Check out ASSE’s Health and Wellness Branch

So many people are talking about health and wellness. We are flooded with news about why and how to address health at work. More than ever, the networking and connections within and between our disciplines are critical to get up to speed and keep up with the momentum.

One of the groups actively networking on safety, health and wellness is the American Society for Safety Engineer’s (ASSE) Health and Wellness Branch. ASSE has been around since 1911, and has more than 36,000 members worldwide who are occupational and safety professionals. We have blogged before about the activities and richness found within our Oregon ASSE Branches, including the Columbia Willamette Chapter, St. Helen’s Section, Santiam Section, Cascade Chapter, Southern Oregon Chapter, and student chapters at both Oregon State University and Mt. Hood Community College.

ASSE’s Health and Wellness Branch was approved at the Safety 2011 Council on Practices & Standards (CoPS) meeting and is sponsored by the Healthcare Practice Specialty. This Branch provides a forum to raise awareness and educate its’ members on personal and global health and well-being and the connection to safety. Ways you can be active with this group:

  • Visit the Branch webpage and join (no additional cost if you are already a member of ASSE’s Healthcare Practice Specialty).
  • Attend the Branch-sponsored sessions at ASSE’s annual Professional Development Conference.
  • Join the Branch on Linkedin.
  • Receive its newsletter and join in on monthly phone calls.

I have found it to be yet another great connection as we pursue safety and Total Worker Health. Check it out and let us know what you think!

PNASH meets at Oregon Health and Science University

The Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health (PNASH) Center Advisory Committee is meeting at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), pictured below.  PNASH is a NIOSH-funded regional Center that supports research projects and outreach in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Idaho.

The current PNASH project in Oregon is designed to study stress in agricultural workers and develop and test an intervention to reduce stress in workers. Drs. Diane Rohlman and Kent Anger of OHSU and the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center (OHWC), sited at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences at OHSU, direct the project. Collaborators include Leda Garside, RN, Salud Services of Tuality Healthcare.

While may seem to be a dizzying list of organizational names, it does reflect the degree to which federal and state funding enables linkages between scientists at different organizations and projects are developed that require the expertise of scientists from different organizations. Each scientist is partly funded by NIOSH and state funding streams.  PNASH Director Dr. Rich Fenske is on the left.

A sample of PNASH-funded projects are being presented today. Examples are:

  • OHWC Director Kent Anger noted the OHWC’s recent review of Total Worker Health (TWH) research and revealed that there is no research to evaluate TWH interventions (to improve health and safety and wellness/wellbeing) in agricultural settings. TWH is a possible new area of focus for the
  • Evidence of an association between asthma and elevated ammonia in air in farming areas, especially animal feeding areas (Catherine Karr of the University of Washington (UW), PI).
  • Dr. Christopher Simpson (UW) described a new rapid measure of organophosphorus compound exposures, useful for workers applying the most widely-used agricultural pesticides worldwide, including some in Pacific Northwest tree fruit farms.
  • Dr. Alice Larson spoke about her census of indigenous agricultural workers.
  • Dr. Laurel Kincl described her new project with Dungeness crab workers(below).
  • Nargess Shadbeh of the Oregon Law Center described the 10-year project to provide information on pesticide safety to Oregon’s indigenous workers through promontoras speaking directly to the workers, a project in danger of ending due to the end of grant funding.  Other funding mechanisms to maintain the human resources to present the information on, essentially, the Worker Protection Standard to indigenous workers, included state government and industry.

Hearts at work

February is heart health month. I’ve been thinking a lot about the heart-health-and-work connection while noticing how many of the reported workplace fatalities in Oregon were caused by heart attack, and a smaller number, stroke. We’ve had several conversations at the Oregon Construction Advisory Committee about responding to heart attacks and the importance of having Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) at work.

While we know there are many personal and individual factors impacting the health of our hearts, can we in fact imagine workplace connections? Stress, long work days without exercise, fewer healthy eating choices, and poor sleep caused by shift work are among a few. And while the causal connection may be harder to identify, we know we can create and support heart healthy workplaces and solutions.

The CDC Initiative, the National Healthy Worksite Program, provides employers resources to adopt workplace health improvement programs to prevent heart disease and stroke and related conditions among employees. Here are some things suggested by CDC:

  • Provide places to purchase healthy food and beverages, including choices in vending machines.
  • Provide an exercise facility onsite or subsidize or discount the use of offsite facilities.

    Supporting Employee Health. Photo credit: Go By Bike

  • Encourage employees to use the stairs.
  • Provide organized individual or group physical activities.
  • Provide free or subsidized one-on-one or group lifestyle counseling for those who are overweight.
  • Provide dedicated space where employees can engage in relaxation activities – yoga, meditation, biofeedback.
  • Provide Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) onsite and training for CPR and AEDs.

To this we would add, support healthy and safe commuting, recognize the role of stress and lack of sleep on heart health, and seek ways to engage employees to create a culture of health at work and beyond.

What is your organization doing to address hearts at work?

Heart Health info from CDC
Warning signs from American Heart Association.

OR-FACE presents at logging and construction safety events

Clark Vermillion thanks Illa Gilbert-Jones on behalf of the CSS.

Oregon Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (OR-FACE) presented at the January meetings of the Washington Contract Loggers Association (WCLA) and the Portland Construction Safety Summit (CSS).

Jeffrey Wimer, OR-FACE Safety Consultant and Oregon State University Manager of Student Logging Program, presented OR-FACE logging data and resources to over 500 attendees at the annual WCLA Safety Conference held near Olympia on January 17. The resources created by Jeff and OR-FACE will contribute to the Washington State Logger Safety Initiative.    The Oregon forestry/logging industry had 91 FACE cases from 2003-2013 and ranks second in the highest number of total fatalities.

The Oregon construction industry ranks third with 84 fatal occupational cases.  Illa Gilbert-Jones presented OR-FACE construction data and resources to 40 members at the CSS January 20 meeeting.  Construction and logging are high risk industries in Oregon and providing outreach information to these two industry groups aligns with the OR-FACE mission to “prevent occupational fatalities through surveillance, targeted investigation, assessment and outreach associated with traumatic work-related deaths in Oregon.”   You can find both presentations and resources on the OR-FACE website.

Submitted by Illa Gilbert-Jones, CIH, CSP, Oregon FACE Program Manager/Field Investigator.

Mid-Oregon Construction Safety Summit Draws a Crowd

Construction Trades Safety Concerns

The Mid-Oregon Construction Safety Summit is held annually in January, a time when construction activity is low due to the cold, icy and snowy weather. That was not the case in Bend this year, where sunny skies and 60+ degree temperatures have temporarily turned this ski mecca into a mountain biking town. In spite of such nice weather, turnout was exceptional, which shows how important the topic of safety is among the construction trades.

Last Fall, at the Western Pulp and Paper Safety Conference, we were interested in learning about what most concerns wood products workers in their jobs. We repeated this survey for the construction industry, the results of which can be seen in the photo. Sleep seems to be a common theme, expressed as a concern about longer shifts and shift rotations due to working abroad. But other concerns were apparent among the construction trades, such as fall protection, paint fume exposures, proper safety harness use, and the danger of inadvertently cutting into underground utilities.

If you are in the construction trades, this is a conference you cannot afford to miss. We hope to see you there next year. Thanks to Oregon OSHA and the Central Oregon Safety & Health Association (COSHA) for organizing this conference.

January is National Radon Action Month

Map depicting radon levels in Oregon

Did you know that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking in the United States? Each year, lung cancer caused by radon exposure kills about 21,000 Americans. This colorless, odorless and tasteless gas, which comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water, can seep through your home’s foundation and into your breathing space.

Testing is the only way to know if your home has elevated levels of radon. Fortunately, testing is inexpensive and easy. You can buy a radon test kit at most hardware stores or hire someone to do the testing. You need to take action to reduce the radon level in your home if it is at or above 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air.

If your home has elevated radon levels, a radon-reduction system can be installed to remove radon from beneath your home and harmlessly discharge it outdoors. These systems have a vent pipe and exhaust fan. If you’re building a new home, you should ask your builder to use radon-resistant construction methods.

The Oregon Health Authority has excellent information on radon, including where to get test kits, risk level maps that show average radon levels at various locations in Oregon, and how to take action should levels be too high. The National Library of Medicine also has excellent information on radon.

January is National Radon Action Month – this would be a great time to take action to prevent your family’s exposure to radon.

Heading our Way: GOSH 2015

Every two years Portland hosts the Oregon Governor’s Occupational Safety and Health Conference. We have found GOSH to be the best value-packed opportunity to support professional development; mentor and welcome newer faces to Oregon, our profession and our work; and, rekindle long-term professional relationships.

GOSH will be held March 9-12, 2015 at the Oregon Convention Center. The program is impressive, the exhibit hall is filling out, and registration is now open. What can you do at GOSH?

  • Attend the welcome by Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Woods, followed by Jim D. Wiethorn’s keynote Forensics – It’s Elementary my Dear Watson.
  • Select from more than 160 sessions within 22 different interest tracks, including construction, healthcare, wellness, organizational development and culture, schools and many more.

    Exhibit Hall GOSH 2013

  • Join O[yes] to mentor high school students during the Student Day Program.
  • Enter or watch the Columbia Forklift Challenge.
  • Volunteer!
  • Sign up to be an exhibitor or GOSH sponsor,
  • Learn – meet new professional connections – take new ideas back to your organization. Oh, and have fun!

You will find Occupational Health Sciences and the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center in the exhibit hall, and with staff presenting technical sessions (#215 Behavior Change Tactics You Can Apply Today: Findings and tools from the COMPASS Total Worker Health Program for Home Care Workers: Ryan Olson, Sharon Thompson; #326 Effective Team-Based Approaches to Total Worker Health: Kerry Kuehl, Ryan Olson; #417 An Overview of the Safety and Health Improvement Program: Leslie Hammer; #419 Total Worker Health: Tips and Strategies for Safety and Health Professionals: Dede Montgomery; #459 Research and Resources on Traumatic Occupational Incidents: Illa Gilbert-Jones).

We hope to see you there!


Pursuing Total Worker Health at OHSU

The graphic on the OHSU internal web page addressing TWH.

Our friends and partners know that here at Occupational Health Sciences, and at the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center (OHWC), we have been talking about Total Worker HealthTM (TWH) for some time. In fact, the OHWC is one of four-funded Centers of Excellence in the U.S. to explore and research the concepts of TWH. This funding is provided by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Total Worker HealthTM, as defined by NIOSH, is “a strategy integrating occupational safety and health protection with health promotion to prevent worker injury and illness and to advance health and well-being.” Our goal  at OHWC is to translate our research findings for use by organizations and companies.

Here at OHSU we are lucky to have many resources to support improved safety, health and well-being of all employees. But as we sometimes find in large organizations, it is sometimes difficult for employees to know about the wide range of available resources.

We are very pleased to introduce a new internal (O2) web page (OHSU employee access only) that introduces Total Worker Health and more comprehensively identifies the available resources that can be used to support a total picture of health – physical, emotional , mental, spiritual and financial – at work and outside of work. We thank OHSU Communication Staff for creating the new graphic and page.

What’s next? How can we take what we are learning through research and implement it to make us all healthier at OHSU and beyond? You tell us!

NIOSH Total Worker HealthTM
Oregon Healthy Workforce Center website
OccHealthSci topic page: Total Worker HealthTM and Wellness
See the Total Worker Health page on OHSU’s internal employee pages (employee access only)

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


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