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Pittsburgh PA--NIOSH and the City of Steel

by Eric Glassford

Students and faculty from the Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, Occupational Health Nursing and Occupational Health and Safety Engineering core programs travelled five hours from the Kettering Laboratory at UC to the Steel City of Pittsburgh, PA. The purpose of the trip was to learn more about the research conducted at the NIOSH facility in Pittsburgh, as well as the cultural and industrial history of the steel industry in Pittsburgh.
 
Early Monday morning, September 20, the group arrived at the Pittsburgh NIOSH facility. 
 
The trip started with a welcoming speech and overview of the day, led by Ed Fries. The morning half of the NIOSH visit was geared toward learning about the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) and what research is conducted there. Presentations about the NPPTL were given by Dr. Maryann D’Alessandro and Dr. Ray Roberge. Dr. D’Alessandro gave a presentation on a NPPTL overview.   NPPTL conducts research on personal protective technology (PPT), develops standards for PPT, certify respirators and evaluate PPT, conduct outreach programs for worker use, and evaluate and assess programs and activities.
Dr. Roberge’s presentation was on a research study his group conducted about fit testing. 
 
The students were then given a chance to tour three NPPTL buildings, to get an inside look at the research conducted. The group was able to see how NIOSH certifies respirators, how facial models were constructed for fit testing, current nano-particle research with respirators, and a new firefighting suit that was in development.  
 
 
 
 
 
The afternoon portion of the NIOSH facility tour was focused on the Office of Mine Safety and Health Research (OMSHR). An overview of what OMSHR does was given by Sean Gallagher. OMSHR is involved with developing new technology in mine safety and health, including better lighting, improved secure roofing methods, dust control technology, hearing protection and noise research. 
 
 
A tour of the OMSHR labs was given by Dana Rapp. Here students were able to see the new technology designs in action. Many students were amazed at how close the research mines built resemble actual coal mines. A demonstration of how water is used to control coal dust was included, as well as a lighting demonstration. In the noise research portion of the tour, students were able to enter a reverberating chamber as well as a noise reduction chamber. The noise reduction chamber was a hit among the students due to how quite it can be with some good engineering controls to reduce sound. 
 
 
Monday evening was a chance for the students to see some of downtown Pittsburgh. The group was able to take the historic Duquesne Incline to the top of a huge lookout point, in the Duquesne neighborhood. The incline gave a great view of the downtown area, as well as see how the three rivers of Pittsburgh came together. 
 
 
 
 
 
After the Incline trip, a dinner with some UC alumni was held at Armstrong’s, a local Pittsburgh restaurant. Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal and company, and needless to say, no one left hungry!
 
 
The Rivers of Steel tour took place Tuesday morning, September 21. The tour dived into the history of the Carnegie Steel Company, the Homestead Works, Carrie Furnace, and the Homestead Strike.  Carnegie Steel owned both the Carrie Furnace and Homestead Works. 
 
The tour began at the Bost Building, which was the headquarters for the steel worker union that went on strike during the Homestead Strike, in 1892. At the Bost Building, the group was able to take a quick historical tour through the building, which also included folk art from the Pittsburgh area.
 
The next part of the tour took the group to the pump house, which supplied water to Homestead Works. This was also the site where Pinkerton police officials battled the union workers in a fight, during the Homestead Strike. 
 
The site has two original blast furnace bells, which are used in the steel production to drop raw materials into the furnace, as well as prevent heat loss and the escaping of gases. 
 
 
The final part of the Rivers of Steel tour took the group to the Carrie Furnace site. Constructed in 1906, Homestead Works used the furnace until 1979. Here, the group was able to walk the grounds of the timeworn furnace. Students were able to get a good idea of what the working conditions were for the steel workers during the time period. Many old safety signs were still hanging, which indicated that safety and health of workers was somewhat considered during this
time period.
 
 
 
 
 
 
After the Rivers of Steel tour, the group went down to the Strip District in downtown Pittsburgh. Here the group visited a Pittsburgh food landmark: the Primanti Brothers. What makes the Primanti Brothers unique is the way the sandwiches are served. Each sandwich has to include sweet and sour coleslaw, a heaping handful of French fries, and a slice or two of tomato. It goes without saying that the sandwich is a delicious monster. 
 
 
Overall, the ERC trip to Pittsburgh was a great learning experience for those who attended. Not only were the students given an inside look into the many research endeavors of NIOSH, but were treated to some local cultural history from the Rivers of Steel tour and able to eat at a Pittsburgh food landmark. 
 

Enjoy!

Interdisciplinary firefighter project...one year update!

                         written by Kristen Musolin, D.O.

The team has grown, and we have completed another field data collection. Below are the team members:

Kristin Musolin, D.O. (Occ./Envir Med)
Ashutosh Mani (Industrial Hygiene student)
Todd Ramsey (Industrial Hygiene student)
Diane Busch James, BSN, JD (Occupational Nurse)
Barbara Alexander (Chemical Engineer/Industrial Hygiene student)
Chris Sparks (Industrial Hygiene student)
Peter Sandwall, M.S. (Engineer)
Paul Succop, PhD (Biostatistician)
Amit Bhattacharya, PhD, CPE (Ergonomics)
Tiina Reponen, PhD (Industrial Hygiene)
William Lovett, MD (Medical Director)
William Jetter, PhD (Fire Chief)
Sue Ross, MD, JD (Occ./Envir Med)
 
It is time again to give you an update on the Heat Stress Firefighter Pilot Study. We finished our second data collection in June.  Below are two photos including many of the study team:
 
 
 
 
The data collection process was much easier for us the second time around because of our preparedness and extra volunteers to help out. We are extremely appreciative of those who volunteered their time for our study. Having a research team who work well together and with the cooperation from the fire chief and fire captains, it made the process more enjoyable and efficient.   We recruited 7 fulltime firefighters, divided them up into two groups, and tested one group at a time for a two-day period.
 
Here we are getting organized:
 
            We were constantly surrounded by the firefighters’ upbeat attitude and jokes. It made for a pleasant atmosphere on both days. The firefighters had similar tasks to perform as the last training drill; however, in June we tested them during their live-fire training drill. The training site was located at the Colerain Training Tower in a steel building so that temperatures could remain regulated. The temperatures inside the steel building were monitored via thermocouples and ranged between 600-800°F. The process of making the fire included: using class A materials such as pallets and creating smoke using straw and water.  The starter materials are shown:
 
 
If the temperatures rose above 800°F, the water from the hose was sprayed directly on the fire and this would then decrease the temperatures by 200°F in only a couple seconds. Due to the high heat index in June, we utilized the wet bulb globe thermometer to log outside temperatures.   Smoke and strenuous work on the part of the firefighters followed:
 
   
           
 
Followed by data collection from the subjects:
 
 
Data analyses have begun and to evaluate any effects on the cardiovascular, neuromuscular, and cognitive systems. By conducting this research, we hope to be one step closer to reducing injuries associated with heat strain. To make firefighting a less hazardous occupation is the ultimate goal.  
 
       Thank you, all. 

International Conference, June 19-21

The International Conference on the History of Occupational and Environmental Health was attended by Occupational Hygiene (Ashutosh Mani), Occupational Medicine (Stephen Adeji) and Occupational Health Nursing (Jane Christianson, Marre Barnette, Tigist Zwede, Denise Miller).  

A summary by Ashutosh Mani of sessions attended by the student follows:  
6-19-2010 Session:
Approaches to Methods in the History of Occupational Medicine:
An introductory Overview:
The history of occupational health has been characterized by a broad spectrum of approaches and methodologies that have enriched the discipline, stimulated debate and advanced understanding, e.g.
·         Nationwide & regional approach to workers health:
                                I.            United States
                              II.            Great Britain
·         Disease orientered approach
                                I.            Asbestos
                              II.            Miners and dust related diseases
·         Gender approaches
                                I.            Women and femininity
                              II.            Men and masculinity
·         Radical / Marxist approach
                                I.            Who is to blame
                              II.            How can blame be apportioned
                            III.            Risk assessment
                            IV.            Medical and lay knowledge
·         Post modern approaches
                                I.            Discourse and language
 
 
Nuts and Bolts of Archival research, Dorothy Porter, US.
                      There was an excellent presentation by the UCSF Library Archivist. The Archivist provided a listing of the materials and special collections offered at the UCSF library and also identified several online data bases that offered historical medical material such as Online Archive of California and WorldCat. The presentation identified other items worthy of archiving such as stories, pictures, and journals since these items document why things change as they do for practice. According to the presentation, evidence of social activity is open to interpretation and arguments and one should be able to defend their interpretation as a lawyer defending their case. Therefore researched evidence is a means of defense and one should thoroughly research a topic, which is often not the case.
                      The archivist invited the audience to contact the library when conducting historical research, not that the library is holder of all the information but they may help with “finding aids” which can be used like a “key word” source to find the material one is seeking. The archivist warned that not everything is available online because of lack of personnel, funding, and HIPAA laws. Remember as well that historians only study small pieces of the puzzle and one must seek out other aspects relevant to the topic and pursue these missing pieces. They advise starting with what is known and relevant and read everything available on the topic, then use this knowledge as a spring board to try to identify missing pieces.
                      The archivist warned not to discount Google; they believe this should be the first step. They also suggest talking to archivist directly. Many of these experts are in touch with other archivists who have knowledge of other collections of historical documents.  
 
Oral History Methods, Ronnie Johnston and Arthur McIvor, Scotland UK:
 
Oral history is the collection of individual testimony about past experiences. The information obtained is then subjected to verification, analyses and placed in an accurate historical context for archival storage. 
 
The first step is to formulate a central question, and then you proceed by conducting background research after careful project planning. The bulk of the information is obtained by interviewing the subject and this requires interviewer training. The interview is usually recorded by audio, video or both. The information obtained in the interview is then analyzed and verified against written documentation and prior historical documents. The results can then be organized, presented or stored archivally.
 
There are weaknesses in this methodology largely due to the inaccuracy of human memory. In spite of this weakness, oral history is still considered a powerful tool for historical documentation and can be relied upon to fill in the gaps left by written documentation and also add a personal touch to the historical account.
 
Doing Biography:
The most important step in doing biography is the discovery, interpretation and reconciliation of information sources e.g. audiotapes, letters, diaries etc. The SOAPSTone strategy for analyzing primary source documents developed by Susan Hoffman Fishman is a helpful tool in this regard.
S: What is the Subject of the piece?
O: What is the Occasion?
A: Who is the Audience?
P: What is the Purpose or reason the document was created?
S: Who is the Speaker?
T: What is the Tone of the piece?
                      Three types of questions when analyzing the written material
a.       What questions can be answered directly from the facts
b.      Requires analysis and interpretation of specific aspects of text.
c.       Open ended questions that provoke discussion of issues
                     
 
6-20-2010
                      KEYNOTE – Occupation, Environment, and Health: A history of Interdependence, Christopher            Sellers, US.
      The keynote address reminds us that history of occupational medicine is still relevant given our current environmental problems caused by the BP oil spill; one should not lose site of history and learn from the past not to make similar mistakes. We should use the history as a starting point to future endeavors and cautiously look at new initiatives and their potential impact on culture, health, and science.
1B: The discovery of the migrant workers by psychiatry.
The session gave a closer look at the relevance of psychiatric problems among migrant workers in Belgium. The researcher ‘s presentation was related to the discourse between practice and the cultural experience of the migrant workers. The researcher believed the historical reflections of the psychiatric problems of the migrant workers in the 70s and 80s in Belgium were not reflective of the actual psychiatric problems and is conducting a historical review to help understand the true medical and cultural problems that were experienced by these workers.
1B: Hopes for the radiated body: occupational exposure and transnational networks in African uranium mines
The session highlighted the exposure to uranium that workers have experienced since the 1950s. The problems were ignored because of the revenue produced for the country. Workers were not given privilege to their medical records; to some, the miners’ lives were not considered valuable. Only through secret monitoring have health problems come to the forefront and little compensation has come to the miners so far.
1B: Hospitality workers’ exposure to secondhand smoke from 2006 to 2008 in Beijing, China
The session reported research findings from the WHO-sponsored smoking control program. The study of hospitality workers found that exposure to second hand smoke was somewhat reduced after governmental efforts to regulate smoking was implemented. Additional governmental restriction would be necessary to further reduce workers’ exposures; however, this important study could be replicated in the US especially in areas where there is a high prevalence of workers’ exposure.
1B: The health of sugar cane workers in Brazil
This occupational health nursing research study identified the occupational hazards workers in the sugar cane industry face in Brazil.  Sugar cane is a very important industry in Brazil and the health of the workers is often overlooked.  Workers are exposed to environmental as well as social factors as they perform their jobs. The findings from the study helped to identify a plan of interventions that could help to improve the workers’ living as well as work conditions. These interventions include work design, limiting injury exposures, reducing psychological stresses, and upgrading living conditions.
6-21-2010
                      KEYNOTE TWO:  Movements for Occupational and Environmental Health: History and Politics, David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, USA. 
              The speakers’ discussion traced the history of occupational health from controlling accidents and 
              diseases through labor and union strikes to improve the working conditions to the newest focus
              for concerted effort for the improvement of health. The current issues include the safety and health risks involved in consumer products.
                3A. Pneumoconiosis Past and Present: Magic bullet or snake oil: aluminum dust and the prevention of silicosis in Western Australia, 1948-1963.
                The presentation gave the history of the aluminum dust exposure and the enactment of the Mining Act in Australia to prevent quartz dust exposures of the underground miners. The presentation described how spraying aluminum dust was believed to reduce the miners exposure to quartz dust when actually the aluminum dust exposure brought about new carcinogenic risks; ultimately this was abandoned. The presentation also discussed black lung disease in the US and the development of federal compensation for those who suffered with pneumoconiosis.
                3A: Grindstone city’s second product silicosis, the plausibility of export of dust disease
                The presentation was of an occupational health nurse’s research into the history of the grindstone in Michigan. The researcher found little archived history about the making and exporting grindstones in Michigan. She conducted her research by taking oral histories from “old-timers” who had relatives who worked in the industry. The presentation was quite fascinating: dust diseases were not documented.   The manufacturing was very important to the commerce of the city. The grindstone cottage industry was abandoned and the city’s connection to the production today is strictly as a tourist attraction.
6-21-2010
                KEYNOTE THREE: Occupational Health under the Nazis
                The presented traced the occupational health and safety initiatives of the industrial workers in Nazi occupied Germany. Apparently, the Nazi government was very proactive in maintaining the health status of whites. Women were encouraged to perform breast self examinations and  the health of children were also of great importance. Workplace safety of whites was also protected. Those who were considered inferior by the government were exposed to totally different treatment and little care was afforded to workers or their wives and children.
6-22-2010
                KEYNOTE FOUR: Working Life: A Poet’s Perspective, Philip Levine, US.    
                Philip Levine, a Pulitzer prize winner, read from contemporary poets whose work reflected the working class people. The readings were excellent and gave us insight into the struggles of those who work in situations that are detrimental to health and safety. Often workers knew their work made them ill, however, work ethics, religion, and society dictated their continued working to feed and support their families.
                Panel Discussions
                Through music, paintings, and poetry the plight of workers are often depicted. There were excellent examples of these venues displayed and one was reminded that these venues represent thousands of words left unspoken.
                5A: Sea fevers: the management of infectious disease at sea in the British merchant fleet 1867-1967
                Infectious disease has been well documented in the literature. In 1867 there was a requirement to carry a “Ship Captain’s Medical Guide” and a medicine chest on sea fairing vessels. Though quite crude by today’s standards this was useful. The ship’s medical guide experienced numerous revisions and the current guide includes diet, shore leaves, and occupational exposures.
                5A: The history and impact of presumptive disability laws for Firefighters.
                The researcher presented the brief history of federal level presumptive legislation leading up to the presumptive disability laws for firemen. These laws cover: Cancer, Heart Disease, and Infectious Disease. The presumptive status of the fireman’s exposures and high risks to these diseases afford them streamline payment and recognition of these diseases are work related. Since this topic is part of my dissertational work, I talked and networked with the researcher after her presentation.
                5B: The struggle for lead poisoning recognition in the workplace in France: the turning point.
                The presenter discussed the industrial exposure in France and the recognition of lead disease in workers. The turning point for recognition of lead as an occupational related disease began with what was termed the Penarroya case. The case was a seven year struggle of workers who sought compensation for lead exposures in the industry. The landmark case also opened the door to look at health from the viewpoint of the patients’ not just the practioner’s point of view.  
 

UC ERC joins NY/NJ ERC for Historical Tour

by Marre Barnette, Peggy Berry, Tigist Zewde and Michael Martin

 
June 6, 2010 – Day 1 in Little Compton, Rhode Island - Sakonnet Winery – Rhode Island/Massachusetts Agriculture Health and Safety
 
 
 
We met up with the students from the NN/NJ ERC at Hunter College on New York City to head to the Sakonnet Winery. Our guide for the day was Pumpkin who has been at the vineyard for 25 years and is now the Vineyard Manager. With only 2 full time employees, and 36 acres, there’s a lot of work to be done and it has to be done efficiently. There is much pruning to be done since the grapes are now budding and will soon be blooming. Hazards for the vineyard included the constant bending over or squatting and repetitious movements of the hands/wrists required to prune the 36 acres. The pruning allows sunlight in and airflow through to keep the vines dry and allow for better crops of grapes. Seasonal employees from the community are also hired during pruning and for grapes picking.
Pesticide application is required three times in the growing season and those workers applying it must be certified through a 16 hour course. All certified employees who apply pesticide wear appropriate PPE.
In the winery there is a potential hazard of confined spaces inside the holding tanks but we learned that machinery is used to clean the vessels with hot water so people don’t have to enter. The hot water may pose a hazard of burns.
 
 
Overnight in New Bedford, MA
 
 
June 7, 2010 – Day 2 in New Bedford, MA – Fishing/Maritime Industry US Coast Guard Fishing Vessel Safety Program
 
 
 


 
First was an interesting presentation from Ted Harrington who is the Director of the Boston Regional Office of the US Coast Guard. Industrial fishing is the most dangerous occupation (lumber jacking and fishing compete as the two most dangerous occupations). He informed us that on a fishing boat it’s not the incident but the reaction to the incident that makes the difference between life and death. Some pointers were:
·        Good vessel and equipment – working equipment, even this can be catastrophic if the crew doesn’t know how to use it
·        Lazarette (where shaft goes to the ocean) – this is where gradual flooding is common – sometimes this water/flooding alarm is disabled because it’s common to get water in the boat
·        EPIRB=Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons – is a device to let rescuers know where the boat is
·        Safety raft has an emergency pressure sensor device to cut rope and release from boat – very common for the raft to not be hooked or stowed away properly for rapid deployment.
·        For any boater, the Coast Guard may not reach them for at least two hours so it is imperative to not only have a survival suit or life raft, but know how to use them and practice getting into the survival suit and check to make sure the life raft is properly stowed.
·        Typically it’s only between 100 – 120 seconds that are the difference between life and death
·        One can survive up to 18 hours with the survival suit on in the ocean
·        One needs to be able to put the survival suit in 5 minutes
·        STAY ALIVE LONG ENOUGH FOR HELP TO ARRIVE
From there we went to the pier where we boarded the Alaska, a scallop fishing boat.    On the boat we were able to see the dangers of slips and falls, cuts, and how easy it would be to fall overboard. If you have seen the “Perfect Storm,” you know how dangerous this life is.
There are no mandatory inspections of vessels. The Coast Guard offers voluntary inspections at no cost. Approximately 70% of vessels get these inspections in the New Bedford area while closer to 20% are inspected nationwide. Also few captains have captains’ licenses.
After the pier we went to the processing plant. There we identified possible ergonomic hazards where the workers clean and inspect fish by hand. There was machinery to remove the skin from the fish; if the guard protection is flipped back the blade would be exposed. We also observed fish inspection and packing. 
 
Overnight in Montpelier, VT
 
June 8, 2010 -Day 3 in Barre, Vermont - Granite Quarry - Rock of Ages Quarry
 
 
 
Our tour was through the plant where we saw statues and grave/headstones being carved and the quarry. A potential hazard is the granite dust that contains silica. 
Controlled explosions were used to break the granite from the earth. Then two holes were drilled to fit a diamond band bladed chain through to cut the granite free. One of the methods used to minimize dust in the quarry is by spraying water while the rock is cut using water from the reservoir. In the quarry, it’s easy to see how trips and falls are a hazard; workers are near the edges of stone cuts and travel across several levels in the quarry. Even though the granite blocks are extremely heavy, incidents where they are dropped in the quarry are rare. The quarry is closed for 3 months during winter, from January to March.
From the quarry and plant we went to Hope Cemetery where there are some extremely intricate and creative headstones, as well as come humorous ones, and mausoleums. From race cars, to cellos, to soccer balls to pictures of families carved into the headstone to broken flowers symbolizing the age of the person’s death (flower stem broken near the bottom represents an elderly person who lived a full life where if a stem was broken near the top and was a bud instead of flower bloomed, this represents a child). These Barre gray granite headstones did make for an interesting and not so somber visit to the cemetery.
We visited another cemetery but this one was not so “grave”. We saw the “retired/buried” flavors of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream at their facility. Some of us went through the factory tour; all enjoyed either ice cream or sorbet.
 
Overnight in Thetford, QC
 
June 9, 2010 – Day 4 in Thetford, Quebec -Asbestos Mine - LAB Chrysotile, Inc.
 
 
 
We started with a presentation about the mine, the town and the tailing piles. Many mines were operated at one time; through consolidation and the market demand there have been closings. The underground mine has recently closed. The formation of the mineral, uses and the process were presented. Examples of the various grades of crysotile were available. Mine personnel answered many questions from the group.
We rode part way down into the pit, and were able to see the mining operation.  From an overlook, we explored the equipment—very big to accomplish the task at hand. Most of the product is sold to countries in Asia and Africa where it is used to make fabrics, brakes, friction discs, shingles, insulated pipes, tiles, and rope. The road to the mine is maintained by grader and water. A rock slide near the public road was visible and a new road has recently opened. We also saw another rock slide spanning several mine benches. Special housing for lasers that monitor stability was pointed out to us.    
            In the plant there was impressive machinery to process the rock to the final cleaned product. The material is crushed, asbestos removed from the rock, sized and packaged. We also saw a vacuum that was used to assist workers in picking up the heavy 50+ lb bags of asbestos to move to a pallet. We were given samples.
 
Overnight in Glens Falls, NY
 
June 10, 2010 – Day 5 – in Glenn Falls, NY - PCB Cleanup/Hazardous Waste Hudson River - EPA Field Office, Fort Edward, NY
 
 
 
 
For many years, General Electric manufactured capacitors in area; the capacitors were filled with polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) as a dielectric fluid. Over the years, release of PCBs to the Hudson River resulted in the material being deposited in the river bed and entering the food chain.
We heard about some very comprehensive plans--not just looking at the present but to the future as well. The EPA has involved the community in the clean up process. They built a road in order to not bring machinery through the town. Other countries, where there are PCB remediation efforts are coming to learn how the program of the PCB Clean up is set up in Glens Falls, New York.  EPA is seeking new uses for the cleanup site, after the next (and final) phase is completed. Uses being considered include a transportation hub to get New York apples down the Hudson to market.  We were impressed by the cooperation between GE and the EPA.
Dredging was done with minimal disturbance to the community by minimizing the noise at night. Also water was supplied to the town by an alternate source to limit any exposure to the disturbed PCBs that might enter the drinking water. The cleanup workers left plenty of room so that commercial traffic through the Hudson was not disturbed. Phase 1 consists of dredging contaminants with a mechanical operated scoop guided with computerized software for location to dig. Parcels selected for Phase 1 included some of the highest contamination. This phase of the cleanup is completed, and the results are being reviewed by a panel.  We toured the water treatment plant, saw the trammel where material separation takes place, material waiting to be transported to the hazardous waste site out-of-state and the rail line. Phase 2 is scheduled to start in May 2011, to remove contamination in the remaining sectors of the river.
The State of New York is monitoring the health of residents.
 
Valuable lessons are learned when a student leaves the shelter of the classroom to travel the road with an interdisciplinary team. Our minds come together to learn the hard lessons of what and how workers make a living. The goal of the trip was to establish a relationship between our disciplines and work together in the future to make a safer environment, not only for the worker but also for all of us and for the generation to come.
 
See http://nynjerc.blogspot.com/ for a day-by-day blog. When we get more photos, we'll link to those as well.

 

 
 

UAW-sponsored 30-hour class

by Joe Hoffman 

By way of introduction...

This experience is the result of networking at the AFL-CIO Worker's Memorial Day. ERC Advisory Board member Dick Gilgrist introduced the ERC leadership to Gary Jordan, president of UAW Local 647. Gary graciously invited ERC students to participate in an upcoming program. While only one student, Joe Hoffman, was available, we are posting this feedback, to encourage others to attend in the future. The ERC is very indebted to it's board members and local health and safety professionals for their contributions to assure that our students get exceptional opportunities.

Now, about the course:   

The week of May 10 2010, I attended the OSHA 30 hour class for General Industry. The class was held at GE in Evendale, Ohio. The class was provided by the UAW, and thanks to their generosity, I was able to attend. There were approximately 50 students in the class, all UAW members. Most of the participants worked at the Evendale GE facility, but workers from Ford Motors and Miller Brewing were also in attendance. The instructors were two, full-time trainers employed through the UAW. On the last day of the class, participants were grouped and sent out into the GE facility to do a Health Hazard evaluation of the workplace. Overall the class was a great experience, and I feel that many students could benefit from attending a class presented by the UAW in the future. A special thanks goes to GE for hosting, and UAW for funding and facilitating the class.

2010 Annual Education and Research Center (ERC) Workshop

 

The annual ERC Workshop focused on Firefighters’ Health and Safety and was help on April 28. Firefighting continues to be one of the least studied and yet most hazardous due to occupationally-induced cardiovascular disease and cancer. The workshop was intended to provide information on the diversity of health and safety issues that firefighters face when carrying out their routine occupational duties. The program consisted of four plenary presentations. Chief Siarnicki from National Fallen Firefighters Foundation started the day by reviewing the national statistics on firefighters’ line of duty deaths and injuries.  Professor Thomas Bernard from University of South Florida (Director of the Sunshine ERC) talked about challenges in monitoring heat stress in occupational environments. Professor Randall Beaton from University of Washington summarized his many years of research on post traumatic stress and psychosocial factors in firefighters. Mr. James Dalton from Chicago Fire Department and Professor Stuart Baxter (UC, Dept. Environmental Health) presented results from a collaboration project between Chicago Fire Department, Underwriters’ Laboratory and University of Cincinnati on the chemical and particulate composition of smoke.
 
During the lunch, the participants were divided into discussion groups allowing more informal exchange of information and ideas on the four plenary topics. ERC students presented posters on several ongoing pilot studies conducted in collaboration with Sycamore Fire Department and Cincinnati Fire Department. The day was concluded by a panel discussion moderated by Professor Jim Lockey (ERC faculty in Occupational Medicine), see photo. 
 
Overall conclusion was that the annual number of line of duty fatalities is declining and could be further reduced if fire departments had sufficient resources to follow all the existing recommendations and guidelines. For research community, the challenge is to apply interdisciplinary approach when studying firefighters’ health and safety. An example was given by one of the firefighters who, despite being young and in good physical shape, experienced a heart attack after a chain of stressful events, lack of sleep, and exposure to heat stress and smoke during firefighting. Development of lighter protective gear and sensors that could warn firefighters and fire chiefs of elevated heat and smoke exposures are on firefighters’ wish list for the future.
 
Altogether about 70 people participated; almost half of them were from local fire departments. Students commented afterwards that they really enjoyed hearing directly from firefighters and stated that the lunch discussion, panel discussion, and breaks that allowed direct interaction with firefighters were the best part of the workshop.

Chief Ron Siarnicki’s presentation generated lively discussion that continued during the break.

 

 Professor Thomas Bernard answering questions after his presentation.

 
Professor Randall Beaton presenting.
 

Panel discussion members from left: Professor Thad Wilson (Ohio University, Athens, OH), Captain Jeff Newman (Sycamore Fire Department), Fire Chief B.J. Jetter (Sycamore Township), District Fire Chief Ron Texter (Cincinnati Fire Department) and Dr. Tom Hales (NIOSH, Cincinnati).

 
 

Workers Memorial Day, April 28

                                               

Faculty and students joined the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council service to commemorate the lives lost locally this year due to workplace injury and illness. The service and dinner were held at the UAW Local 647 Hall in Cincinnati. Members of our Advisory Board from OSHA, the Interfaith Workers Center and the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation attended. NIOSH colleagues joined us for the dinner that followed. 
 
                                                                                                                                       
 
Tiffany Beddoe, Heather Hochstetler, Dr. MelodyKawamoto (NIOSH HHE), Dr. Tiina Reponen, Robert Park (NIOSH epidemiologist), Winnie Boal (NIOSH health educator)
 
In addition to the local workers, the bell was also rung for the 29 miners who died in West Virginia and service personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
Richard Gilgrist, OSHA area office director urged all of us to listen to the wake-up call and act to improve health and safety at work. Do not leave the job to others. He recalled comments heard when doing fatality investigations, such as “I wish I had spoken up about….’. After the fatality, it was too late. 
 
Dr. O’Dell Owens, Hamilton County Coroner reminded everyone to care for each other daily.  He tearfully told of getting angry at his mother when he was 11 years old and going to spend the night with an uncle; his mother died that night, and he still feels pain recalling the angry words he last spoke to her.   Dr. Owens asked everyone to join his ‘thousand hearts’ to keep the young healthy and prevent them from visiting ‘his house’, the coroner's lab.   Volunteer. Be kind. Reach out.
 
These heartfelt calls need no further words….

National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health and Safety, April 14-15 and April 16-17

Written by: Amy Turner (April 14-15) and Chris Sparks (April 16-17)

April 14-15:
Chris Sparks and I had the pleasure of attending the first ever National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health and Safety in Houston, Texas. This conference was sponsored by OSHA and the CDC. The purpose of this conference was to educate construction, farm, and manufacturing employers, health and safety professionals, and government officials of the horrible working conditions, wage theft, and treatment that a lot of Latino workers are subjected to.
The two days were spent attending workshops where we could learn how to effectively educate and reach out to Latino workers, learn what the worker’s rights are under OSHA and Department of Labor, and free resources available to small businesses to help them reach out to Latino workers.
The conference opened on Wednesday April 14 with a welcome speech from Dr. David Michaels (Assistant Secretary OSHA) and Dr. John Howard (Director of NIOSH). The most eye-opening part of the address was a panel of 5 Latino workers discussing first hand experiences. They all agreed that they were afraid of telling their bosses about unsafe work conditions for fear of being fired. One of the panelists became physically disabled from being forced to clean 25-30 hotel rooms in a matter of 8 hours. Another man, a construction worker, injured his hand with a nail gun. His supervisor directed him to go home, where the man pulled the nail from his own hand because his employer wouldn’t send him to the doctor.   See http://www.osha.gov/latinosummit/2010latino-summit.html for slide show provided by OSHA of Summit events.
The keynote address was given by the Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis. Secretary of Labor Solis was adamant that this government administration was not going to tolerate preventable workplace fatalities and injuries. She stated that the Latino community looses approximately 14 workers per week due to fatalities and disabling injuries. In addition, she believes that Latino workers are not being awarded for hard work, instead they are being ignored. 
Chris and I also got the pleasure of attending a dinner at the local union house on Wednesday night. There, we met with Interfaith and Worker’s Right Groups from across the nation to discuss ways to improve Latino worker rights, as well as health and safety on the job. It was amazing how much some of these groups have accomplished. One group from San Francisco lobbied for the city to increase the minimum wage, which they did!
In addition to the workshop classes, we attended a lunch session on Thursday which included another panel of speakers which included the Corporate Safety Director of Holder Construction, the President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, and the Director of the Workers Defense Project in Austin, TX. This panel discussed how too many Latino workers are hurt on the job and taken advantage of. It is very easy for some employers just to “wash their hands” of some employees when they get hurt. The main issue that the Director of the Workers Defense Program saw was that our government policy doesn’t want to work on Latino worker health and safety, instead they want to focus on immigrant documentation. The health and safety of our immigrant workers and immigration reform go hand-in-hand; without fixing one, we can’t fix the other.   From the panel, I learned that workers aren’t afraid of coming forward if they have the support of local organizations, just like our local Cincinnati Interfaith Center.   
This conference was a great experience that opened my eyes wider to the problems Latino and immigrant workers face in the workplace. It’s not just about wage loss and discrimination, it’s about employers taking responsibility for keeping their workers safe. 
April 16-17
After the Summit ended many local interfaith and COSH (Coalitions/Committees for Occupational Safety and Health) groups organized a conference of their own, aimed at ensuring that the ideas and opinions expressed by the government representatives were not just statements, but were actually implemented. The conference included interfaith and COSH groups from around the country including Cincinnati, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Miami, Los Angeles, Memphis, Chicago, Houston. These groups expressed the fear that, while the OSHA Summit was a much needed and appreciated step in the right direction, without constant pressure from the worker right’s groups, these ideas would remain words instead of action. 
The conference consisted of many group discussions ranging from general worker rights, worker safety, wage theft, and cooperation amongst the groups to further the ability to implement change. During the two workshop sessions on Friday, April 16, I was privileged to hear from many workers and worker rights advocates regarding real-life wage theft and mistreatment of workers.
One specific worker talked about her time as a homecare worker. The worker opened her heart as she spoke of mistreatment from the alcoholic homeowners and how she dealt with mistreatment of herself as well as the children. The family would pay her $100 per week as she cooked, cleaned, did laundry, and watched over the children. She stated that she even had to lock away the alcohol after witnessing one of the children following her father as he laid half full glasses of wine on the floor where the child could drink the contents. Thanks to the Houston Interfaith group, the worker found comfort in telling her story and great pride as she was removed from the situation. However, she was forced to relocate, leaving the children in that situation and starting a new life in an unfamiliar environment. The story was heart wrenching, and is only one of thousands to be told. 
The group came to a conclusion that the movement to ensure Latino worker safety and health must be pushed along through these worker rights and interfaith organizations. While the representatives of unions and government voiced their desire to help institute change, the groups know that the change will not evolve without constant pressure from these organizations. A commitment was made to cooperate as much as possible and to involve as many people as possible in the movement, including the public. By making the general public aware of the working conditions for many Latino workers, the groups felt as though support would surely follow. 
The experience was new to me, as I was not previously aware of the scope of this aspect of health and safety. I met and interacted with many great people from all walks of life with one goal in mind; to prevent mistreatment and unsafe working conditions for Latino workers across America. The personal accounts of real life situations really brought to life the impact of these conditions, and made me aware of the challenge ahead. While the challenge is daunting, the determination and commitment shown by the members of these organizations will surely implement change. The biggest hurdle is to get the regulatory authorities on board with the groups and make Latino worker safety and health a priority.

Environmental Justice Tour: April 9, 2010

By Cynthia Betcher, Occupational Health Nursing student

Eleven participants travelled to Louisville, Kentucky on April 9, 2010 for the Environmental and Social Justice Tour (EJT).  ERC students, faculty, an advisory board member and representative from ICWUC participated.
The tour guide was David Overbey, PhD, a literature professor at Louisville’s Bellarmine University.  The purpose of the EJT was to promote awareness of the need for protection in all environmental regulations without racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic discrimination; low-income and minority populations have historically been the target of many sources of pollution and the situation in Louisville is no exception.
The City
The tour began with a drive down Broadway and noting the dramatic change in the appearance of conditions as we passed from the affluent East Side of Louisville near Bellarmine, to the run-down and poverty-stricken West End. Dr. Overbey explained that Louisville’s West End used to be where everyone lived (all races), the center of life for the city. In the 1930s, most people used the trains to get around the city. He said that after World War II, residents were encouraged to use private automobiles for transportation and eventually the train station was closed. He added that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which promoted desegregation, ironically caused some more affluent Caucasians to move to the East End and the African American population and poorer residents remained in the West End; the Hispanic population settled mostly in the South Side.
History of West End Louisville Industry
In 1918, the petrochemical industrialization began in west Louisville with the construction of a Standard Oil refinery (now Chevron terminal and tank farm). Over the next two decades additional refineries were built and purchased by Ashland Oil. World War II created a demand for rubber for the construction of military aircraft and tanks. Under the supervision of the US Office of Production Management, the government either built synthetic rubber plants or purchased them from their original owners, investing $92.4 million in Louisville. The first plant to be built was National Carbide in 1941, which used limestone and petroleum coke to produce acetylene gas. The acetylene gas was used as feedstock for a neoprene synthetic rubber plant built by E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. that same year. Also in 1941, BF Goodrich began construction and produced a synthetic rubber made from vinyl chloride, called Koroseal. Other companies such as Goodrich joined in making various types of “nitrile” rubber from acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene. When WWII broke out in December of 1941, the government took over the DuPont plant. In 1943, the federal government opened what is now the American Synthetic Rubber Plant to make styrene-butadiene rubber tires to be used by the Department of Defense. Rubber was used for tires and vinyl for seats. The west end area of Louisville became known as “Rubbertown.”
Chemical Plants and Toxic Waste
As the tour bus approached the industrial section of the West End it became evident that chemical plants and their toxic waste were very close to residential communities.
The Morris Foreman Wastewater and Sewage Plants displayed risk communication signs such as “private property” and “no trespassing” on the fences and gates. The tour group was told that it took 30 years to fix the water treatment plant and clean it up so that it was safe for residents. Ashland, Zeon Chemicals, Chevron, Lubizol and Chemco are all located in the vicinity.
Local Residents
As the local residents observed the tour bus parked near a superfund toxic dumping site, they came out of their houses and asked what the group was doing. They were glad to assist with increasing awareness of the hazardous condition of the area and were eager to share their stories. One resident showed the tour group an advertisement from 1926 picturing a newly constructed resort, “Riverside Gardens” for wealthy Louisville residents with a clubhouse and cottages overlooking the beautiful Ohio River.
One woman explained that due to the chemical plants and air emissions the resort cottages were abandoned and the clubhouse was later converted to a church where she was married.  
Reports of Hazardous Conditions
One gentleman reported growing up in a house by the river and they always planted a flower garden; later learning there was a “no dig law” for the area. An attorney introduced himself and explained that he is helping the residents to expose the continuation of the toxic conditions despite the government funding of $2.2 million dollars to clean up the nearby former landfill and illegal dumping grounds. Several of the cars in the neighborhood displayed handicapped stickers. Residents told of relatives who lived in the area and have health problems, primarily  neurological deficits and according to the residents Louisville’s highest cancer rates. Two of the reported high rates of birth defects, learning disorders, cerebral palsy, and other neurological disorders among residents. The EPA verified the presence of methane and other toxic gasses and in 1975 residents of eight homes were evacuated due to the explosive levels of methane. Residents now report “little volcanoes” in their yards which they associate with continued high methane gas levels, as well as the groundwater around the riverbank having a substance that “looks oily and feels rubbery.”
Summary
In the world today, many enjoy unprecedented material goods and wealth. Yet, with many of these benefits comes a high human and environmental cost largely borne by the poor and the marginalized. Awareness of the environmental degradation and social injustice that can occur was the result of this tour. The University of Cincinnati Educational Research Center faculty and students encourage collaborations between Bellarmine faculty and students, as well as the Louisville community to foster rigorous analysis of social, economic, racial and environmental justice issues and promote human rights and conflict resolution at the local and national levels.
Reference
Kentucky Institute for the Environment and Sustainable Development. (2010). Environmental   
justice Louisville, Kentucky. Unpublished manuscript.
(See additional blog entry regarding the first EJT of Louisville at the beginning of this blog. In collaboration with community residents and LaVerne Mayfield of the ICWUC, the UC ERC plans to develop a tour of Greater Cincinnati.)    

NIOSH Collaborations in a Globalized World--special seminar

Dr. Marilyn Fingerhut, coordinator of the NIOSH Global Collaboration Program, discussed ‘NIOSH Collaborations: Occupational Health and Safety in a Globalized World’ with ERC EOH and OSHE students and faculty on April 6. 

World-wide only 10-15% of the 2.7 billion workers have access to occupational health and safety services. An estimated 4% of the global gross domestic product is lost due to workplace fatalities and injuries annually. Working within the various roles and responsibilities of United Nations Organizations, US and European agencies, employers, labor unions and international profession organizations substantial benefits to workers in multiple locations can result from collaboration. A primary mechanism is the World Health Organization Global Network of Collaborating Centers, with a central goal of ‘Occupational Health for All’. The network includes government, research, professional and academic institutions from 37 countries and three international professional associations (see http://www.who.int/occupational_health/network/cc_address_list_2822008.pdf.) 
 
            A Global Plan of Action has been developed, and guides the activities in the current work period  of 2009-2012. The five objectives are: to devise and implement policy instruments on worker’ health; to protect and promote health at the workplace; to improve the performance of and access to occupational health services; to provide and communicate evidence for action and practice; to incorporate workers health into non-health policies and projects. More information is shown at http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/WHA60/A60_R26-en.pdf. Projects associated with each priority can be found at http://www.who.int/occupational_health/cc_compendium.pdf .
 
 
                 Dr. Fingerhut, during the presentation
 
Several success stories were described. In Chile, a country-wide plan has been adopted to eliminate silicosis. A national laboratory has been set up and a program to train physicians to read chest films to detect silicosis and document their skill has been implemented. Respiratory protection training, exposure control methods, surveillance and spirometry training are also part of the initiative. A library is being created ( www.geolibrary.org) to make health and safety materials available; currently 800 items are included, in several languages. Strategies to reduce roadway accidents have also been successful, and 200 Road Safety materials are accessible through the library or at www.roadsafetyatwork.org. Following pilot work in South Africa, Tanzania and Vietnam, the program Protecting Health Care Workers Globally has been expanded to Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Egypt and Afghanistan. A guiding principle of the collaborative work is to create materials and tools that are simple and useful.
 
It was terrific to learn how involved NIOSH is in global health and safety, and to better understand the Global Plan of Action. 
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