oregon State University School of Civil and Construction Engineering titled From Research to Practice: A Collaborative Approach to Construction Safety. Oregon OSHA administrator Michael Wood gave a particularly effective address on construction safety from the OSHA perspective. I participated in a panel discussion on the Federal OSHA’s proposed new silica standard. OSHA is considering whether to reduce the crystalline silica exposure standard in order to reduce the incidence and risk for silicosis and associated occupational diseases. I, along with Oregon AGC chapter member Alden Strealy and Oregon OSHA’s Chris Ottoson, presented information on the toxicology of silica (presented by Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Science’s Dr. Fred Berman), silica prevalence and exposure prevention (presented by Alden Strealy) and different aspects of the proposed rule changes (presented by Chris Ottoson). Discussion and questions following the panel presentation demonstrated significant concern about the feasibility of implementing the proposed changes. For example: how difficult would it be to accurately measure crystalline silica under the myriad conditions that exist at construction sites? Will the proposed rules place an unreasonable burden on small construction businesses? Or, Will the new standard actually reduce the incidence of disease caused by crystalline silica? Hopefully, answers to these and other questions regarding the proposed changes to the silica standard will be made clear as Federal OSHA advances through its rules process. We would like to thank the AGC of Oregon for asking us to contribute to their efforts and for allowing us the use of their facilities in Wilsonville for safety-related meetings, such as planning for the upcoming GOSH conference.
Here is a link to information on silica from our web resource page.
We recently heard about two terribly tragic young worker fatalities in Washington and in Calgary.
The first, a fifteen-year-old working near a gravel crusher, had held the job for only a month and a half. Although being investigated by Alberta Occupational Safety and Health, a co-worker reported that the victim was operating a piece of heavy equipment when something went wrong. The second fatality, in Washington State, was a nineteen-year-old working as part of a three-person team blowing bark who fell into an auger.
Sadly, there is not a single miracle solution to keep people safe at work. Certainly important starting points include effective safety and health training provided to all employees prior to beginning work.
SAIF Corporation has created fact sheets and tools to help Oregon employers effectively train and provide safe and healthy workplaces for all employees, including those who are young or new to a job. Most recently released is an 11-minute webinar titled Young Workers, Old-School Training which is freely available online. Check it out and see what you think – and share it with employers. Also visit SAIF’s Young Worker page to view other resources, including Young Worker, Smart Strategies fact sheets. Also accessible on this page are fact sheets created by O[yes], targeted directly to young workers and their parents. Finally, for even more resources, visit the Young Worker page on our Occupational Health Sciences Library (or CROETweb).
The Oregon Health Workforce Center (OHWC) presented the first ever National Symposium on Corrections Worker Health last Tuesday (July 15) followed by the Third Annual Occupational Health Psychology Summer Institute (July 16-18) at Portland State University with added support from the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences (at Oregon Health & Science University). These major national meetings drew in 75-80 people.
The Corrections meeting was designed to identify major health problems in Corrections and to develop a research agenda to address those problems. The meeting was keynoted by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Deputy Director Margaret Kitt and National Institute of Justice Social Science Analyst Marie Garcia. Pictured at the podium is the Symposium co-Director Dr. Kerry Kuehl of the OHWC and OHSU. Dr. Martin Cherniack of the Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace (at the University of Connecticut) was the other co-Director; he gave the lead presentation of the symposium.
The Summer Institute led by Director Leslie Hammer, PhD, of Portland State University was divided into Theory and Research, the intersection of research and practice: Total Worker Health (led by Dr. Kent Anger, OHWC Director) and keynoted by Dr. Laura Punnett of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, while the final day was devoted to practical interventions in the workplace. Most of the speakers at the Summer Institute are pictured below.
Below are pictures of speakers not in the group picture above.
Below is a picture of Steve Hecker who was honored for his 3 years in the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center as one of Oregon’s finest; Steve is retiring from the Center in 2014.
Lastly is a picture of the Directors and Associate Directors of the four NIOSH-sponsored Total Worker Health Centers who attended the Total Worker Health day at the Summer Institute answering questions from the audience.
A web cast of the Corrections Symposium and the Practice day of the Summer Institute will be available on the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center web site in late July.
Safety and health professionals in Oregon are lucky to have the opportunity to join one of several chapters of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE). If you aren’t already a member, you might consider how this association can help you network with others, keep abreast of what’s new in our field, and help strengthen your organization’s health and safety efforts. Oregon ASSE chapters include Columbia-Willamette, including Santiam and St. Helens sections, Cascade (Eugene), and Southern Oregon.
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Columbia-Willamette Chapter was recognized last month as the 2012-2013 recipient of the Large Chapter of the Year Award. By receiving this award, the chapter was identified as a leader amongst the 151 ASSE chapters throughout the world, with regard to professional development, chapter communication and service to members. I am pleased to be a member of this organization, and I sincerely thank those dedicated members holding officer and leadership appointments. Charging ahead, we look forward to the 2015 Oregon Governor’s Occupational Safety & Health Conference (GOSH), a joint effort between ASSE Columbia-Willamette, Oregon OSHA, and Oregon and SW Washington industries and labor.
We also offer our congratulations to Deb Fell-Carlson who was recognized by the Columbia-Willamette Chapter as the 2013-14 Safety and Health Professional of the Year (SPY). Deb is the Policyholder Safety and Wellness Adviser at SAIF Corporation. Most safety and health professionals in Oregon have likely heard Deb present on topics related to safety, health and wellness as she makes her rounds as a dynamic and knowledgeable speaker. Here at Occupational Health Sciences and the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center we appreciate Deb as an active collaborator and partner in our initiatives.
If you haven’t already attended a local ASSE meeting or joined ASSE, now is a great time to do it! And if you are an ASSE member and are interested in health and wellness, join our open call meeting to learn more about the ASSE Health and Wellness Branch this Friday, July 11 at 9 AM Pacific Time.
Most of us are pretty sure we know how to protect ourselves in the sun. Use sunscreen when it’s hot and sunny, try not to get a sunburn, wear a hat, and so on. But we live in Oregon, home of the cloudy day and liquid sunshine. And if it’s cloudy, there’s no reason to bother with all that sun protection business, right? The clouds will protect us?
While I’ve heard this from so many Oregonians, it’s actually a big misconception. Ultraviolet radiation, the invisible rays that come from the sun and can do nasty thing like prematurely age your skin and cause skin cancer, can go right through clouds. It’s actually the UV rays, not the warmth or brightness of the sun, that can cause your skin to burn, and wearing sunscreen would prevent that from happening.
But when the clouds roll in, most of us would never think to put on sunscreen to protect our skin. Because why would you wear sunscreen on a cloudy day? Believe me, as an Oregonian, I understand the dissonance.
That’s why when I came across a product that had rebranded their sunscreen to incorporate clouds into the name, I was impressed that it would remind us that we need protection from UV rays even on cloudy days. And seeing that Oregon is consistently in the TOP 5 for highest rates of melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) in the U.S., it might actually save lives.
CROETweb Sun Exposure topic