Retooling our future

imageA favorite activity for those of us active in outreach at Occupational Health Sciences is catching up with our stakeholders at events.

This spring has been active – and certainly we have heard a recurring theme. There continue to be great career opportunities for those moving into the trades! And as those new to the trades take on new jobs – it continues to be important for us to help discover effective ways to deliver critical safety and health messages. What we know is how easily it is to get hurt at work when you are new and just learning the tools of any new trade or job.

Through our engagement with the Northwest Youth Expo and the Women in Trades Career Fair we are pleased to meet career seekers, and so many inspirational mentors for those new to the world of work. Top on my list was my conversation with Cory this week in Eugene at the Cascade Occupational Safety and Health Conference. She was introduced to a trade almost a dozen years ago while visiting the Women in Trades Career Fair, and now works in metal fabrication at Mohawk Metal, teaches welding, and is a safety champion. Kudos to Cory and all of our workplace mentors!

We appreciate our partners in the trades and look forward to more opportunities to work collaboratively to create safe workplaces.

Oregon Young Employee Safety Coalition
OccHealthSci resource library


New OR-FACE hazard alert

Hazard Alert

Hazard Alert

OR-FACE published a new hazard alert, “Follow manufacturer’s instructions.”  The document summarizes three Oregon construction fatal stories.  Common to the three cases was failure to follow manufacturer’s instructions:

Case 1:  A pile was held in a vertical position with the bottom of the pile resting on the ground. The clamp holding the top of the pile unexpectedly released. The pile was not rigged to the clamp housing or attached to the whipline.  It fell on the crane cab killing the operator.  The crew was not aware of the manufacturer instructions warning of clamp failure if the hydraulic clamp cylinder was not bled of entrained air.  Pile lifting instructions in the manual required a shackle and short line attached to the hole in the pile clamp housing with the shackle fastened into the lifting hole in the pile.

Case 2: The manufacturer safety instructions warned that coupler and components should not be modified. The closed lifting eye had been removed and replaced with a latched hook. A hook attached to the track-hoe failed, causing the taut rigging to snap loose, fly into the trench shield, and hit the pipelayer on the back of his hard hat.

Case 3:  The critical elements of standard practice provided in the BCSI-B1 Summary Sheet Guide to Handling, Installing, Restraining and Bracing of Trusses prior to and during truss installation were not followed. The foreman sustained a fatal head injury when he was struck on the head by a falling truss.

For other hazard alerts, investigation reports, and toolbox talk guides go to the OR-FACE website.

Plan your summer activity yet?

Come attend our Occupational Health Psychology (OHP) Summer Institute!

The Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences & the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center will host the 2016 Summer Institute: OHP Innovation and Creative Strategies Leading to Total Worker Health, July 12-14, 2016.

Experts from academia and industry will discuss cutting-edge research in Occupational Health, share real-world experiences, and brainstorm active strategies to bring Total Worker Health into the workplace.  Our exciting line-up of international and local speakers include Arnold Bakker, Glorian Sorenson, Eva Demerouti, Jim McDonald, Michael Leiter, Jack Dennerlein, and several more.

 Bakker,-web     Demerouti-web Sorenson,-web




: July 12-14, 2016
Where: Portland State University Smith Memorial Student Union, Rooms 327-329
How do I get there: 1825 SW Broadway, Portland, Oregon 97201

OHP-picture OHP-Pic-1
 Space is limited so we encourage  you to be the early bird!
 Click here to register.

Research paper reveals effects of enzyme loss


Dr. Doris Kretzschmar

Dr. Doris Kretzschmar

Glial expression of Swiss-cheese (SWS), the Drosophila orthologue of Neuropathy Target Esterase, is required for neuronal ensheathment and function, by Dutta S, Rieche F, Eckl N, Duch C, and Kretzschmar D.

That’s the title of a paper, recently published, that describes work originating from the laboratory of Doris Kretzschmar. In this work, Dr. Kretzschmar and postdoctoral fellow Sudeshna Dutta created a genetic mutation in a fruit fly enzyme that is analogous to neuropathy target esterase (NTE), an enzyme posessed by humans.

For years it has been known that certain chemicals, called organophosphates (OPs), inhibit the function of NTE, and that NTE inhibition might be the link to a disease of motor nerves caused by OPs. OPs are used as insecticides and have a variety of other uses in industry. During alcohol prohibition, an OP contaminant in a bootleg product known as Ginger Jake caused toxic injuries marked by a peculiar gait called “Jake Leg” – this was the first clue that NTE might be important to nerve development and function.

Now, with the mutant fruit flies, we can more closely study the molecular mechanisms by which changes in this protein (called SWS, or Swiss Cheese, in flies) causes neuronal damage and movement defects. Mutations in humans cause ataxia (the loss of full control of bodily movements), spastic paraplegia (stiffness and contraction in the lower limbs), and paralysis, as well as other symptoms like blindness and mental retardation. With a better understanding of SWS (and NTE), we may someday be able to provide treatment to those with mutations of NTE or injuries from exposure to OP chemicals.

Here are some movies that show the effect of deleting the SWS gene in flies: Dutta et al movie wild type vs Dutta et al movie knockdown. It makes their movement uncoordinated and they have problems walking, whereas the wild type (WT) walks straight up their containment vials.

Study serves veterans and service members

Soliders at PHA 2Dr. Leslie Hammer, new faculty member to Occupational Health Sciences, brings her research project, SERVe – the Study for Employment Retention of Veterans – a 5-year study funded by the Department of Defense, to the Institute. SERVe aims to improve the health and well-being of veterans and their families, and to increase retention of veterans in the workplace by training supervisors to better support their employed service members. Over the last three years the SERVe team has been going full steam ahead as we have designed, refined, recruited, and collected data in what has been on a truly ground-breaking project.

Oregon is notable for being one of the only states in the union to not have an active duty base, instead relying heavily on National Guard and Reserve components. According to the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs, over 9,800 Oregon Army National Guard soldiers have been deployed overseas between 2003 and 2013*, often for a year or more. These citizen soldiers leave jobs, family and/or school behind, to fill a vital role for our country. The transition home can often be a difficult one.

Seeing a need, Dr. Hammer has adapted her Family Supportive Supervisor Behavior (FSSB) training to focus on Veteran Support in the civilian workplace. Currently the SERVe team has recruited 42 organizations in Oregon – an unprecedented number in intervention research – to pilot the training. Data are being collected from over 500 veterans in these organizations before and after the training in a randomized control trial. This rigorous evaluation goes far beyond the usual “I really liked the training/found it useful” evaluation.  The training is expected to have effects on the health and well-being of the participating Veterans, Service Members, and their families.

Data collection will be completed in summer 2016 and initial results will be available shortly thereafter. For more information, check out the SERVe website  or contact us at

Adding to the innovative research design, Dr. Cynthia Mohr and her team at Portland State University are conducting a Daily Family Study with a subgroup of veterans and their partners, where each member of the couple completes a short survey each day for about a month at two different points in time. This provides detailed information about the daily functioning of these families that just can’t be captured on a discrete survey, and also allows for additional evaluation of the training.


Submitted by Krista Brockwood, Senior Research Associate

Arsenic and cadmium air pollution found in SE and North PDX

Potentially unsafe levels of arsenic and cadmium have been detected in the air of Southeast Portland. The primary source was been localized to a glass production facility that has operated there for ~40 years. They have since terminated use of these metals in their process, so there is no current risk of continued airborne exposure from this source. A similar finding has been localized to a glass production facility in North Portland, who has also suspended use of cadmium (they don’t use arsenic).

Dr. Fred Berman addresses  questions about Arsenic and Cadmium air pollution.

Dr. Fred Berman addresses questions about Arsenic and Cadmium air pollution.

At the concentrations measured, the primary health concern is for increased risk of skin, lung and bladder cancer, and lung cancer and kidney damage, for arsenic and cadmium, respectively. This concern is heightened, because several schools and residences are located in the Southeast Portland location, and the actual magnitude and duration of exposure to these metals is still being determined. DEQ is in the process of assessing the geographical extent of contamination, which will help identify areas of potential exposure and risk.

I attended a community open house, held February 9th, organized by Oregon Public Health, Oregon DEQ, and Multnomah County, to address public concerns about the situation as it is currently understood. Many thoughtful and intelligent questions and comments were brought forth by community members, and although I felt good about my ability to address the facts, there was little I felt I could do to address the fear expressed by many. Hopefully, as the situation becomes more clearly defined, we will better understand the actual health risk that exists. Stay tuned….this issue will be ongoing for some time.

For more information, visit the Oregon Health Authority and DEQ webpages.

Of grants and fruitflies

The Krezschmar Lab including Dr. Cassar (front right).

The Krezschmar Lab team including Dr. Cassar (front right).

We congratulate Occupational Health Science’s Postdoctoral Fellow Marlene Cassar, Ph.D.,  upon her being awarded a $30,000 grant from the Collins Medical Trust. OHSU submitted a total of 15 grants for this round, and Dr. Cassar’s research project was one of four selected for funding.

Dr. Cassar supports the Kretzschmar Lab, and her funded project uses the fruitfly Drosophila to study how mutations in the Tau protein, which is a key factor in several dementias including Alzheimer’s disease, affect the function of this protein. Various fly lines will be created that express disease-associated forms of human Tau which will then be used to study how they interfere with the function and survival of the aging brain, as a means to understand the underlying pathology that leads to diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.

The Kretzschmar Lab uses Drosophila to study basic mechanisms of neurodegeneration. Currently, the research team is focusing on two projects. One is the characterization of the swiss cheese mutant, which shows progressive degeneration of the adult nervous system. The other project focuses on the function of Amyloid Precursor Proteins, which are key factors in Alzheimer’s Disease.

We appreciate the important work and diversity of our basic science researchers! Learn more about Occupational Health Sciences research directions.

New fatality report and upcoming rigging/signaling course

Oregon Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (OR-FACE)ASSE Rigging & signaling courseOR-FACE has published Fatality Investigation Report, “Crane operator killed by falling steel beam.”  A 40-year old crane operator was killed when a clamp holding the top  of the 35-foot, 5600 lb H-beam pile unexpectedly released the pile.  The pile was not rigged to the clamp housing or attached to the crane whip line, fell striking the crane cab.  For the complete report or other fatality investigation reports go to the OR-FACE website.

Based on discussions about this incident, ASSE Columbia-Willamette Chapter is hosting a Rigging & Signaling Safety Training Course on March 14, 2016.  The course is to assist the employer in meeting the “Qualified Rigger” and/or “Qualified Signalperson” requirements.  To encourage participation, the course cost has been significantly reduced.  Class size is limited and registration is online.

Resources: subtopic: Cranes


Asian gypsy moth makes appearance in Portland

East Coast forest defoliation caused by EGM

East Coast forest defoliation caused by EGM

In 2015, Asian gypsy moths (AGM), a plant-eating invasive species, were detected in Portland’s Forest Park and northern part of the St Johns neighborhood. The moths were found during routine monitoring in traps placed throughout the region by the Oregon Department of Agriculture. A related species, the European gypsy moth (EGM), was also found. EGM is endemic to the northeastern United States, has defoliated millions of acres of trees and shrubs, and since the late 1970s, small isolated populations have been detected and eradicated in Oregon. AGM represent an even greater threat, however, because unlike EGM females, AGM females fly and are attracted to city lights.

But not only are AGM more invasive than EGM, AGM also feed on a wider range of host trees, including conifers such as larch that are not favored by EGM. Preferred broad-leaf hosts include oak, apple, alder, aspen, filbert, willow, birch, madrone, cottonwood, and plum. Coniferous species such as Douglas fir, pine, and western hemlock are suitable hosts as well. Reading this list, it is not hard to imagine the environmental and economic havoc that gypsy moths could inflict on the Pacific Northwest. Establishment of gypsy moth threatens forest ecosystems and results in long-term increases in the use of pesticides by homeowners as well as by forest and nursery managers.

Gypsy moth male

Gypsy moth male

An AGM eradication program in Northwest Portland is being planned for the spring of 2016.  The recommended strategy includes aerial application of a minimal-risk biological insecticide approved for use on organic food crops to routinely control caterpillar pests, with the active ingredient Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Btk). Btk is a naturally occurring bacterium that has been used effectively in other gypsy moth eradication projects in Oregon since 1984. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently conducting an environmental assessment through the National Environmental Policy Act to review this recommendation. The environmental assessment requires that the public be provided a 30-day period to comment on its findings. It is expected this document will be available for public comment in early February.

Two public open-house events, coordinated by the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Invasive Species Council, will be held to discuss the Asian gypsy moth eradication program. The goals of these events are to share information about the Asian gypsy moth, discuss the eradication proposal, and answer questions. Governmental and non-governmental agencies will be on hand. The events will be held at James John Elementary School, 7439 N. Charleston Ave, Portland, OR 97203. The first is February 17, 2016 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm & February 20, 2016 from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm.

For more information about gypsy moths:

Asian versus European gypsy moth

1992 Asian gypsy moth eradication program

APHIS fact sheet

Gypsy moth in Oregon – 2015

Oregon Invasive Species Council information

For information on Btk:

From Oregon Public Health

National Pesticide Information Center fact sheet

General questions about Bt (NPIC)

On YouTube (NPIC)

From Purdue University

CalEPA fact sheet

Seattle & King County fact sheet

Calling all summer research interns

our 2014 interns

2015 interns

Another year is upon us – and that means potential summer interns can now apply for our intern program.

Summer Student Research Awards are three-month paid summer internships designed to introduce undergraduate students to biomedical and occupational health research. To be eligible for an Institute-funded award, students must be Oregon residents or attend college in Oregon.

Our summer interns get the opportunity to support unique research projects within our basic and applied research areas. Learn more about our research. Student interns present their findings in a scientific poster session in August complete with awards for the top posters and to which families and friends are invited.

Do you know an undergraduate student interested in collaborating with us this summer? Send them to our website for more information and application instructions. Applications are due no later than April 1, 2016. We can’t wait to see who will be bringing their energy and ideas to our projects this summer.

2014 Occupational Health Sciences and Oregon Healthy Workforce Center Interns.

2014 interns


2013 Interns

2013 Interns

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