Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences Participates in 2014 OPHA Capitol Visit Day

On February 20, 2014, the Oregon Public Health Association (OPHA) sponsored Capitol Visit Day, an educational and advocacy event that offered the chance for constituents to meet Oregon’s policy and public health leaders from around the state. Participants learned about public health-related bills that the legislature has been considering during the 2014 session and were offered the opportunity to share their views with leadership in the Oregon Senate and House.

This year, the primary focus of the OPHA was tobacco and obesity, the two leading preventable causes of death and disability nation wide. From the perspective of others and myself at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences, these issues have strong ties to the workplace. Because we as citizens spend nearly half our waking hours at work, it must be recognized that tobacco use and obesity (with associated diseases of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, etc.) are intimately associated with pressures the workplace imposes on our ability to make healthy lifestyle choices. Abnormal work schedules and sleep cycle disturbance, sedentary work duties, job stress, workplace culture, all can either directly or indirectly promote obesity and tobacco use.

When I spoke with my Oregon state senator, I stressed approaching these health issues holistically from the standpoint of Total Worker Health (TWH). This is how we at Occupational Health Sciences are addressing these important public health issues. In the long run, promoting healthy lifestyles at work as well as at home will ultimately help reduce the costs of healthcare in the Unites States.

By the way, Occupational Health Sciences is sponsoring our Spring Symposium June 5, 2014, titled Sedentary, Stationary and Physically Demanding Work: Health Consequences and Workplace Solutions. Click the above link for more information.

Click here for information on  Total Worker Health and the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center.

Capping Needlestick Injuries

Photo credit: NIOSH

Last week I talked with someone who had just experienced a needlestick injury at work. She was devastated, embarrassed and frightened that it had happened to her. Though she had completed training on bloodborne pathogens, she had never actually been trained to remove the needle from the device she was using. Thankfully for her, she had been vaccinated for Hepatis B, and this week learned that the source blood didn’t carry HIV, or Hep B or C.

Nearly 400,000 U.S. healthcare workers experience accidental needlestick injuries every year – with some estimating an even higher number. This likely doesn’t account for the smaller number that may occur in research. OSHA’s bloodborne pathogen and needlestick prevention standard requires employers to implement an exposure control plan for the worksite that details employee protection measures. This plan should include both engineering, such as using safer medical devices like needleless devices and shielded needle devices, and work practice controls to reduce or eliminate exposures. And this includes, of course, evaluating and selecting appropriate safer needle devices and training staff on how to safely and effectively use those devices.

Most needlestick injuries result from unsafe needle devices rather than carelessness by health care workers. We know that safer needle devices have been shown to significantly reduce needlesticks and potential exposure to diseases carried by the blood. Recognize that needlestick injuries can also cause significant psychological distress, even if the injury doesn’t result in exposure to a disease. At least one study has found people who suffer sharps injuries may also endure substantial or persistent psychiatric illness or depression often associated with the time it takes for the victim to learn the outcome of their blood testing.

So what can you do? Evaluate your exposure control plan – especially the training that staff are getting. Review your records and check in with your staff to see how well this hazard is controlled in your workforce. And as always – look for ways to take your program to the next level.

OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogen & Needlestick Prevention topic page
Oregon OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogen topic page
Bloodborne Pathogens on CROETweb


Talking Safety Comes to Town: A few spaces left

Looking for new ways to connect with youth and younger workers about workplace safety? There’s still space in the February 26 Train-the-Trainer Class on Youth@Work: Talking Safety.

This specific session is designed for safety and health professionals, or those with some safety background, and is co-sponsored by O[yes], ASSE Columbia-Willamette Chapter, SafeBuild Alliance and the Construction Safety Summit as the February ASSE professional development course.

The Youth@Work: Talking Safety curriculum was developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as an interactive, classroom-based curriculum to help young workers and youth better know how to recognize and protect themselves from workplace hazards, and how to speak up effectively on-the-job. The curriculum is state-specific and available publicly online. Class attendees  will receive an electronic version of the curriculum and  learn how to use the interactive exercises and games in a group setting. Instructors will include Laurel Kincl of Oregon State University, Helen Moss of LERC at University of Oregon, and Dede Montgomery (Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences). All three instructors are active members of O[yes].

The goal of this class is to better equip safety and health professionals, and other youth mentors, with training modules and materials to use when interacting with and instructing young workers, employers, and student and youth groups. The class is set for Wed., Feb. 26, 2014 from 9 AM to Noon at the Wilsonville Training Center (affiliated with Clackamas Community College) located at 29353 SW Town Center Loop East in Wilsonville, Oregon. The cost to attend is $20 and registration is required.  Contact Shelly Ward to register or Dede Montgomery to learn more about the training. Download the flier

ASSE, SafeBuild Alliance and CSS members are particularly encouraged to attend. Thanks to all of the sponsors for supporting this event!

More information:
CROETweb: Young Workers Topic Page

O{yes], Oregon Young Employee Safety Coalition
ASSE Columbia-Willamette Chapter
SafeBuild Alliance



Oregon Healthy Workforce Center Advisory Committee Meeting Talks Future Directions

The Oregon Healthy Workforce Center (OHSC) External Advisory Committee assessed the 6 interventions (some call these solutions) in Oregon workplaces to improve safety, health, wellness and well-being as ‘impressive’ in that they had been conducted so quickly after funding and had recruited and retained sizable workforce samples (over 750 participants) from construction, corrections, home care, parks and recreation (young) workers, and workers with disabilities.  The OHWC is a NIOSH-funded Total Worker Health Center of Excellence.

Are They Effective?
These projects are actively collecting data after the interventions, so their effectiveness won’t be known until later in 2014.  Examples of the measures being collected are BMI (Body Mass Index, a measure of weight), safety compliance, safety climate, work stress, smoking (quitting), healthy dietary practices.  If these measures change in a positive direction the interventions will be effective in preventing accidents and the development of chronic diseases by reducing the risk factors that lead to them.

What Does the Future Hold?
The Advisory Committee emphasized the importance of continuing to work with these populations in the coming years and beyond, but they also recommended that the investigators move on to larger population samples in other industries.  Suggested workforce populations were postal and delivery workers in transportation, TSA workers, Indian Health Service, Forest Service, Oregon state workers (broadly), agriculture, service industry.  Companies in these industries who may want to participate in such interventions should contact the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center.

How can You Participate or Obtain Evidence-Based Programs?
The Oregon Healthy Workforce Center is holding it’s Partner’s Luncheon on March 20 at the Jantzen Beach Red Lion in Portland to talk about programs, simpler starter tools and how to efficiently get them to users (companies, organizations).  A speaker from Colorado’s Health Links program will describe their program that has brought wellness tools to over 1000 small businesses and help us figure out how to do the same thing in Oregon – but for safety and health and well-being in addition to wellness.    Download the 2014 Partners’ Luncheon flier or register to attend this event and learn more (you must fill out a short survey), but the event is NO COST.  Contact us for further details or questions.  Pictures on the page are from the Advisory Committee meeting.

Members of the External Advisory Committee are Tom Becker (OHSU), Chuck Easterly (SAIF), Leda Garside (Tuality Salud), Joe Hurrell (NIOSH, retired; Journal of Occupational Health Psychology), Jae Douglas (Oregon Health Authority), Noah Sexius (University of Washington), Mark Cullen (Stanford University), John Mohlis (Oregon Building Trades), Ron Tubby (Intel).

Partnering with Construction in Safety

It’s pretty impressive to see a crowd of well over 200 folks gather in Central Oregon in the heart of winter to talk about construction safety. The Central Oregon Safety and Health Association (COSHA) should be pleased at the success of this week’s Mid-Oregon Construction Safety Summit. And of course, it couldn’t have happened without  all of the generous and dedicated sponsors and presenters, and Oregon OSHA.

I have to admit that I tend to be a bit of a skeptic regarding motivational speakers. I often feel that, while important, I have heard the message before. Let me tell you that the keynote presentation provided by Eric Giguere – The Buried Truth Uncovered – kept me and the rest of the audience spellbound. Eric does a first-rate job of sharing his horrific story in his own words and his own way, emphasizing the real risks of taking safety shortcuts.

Illa Gilbert-Jones shares information about the Oregon FACE Program.

Perhaps what most touched me in his story was his reflection on the impact of this event not just on him, and his family, but his co-workers and rescuers. Thanks, Eric, for joining us in Oregon. We look forward to a return trip!

At our exhibit we appreciated the feedback from many about the value of toolbox talks created through our Oregon FACE grant. Thanks for helping us continue to learn about what we can do to partner and support workplace safety in Oregon.


Click image to see Oregon FACE Toolbox Talks.

Oregon FACE Publications
CROETweb Topic: Safety Toolbox Talks
CROETweb Industry Topic: Construction


Paint Strippers Revisited

Back in 2013, we posted a blog on the hazards of using chemical strippers containing methylene chloride, and reported on deaths associated with this chemical in Oregon and California. We also provided Web information from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Oregon FACE and others on how to prevent adverse effects from use of these products.

Today, we’d like to provide new information (see below) from the CDPH on less toxic paint stripping products that are available. These safer alternatives are not without hazard, so reasonable precautions, such as the use of goggles and chemical resistant gloves, must still be taken to prevent adverse health effects.

Chemical paint strippers represent a potential workplace or home hazard, but there are many other chemical products on the market that can be harmful if used in a hazardous manner. When considering the use of chemical products, read the label, observe the warnings, protect yourself, and if possible, choose the safest alternatives when available.

For information on safer alternative paint stripper products:

California Department of Public Health
Paint Stripping Products: Safer, Less Toxic Choices
Minimum Personal Protective Equipment Required for Paint Stripping
Toxic Paint Removers: Safer Choices

For general information on choosing greener chemical products:

Green Chemistry/Safer Alternatives

Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences

Dr. Steven Shea, Director of the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences, and OHSU’s Dr. Dan Dorsa, address staff, partners and supporters to recognize the new name of the organization formerly known as CROET, and to summarize the Institute’s continued work and mission.

Visit us adjacent to the Richard Jones Hall at Oregon Health & Science University.

Talking TWH at the WSU School of Nursing

Dr. Kent Anger, Director of the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center, presented “What the Research Literature Tells us about Total Worker HealthTM (TWH) and what the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center is Doing About It” at the Washington State University (WSU) School of Nursing in Spokane, Washington (pictured right).  The WSU School of Nursing is led by Dean Patricia Butterfield, a CROET (now Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences) ‘graduate’ who also worked on a project with SAIF during her education at OHSU/CROET.  In addition to state-of-the-art nurse training programs, the WSU SON conducts research and has a strong community engagement program emphasizing their practice-oriented focus through partnerships with educational institutions and community stakeholders.

Dr. Anger’s presentation described the Total Worker Health intervention literature and the effectiveness of those interventions in reducing multiple important risk factors for injuries and chronic diseases through integrated programs.  He emphasized the importance of TWH in ‘bending the health care cost curve’ through workplace safety and health, wellness and well-being – TWH – interventions that are real-world effective.   A key message in Dr. Anger’s talk was the need to scale TWH intervention programs through effective dissemination.

The Oregon Healthy Workforce Center (OHWC) is both a regional and a national resource that is building, evaluating and disseminating TWH interventions.   For those interested in getting started on TWH programs today, CPH-NEW starter toolkits are now available.  The OHWC is developing an intervention and tool dissemination program named Safe Oregon, Healthy Oregon (SOHO) through philanthropic donations; contact Dr. Anger or Brittany Sale at the OHSU Foundation to support this effort.  The OHWC’s Partner’s Luncheon in March will focus on dissemination.  The Luncheon is open to Oregon business, labor and government participants who want to partner with the OHWC to create the best dissemination program for Oregon (as a model for all states); there is no cost to attend (complete a brief survey to reserve a seat).

Also attending Dr. Anger’s  talk at Washington State University were members of the NIOSH Spokane office that has a focus on TWH in mining.  The potential for collaborations among the participants on collaborative TWH projects was discussed after the talk in a lunch hosted by Dean Butterfield.

Centered at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center is composed of scientists from OHSU, Portland State University, University of Oregon and Oregon State University.  The Kaiser Center for Health Research oversees research design issues as part of the OHWC.

Just How Vulnerable are New Employees?

Photo Credit: NIOSH

Yesterday during Oregon’s Construction Advisory Committee Meeting, we spent some time discussing a construction-related fatality that happened earlier this week in Seattle. While all workplace fatalities are unsettling and tragic – one point that was ever so striking was the report that the worker who died was on his first day at work.

Those of us in the safety field have heard statistics demonstrating the higher risk of getting hurt within the first six months of work. And of course, it’s not hard to see why inexperienced or young workers might fall into this mix. Earlier this week we learned about another serious workplace event involving a Portland teen who was assaulted while working alone at closing time. Without knowing details of this case, but having parented a teen worker with identical work responsibilities – I would expect that this teen didn’t have any substantial training about how to prevent or handle an emergency. I applaud our neighbors in Washington State who established a rule prohibiting those under 18 – inexperienced workers – from working alone after 8 pm.

What is it that makes young and new workers so vulnerable? Just think back to your first job or the first day at your current job. Even if you have the experience of your profession, consider all of the site-specific or job-specific details you may not know: how to dial out in an emergency, what to do in an emergency, what PPE to use and where to get it….the list is endless. And for workers engaged in potentially dangerous work – construction, logging, fisheries – one small mistake can be tragic.

Is your new employee safety training effective? Does it address key hazards of the job, what to do in emergencies and how to use the required personal protective equipment? Does it express your organizations policies, expectations and rights for workers to refuse unsafe work? Are employees exposed to effective safety training prior to being exposed to work hazards? While we know that safety training is a continual process, how do we go about ensuring that new and inexperienced workers aren’t being put in situations they are unprepared for? Certainly, appropriate on-the-job training and supervision are key.

Many of the suggestions for training young workers are appropriate when working with new employees: here’s an example of of an employer tip sheet from O[yes]. One thing we do know, is that most young and new workers want to make a good impression and do good work. It’s up to us to make sure that we help them feel comfortable asking questions, and go out of our way to discover methods that work for our workforce for safe discussions of critical safety needs and expectations. Do you have good tips or resources for new employee safety training and information?

CROETweb topics: Young Workers & Health and Safety Programs: Training for New Workers



Oregon FACE Hires Experienced Safety and Health Professional

Dr. Ryan Olson, Oregon FACE Principal Investigator, and Illa Gilbert-Jones await the tram.


We’d like to introduce Illa Gilbert-Jones, the newest team member at Oregon FACE!  Illa is a Certified Safety Professional and Certified Industrial Hygienist with over 25 years of experience working in a variety of industries.  She has most recently spent 7 years as a senior safety consultant for SAIF Corporation (Oregon’s largest workers compensation insurance company).

We’re very excited about the many talents Illa will bring to the OR-FACE program, but are especially pleased with what she will bring to FACE fatality investigations (both independent and in collaboration with OR-OSHA) and to outreach efforts in Oregon’s highest risk industries.

Illa is an active member of the Columbia-Willamette Chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and the Pacific Northwest Section of the American Industrial Hygiene Association.

The Oregon Occupational Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (OR-FACE) Program is a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) sponsored program designed to prevent occupational fatalities through surveillance, targeted investigation, assessment, and outreach associated with traumatic work-related deaths in Oregon.

Oregon FACE Investigation Reports and Publications

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