Posts Tagged ‘agriculture’

Workplace suicides are climbing; Highest in law enforcement, farming, auto repair

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

“Between 2003 and 2010, a total of 1,719 people died by suicide in the workplace. Workplace suicide rates generally decreased until 2007 and then sharply increased. This is in contrast with non-workplace suicides, which increased over the study period. Workplace suicide rates were highest for men (2.7 per 1,000,000); workers aged 65-74 years (2.4 per 1,000,000); those in protective service occupations (5.3 per 1,000,000); and those in farming, fishing, and forestry (5.1 per 1,000,000).”

From the recent study of workplace suicides between 2003 and 2010, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Suicide in U.S Workplaces, 2003-2010:

Aimee Swartz looks at the study data and the issue of suicide in Workplace Suicides Are on the Rise in a recent issue of The Atlantic, noting that In 2013, the last year for which data are available, 270 people in the U.S. committed suicide at work – a 12 percent increase over the prior year.

There are many factors that contribute to the rise. Mental health experts caution that potential causal factors can’t be generalized based on occupation, but that job factors may present additional stressors that tip the balance. Individual factors such as depression, financial losses, mental and physical health issues play a role.

Swartz looks at potential contributing job factors in each of the highest professions. In law enforcement, trauma is high and a “macho” culture means that people often are reluctant to share or deal with feelings of stress that may be perceived as weakness, Plus, ease of access to a methodology may come into play: 84% of law enforcement suicides involved a firearm. In farming, isolation and financial losses are contributing factors. In the auto repair industry, many think that long-term exposure to chemical solvents may be linked to depressive symptoms.

Mental Health Daily looks at 15 common causes of suicide, as well as the Top 11 Professions with Highest Suicide Rates

  • Medical Doctors 1:87
  • Dentists 1:67
  • Police Officers 1:54
  • Veterinarians 1:54
  • Financial Services 1:51
  • Real estate 1:38
  • Electricians 1:36
  • Lawyers 1:33
  • Farmers 1:32
  • Pharmacists 1:29
  • Chemists 1:28

Farmer suicides on the rise
Madeleine Thomas of Grist takes a deeper look at farmer suicides in her excellent article How can we stop farmer suicides? Thomas says that “farmer suicides tend to increase when farm economics falter.” Rates were high during the farm crisis of the 1980s, when more than 900 farmers took their own lives. Many mental health experts fear that current hardships may lead to an increase in farmer suicides. Calls to hotlines are spiking, with droughts, cold, heavy snow and other climactic woes taking a deep financial toll.

Other factors include the isolated, insular nature of rural farming and easy access to weapons. When the business of farming falters for family farms, it can be ruinous for families, and farmers are often unprepared for other professions.

Experts say that behavioral health in farming populations is an underfunded and often ignored public health issue, particularly in an era when funds for the CDC and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health are scarce and funding priorities compete.

“Behavioral health is the area of healthcare that agricultural people understand the least well,” says Michael Rosmann, a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in agricultural behavioral health and one of the field’s leading researchers. “It is the area that probably is in most need of research and clarification so that we improve the understanding and treatment of behavioral health issues.” Rosmann and other experts believe the country’s rural agricultural population should be classified as a health disparity group, which according to the CDC, would mean that farmers consistently face greater barriers to proper healthcare due to the unique environmental, cultural, and economic factors. If farmers and rural America were more widely recognized as a health disparity, more government funding could be directed toward addressing the issue.”

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.) 1-800-273-8255

Walking down the grain … and the fines

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013


Image: John Poole, NPR


It’s called “walking down the grain,” it’s illegal and it results in suffocation deaths on farms with frightening regularity. It refers to the practice of workers going into grain silos and bins with shovels and picks to break up clogs in the grain so that it can flow smoothly. It’s a highly dangerous practice that can result in sudden entrapment similar to being sucked in by quicksand. It can happen in less than a minute.
This summer is starting as many others, with a lone worker trapped and suffocated in a grain silo – his would be rescuers talk about futile attempts to save him. News reports say that he fell in – until OSHA investigations, we may not know the particulars around why he entered the bin alone and had no protection, such as harnesses. Sometimes farmers do this on their own. Sometimes, they send workers in to walk down the grain – often teens, immigrants or some other temporary workers who may not be aware of the dangers. That was the case in 2010 when a 20 year old and two teens were entrapped in an Indiana silo. One teen survived.
2010 was a year for the record books. Heavy rains the prior year made for very moist, clumpy grain in storage. Twenty-six people died in that year, the worst year in decades.
According to the Center for Public Integrity:

“At least 498 people have suffocated in grain bins since 1964, according to data analyzed for the Center and NPR by William Field, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue University.

At least 165 more people drowned in wagons, trucks, rail cars or other grain storage structures. Almost 300 were engulfed but survived. Twenty percent of the 946 people caught in grain were under 18.”


It should be noted that these are reported incidents.
Walking down the fines
This spring, the Center for Public Integrity and NPR produced a special investigative series called Buried in Grain. In a recorded segment, the sole survivor of the Indiana grain bin entrapment recounts the experience, a gripping and powerful account. The first segment also talks about another dangerous practice: how almost all the fines levied by OSHA in such fatalities wind up being slashed in what might be termed “walking down the fines.” In subsequent reports, the series talks about why storage bin rescues are so risky and complex, and a third offers prevention strategies.
Liz Borowski of The Pump Handle links to various other news reports and resources on grain bins and temporary workers. The Pump Handle, an excellent blog that reports on public health and policy issues, has been great in keeping attention on this subject. We also point you to the powerful video on Grain Bin Safety issued by The National Corn Growers Association and the National Grain and Feed Foundation, previously posted here.
Farming is a dangerous livelihood. Storage facilities present many other dangers. A year after the deaths discussed in the above report, we posted about two teens who both lost legs in a grain bin augur accident. Other grain storage hazards beyond engulfment and suffocation or being caught in machinery include lung disease and poisoning from fumigants, mold, and grain dust. Plus, the risk of explosions from combustible dust: this year has seen at least two deaths related to a grain bin explosion in Indiana.
OSHA has put bin operators on notice and provides a variety of tools and resources about grain handling safety. Many are cynical, however, that with weak enforcement and continued “walking down the fines” the practice of “walking down the grain” won’t go away any time soon.

image credit: OSHA

Health Wonk Review, Irish style, and other noteworthy news briefs

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Guinness is good for you – That’s the news from Tinker Ready, who is hosting the Health Wonk Review: Wearing the Green for the St. Patrick’s Day Edition at her blog Boston Health News. We think it’s pretty fitting to have a Boston blog hosting this particular edition!
From the bizarre file – Thomas A. Robinson ofRisk Management Magazine offers a list of the 10 most bizarre workers compensation cases during 2011. Robinson rightly notes that, “Despite their unusual nature, however, one must always be respectful of the fact that while a case might be bizarre in an academic sense, it was intensely real, affecting real lives and real families.” So true. We hope he’ll follow with a collection of the 10 most bizarre employer acts – we’ve seen a few in our day.
OSHA whistleblowers – Just a reminder: Don’t fire someone for reporting safety hazard. A Florida charter school is learning this lesson the hard way. OSHA is suing Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, Fla seeking reinstatement of the former employee with full benefits; payment of back wages, punitive damages, and compensatory damages, among other things.
New York’s Reg. 194 – There’s a big brouhaha in New York over N.Y. Reg. 194, with risk manager groups and agent groups coming down on opposite sides of the fence. N.Y. Reg, 194 is a broker-disclosure rule that requires agents to advise clients that they receive commissions from insurers. The ruling was proposed by the Division of Insurance in the aftermath of the Spitzer investigations against several large brokerage firms. Last week, a NY Appellate Court upheld the rule.
Exploding pig farms – We posted a link to this issue before – but the mysterious hog farm explosions continue to stump scientists. A strange, potentially explosive foam is surfacing near manure pits in about 1 ou tof every 4 hog farms, and has caused six explosions since 2009. According to the article: “This has all started in the last four or five years here. We don’t have any idea where it came from or how it got started,” said agricultural engineer Charles Clanton of the University of Minnesota. “Whatever has happened is new.” The National Hog Farmer has more background: Foaming swine manure poses explosive risks.
Wellness focus – Of cancers affecting both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) is the second leading cancer killer in the United States, and the number one cancer killer in non-smokers. Why not issue a reminder to your employees: Colorectal cancer screening saves lives.
Market conditions – Roberto Ceniceros notes that captives are thriving as the work comp market hardens. Rising prices for traditional insurance vehicles always means that alternative insurance programs see growth.

Risk roundup, student athletes, pharma report, misclassification, war of the giants & more

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Cavalcade of Risk – The Terrorism, CyberWar, Floods, Bad Mortgages, Robberies, Investment Losses and Disease Edition of Cavalcade of Risk is hot off the press and posted by Jaan Sidorov at Disease Management Care Blog. Check it out!
Tribute to Workers – A few weeks ago, we made a 9/11 memorial post, which focused heavily on the event, the aftermath, and the losses. More recently, we came upon an excellent New York Times feature that focuses on portraits and stories of workers who are rebuilding the World Trade Center, the largest construction project in the United States. It’s a positive testament to the future, to resilience, and to some great American workers. The rebuilding effort has employed 3,200 workers. NYT features more about the WTC rebuilding project.
Student Athletes? – Jared Wade posts about how the NCAA Has Used the Term “Student-Athlete” to Avoid Paying Workers Comp Liabilities – part of a longer article that The Atlantic featured on college sports. Wade notes that, “For our purposes, however, the most interesting excerpt chronicles the how and the why of the NCAA’s creation and widespread promotion of the term “student-athlete.” According to Branch, the main reason that former NCAA head Walter Byers, in his own words, “crafted the term student-athlete” and soon made sure it was “embedded in all NCAA rules and interpretations” was because it was an excellent defense against being held liable for workers compensation benefits that those injured in athletic competition could seek.”
Prescription Drugs – NCCI has issued Workers Compensation Prescription Drug Study: 2011 UPDATE (PDF), a 31 page report. The key findings:
*The indicated Rx share of total medical is 19%; this is slightly higher than the estimate given in our 2010 update
*OxyContin climbs from the number 3 WC drug in Service Year 2008 to number 1 in Service Year 2009
*Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen drops from the top WC drug in Service Year 2008 to number 3 in Service Year 2009
*Recent overall cost increases are driven more by utilization increases than by price increases
*Physician dispensing continues to increase in Service Year 2009 in almost every state
*Increased physician dispensing is associated with increased drug costs per claim *Per-claim Rx costs vary significantly by state
At Managed Care Matters, Joe Paduda offers his educated observations on the pharmacy study.
Agricultural worker protections – Laura Walter of EHS Today writes about A Disposable Work Force: Farm Worker Advocates Push for Agricultural Worker Protections. Her article focuses on a new report published by the advocacy organization Farmworker Justice which criticizes the H-2A temporary guest work visa program. The report claims that it makes agricultural workers vulnerable to poor working conditions. Farm worker advocates argue that to improve these conditions, foreign agricultural workers should be able to seek legal immigration status.
Battle of the giants – In catching up on a backlog of blog reading, we find a post from Roberto Ceniceros’ Comp Time of great interest. It focuses on the battle of the giants chronicling the ongoing dispute between two workers’ comp behemoths, AIG and Liberty Mutual. The dispute is being fought in court, and now in the court of public opinion via dueling websites.
Hunt for misclassification is getting muscle – The Department of Labor and the IRS will be teaming up with other federal agencies and the labor departments of 11 states to share information that will help to track down employers that misclassify workers. For more on this, see Jon Gelman’s post, US Dept of Labor Moves Aggressively on Misclassification of Employees and Dave DePaolo’s post One Way to ID Scofflaw Employers: IRS Co Op
Social Media – The more we use Twitter, the more we like it – we’ve certainly come across some great users and learned about some great pointers and links to breaking news. One Twitter user we’ve found particularly helpful is Kyle Thill posting for @ToyotaEquipment, a forklift dealership from Minneapolis. With 15,000+ followers, he must be doing something right! Safety is one of the ongoing themes of his posts, so if that’s of interest to you, he’s a good Twitter user to follow. He also issues The #Safety Daily Update, which is a curated “newspaper” of web-related safety matters. It’s worth checking out.
Signs of life for the elusive hard market – At Terms + Conditions, Claire Wilkinson talks about an uptick in commercial insurance prices as reported by Tower Watson’s latest commercial lines pricing survey.
Administrative note – We’ve shut down comments due to an unbelievable flood of comment spam. We’re sorry about that – but we don’t have the time to deal with it. If we come up with any new magical solutions to curtail it (we’ve tried many) we may reinstate comments at a later time.

Grain Bin Safety

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

The National Corn Growers Association and the National Grain and Feed Foundation – the research and education arm of the National Grain and Feed Association – recently unveiled a joint video project to promote awareness about grain bin safety on the farm. The two organizations teamed up in November 2010 to develop the video in response to an increase in U.S. fatalities and injuries associated with entry into grain bins.
It’s pretty powerful. The video, shot on location in several states, provides a wide range of information on prevention tips and background data on grain bin accidents. The project also involved interviews with professionals in the fields of grain bin safety research and rescue.
The producers are hoping to get this in the hands of as many farmers as possible and are making DVD copies of the grain bin safety video available for ordering.

New OSHA focus: Dairy Farms

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Suffocation in a manure slurry pit. Being attacked and crushed by a bull. Being crushed by an 1800 pound bale of hay. Being run over by heavy farm equipment. These aren’t the things you think of when you drive by a pastoral, picture-postcard scene of a herd of grazing dairy cows. Yet dairy farms are among the most hazardous and deadly work environments in the nation.
In this month’s Risk & Insurance, Cyril Tuohy discusses how OSHA is ramping up inspections at Wisconsin dairy farms – partly in response to the death of a migrant worker last spring in a manure pit – and in response to an overall high industry fatality rate.
Of the industry’s lethality, Tuohy reports:

The labor statistical category for dairy farming, which includes all agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, reported 26 fatal work-related injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2009, the latest year for which numbers are available. That gives this occupational category the highest ratio among all categories.

Its fatality rate is more than double the No. 2 deadliest category, the mining sector with its 12.7 fatal work-related injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, the BLS statistics reveal. Transportation and warehousing (12.1 fatal injuries), construction (9.7 fatal injuries) and wholesale trade (4.9 fatal injuries) round out the top five deadliest occupations.

There were a total of 551 deaths reported in 2009 in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, up from 286 fatalities reported in 2008. A total of 4,340 workers died in 2009 in all sectors, down 17 percent from 5,214 in 2008.

In his paper Dairy Farm Safety and OSHA – Approaches for effective management and worker training David Douphrate discusses the most common safety hazards in dairy farms:

One of the most common causes of death and serious injury on farms is related to the heavy equipment required to run a dairy farm. A high number of farming fatalities are due to tractor turnovers. Other causes of fatalities include silage bunker collapse, manure pits, tractor power take offs (PTO) and large animals such as dairy bulls.

Recent research studies show that the two main causes of workers’ injuries (fatal and non-fatal) are incidents with machinery and animals [Mitloehner and Calvo 2008]. Machine-related accidents include tractor rollovers, being run over by tractors and being entangled in rotating shafts. Animal-related injuries include kicks, bites, and workers being pinned between animals and fixed objects. Other causes of injuries include chemical hazards, confined spaces, manure lagoons, use of power tools, and improper use or lack of personal protective equipment [Mitloehner and Calvo 2008].

Douphrate’s paper also documents the most common citations that resulted from 736 diary inspections between 2000 to 2010:
* Lack of proper injury and illness prevention program.
* Lack of work injury recording and reporting.
* Lack of mounting or proper tagging of portable fire extinguishers.
* Inadequate communication program about hazardous chemicals.
* Inadequate process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals.
* Inadequate hazardous waste operation management and emergency response.
* Inadequate respiratory protection.
* Lack of roll-over protective structures (ROPS).
* Inadequate guarding floor and wall openings and holes.
* Inadequate eye and face protection.
* Inadequate medical services and first aid.
* Inadequate guarding of field and farmstead equipment.
An industry fueled by immigrant workers
As damning as some of the injury and death statistics are, the reality might be even worse. Many farm workers may be reluctant to report injuries due to their illegal, undocumented status – a fact that makes these workers an easy population to exploit. A 2009 article in High Country News documented this Dark Side of Dairies, portraying a broken system that leaves immigrant workers invisible – and in danger. According to the article:

The majority of the West’s nearly 50,000 dairy workers are immigrants, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture sociologist William Kandel. Many of them are undocumented, monolingual Spanish speakers like Gustavo. Such workers are unlikely to report injuries or file claims with the state for money to recover medical bills and missed pay for fear of getting fired or deported.

To make matters worse, agricultural workers are not afforded most of the federal labor law protections that are extended to workers in other industries.

Other dangerous industries, such as meatpacking, logging and construction, have specific safety standards mandated by state or federal labor agencies. While dairies fall under the general agricultural safety regulations for tractors and heavy machinery, there are no specific standards for how workers should be protected while milking or moving cows. Dairy workers in Washington, Nevada, Oregon and California are entitled to lunch and rest breaks, but legal aid organizations in these states say the laws are rarely enforced.

What dairy operations can expect from OSHA
An article in Hoard’s Dairyman discusses OSHA’s dairy initiative and talks about what dairy farms might expect:

As OSHA begins to take a closer look at dairy farms, there are a number of areas they will be evaluating. “If you have grain bins, and many dairies do, they will look at procedures for the confined space entry,” says Carter. “Perhaps a bigger concern will be manure pit guarding. The State of Wisconsin requires guarding per your manure pit application. Many states may have similar rules,” he notes.

The article also offers advice to farmers for what to do if OSHA makes a visit, and what the range of fines are for violations.

Record number of grain bin fatalities in 2010; OSHA cites employers

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

A Purdue University report revealed that 2010 was the deadliest year in decades for grain bin fatalities. According to a Bloomberg story by Michael J. Crumb, the report indicated there were “51 grain bin accidents last year, up from 38 in 2009 and the most since tracking began in 1978. Twenty-five people died, and five of them were children under age 16. The previous record for grain bin accidents was 42 in 1993.”
The bulk of these fatalities occurred in major corn and soybean growing states: “Illinois led the country with 10 accidents last year, followed by Minnesota with eight. Wisconsin had seven, and five were reported in Iowa.” The reasons for the spike were attributed to an increase in corn production due to ethanol demands and an unusually wet season. Moisture in storage facilities can cause spoilage and rot, resulting in caked grain which gets clogged and the grain does not flow freely out of the bin so workers enter the bins to dislodge clogs. Of course, the primary reason for the spike in fatalities was the failure to adhere to safe handling practices. As with many industries, unsafe practices are often defended as being “the way it’s always been done.”
The US Department of Labor and OSHA recently cited 2 Illinois grain elevator operators and imposed nearly $1.4 million in fines for 3 fatalities in incidents where workers suffocated after being engulfed in grain. The citations were issued to Haasbach LLC in Mount Carroll and Hillsdale Elevator Co. in Geneseo and Annawan, Ill., for willful safety violations and to Haasbach for child labor violations. The OSHA link enumerates the nature of the violations in some detail.
Last summer we posted about two of these fatal accidents:
After 2 teen deaths, OSHA puts grain handling facilities on notice
Two farmworking teens killed in silo; media is mystified
OSHA issues letters, guidance to grain bin operators
In response to these incidents, OSHA issued letters to 3,000 grain bin operators. More recently, they issued a second batch of letters, this time to 10,000 grain bin operators across the U.S.
OSHA’s grain handling facilities standard includes a requirement that employers provide workers entering bins or tanks with appropriate personal protective equipment such as full body harnesses for easier removal in the event of an emergency. Providing proper protection and not allowing workers to walk or stand in products piled higher than the waist reduces the risk of workers sinking and suffocating.
OSHA also outlined the following guidance:
When workers enter storage bins, employers must (among other things):
1. Turn off and lock out all powered equipment associated with the bin, including augers used to help move the grain, so that the grain is not being emptied or moving out or into the bin. Standing on moving grain is deadly; the grain acts like ‘quicksand’ and can bury a worker in seconds. Moving grain out of a bin while a worker is in the bin creates a suction that can pull the workers into the grain in seconds.
2. Prohibit walking down grain and similar practices where an employee walks on grain to make it flow.
3. Provide all employees a body harness with a lifeline, or a boatswains chair, and ensure that it is secured prior to the employee entering the bin.
4. Provide an observer stationed outside the bin or silo being entered by an employee. Ensure the observer is equipped to provide assistance and that their only task is to continuously track the employee in the bin
5. Prohibit workers from entry into bins or silos underneath a bridging condition, or where a build-up of grain products on the sides could fall and bury them.
6. Test the air within a bin or silo prior to entry for the presence of combustible and toxic gases, and to determine if there is sufficient oxygen.
7. Ensure a permit is issued for each instance a worker enters a bin or silo, certifying that the precautions listed above have been implemented.
Additional Resources
Grain Handling
OSHA’s Grain Handling Facilities Standard
Worker Entry into Grain Storage Bins
OSHA Agricultural Operations
Grain Handling / Harvesting Storage
Hazards Associated with Grain Storage and Handling
Confined Space hazards a threat to farmers
Dangerous Gases and Fires Can Make Silos Death Traps

Cavalcade of Risk and News You Can Use

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

New Cavalcade of Risk – David Williams of Health Business Blog is this week’s host of Cavalcade of Risk. He offers a concise array of postings, including one method of improving immune response that you absolutely do not want to miss. While stopping by, check out his other posts – he always has the scoop on interesting new issues and trends in healthcare. Also, follow his Twitter feed.
Healthcare reform – The latest Kaiser Tracking Poll on attitudes to healthcare reform shows that while Americans are evenly split on health care reform legislation (43% for; 43% against), but agree on certain provisions. The poll also shows that if Congress decides to stop working on healthcare, 58 percent of Americans say they will be either disappointed or angry, with 38% saying they will feel happy or relieved.
There is support for several key provisions of reform that cuts across all political persuasions. Percent saying that it is extremely or very important:
76% – reforming the way health insurance works
72% providing tax credits to small businesses
71% Creating a health insurance exchange / marketplace
71% Helping to close the Medicare doughnut hole
70% Expanding high risk insurance pools
68% Providing financial help for low / middle income
Property-casualty trends – At the Insurance Information Institute’s Blog, Claire Wilkinson posts that the U.S. property-casualty rating trends are stable. She reports on the A.M. Best 2009 Rating Trend Review, which says that although the industry’s results are likely to be pressured in 2010, rating actions are not expected to move profoundly in one direction and the number of upgrades/positive outlooks and downgrades/negative outlooks will be fairly balanced over the next year.
California agriculture – According to a study conducted by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute, the state’s agriculture industry accounted for 5.5 percent of all injury claims and 5.9 percent of all workers’ compensation benefit payments over an eight-year study period. The three most common injury categories for these workers were medical back problems without spinal cord involvement; minor wounds and injuries to the skin; and shoulder, arm, knee and lower leg sprains.
Colorado Fraud surveillance – Pending legislation in Colorado would put new restrictions on insurers and employers use of surveillance of employees with workers comp claims. Before surveillance can be conducted, the insurer or employer must have a reasonable basis to suspect fraud, and employees would have the right to a hearing to learn why they are being investigated. Critics of the law say that, if passed, it would be the nation’s most restrictive surveillance law related to workers comp. At Comp Time, Roberto Ceniceros examines the issue of the dollar value of surveillance.
Medicare Second Payer deadline – The Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS) advises that the deadline for non-group health mandatory reporting for secondary payer has been delayed from April 1, 2010 to January 1, 2011. “Medicare Secondary Payer reporting requirements are intended to ensure that Medicare remains the secondary payer when a Medicare beneficiary has medical expenses that should be paid primarily by a liability, no-fault or workers compensation plan.”
Health & Safety – Most employers know that good health & safety resources are avaiable from OSHA and the CDC. Don’t forget out neighbor to the north. The Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety has a wealth of information also. A few recent finds:
Vibration Exposure
Tips on handling negative interactions at work
Substitution of Chemicals: Considerations for Selection
Excavations: A guide to safe work practices – a 6 part video

New Health Wonk Review posted; other noteworthy news

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

For another biweekly issue of the best of the health policy blogs, Brady Augustine hosts The Boys (and Girls) of October edition of Health Wonk Review at medicaidfirstaid. Get a little baseball nostalgia with your health policy. For our neighbors in the Boston area, Brady recalls the era of Carlton Fisk, Carl Yastrzemski, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, and Luis Tiant.
Other news notes…
ADA, RTW and the law – Failure to accommodate an injured worker as they return to the workplace can be costly. Sears is setting a $6.2 million bias case over just such an issue. Sears refused to reinstate a recovering injured worker with reasonable accommodations when he sought to return to work, and subsequently fired him. An investigation turned up more than 100 other employees who sought return to work with an accommodation, but were fired by the company.
New Mexico – “Thirty-three states, including neighboring Colorado and Arizona, already require workers’ compensation for farm workers, although some limit coverage or exempt small farms. But New Mexico’s agricultural workers fall into a job category not protected under state law.” New Mexico agricultural laborers sue for workers’ comp coverage.
PresenteeismIs presenteeism worse than absenteeism? Roberto Ceniceros looks at new research on the issue at CompTime.
Veteran issuesRisk and Insurance has been running an excellent series on issues facing vets on their return from Iraq and Afghanistan, authored by Peter Rousmaniere. The third and most recent installment: Dealing With Scar Tissues. If you haven’t been following, catch up here:
Part 1: Wounded Back Home
Part 2: Frayed Obligations
H1N1 Virus – Jon Gelman makes the case for the urgent need for workers compensation pandemic planning, noting that in the case of emergency, the Federal government has sweeping powers under the Public Health Service Act (PHS) that could disrupt employment throughout the country. He cites a recent Harvard School of Public Health study reveals that 80% of businesses foresee severe problems in maintaining operations if there is an outbreak, and looks at what this might mean to workers comp. has issued Guidance for Businesses and Employers for the Fall Flu Season. Consumer resources are available at the Consumer Insurance Blog.

Health and safety news from the blogosphere

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Money-Driven Medicine – Maggie Mahar, one of the regular Health Wonk bloggers who we admire, is author of the book Money driven medicine: the real reason health care costs so much. Her book has been made into a documentary by Alex Gibney, the producer noted for his documentary expo Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. This Friday night, Bill Moyers Journal will preview excerpts of Money Driven Medicine, which Moyers cites as one of the strongest documentaries he has seen in years. It bears checking out. For more about the documentary, including a trailer, see You can also follow Maggie’s blog posts at Health Beat.
Meanwhile, in Business Insurance, Joanne Wojcik writes that two surveys project that healthcare benefit costs will increase by more than 10% in 2010. Aon Consulting projects an average 10.5% increase, while Segal Co. sees cost increases ranging between 10.2% and 10.8% for managed care plans.
Nanoparticles – the NIOSH Science Blog highlights recent research related to occupational disease and nanoparticles. Nanotechnology is the discipline of technology that works at a molecular level with particles that are less than 100 nanometers in size. Earlier this year, the CDC released Approaches to Safe Nanotechnology (PDF), which offers recommendations for specific precautions to protect workers who are exposed to any level of nanoparticles. Learn more about research and risk management at the NIOSH Nanotechnology site.
Fatal SunshineTime recently featured an article on the plight of California farm workers, who frequently do not have adequate protection from heat stroke and basic precautions to prevent heat-related illness. While California state law mandates heat stress standards, many employers do not adhere to those standards. The ACLU and the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson are suing California’s occupational health and safety agency on behalf of the United Farm Workers, workers who became sick, and relatives of workers who died from heatstroke.
Employer Pandemic Planning – While there are dueling projections for the potential impact of the H1N1 flu this fall and winter, it pays to be prepared. Safety Daily Advisor offers an abbreviated workplace pandemic planning checklist based on CDC recommendations. For more detailed planning information for work and home, see
More on work suicides – We noted last week that a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report showed that workplace suicides increased by 28% in 2008. At Comp Time, Roberto Ceniceros looks at the issue of workplace suicide in light of a recent Indiana appeals court ruling in which a widow was denied benefits related to her husband’s suicide.
Taking the job home – Jon Gelman blogs about a recent CDC study showing that workers who are exposed to lead can transport it home. The CDC suggests certain precentive measures to minimize risk to other family members.
Fitness for Duty – Fred Hosier of SafetyNewsAlert posts about how to deal with employees who are consistently unsafe through a comprehensive fitness for duty program.
OSHA – Is OSHA back in the business of enforcement? The Safety Duck thinks that issuance of 142 citations and $576,000 in penalties against Sims Bark Co. and Sims Stone Co. signifies that it is.