Occupational health spans the ocean again


Site visit group photo.

I feel lucky to have another opportunity to trade notes with our collaborators from Bangkok Dusit Medical Services (BDMS) through OHSU Global Southeast Asia.

This week, Karin Drake, an occupational health nurse, and I are in the midst of providing another week of training in Bangkok involving BDMS occupational health nurses, safety staff, and occupational health medicine physicians.

As we experienced last year, collaborative learning allows us to share our knowledge and U.S. occupational health best practices, with our colleagues in Thailand. I am certain that I learn as much as I teach during these rich interactions.


Class participants prepare for group presentation.

This year’s advanced version of the course focuses more specifically on health hazards, especially those inhaled, and best practices using spirometry and medical evaluation, as well as more detail on air monitoring, respiratory protection and fit-testing.  Like last year, we had the opportunity to perform a site walkthrough so that the participants can practice their skills in identifying hazards, using relevant information to improve medical evaluations, and recommend workplace controls and practices to lower worker health risks. Total Worker Health-related conversations are also a natural discussion because of the occupational medical check up process used throughout Thailand.

Karin and I send a huge thank you to those supporting these efforts to collaboratively work toward health improvement.


Demonstrating spirometry coaching.

Symposium recordings have been posted

Spr symposiumFor those of you who either missed or would like to revisit the talks given at our recent symposium, “Creating a Positive Work Environment for Safety and Health”, webinar recordings are now available here. Enjoy!

Safety as a practice, not just a motto

OHSU Safety Fair for Safety Break

OHSU Safety Fair for Safety Break

The last two weeks have been filled with events and initiatives supporting workplace safety and health. We acknowledge all of the organizations, owners, safety and health professionals, and workers who dedicated time and energy to renew their efforts to provide all workers safe and healthy workplaces.

We honor:

  • SafeBuild Alliance and the support of the construction community for their sponsorship of the kickoff to Safety Week at the Oregon Forestry Center, and metro-wide proclamations within cities for construction safety.
  • The sponsorship of Oregon Safety Break by Oregon OSHA, and all of the organizations that participated in an event or initiative supportive of this day. We offer a specific shout out to OHSU’s Environmental Health and Radiation Safety on the success of their OHSU-wide safety fair to celebrate Safety Break 2017.
  • The National Stand Down for Safety, including events throughout Oregon.
  • Our successful May 11 symposium on Creating a Positive Work Environment for Safety and Health (recorded webinars will be available soon).

But let us not forget that to be successful in our efforts, every day counts. And every worker counts. My 23 year old daughter recently suffered a repetitive motion injury at work. Although diagnosed by an occupational medicine physician, and prescribed modified duty and therapy, her worker compensation claim was denied at 5 weeks post injury, and she was told she would need to report to her regular job the next day. Upon consultation with her supervisor, she decided to quit her job last month so she could continue to allow body parts to heal, rather than suffer an injury that could haunt her for life. This young worker acknowledged how much worse it would be if she had a family to support or other needs that would preclude her from quitting a job over an injury.

So what is the lesson here?

  1. Provide workplace assessments to ensure that all workers are not doing precarious or potentially injury-producing tasks (look at grips, strength requirements, lifting, posture, repetitive jobs, exposures, etc.).
    1. Every organization is different but assessments can effectively be performed by safety committees; health and safety leaders and officers; work teams; supervisors.
  2. Look at your data: not just injuries, but near misses, employee interviews, termination and resignation interviews.
  3. Look at what is considered industry best practice for the jobs workers are doing. Should workers be repeating the same job or could jobs be modified or diversified? Is there a device or control that could improve the job and lessen the risk of injury?
  4. What is the attitude that your workforce holds regarding injuries (“co-workers are faking it,” or “comp claims are always denied so there’s no reason to report.”)

For after all, let’s look at the human and economic costs of workplace losses. Prevention is not only cheaper every time, but it is the right thing to do.




2017 Safety Stand-down

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Ryan Olson presents at May 11 symposium on Creating a Positive Environment for Safety and Health.

Lloyd lab research article recognized

R. Stephen Lloyd

Dr. Stephen Lloyd

The Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society has selected an article written by investigators in the laboratory of R. Stephen Lloyd as the Editor’s Choice, to be highlighted on the cover of an upcoming edition of the society’s journal, Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis. The article, “Error-Prone Replication Bypass of the Imidazole Ring-Opened Formamidopyrimidine Deoxyguanosine Adduct”, was written by Yan Sha, Irina G. Minko, Chanchal K. Malik, Carmelo J. Rizzo, and R. Stephen Lloyd.

Damage to DNA caused by reactive oxygen species promotes mutations, cancer and aging. Reactive oxygen species can be generated as a consequence of chronic inflammation, exposure to ionizing radiation, chemotherapy and other cancer-causing chemicals. In the April 2017 issue of Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis, Yan Sha and coworkers at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences and Vanderbilt University discovered a heretofore unknown mechanism of mutation that occurs in cells. Given the importance of understanding the mutagenic potential of DNA damage generated by the reactive oxygen species and the exacting nature of the experiments reported, the Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society selected this article as the “Editor’s Choice” for the April issue of Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis.

Congratulations to the laboratory of R. Stephen Lloyd for their significant achievement!

Worker Memorial Day 2017


National Safety Stand-Down May 8-12, 2017

IMG_1480Falls continue to be the leading cause of death in construction. Between 2003-2013 OSHA reported more than 3,500 deaths resulting from construction falls. In 2015 alone there were 350 fatal falls, out of 937 total construction fatalities. All those deaths were preventable.

In response to the overwhelming number of fall-related injuries and fatalities, the Construction Fall Prevention campaign was launched in 2012 by a partnership including OSHA, NIOSH, CPWR, and the NORA Construction Sector Council. The aim of the national campaign is to prevent fatal falls from ladders, scaffolds, and roofs.

The National Safety Stand-Down was added to the campaign in 2014 to increase awareness and participation by bringing together contractors, workers, and safety organizations to focus on preventing falls. On behalf of all our partners and stakeholders, we encourage employers, employees, and associations to participate in this year’s National Stand-Down during the week of May 8-12, 2017. Employers are encouraged to set aside time to have open discussions with employees about falls and how to prevent them. The event has an impressive track record, with thousands of companies participating across all 50 states and internationally. Last year alone, more than 130 public events were held, along with thousands of private stand-downs.

You can be part of this effort to increase awareness and reduce the number of deaths and injuries that result from work-related falls. Help us promote the fall prevention campaign and National Safety Stand-Down. It’s an excellent opportunity to make sure you’re doing everything you can to eliminate fall hazards. Let’s continue to reach out and make sure that workers safely return home to their families each day.

Join us for the 3rd annual Stand-Down event being held in Portland on Friday, May 12, 2017 at the Sheet Metal Institute. Partners in Oregon and Washington have collaborated to promote this free, 5-hour class on construction fall hazard awareness that will also include a panel of industry experts sharing useful, innovative safety tips. Click here to register for the class; and additional Stand-Down information can be found here.

Submitted by Barb Epstien,  OR-FACE Fatality Investigator/Outreach Specialist

What are you doing for Safety Break?

IMG_1469As May approaches, we are reminded that Safety Break is nearly here! Oregon OSHA coordinates Safety Break, a one-day event designed to raise awareness and promote the value of workplace safety and health.

Oregon OSHA, as described on their Safety Break website, encourage organizations to create an event or initiative that best serves their needs and mission. Examples such as recognizing employee safety efforts, educating new employees about your organization’s safety commitment, and supporting safety committees are listed along with other examples on the website.

Our Institute is pleased that OHSU has joined the list of Oregon organizations that are participating in Safety Break 2017  by sponsoring a safety fair. In fact, those attending the fair can stop by the table sponsored by our Institute and the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center to learn more about our resources, events and toolkits designed to improve workplace safety, health and well-being. If you are an OHSU employee, we hope to see you at the safety fair to be held from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM on Wednesday, May 10 in the Biomedical Information Community Center (BICC) Gallery. At this event you can learn more about OHSU safety groups and programs, engage with interactive exhibits and enjoy light refreshments.

And if you work outside of OHSU, we’d like to know: what do you have planned at Safety Break 2017? We thank Oregon OSHA for sponsoring this opportunity for all of us to formally prioritize workplace safety and health.


Save the date: Women in Trades Career Fair


Looking for a new career? Or helping a daughter or woman you know explore new job possibilities? Make sure you add the Women in Trades Career Fair to your May calendar, and consider it the best local event to learn more about opportunities within the trades. Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. (OTI), a Portland, Oregon nonprofit organization, actively supports young women’s exploration of skill trades careers at this annual event. This year celebrates the 25th annual Women in Trades Career Fair!

Attendees can visit the fair, participate in dozens of hands-on workshops and exhibit booths, and learn more about the rewarding and well-paying career options in the skilled trades. This free fair could never happen without the support of many sponsors, including these platinum level supporters: Bonneville Power Administration, City of Portland, IBEW 48, NECA IBEW, Oregon Laborers, PGE, PMCA, Local 290 Plumbers – Steamfitters, and KGW.

The popular Dads and Daughters Workshop and coffee will take place from 1:00-2:00 pm especially for parents and guardians to share the trades with the young women in their life. In addition to Saturday’s public fair, a fair tailored to middle and high school girls is offered on Friday, May 19. New this year on Friday, from 10:00-11:15 AM is a seminar for educators about recruiting women and Girls for Career and Technical Education Programs. This seminar will be provided by Oregon Tradeswomen staff as they share their methods and strategies for recruiting and retaining women and girls for CTE Programs.

Here at the Institute, we applaud the important work that Oregon Tradeswomen has done for so many years! Learn more about the fair on the Oregon Tradeswomen website.



Catching up with the times: Resource Directory updated

home page

When our Institute, then CROET, first designed our original Resource Directory in 1996, then CROETweb, most of us were just beginning to learn to search and find information on the web. Can you believe that we even taught a class at the Oregon Governor’s Safety Conference on how to search the web? That was before my time here at OHSU, although I do remember the day in the early 1990’s when a few of us at my previous employer, loaded into an office to see the remarkableness of being able to access OSHA documents on the computer. CROETweb even pre-dated Google! Imagine that.

We are pleased that we have finally completed updating this popular Resource Directory. We haven’t changed the essence of it: it remains a great way to quickly find some of the best, evidence-based documents and websites available, from Oregon and beyond. We will continue to add new resources regularly, and remove those that are no longer available or applicable. But the site is now both more accessible to all, and mobile friendly. We also hope that it encourages you to learn more about our Institute, the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center, scientists and other educational offerings by improving the ease between traveling between all of our web sites.

Here’s a few tips that may enhance your experience:

  • When searching for something specific:
    • Check out the A-Z topic index.
    • Browse by category mid-way on the home page.
    • Search by keyword on the home page. Important warning for keyword search: to search the Resource Directory, ensure that you use the search listed on the home page under the term “Resources” below the banner picture. Other searches will run through our Institute or all of OHSU.
    • If you explore or find yourself on the Institute or Oregon Healthy Workforce Center webpages, just know that you only need to select the “Resource Directory” top navigation tab on any page to return to the Resource Directory.
  • New: “Featured Resource” on the home page. We will feature particularly good or important new resources regularly.
  • Find easier access to our Total Worker Health resources, both our OHWC Toolkit Kiosk, and the resources highlighted within the Resource Directory with short cuts listed below the Categories on the home page.
  • The home page provides quick access to the following resources: access to the Toxicology and Occupational Health Centers, sign up for our monthly newsletter, access OR-FACE, read our Oregon and the Workplace Blog, and access our upcoming training events.
  • All of the previous URL’s have been redirected to this site. Update your bookmark to: https://www.ohsu.edu/oregon-institute-of-occupational-health-sciences/.

As always, we hope you will share your feedback with us as you explore the resources. Thanks for supporting our efforts!

Oregon educators commit to health and well-being


Storyteller Maura Doherty closes the conference.

We applaud OEA Choice Trust on the completion of another successful Oregon School Employee Wellness Conference, attended by 250 or so Oregon educators during spring break. In the midst of the challenges and pressures affecting our educators, the vision of OEA Choice, conference sponsors, presenters and participants is encouraging and powerful.

The mission of OEA Choice Trust is to provide expertise and resources to help Oregon public school employees create comprehensive and flexible wellness programs to build a culture of wellness that becomes the norm in school workplaces. Its staff have been important partners for us at the Institute and the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center.

The conference keynote, provided by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky was a compelling reminder of the challenges our educators experience most work moments. Lipsky is the author of Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others. She reminded the audience that trauma experienced not just by teachers and staff, but children and families, is not just the result of major disasters, and includes not just post-traumatic but also pre-traumatic stressors. Lipsky asked the question, “Are you sure that all this trauma work hasn’t gotten to you?” Lipsky effectively uses her humor to share many underlying challenges and realities that those in the education field, particularly, can relate to. For example, this quip: “Bad news – that fire in your belly is actually an ulcer.” And she asked the audience that while you may be bringing your highest self to work, how often is it that nothing seems to be left for that same self on the home or life front? How often, she asked, are educators numbing out, and what is your capacity to stay present? I was reminded, that this same message would resonate to caregivers everywhere. Thank you to the Trust for honoring all participants with a copy of Lipsky’s book: I, for one, am eager to read it.

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Maura stands in at our exhibit to give Dede a quick break.

During the conference, we were also reminded about the power of positive and happy stories. It bears repeating that the human brain is primed for the negative, and more easily encodes negative messages than those that are positive. By taking the time to exercise our brains to remember positive and happy stories – spending at least 14 seconds to help encode our brain – can move all of us toward higher well-being. For after all, we are better teachers, caregivers, employees, family members, friends and citizens when we have the capacity to feel good about ourselves and our world around us.

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