Employers choose production over safety when business is good, Yale researcher says

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Photo: marrio31/iStockphoto

New Haven, CT — When demand is high and profits are up, many employers look to increase production rather than invest in safety, a recent study led by a Yale University researcher suggests.

Using data from the U.S. mining industry, the research team found that when the price of the mineral being mined increased 1%, serious injuries and fatalities rose 0.15% and safety and health violations increased 0.13%.

Demand for a product plays a significant role, lead study author Kerwin K. Charles, dean of the School of Management and professor of economics, policy and management at Yale, said in an article published online Jan. 2 in Yale Insights. Many of the safety violations were determined to be willful or negligent, the article notes.

Charles told Yale Insights: When demand is high, “I’ve got money in my pocket. I can buy a fan. I can buy a safer drill press. But here’s a second thing that’s going to happen: I’ll think, I’d better make hay while the sun is shining. When times are good, I should produce more. That means work my workers harder. That means work on the weekends. That safety training? Let’s put it off.”

The researchers also found that, for large conglomerates mining multiple minerals, a boost in revenue for one part of the company can lead to fewer injuries in other parts of the company.

“A mine that doesn’t itself have high demand but is benefiting from high demand at a sister mine, injuries on the job go down,” Charles told Yale Insights. He said that more financial resources, “in isolation,” can boost safety.

The study was published in October in the National Bureau of Economic Research.

New report from NSC shows how existing technologies can help save workers’ lives

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Bonita Springs, FL — With workplace fatalities on the rise in the United States, a new research report from the Work to Zero initiative at the National Safety Council indicates employers “may not be doing enough to protect their workforce.”

According to Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries data released Dec. 17 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5,250 workers died as a result of on-the-job injuries in 2018 – a 2% increase from 2017 and the highest number of fatalities since 5,657 were recorded in 2007.

The report, “Safety Technology 2020: Mapping Technology Solutions for Reducing Serious Injuries and Fatalities in the Workplace,” reviews the current state of safety technology; provides insights from more than 40 environmental, health and safety professionals; and maps major sources and causal factors of workplace deaths to promising safety technologies.

“The data says it all – while workplace injuries are trending down, workplace fatalities are rising,” NSC President and CEO Lorraine M. Martin said in a Feb. 18 press release. “Hundreds of technologies exist today that have enormous potential to eliminate these preventable deaths. This report is an excellent starting point for employers to understand how new technology can ensure a safer workforce.”

The report looks at 18 various non-roadway, hazardous situations, such as working at height, workplace violence, and repair and maintenance – in which fatal injuries are most likely to occur among workers and provides potential technology solutions for each situation.

The report was presented Feb. 13 during the inaugural Work to Zero Summit.

Cardiac Science recalls all G3 Elite AEDs

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Photo Aquir/iStockphoto

Deerfield, WI — Cardiac Science Corp. has issued a voluntary recall of its G3 Elite AEDs because a “software anomaly” may cause the devices’ status indicator to malfunction.

In a Jan. 21 notice to customers, the company states that it has received reports of the Rescue Ready status indicator displaying red and the service LED illuminating because of the software issue. The anomaly is associated with the devices’ daylight saving time feature.

“If the device is configured with the DST enabled, it will experience error code ‘0x99’ after daylight saving (time),” the notice states. “In this state, the device must be returned to Cardiac Science to clear the error, but it can be used clinically if an emergency arises.”

The company encourages customers with affected G3 Elite AEDs to immediately:

  • Locate the affected devices.
  • Remove the device from service if it has failed its self-test.
  • Alert all G3 Elite users of the problem.
  • Contact the Cardiac Science technical support team at (262) 953-3500 or (800) 426-0337, or a local representative, to schedule an update – regardless of self-test status.

Cardiac Science is revising the software to prevent the issue from occurring in the future and will make the update available free of charge, the notice states.

Pure Safety Group recalls SRLs with stainless steel or web lifelines

Houston — Pure Safety Group has issued an immediate recall and stop-use alert for its Guardian Fall Protection Self-Retracting Lifelines that use a stainless steel or web lifeline.

“A small number of SRLs were identified as noncompliant with ANSI Z359.14-14 and must immediately be removed from service,” PSG states in a press release. Under certain conditions, the stainless steel or web lifeline may not perform to industry standards in leading-edge applications and could result in serious bodily injury or death.

The recall affects the following product numbers:

  • 10931: Halo (formerly Edge) Series with 20-foot stainless steel cable
  • 10933: Halo (formerly Edge) Series with 25-foot stainless steel cable
  • 10936: Halo (formerly Edge) Series with 30-foot stainless steel cable
  • 10979: Diablo (formerly Daytona) with 50-foot stainless steel cable
  • 10980: Diablo (formerly Daytona) with 65-foot stainless steel cable
  • 10908: Halo Series with 20-foot web retractable lifeline with boot cover

According to the release, no incidents or injuries related to the recall have been reported. In November, PSG issued an immediate recall and stop-use alert for its Guardian Fall Protection and Web Device 3-Way Rescue and Retrieval Self-Retracting Lifeline units.

Free online course: Understanding and preventing worker opioid misuse

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Photo: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Worker Training Program

Research Triangle Park, NC — The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Worker Training Program has launched a free online training course designed to help employers and workers recognize occupational risk factors for opioid misuse and addiction, as well as develop solutions for prevention.

Along with providing background information on the opioid epidemic, the course’s 11 modules provide resources, exercises and case studies on topics such as:

  • Understanding opioid use disorder
  • Synthetic opioids (including fentanyl)
  • Occupational exposure
  • Workplace substance use prevention programs

Jonathan Rosen, a consultant for WTP – which aims to protect workers who handle hazardous materials and waste generation, removal, containment and transportation – steered the development of the endeavor, according to an article published in the November issue of Environmental Factors, NIEHS’s monthly newsletter.

Rosen outlines the following objectives for the course:

  • Address the impact of the opioid crisis on workers, workplaces and communities
  • Follow the public health model of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention
  • Define opioid use disorder as a disease that affects the brain
  • Remove stigma
  • Adopt action planning to allow participants to begin taking next steps.

The course cites recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showing that 130 opioid-related overdose deaths occur daily. Overall, 399,000 such deaths occurred in the United States from 1999 to 2017. Speaking during an NIEHS seminar Oct. 10, Rosen encouraged employers to take preventive measures to limit hazards that may cause work-related injuries, noting that many cases of workplace-related opioid misuse involve prescriptions administered to treat injuries that occurred on the job.

“Prevention starts with making sure the job is not injurious,” Rosen said. “There are many potential solutions to help ensure that workers are not subject to conditions that will result in pain and injury.”

Drugged Driving—What You Should Know

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In 2016, 44 percent of drivers in fatal car crashes (with known results) tested positive for drugs, according to the recent report entitled “Drug-Impaired Driving: Marijuana and Opioids Raise Critical Issues for States” by the Governors Highway Safety Association. This is up from 28 percent in 2006. See a graphic from the report below for more information about drugged driving and marijuana and opioids.

 

graphic from GHSA report

“Drug-Impaired Driving: Marijuana and Opioids Raise Critical Issues for States”  by the Governors Highway Safety Association

 

More “Drugged Driving” Facts

What is drug-impaired driving? Driving under the influence of over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs, marijuana, or illegal drugs.

How common is drug-impaired driving?  In 2017, 12.8 million people (ages 16 and older) drove after using illicit drugs. (2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables)

man with pills behind the wheelWhy is drug-impaired driving dangerous? Over-the-counter (OTC) medications and drugs affect the brain and can alter perception, mental processes, attention, balance, coordination, reaction time and other abilities required for safe driving. Even small amounts of some drugs can have a serious effect on driving ability.

A recent national survey showed 22.5% of nighttime weekend drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription, or OTC drugs that can impair driving. (Drug-Impaired Driving: A Guide for States, April 2017. NHTSA 2014 Drug-Impaired Driving Survey)

What substances are used the most when driving? After alcohol, marijuana is the most commonly used drug. (Source: National Institute of Drug Abuse)

What happens when you use drugs and drive? Marijuana can decrease a person’s ability to drive a car. It slows reaction time, impairs a driver’s concentration and attention, and reduces hand-eye coordination. It is dangerous to drive after mixing alcohol and marijuana. Driving after using prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicine, such as cough suppressants, antihistamines, sleeping aids, and anti-anxiety medications may impair driving ability.

Check out the graphic below from the National Institute on Drug Abuse about the effects different drugs can have on driving (click to enlarge).

Graphic: Marijuana- slows reaction time and impairs judgement of time and distance; meth or cocaine - aggressive and reckless behaviors; opioids - drowsiness and impaired memory and thinking skills; sedatives (benzodiazepines, barbiturates) - dizziness and drowsiness

Is it legal? Even in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use, driving while under the influence of marijuana is still illegal. Unfortunately, too many people are misinformed. A study conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) found that a third of all teens believe it is legal to drive under the influence of marijuana. In addition 27 percent of parents believed it was legal.

Not only is driving while high illegal, it’s also very dangerous. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the effects of marijuana can include: altered senses and sense of time, slow reaction time, anxiety, hallucinations and more.

TIP: Parents—tell your teen not to drive after using marijuana or other drugs, and don’t get in a car with a driver who has used marijuana or other drugs!

Remember: Marijuana and many medications act on parts of the brain that can impair driving ability. Many prescription drugs have warning labels against the operation of machinery and driving motor vehicles, for a certain period of time after use. You are more likely to be injured or in an accident while driving while under the influence of marijuana or prescription drugs.

Of all professions, construction workers most likely to use opioids and cocaine

Construction workers are more likely use cocaine and misuse prescription opioids, according to a study  by the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research at NYU College of Global Public Health. These workers are also the second most likely to use marijuana.

Researchers looked at data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2005 and 2014.

“It makes sense that we see higher rates of construction workers using pain-relieving substances such as opioids and marijuana, given the labor-intensive nature of their work and high rates of injuries,” said Danielle Ompad, the study’s lead author. Read more.

AMA announces appointment of panel to update permanent impairment evaluation guides

Chicago — The American Medical Association has appointed a 13-member editorial panel of physicians and allied health professionals to oversee updates to the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment – used to help determine compensation for injured workers.

In a Sept. 18 press release, AMA states that the panel is important to developing a new, transparent process, driven by stakeholders, to maintain and enhance the guides with timely developments based on current science and evidence-based medical practice.

For more than five decades, the AMA Guides have been used as a source for physicians, patients and regulators to determine fair and consistent impairment rating information and tools, according to AMA’s website. Impairment ratings and impairment rating reports produced using the guides are used to determine compensation for patients with work-related injuries or illnesses that have resulted in a reduction of body function or loss of use of an injured body part long term.

“As new medical innovations become available, patient outcomes continue to improve,” Mark Melhorn, panel co-chair, said in the release. “It is important that the impairment process reflect those changes. Using the most current evidence-based science is critical.”

The panel also will help modernize the guides by reducing physician burden and improving the quality and consistency of evaluations, the release states.

The guides have been adopted by 40 states and several foreign countries, according to AMA.

Surgeon general to employers: Ramp up your worker well-being initiatives

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Photo: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’s

Washington — U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams is urging employers to make worker well-being a higher priority, in an article published online Oct. 10 in Public Health Reports – the official journal of the Office of the Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service.

“Healthy and happy employees have a better quality of life, a lower risk of disease and injury, increased work productivity, and a greater likelihood of contributing to their communities than employees with poorer well-being,” Adams writes, citing a 2015 study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.  Read more