COVID-19 and health care workers: Walsh reiterates that permanent rule likely before year’s end

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Walsh-2.jpg

Photo: Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee

Washington — Echoing comments made by OSHA administrator Doug Parker during a hearing three weeks earlier, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said a permanent standard on COVID-19 for the health care industry may be published sometime in the fall.

Walsh testified before the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee on June 15 – a day after appearing before the House Education and Labor Committee.

During the June 15 hearing, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the subcommittee, asked Walsh for an update on the forthcoming permanent standard. OSHA withdrew the non-recordkeeping parts of its emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 focused on health care workers Dec. 27 – around six months after it first went into effect.

“I believe it will be done in the next three to six months.” Walsh said.

“Three to six months from now?” Murray asked.

“Yes. It’s the rulemaking process,” Walsh responded. “I would love to speed it up, but, unfortunately, it’s the process that’s in place that we have to work under.”

Walsh also noted that OSHA is continuing its work on a standard on infectious diseases. According to the Department of Labor’s latest regulatory agenda, issued Dec. 10, that standard would be aimed at the health care industry and other “high-risk environments.”

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is expected to publish an updated regulatory agenda in the near future.

Mining deaths

During both hearings, Walsh highlighted a recent increase in mine worker fatalities. The labor secretary told Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM) separately that his department had a call with “some of the major mining companies in America” to talk about sharing best practices on safety.

According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, 37 mining fatalities were recorded last year – up from 29 in 2020. As of June 15, the agency had reported 12 miner deaths this year.

“Something I did when I was the mayor of Boston when we had high shootings is we brought all the stakeholders to the table. We did the same thing with the mining industry,” Walsh told Capito. “We need to make sure we stay on top of it.”


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

MSHA is Taking Steps to Increase Vaccinations in Mines Across the Country

First published by MSHA

Photo: MSHA

MSHA’s  Miner Vaccination Outreach Program (MVOP) organizes voluntary, free vaccination clinics in mining communities and provides educational outreach regarding the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.

Participation in the MVOP program is completely voluntary and free for qualified mine operators. MVOP program representatives will collaborate with industry stakeholders to identify convenient locations, coordinate with health professionals to provide vaccine administration services, and develop communication programs to address the community’s questions and concerns.

MVOP’s pilot program was conducted October 2021-March 2022 in Kentucky and Arizona. The program is now available in other locations, subject to staffing availability in those areas.

Click here to send a message to MSHA to request more information about the vaccination program.

VACCINE CLINICS:

KENTUCKY
Kentucky Crushed Stone Association Safety & Education Seminar
Jan. 26, 2022 (2:00pm-6:00pm EST)
Marriott Louisville East, Louisville, KY
Open to public

ARIZONA
Asarco Ray Mine
Jan. 25, 2022
Kearny, AZ
Mine employees only

Asarco Mission Mine
Jan. 26, 2022
Sahuarita, AZ
Mine employees only

MSHA has received a high volume of questions regarding the Coronavirus/COVID-19 and both mine operator actions and MSHA actions in response. This information sheet provides practices for operators and miners to minimize the spread of Coronavirus/COVID-19 and actions MSHA is taking to do the same.

What should mine operators and miners do?

  • Avoid close contact: Put distance between yourself and other people (about 6 feet). This includes not crowding personnel carriers, hoists and elevators, or other means of transportation at the mine.
  • Clean and disinfect: Wipe down equipment and other frequently touched surfaces.
  • Wash hands: If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, etc.
  • Stay at home if you are sick.

See additional guidance on the CDC’s Prevention page https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/assessment-tool-for-nursing-homes.html

US Department of Labor announces $3.2M in Susan Harwood grants

First published by OSHA

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration today announced the availability of $3.2 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 for Susan Harwood Workplace Safety and Health Training on Infectious Diseases, Including COVID-19 grants.

The grants will fund training and education to help workers and employers identify and prevent work-related infectious diseases, including COVID-19. Training topics must focus either on COVID-19 specifically or infectious diseases broadly. The maximum awarded for each grant is $160,000 for a 12-month performance period.

This funding opportunity is separate from the fiscal year 2022 Susan Harwood training grants for Targeted Topic, Training and Educational Materials Development, and Capacity Building. Successful applicants may receive an FY 2021 and/or FY 2022 Harwood training grant (i.e., a Targeted Topic Training, Training and Educational Materials Development, or one of the Capacity Building grants) and a Workplace Safety and Health Training on Infectious Diseases, Including COVID-19 grant in the same year.

The Harwood Training Grant program supports remote and in-person hands-on training for workers and employers in small businesses; industries with high injury, illness, and fatality rates; and vulnerable workers, who are underserved, have limited English proficiency, or are temporary workers.

Learn more about the funding opportunity and applying for grants.

Submit applications for Harwood grants online no later than 11:59 p.m. EDT on May 6, 2022.

Starting April 4, 2022, the Data Universal Numbering System number will be replaced by a new, non-proprietary identifier requested in, and assigned by, the System for Award Management. This new identifier is called the Unique Entity Identifier. If you have any questions on the UEI, please visit SAM.gov for assistance.

OSHA awards grants to nonprofit organizations, including community and faith-based organizations, employer associations, labor unions, joint labor/management associations, Native American tribes, and local and state-sponsored colleges and universities to provide infectious disease workplace safety and health training.

Learn more about the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

Anxiety and depression in construction workers

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Image from CPWR

Silver Spring, MD — Symptoms of anxiety and depression among construction workers have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among women and workers living in poverty, according to a new report from CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training.

Anxiety and depression are of particular importance in the construction industry, CPWR notes, citing a 2020 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that concluded male construction workers have one of the highest suicide rates among all industries and are at four times greater risk than the general public.

Using 2011-2018 and 2020 data from the National Health Interview Survey, researchers examined self-reported symptoms of anxiety and depression among construction workers to uncover any potential patterns and changes amid the pandemic. During the time frame prior to the pandemic, the number of construction workers who reported feeling anxious at least once a month rose 20%.

Among a subset of nearly 1,300 construction workers who were surveyed in both 2019 and 2020, 43% reported a rise in the level or frequency of anxiety/depression feelings between the two years. Those increased feelings were most prevalent among workers whose family incomes were below the poverty line (61%), female workers (50%) and those ages 18-54 (46%).

The 2020 data shows that symptoms of or medication use for anxiety/depression were nearly three times higher for workers who used prescription opioids in the past year (39%) compared with those who did not (14%).

Construction employers can act by sharing resources with their workers. CPWR offers resources on suicide prevention and preventing opioid deaths, while NIOSH has a webpage on stress at work.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

COVID-19: Study explores which face mask combinations, modifications work best

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication
COVID-19: Study explores face mask modifications
Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Arlington, VA — Adding a brace or wearing a cloth face mask over a medical mask increases protection against aerosols carrying viruses – including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, results of a recent NIOSH study suggest.

Researchers tested, on a sample of humans and mannequins, two types of medical masks and three varieties of cloth masks purchased online. The researchers also looked at multiple mask fit modifications while simulating coughs and exhalations through a source control measurement system.

Findings show that using a brace over a medical mask blocked about 99% of exhaled aerosols and 95% of cough aerosols. Wearing a cloth mask over a medical mask prevented the passage of around 91% of exhaled aerosols and 85% of cough aerosols.

Nonmodified medical masks, meanwhile, blocked about 56% of cough aerosols and 42% of exhaled aerosols. Use of earloop toggles or an earloop strap, or knotting and tucking the mask enhanced aerosol-blocking performance. Crossing earloops or placing a bracket under the mask didn’t improve performance.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been considerable confusion about the most effective use of facemasks, especially among the general public, to reduce the spread of infection,” Ann Marie Pettis, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, said in a press release. “The NIOSH study findings are important and timely because they identify specific, practical combinations of facemasks and mask modifications that may improve mask seal and thereby measurably reduce the expulsion of infectious aerosols into the environment.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises choosing facemasks that:

  • Have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric
  • Completely cover the user’s nose, mouth and chin
  • Fit snugly against the side of one’s face with no gaps
  • Have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking from the top of the mask

The study was published online Dec. 15 in the American Journal of Infection Control, APIC’s official, peer-reviewed journal.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

USDOL ANNOUNCES PILOT PROGRAM TO ENCOURAGE COVID-19 VACCINATION AMONG MINERS IN KENTUCKY AND ARIZONA

First published by MSHA
Photo: MSHA

Program targets mining areas in states with vaccination rates below 60 percent

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced a new program designed to encourage and help America’s miners to get the COVID-19 protections that vaccinations offer.

The department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration will pilot the Mine Vaccine Outreach Program to deliver free vaccinations in mining communities and provide educational outreach to mining communities in Kentucky and Arizona on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that vaccination rates are below 60 percent in two states where a substantial number of mining operations exist.

Participation in MSHA’s Mine Vaccine Outreach Program is voluntary and free for mine operators in Kentucky and Arizona. Program representatives will collaborate with the states’ mine operators to identify convenient locations, coordinate with health professionals to administer vaccine services and develop communication programs to address the community’s questions and concerns. On Wednesday Jan. 26, the agency will hold a public vaccine clinic at the Kentucky Crushed Stone Association Safety and Education Seminar in Louisville, Kentucky. Also, MSHA will host two vaccination clinics in Arizona this week for mine employees at the Asarco Ray Mine in Kearny on Tuesday, Jan. 25, and Asarco Mission Mine in Sahuarita on Wednesday, Jan. 26.

“The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration exists to protect the safety and health of the nation’s miners from hazards in their workplaces,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Jeannette Galanis. “COVID-19 has killed more than 860,000 people in the U.S. alone and like other mining hazards, it demands we take action to prevent workers from suffering needlessly. Providing free COVID-19 vaccinations is a natural extension of our efforts to ensure safe workplaces.”

MSHA has selected Jazz Solutions Inc., an Ashburn, Virginia, IT solutions provider for federal, state and local governments, to administer the program.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

OSHA Withdraws Vaccination and Testing ETS

First published by OSHA

Man receiving vaccination

Photo: OSHA

Statement on the Status of the OSHA COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard 

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is withdrawing the vaccination and testing emergency temporary standard issued on Nov. 5, 2021, to protect unvaccinated employees of large employers with 100 or more employees from workplace exposure to coronavirus. The withdrawal is effective January 26, 2022.

Although OSHA is withdrawing the vaccination and testing ETS as an enforceable emergency temporary standard, the agency is not withdrawing the ETS as a proposed rule. The agency is prioritizing its resources to focus on finalizing a permanent COVID-19 Healthcare Standard.

OSHA strongly encourages vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by COVID-19 in the workplace.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

District court blocks COVID-19 vaccine requirement for federal employees

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Photo: CDC

Galveston, TX — The Biden administration can’t enforce its a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal employees, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled in a decision issued Jan. 21.

President Joe Biden signed Executive Order 14043 on Sept. 9. The order initially gave federal employees until Nov. 30 to get vaccinated or obtain an exemption. That deadline was pushed back to the new year. During oral arguments made over the telephone Jan. 13, the two sides “agreed that the soonest any plaintiff might face discipline would be Jan. 21.”

In his decision, Judge Jeffrey Vincent Brown writes that although the court believes in COVID-19 vaccinations and “the federal government’s power, exercised properly, to mandate vaccinations for its employees,” a key question remained. That is “whether the president can, with the stroke of a pen and without the input of Congress, require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment?”

He concludes, in part, that because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision on OSHA’s emergency temporary standard on COVID-19 vaccination, testing and masking, the executive order was “a bridge too far.”

Brown also writes that the federal government could apply “less restrictive measures,” such as part- or full-time remote work, masking, and physical distancing.

“The government has not shown that an injunction in this case will have any serious detrimental effect on its fight to stop COVID-19,” the judge writes. “Moreover, any harm to the public interest by allowing federal employees to remain unvaccinated must be balanced against the harm sure to come by terminating unvaccinated workers who provide vital services to the nation.”

Brown also notes that a Dec. 9 press release from the White House states that the lowest vaccination rate among federal employees was 88%.

During a Jan. 21 press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that 98% of federal workers are in compliance. “Obviously, we are confident in our legal authority here,” she said.

The Department of Justice has filed an appeal, according to multiple published reports. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, would have jurisdiction in that appeal.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

Exhausted nation: Americans more tired than ever, survey finds

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

New York — Do you feel like you’re constantly running on fumes? If so, it’s not just you. Around 3 out of 5 U.S. adults say they feel more tired now than they’ve ever been and blame it on additional time spent at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, results of a recent survey show.

Researchers from marketing research company OnePoll surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults to learn about the impacts the pandemic is having on their energy levels, as well as any accompanying side effects. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they feel unfocused or disjointed, and that taking a brief nap isn’t a “viable solution.” More than half of the respondents (55%) said no amount of rest helps them feel focused, while slightly more (56%) believe poor sleep schedules have led to low energy levels.

Other findings:

  • 69% of the respondents said working from home has disrupted their sleep schedule.
  • Long work hours (53%), staying indoors during lockdowns (52%), too much screen time (46%) and lack of a regular routine (41%) were cited as the leading causes for prolonged feelings of exhaustion.
  • Among the participants working from home, 34% said many of the activities that typically boost their energy levels aren’t possible during the pandemic.
  • 3 out of 5 respondents said video conferences are more draining than in-person meetings.

The American Sleep Association offers tips for getting a better night’s sleep.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

Supreme Court mulling decision on OSHA’s ETS on COVID-19

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Washington — Who gets to decide how to protect workers against COVID-19? That was one of the central questions posed by opponents of OSHA’s emergency temporary standard on COVID-19 vaccination, testing and masking during a Jan. 7 hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Scott Keller, attorney for the National Federation of Independent Business, presented the question in a response to questioning from Justice Stephen Breyer early in the two-hour hearing. “You said the question is, ‘Who decides?’” Justice Elena Kagan said to Keller later in the hearing. “I think that’s right. I think that is the question.”

Kagan contended in her questioning that OSHA has experts on workplace safety and is politically accountable to the public via the election of presidents and representatives in Congress.

“Courts are not politically accountable,” she said. “Courts have not been elected. Courts have no epidemiological expertise. Why in the world would courts decide this question?”

Keller and Ohio Solicitor General Benjamin Flowers contended that Congress didn’t give OSHA clear authority to address vaccinations in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The duo also argued that states and private businesses can decide how to protect workers from COVID-19.

Chief Justice John Roberts expressed similar thoughts to U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, who was arguing on behalf of the government.

“It sounds like the sort of thing that states will be responding to, or should be, and Congress should be responding to, rather than agency by agency of the federal government and the executive branch acting alone.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor mentioned that “certain states … are stopping employers from requiring vaccines” and masks.

“Why shouldn’t the federal government, which … Congress has decided to give OSHA the power to regulate workplace safety, have a national rule that will protect workers?” she asked.

Reading from the OSH Act, Sotomayor noted that Congress gave OSHA the authority to develop “innovative methods, techniques and approaches for dealing with occupational health and safety problems.”

Prelogar pointed to Section 20(a)(5), which reads: “Nothing in this or any other provision of this act shall be deemed to authorize or require medical examination, immunization, or treatment for those who object thereto on religious grounds, except where such is necessary for the protection of the health or safety of others.”