Talking about OHSU lab safety

jeff and lab fair

Preparing to practice spill response.

We offer our thanks to OHSU’s Environmental Health and Radiation Safety team for sponsoring last week’s Lab Safety Fair. The event, which took place inside Richard Jones Hall, was a terrific success – and those of us from our Institute appreciate all who gave their time to plan the event and share their knowledge. Thanks also to all of the exhibitors and to Portland Fire and Rescue for bringing their Hazmat truck!

fireman rodger

Do you know how to use a fire extinguisher?

Olga and Dede

Talking about Total Worker Health.

saif at lab fair

Thanks to SAIF to remind us about pedestrian safety.


That Hazmat truck is pretty cool!




Emergency preparedness reminders.

Emergency preparedness reminders.

You won’t believe the summer I’ve had!

Lindsay in the forest.

Lindsey in the forest.

I am climbing through trees and over snags, nowhere near a clear hiking trail, trying to keep up with a forester who knows the route like the back of their hand. I’ve almost reached them when – OOF! My foot falls straight through a dead log and I’m up to my thigh in bugs and mulch. It’s just another day on the job for both of us, except tomorrow I’ll trade my hiking boots for dress flats to be stationed in a call center, observing employee postures and workstation use. My name is Lindsey Alley, and I’m the Senior Research Assistant for the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center (OHWC).

Part of our work here at the OHWC is to conduct “needs assessments” or preliminary investigations, to get a real sense of what is going on in organizations we hope to work with in the future. My role, specifically, is to plan, coordinate, and conduct these micro-studies in consultation with our Principal Investigators (PIs). Using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, we aim to paint a comprehensive picture of the supports, barriers, resources, and relationships present within each distinct occupational context; so that we can best determine how to intervene in the most impactful, beneficial way possible. While our PIs are primarily focused on one, maybe two, of these work settings, I have the unique and exciting challenge of becoming an expert in all of them simultaneously.

So, as you can imagine, the past six months have been quite an adventure! I have trudged through streams and forged mountains, trailing workers in the forest industry. I have participated in nurses’ Safe Patient Handling classes and conducted in-depth observations and interviews with healthcare staff throughout Oregon. I have administered surveys across call center employees and conducted full ergonomic assessments of their workspaces. And, I have developed a wealth of new and delightful relationships with workers and administrators in each setting. I have never met so many truly wonderful people.

One of the most encouraging aspects of my experience throughout all of this has been to witness the level of overwhelming support granted to us by the top-tier administrators in these organizations. Despite the wide variation in the types of work performed and workers employed across these diverse fields, the message has remained the same: “Employee health and well-being are our absolute top priorities. We care about these people and want to do what is best for everyone.” Truly inspirational.

It has been a joy to perform work with such broad potential for positive impact. Not everyone gets to be a nurse, a forester, a housekeeper, an office worker, a researcher, a writer, and a data analyst in the same summer; and perhaps not everyone would want to. Maybe I’m just a masochist, but golly it’s been fun!

Lindsey Alley with OHWC Principal Investigator's Donald Truxillo and Ryan Olson.

Lindsey with OHWC Principal Investigators Donald Truxillo and Ryan Olson.

If you are interested in having us visit your worksite and learn more about the unique challenges and needs of your organization, contact the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center at (503) 494-3492, or visit us on the web.

* Thank you to Layla Mansfield and Allison Schue, who have been my right and left hands in performing this work. You are both amazing!

Submitted by: Lindsey Alley, Senior Research Assistant, Oregon Healthy Workforce Center & Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences

Safety and craft brewing


Mike Jervis, safety manager for Deschutes Brewery – sporting his COSHA shirt.

Craft brewers have found great success in Oregon, boasting 234 brewing facilities in 72 cities, and employing over 7400 workers. In addition to providing jobs, these companies have donated $2,450,000 back to their communities. But, we wonder – what about safety in these workplaces?

As part of this week’s Central Oregon Safety and Health Conference, Deschutes Brewery opened up their doors one evening for safety and health professionals to get a “behind-the-scenes” look at this Bend brewing facility, which employees 243 of their 522 employees. I had the opportunity to speak with Mike Jervis, Deschute’s Safety Manager. Mike shared how Deschute’s makes safety a top priority and recognizes it as a core value and part of their workplace culture.  Like most breweries, the most common workplace safety and health hazards relate to work that is done in the warehouse – those related to ergonomics and moving equipment like forklifts; hazards associated with confined space entry; and dermal exposures to sodium hydroxide, a widely used cleaning agent .

Mike is rather humble, but others are eager to talk about what an important safety communicator he is both within and outside his own organization. While continuing to push Deschutes to be a leader in safety and health, Mike also actively provides help to other brewers – many who have not yet attained the safety record found at Deschutes. He also helps coordinate industry-related information at regional and state-wide conferences, such as helping to provide a craft brewing track as part of the Governor’s Occupational Safety and Health (GOSH)


Fermentation vessels.

We acknowledge Mike, his employer – and all the other safety and health professionals working to make this industry a safe place to work for its employees.

Fast Growing Brewers Struggle with Worker Safety (2013 article in Chicago Times)
Brewers Association Safety Resources
OcchealthSci Topic: Manufacturing and General Industry


It takes nine months training to select the palates to be offical tasters. Thirty two employees serve this role in addition to their regular job.

It takes nine months training to select human palates to be offical tasters. Thirty-two employees serve this role in addition to their regular job.

200 pound bales of hops - that's a lot of hops!

200 pound bales of hops – that’s a lot of hops.


Look at those bottles.

Bottles, bottles, bottles.

The brew room.

The brew room.

OR-FACE publishes Spanish toolbox talk guides

The first set of construction toolbox talk guides based on Oregon fatalities was published and made available on the OR-FACE website on March 2013. The overarching goal of these toolbox talk guides is to provide supervisors/leaders with documents to increase interaction and positively influence safe behaviors. The format uses evidence-based safety communication principles and real-world (Oregon) relatable events.Sp toolbox guides

Since then toolbox talk guides have been created and published for other Oregon high risk industries–logging and transportation. It has been a popular resource at conferences and on the website. This summer Ashley Chase, OSU graduate student summer intern, translated several into Spanish. OR-FACE published this month the following and are available at the OR-FACE Toolbox Talk Guides webpage.

  1. Un trabajador de excavación fue matado por un ensamblaje volando cuando un gancho falló (Excavation worker killed by flying rigging when hook fails).
  2. Instalador novato de tablas de yeso muere en una caída de 7 pies (2 metros) de un andamio (Novice drywall installer dies in 7-foot fall from scaffold).
  3. Trabajador de la construcción de viviendas se cayó dentro de un hueco de ascensor (Home construction worker falls down elevator shaft).
  4. Trabajador de construcción muere cuando se asoma del armazón protector de un minicargador y es aplastado (Construction worker dies when he leans out of the protective cage of a skid steer forklift).

More of these guides will be published in the next few months so look for these and other resources on the OR-FACE website.

Have you mapped your neighborhood?

The author and her husband host a "map your neighborhood" meeting.

The author and her spouse lead a “map your neighborhood” meeting.

Living here in the Pacific Northwest we are routinely reminded that “the big one” is heading our way. And if you happen to chat with a geologist as often as I, it isn’t about if, but rather when that major earthquake will arrive. That’s not to say that we aren’t also vulnerable to a host of other emergencies: fires, windstorms, power outages and floods.

And while you may be prepared in your workplace for such events, today we ask the question: is your neighborhood ready? Our emergency responders remind us that we need to be prepared to help ourselves when our 911 systems are overwhelmed. And that is the beauty of the well-designed and fairly simple “map your neighborhood” program.

Map your neighborhood was designed years ago in Washington State, and has been successfully implemented across the country in efforts to better prepare neighborhoods and communities for when disaster strikes. Many communities throughout Oregon and Washington have taken advantage of this free-to-use program. The program relies on small groups of neighbors meeting and planning together how they will respond when disaster strikes.

Some of the key steps of the program include:

  • Watch a freely available video for information on planning.
  • Learn the nine steps to take immediately after disaster strikes.
  • Learn skills and equipment each neighbor has that are helpful in responding to a disaster.
  • Create a contact list and neighborhood map showing locations of neighbors who may need special help, and of natural gas and propane tanks that may need to be shut off.
  • Learn how to work together as a team in the first hours after a major emergency strikes.

Many of us are safety, health and wellness practitioners with a role in planning, preventing and responding to emergencies in our workplaces. Doesn’t it make sense that we too take a role in helping map the neighborhoods where we live? Watch the video and get started now! After all, September is National Preparedness Month. Let us know how it goes.

YouTube Preview Image

Find Map your Neighborhood Materials
Map you Neighborhood Discussion Guide
OccHealthSci topic: Emergency Preparedness in the Workplace

WestON brings news and humor

The 8th WestON (Western States Occupational Network) meeting in Denver (9/17-18) brought us important news, new ways of thinking … and humor.  NIOSH Director John Howard’s (below) appointment has been renewed for 6 more years.  Responding to a question about his reasons for staying at NIOSH, he said that he wanted to be sure there was continuity during the Executive Branch change in 2016 – many recognize that he has brought visionary and strong leadership to NIOSH. Dr. Howard also confirmed the creation of the NIOSH Western States Division in Denver during his update.  The Division is looking to partner with OSH specialists in the West to accomplish the NIOSH mission.

John Howard speaks at podium
National Public Radio reporter Daniel Zwerdling (below) encouraged scientists to present the human picture when talking to reporters.  He often starts off his interviews with ‘make me a movie’ of your story.  Often he has to ask for a simpler explanation over and over until people get there (he illustrated that with recordings from interviews that began with very wordy descriptions). In the meeting sum up, one attendee said ‘I resolve to not fear talking to reporters any more, and to get my stories out.’  This keynote accomplished it’s goal. Daniel’s recent series on lifting injuries in nursing workers has led to an OSHA program to investigate those injuries.

Daniel Zwerdling of NPR at WestON 2015

Chuck Easterly, Loss Control Manager of SAIF (shown below speaking with Lauren Mayfield of California’s State Compensation Insurance Fund), was one of three workers’ compensation insurance organization representatives invited to speak about their role in workplace safety and health.  Chuck gave an inspirational endorsement of his philosophy for making Oregon the safest and healthiest place to work.   It was a highlight. Worker’s Compensation insurance companies have a major role in workplace safety, health and wellness.

Chuck Easterly (SAIF) and Lauren at WestON

Meeting convener Bob Harrison (below) of the University of California at San Francisco combined important information about silica exposures to workers making the new engineered kitchen countertops, with humor.  To make his point, he struck the pose of the “Toxic Avenger” (“TA” on his cape) drawn from the lead character of a series of B movies from years ago, as Bob has in the past. The picture is modified. The problem is serious.

Bob Harrison at WestON

Also attending from Oregon was Kent Anger representing the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center to extend it’s recognition throughout the western US state region, and Dan Cain of the Oregon State Health Department who described the Oregon Young Employee Safety Coalition (O[yes]).

The meeting presentations will be available here; the agenda is on this site now.

NIOSH renews Oregon occupational health grant

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced the awards on September 14. The proposal submitted by multiple-principal investigators, Curtis Cude (Oregon Health Authority) and Ryan Olson, PhD (Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences ) to NIOSH for a five-year (2015-2020) grant was fully funded. With this funding there is a new level of partnership.

The overarching goal of the partnership that began in 2002 is to provide quality surveillance data and intervention recommendations to reduce work-related illness and injury. The multiple-principal investigators proposed to accomplish reduction in work-related injury and illness through an innovative strategy with the following specific aims:

  1. Implement an expanded vision and strategic plan to advance occupational public health surveillance, research, and outreach in Oregon;
  2. Support the success and growth of existing state-level occupational health initiatives and programs;
  3. Invest in innovative areas for future occupational health surveillance research through speaker series and conference panels; and
  4. Develop and implement surveillance and outreach innovations in Occupational Health Indicators (OHI) and Oregon Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (OR-FACE) sub-projects.
grant blog

L to R: Ryan Olson; Xun Shen; Illa Gilbert-Jones; Dede Montgomery; David Dreher; Curtis Cude. Missing from photograph is Dan Cain.

Institute postdoc receives First Award Fellowship

biomedSaurabh S. Thosar, Ph.D, a postdoctoral researcher at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences has been awarded a First Award Fellowship from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute.

Adverse health outcomes resulting from sleep loss and circadian desynchronization is an area of importance for both astronauts and shift workers. The goal of this ground-based study is to identify an endogenous circadian rhythm in vascular endothelial function. Further, this project will test the effect of circadian misalignment on vascular function.

Steven A. Shea, PhD is the mentor and principal investigator of this project and Saurabh S. Thosar, PhD is the First Award Fellow. The work will be performed in a new facility recently built as part of the Oregon Clinical & Translational Research Center at OHSU.

Sleep research at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences
OccHealthSci Topic: Sleep and Shiftwork



PDX Wellness inspires

What's your why? copyWellness is something we do with and for people. It isn’t something we do to them,” shared WELCOA’s Ryan Picarella, the keynote at this week’s American Heart Association’s Worksite Wellness Summit. He reminded us that it is really all about living happier, fuller lives. So often we talk clinically: the need to lower blood pressure – lose weight – eat vegetables. Isn’t it really about feeling better every day? Perhaps living long enough to know our grandchildren? To be able to simply enjoy life’s offerings, and perhaps be better prepared to deal with its challenges.

Ryan went on to talk about how we create trust within our workplaces. Trust is truly the backbone of just about everything. Though he didn’t speak about it, we know that the culture of both safety and health require trust as a basic tenet. And finally, he reminded us of purpose. Purpose matters. How do we in fact measure it? Grow it? It matters for me as it does for you – just as it does for my twenty-something daughters and my eighty-something mother. Do our workplaces support our human need for purpose?


AHA’s Lanette Trickey welcomes attendees.

What I was reminded during this year’s Summit is the question of who is missing? What if I don’t work for an organization that has invested the money or attention to a worksite wellness program? What if I work two or three jobs – all of them part time? What if I am out of work? This is where our Institute and the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center need your help – uncovering community partners that we are missing. Along with our Total Worker Health partners, including SAIF Corporation, Wellness@Work, OEA Choice, Worksite Wellness Network, Oregon Public Health Institute, among others – we are eager to expand our collaborations. Are you a community partner new to us? Contact us and help us better understand how we can work together. And let us know – what is your why?

OccHealthSci topic: Total Worker Health and Well-being
NIOSH Total Worker Health
Worksite Wellness Network


Protecting our wildland firefighters

fema photo copy

FEMA Photo Library

I heard a radio interview earlier this week about the challenges facing those fighting wildfires.  A journalist covering the topic shared her belief that it is inevitable that we will lose firefighters in our race to protect forests, structures and the public. Was I alone, wearing my safety professional hat, to be disturbed by this comment? Many of us have been in the safety business long enough to remember when we heard the same comment applied to construction workers working at heights. We know now, that with appropriate planning, training and equipment, no construction worker should die on the job.

As our lands get drier and fires burn hotter, all more closely encroaching on areas where we live and work, what else can we do to best protect these men and women working tirelessly to protect us and the land that we love? I am no fire expert. Traditional emergency response identifies our response priorities to be: 1) life, followed by environment and property or product protection. Most of our firefighters love what they do – and they do it well. Wildland firefighting has always been an unpredictable business – something as common as quick shifting winds creating scary traps.  As we have multiple fires burning for longer periods of time, our resources become strapped. Are we to expect these challenges to become even more difficult to address as our climate gets hotter and drier?

We thank those working so hard to protect what we love. We grieve for Tom, Andrew and Richard, and their families and friends. We are hopeful that safety and incident command experts can help us imagine a time when we don’t believe it inevitable to lose a firefighter during our hot fire seasons.

OccHealthSci subtopic: Wildland Firefighter
Oregon Smoke Information
NIOSH Fighting Wildfires Topic Page

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