OSHA announces stand-down on preventing construction worker suicides

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Image from CPWR

OSHA is urging employers in the construction industry to take part in a weeklong safety stand-down to raise awareness about suicide prevention.

Slated for Sept. 6-10, the Suicide Prevention Safety Stand-Down coincides with National Suicide Prevention Month. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published last year concluded that male construction workers have one of the highest suicide rates when compared with other industries and are at four times greater risk than the general public.

“Work-related stress can have severe impacts on mental health and, without proper support, may lead to substance abuse and even suicide,” Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick said in the release. “Workers in construction face many work-related stressors that may increase their risk factors for suicide, such as the uncertainty of seasonal work, demanding schedules and workplace injuries that are sometimes treated with opioids.”

An OSHA press release highlights a number of the agency’s resources that employers can use during the weeklong event, as well as others produced by construction industry groups. The agency has assembled a task force to help raise awareness on the types of stress that construction workers may face.

OSHA’s regional offices in Kansas City and St. Louis initiated the first stand-down last year in partnership with The Builders’ Association, the Associated General Contractors of Missouri, the University of Iowa, Washington University, the University of Kansas, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, local worker unions and several employers. The event included more than 5,000 participants, the release states.

                                                       

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.

Mental illness an ‘unrecognized crisis’ among miners with black lung, study shows

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Charlottesville, VA — Coal miners with black lung disease commonly face various mental health issues, including thoughts of suicide, results of a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Virginia show.

The researchers examined data from more than 2,800 coal miners who were evaluated for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder through a voluntary survey at Stone Mountain Health Services, a black lung clinic in Jonesville, VA. The average age of the participants – an overwhelming majority of whom were white males – was 66.

More than 1 out of 3 participants reported symptoms consistent with a major depressive disorder (37.4%) or had clinically significant anxiety (38.9%). Additionally, 26.2% exhibited symptoms of PTSD and 11.4% had considered suicide in the past year. The percentage of suicidal thoughts among all men in Virginia is 2.9.

The researchers note that the percentage “of mental illness far exceeded those documented in coal mining populations internationally.” Miners who need supplemental oxygen to assist with breathing showed accelerated rates of suicidal thoughts (15.9%), anxiety (47.7%) and depression (48.5%).

“This study highlights the unrecognized crisis of mental illness in miners that warrants urgent attention, resources and expanded care,” Drew Harris, lead study author and pulmonary medicine expert at UVA Health, said in a press release, adding that the percentage of “mental illness identified in this large population of U.S. coal miners is shocking. Improved screening and treatment of mental illness in this population is an urgent, unmet need that warrants urgent action.”

Also known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, black lung is a deadly but preventable condition. Rates of black lung disease have more than doubled over the past 15 years, says NIOSH, which adds that symptoms may include coughing, excessive phlegm, shortness of breath, labored breathing and chest tightness.

The agency provides free, confidential health screenings through its Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program.

The study was published online May 25 in JAMA Network Open.


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.

With farmers and ranchers under stress, safety group develops mental health network

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Peosta, IA — In response to a variety of stressors that continue to affect farmers and ranchers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit AgriSafe Network has developed a mental health initiative intended to distribute resources and training materials aimed at mitigating stress.

“Farmers and ranchers deal with a lot of uncertainty in a good year,” AgriSafe says. “Add to that current low commodity prices, trade wars, extreme weather and now a pandemic. Coping with the stress of everything happening around us is not easy.”

The Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace identifies multiple potential signs of work-related stress, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Workplace incidents
  • Workplace violence
  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Alcohol or drug use

“Good health, including mental health, is a key factor that contributes to one’s ability to keep farming,” AgriSafe says.


McCraren Compliance assists employers in protecting their workers, starting with a comprehensive Work-site Analysis, Hazard Prevention, Controls, and Safety & Health Training.

Please contact us today at 888-758-4757 to learn how we can provide mine safety training and consulting for your business.

Is stress making your workers’ minds wander?

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication.
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Photo: Potential Project

New York — Employees who feel stressed say their minds can wander for up to nearly 60% of the workday by the time Friday rolls around, according to the results of a recent study conducted by a global research, leadership development and consulting firm.

Researchers collaborating with the Potential Project gathered 225,000 data observations on employee focus, resilience and engagement for workers in 44 countries and 15 different industries. Overall, participants reported that their minds wander 37% of the time while on the job. The researchers also found that stress makes workers’ mind wander even more, causing two to three times more inattentiveness.

On average, the participants who were experiencing stress had minds that wandered 59% of the time on Fridays, 55% on Thursdays and 51% on Mondays. By contrast, employees who reported feeling calm at work had minds that wandered 35% of the time on Mondays, and that percentage decreased over the course of workweek to a low of 25 on Fridays.

The researchers identified three key ways workers can limit their minds from wandering:
Daily mind-training practice. Workers who train their mind can direct it to feel more grounded, resilient and present. Results show that those who practiced mindfulness had minds that wandered only 28% of the time, as opposed to 52% for workers who didn’t.
Connecting with others socially. Doing so helped workers limit their wandering minds to 30% of the time, creating more balance and focus. Among workers who chose to be alone, their minds wandered 48% of the time.
A good night’s rest. Seven or more hours of sleep a night can benefit mental and physical health. Quality sleep helped to reduce mind wandering to 35% of the workday, compared with 41% for workers who slept less than six hours.


McCraren Compliance assists employers in protecting their workers, starting with a comprehensive Work-site Analysis, Hazard Prevention, Controls, and Safety & Health Training.

Please contact us today at 888-758-4757 to learn how we can provide mine safety training and consulting for your business.

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First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication.

COVID-19 has changed the way we all work. Some of us never stopped physically going to work, while others have been working remotely since mid-March. No matter where we are, working during a pandemic has added stress to our daily lives. How you deal with this stress can positively or negatively affect your well-being.

Some of the symptoms of COVID-19-related stress, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include concern about being exposed to the disease at work, taking care of your loved ones while you’re working, managing a change in workload, and uncertainty about the future of your workplace or employment.

Manage job stress by following these tips from CDC:

  • Communicate with your co-workers about job stress while maintaining physical distancing.
  • Identify factors that cause you stress, and work together with your colleagues to develop solutions.
  • Increase your sense of control by creating a consistent daily routine when you can. If you work from home, set a regular time to stop working each day.
  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep a night for adults.
  • Take breaks from work to stretch, exercise or check in with your co-workers, family and friends.
  • Get active: Spend time outdoors, either exercising or relaxing.
  • Ask your supervisor or human resources department about the mental health resources your organization offers.
  • During non-work hours, spend time doing activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns, how you’re feeling or how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting you.
  • Take breaks from watching or reading news stories. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting and mentally exhausting.

For more information, go to sh-m.ag/3k6mGeR.


McCraren Compliance assists employers in protecting their workers, starting with a comprehensive Work-site Analysis, Hazard Prevention, Controls, and Safety & Health Training.

Feeling blue? Take a walk by the water, researchers say

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Photo: Peter Berglund/iStockphoto

Barcelona, Spain — Walking along bodies of water might boost your overall health and mood, results of a recent study led by researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health suggest.

Over a period of three weeks, the researchers studied 59 healthy adult office workers before, during and after each spent 20 minutes a day in different environments, measuring their blood pressure and heart rate while assessing their mood via a questionnaire. For one week, the participants walked along a beach in Barcelona. For another week, they walked in an urban environment. For the next, they spent 20 minutes at rest indoors.

The results show that walking along “blue spaces” – areas such as beaches, lakes, rivers and fountains – immediately triggered “significantly improved well-being and mood responses.” They found no cardiovascular benefit, but point out that they assessed only short-term effects.

“Our results show that the psychological benefits of physical activity vary according to the type of environment where it is carried out, and that blue spaces are better than urban spaces in this regard,” Cristina Vert, lead study author and a researcher at the institute, said in a July 6 press release.

Short walks in blue spaces can benefit both well-being and mood. However, we did not observe a positive effect of blue spaces for any of the cardiovascular outcomes assessed in this study.

The study was published online June 19 in the journal Environmental Research.

 

Show compassion, provide stability, share hope: Total Worker Health experts talk return-to-work planning

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Photo: Missouri Department of Transportation

Washington — The director of NIOSH’s Office for Total Worker Health says employers should think about the physical and mental health needs of their employees returning to the job amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Continue to focus on the supports that workers need most in difficult times,” L. Casey Chosewood said during the agency’s June 25 webinar on strategies for safely returning people to the workplace. “They obviously want to trust you as they return to work, so show them compassion, provide stability and share hope that we will all get through this together.”

NIOSH colleagues R. Todd Niemeier, industrial hygiene team lead, and Kevin H. Dunn, a research mechanical engineer, joined Chosewood in discussing reopening scenarios for general business, offices and manufacturing settings.

They encouraged employers to get familiar with several key guidance documents, including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to COVID-19 and Resuming Business Toolkit, which includes a restart readiness checklist and worker protection tool.

Dunn said restarting normal or phased business operations is an opportunity for employers to implement and update COVID-19 preparedness response and control plans. These plans should be specific to the workplace, identifying all areas and job tasks in which employees face potential exposure, and include measures to eliminate or control exposures.

Other recommendations:

  • Designate a COVID-19 workplace coordinator, and ensure all workers know who this person is and how to contact him or her. The coordinator also should know and follow local and state regulations, as well as public health guidelines.
  • Conduct a thorough hazard assessment to learn about existing and potential hazards as workers return.
  • Consider changing duties of vulnerable workers to minimize their risk and contact with customers and co-workers. A cashier, for example, could be moved to a restocking job, if it’s appropriate and the worker agrees to the new role.
  • Follow CDC guidance on air and water systems in facilities reopening after a prolonged shutdown. This includes following the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ Standard 180-2018, which establishes minimum requirements for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning inspection and maintenance.
  • Delegate authority so local offices or branches can react based on regional COVID-19 conditions, which vary by state. This will ensure local teams have a stake in how they respond appropriately.
  • Increase the outdoor air ventilation rate or total ventilation rate to improve central air filtration to the highest level possible that doesn’t impact overall airflow.
  • Remove items that create traffic, such as coffee machines and bulk snacks.
  • Allow more flexibility for time off and paid sick leave so employees who have to care for children or sick relatives can adjust their schedules accordingly.
  • Focus on proper and regular cleaning and disinfection of high-traffic and high-touch areas.
  • Regularly include workers and labor unions in safety discussions.

“Above all, keep communicating and provide those necessary flexibilities (for workers),” Chosewood said.

Mental health and your employees

mental health and your employees - McCraren Compliance, Tucson, Arizona

Employees returning to the workplace amid the COVID-19 pandemic may be experiencing mental health distress in several ways. Let the National Safety Council help you provide support. Use the Stress, Emotional and Mental Health Considerations for Return-to-Work Guidance playbook, developed as part of the SAFER initiative.

Mental health and your employees are one of the keys to business continuity and McCraren Compliance is here to support you.

Does job stress lead to early death? Study explores

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Photo: castillodominici/iStockphoto

Bloomington, IN — Little job autonomy and low cognitive ability, combined with stressors related to workload and demands, can lead to depression and early death, results of a recent study show.

Using data from 3,148 Wisconsin residents who participated in the Midlife in the United States survey, researchers from Indiana University and Northern Illinois University looked at “how job control – or the amount of autonomy employees have at work” – and cognitive ability (people’s ability to learn and solve problems) “influence how work stressors such as time pressure or workload affect mental and physical health and, ultimately, death.”

The researchers found “when job demands are greater than the control afforded by the job or an individual’s ability to deal with those demands, there is a deterioration to their mental health and, accordingly, an increased likelihood of death,” Erik Gonzalez-Mulé, assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resources at the IU Kelley School of Business, said in a May 19 press release.

Conversely, when workers had more autonomy, they experienced better physical health and a lower likelihood of death.

“We believe that this is because job control and cognitive ability act as resources that help people cope with work stressors,” Gonzalez-Mulé said. “Job control allows people to set their own schedules and prioritize work in a way that helps them achieve their work goals, while people that are smarter are better able to adapt to the demands of a stressful job and figure out ways to deal with stress.”

The study was published online April 9 in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Focus on mental health

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Workers might be facing a number of issues during the COVID-19 crisis that can have an impact on mental health, including furloughs and layoffs, social isolation, financial hardships and worries, and health concerns for themselves and their families.

“I’ve heard it said that the next pandemic wave may be mental health,” said Marissa J. Levine, a professor at the University of South Florida, during an April 14 webinar on mental health hosted by NSC. “Honestly, I’m concerned about that. It’s affected every state, every one of us, in some way.”

Employees might be getting information from numerous, and sometimes unreliable, sources at this time. “It’s very difficult, in these anxious times, to catch peoples’ attention,” Eric Goplerud, chair of the board of directors for the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, said during the webinar. “There are 11 words which will help you communicate and break through the anxiety: A simple message, repeated often, from a variety of trusted sources.”

Levine recommended employers and managers follow and share coping strategies from sources such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which suggests taking breaks from consuming news reports related to the pandemic, taking time to unwind, working on physical fitness and social connections, setting goals and priorities, and focusing on the facts.

For employers, human resources teams and safety leaders, Goplerud encouraged more communication about benefits programs, such as an employee assistance program. Leaders also should encourage more interaction with benefits vendors.

Employers and managers can share honest updates about COVID-19 while also providing a positive outlook for the path forward.

“There’s a real opportunity here for focusing on the positives without minimizing the issues that we’re dealing with,” Levine said. “Having a can-do attitude and the power of positive thinking are needed now more than ever.”