December 24, 2018
The health of those who live, attend school, or work in damp buildings has been a growing concern through the years due to a broad range of reported building-related symptoms and illnesses. Research has found that people who spend time in damp buildings are more likely to report health problems such as these:
- Respiratory symptoms (such as in nose, throat, lungs)
- Development or worsening of asthma
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis (a rare lung disease caused by an immune system response to
repeated inhalation of sensitizing substances such as bacteria, fungi, organic dusts, and chemicals)
- Respiratory infections
- Allergic rhinitis (often called “hay fever”)
NIOSH has made available a new tool
for assessing dampness and mold which can lead to these problems.
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Asbestos Inspector Charged for Taking Bribes
New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood and New York City Department of Investigation (DOI) Commissioner Margaret Garnett announced the arrest of Samuel Nebedum, 66, an Inspector with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), on charges of Bribe Receiving in the Second Degree, a Class C felony, and Official Misconduct, an A misdemeanor. If convicted of the class C felony, the defendant faces up to fifteen years in state prison.
Nebedum allegedly engaged in a long-term bribery relationship with an asbestos abatement contractor, wherein he accepted cash bribes, meals, and fish in exchange for providing various benefits to the contractor, including intentionally overlooking violations at the contractor’s worksites and the referral of additional abatement business. The joint Attorney General and DOI investigation revealed that this arrangement has allegedly gone on for over ten years and put the health and safety of workers and New York City residents at risk.
“As we allege, the defendant abused his position by shamelessly accepting bribes – not only violating the public trust, but also jeopardizing New Yorkers’ health and safety,” said Attorney General Underwood. “New Yorkers rely on public servants to do their jobs and keep us safe, and my office has not hesitated to take on those who breach this most fundamental duty.”
DOI Commissioner Garnett said, “For nearly 10 years this City Inspector allegedly cashed in his integrity, disregarding serious safety concerns in exchange for thousands of dollars in bribes, expensive fresh-caught fish, and free meals. This defendant had a duty to protect workers and the public; instead, according to the charges, he put their health at risk, failing to stop the dangerous and improper removal of asbestos. DOI and its partners, including the New York State Attorney General and the DEP, have sought to protect workers and New Yorkers across the City from hazardous and illegal asbestos abatement and removal and will continue to pursue public employees whose violation of the law endangers the community.”
According to the felony complaint filed in Queens County Supreme Court, Nebedum has been an Inspector with the DEP since May 29, 1990, and during the course of his employment allegedly accepted over $10,000.00 in bribes from a contractor during that time. The complaint alleges that in exchange for these bribes, Nebedum used his position as an Inspector to give advance notice prior to official DEP inspections taking place at this contractor’s jobsites, ignored asbestos removal violations at this contractor’s jobsites, and referred additional business to the contractor, which stemmed from his official jobsite visits, all in violation of DEP policy.
The DEP is the primary City agency responsible for the regulation of the asbestos abatement industry. Proper abatement procedures involve requiring all workers at a jobsite to wear Personal Protective Equipment, which includes a protective mask and hazmat suit; wetting down all asbestos containing material (ACM) when removed, so as to prevent asbestos from becoming airborne; the setting up of a proper decontamination unit with proper air-monitoring equipment, to ensure the work area does not have air containing ACM escaping; and the dumping of materials containing ACM at designated disposal facilities. As set forth in the felony complaint, the Attorney General and DOI allege that Nebedum ignored these regulations during the course of this bribery scheme, putting the health of many workers and City residents at risk for inhaling and ingesting asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is hazardous to human health and is known to cause a type of cancer known as mesothelioma.
Nebedum was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court before the Honorable Judge Jerry Iannece and released on his own recognizance. The case was adjourned to January 11, 2019.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Company for Cited for Safety Violations Following Explosion that Burned Employee
Cal/OSHA has cited a manufacturer of cannabis products for multiple serious safety violations following an explosion that seriously injured a worker.
On June 19, an employee of Future2 Labs Health Services was working alone inside a 128-square-foot portable storage container in Watsonville, using propane to extract oil from cannabis leaves. The propane ignited and exploded, badly burning the worker. He was hospitalized for several days.
During the investigation, Cal/OSHA learned the employer did not test the atmosphere inside the storage container for flammable gases or vapors before allowing equipment to be operated. The equipment created a spark that ignited the propane gas where the employee was working.
“The process of using a highly flammable gas to extract oil from cannabis leaves is dangerous,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “To prevent injuries and mitigate risk, employers in the cannabis industry must establish and implement an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program, provide effective training to their employees and comply with safety and health standards.”
Cal/OSHA cited Santa Cruz-based Future2 Health Services $50,470 in proposed penalties for 10 violations. The citations include three regulatory, four general and three serious accident-related violations. The serious accident-related violations were cited for the employer’s failure to:
- Protect workers around flammable vapors
- Identify hazards and provide personal protective equipment
- Maintain equipment in a safe operating condition.
The other citations were issued for violations related to inadequate training, failing to establish an emergency action plan and a hazard communication program. Future2 Labs Health Services also failed to report a serious workplace injury to Cal/OSHA.
Cal/OSHA’s Cannabis Industry Health and Safety webpage provides helpful information to employers and workers. Workers in the cannabis industry, including those in cultivation, distribution, retail, testing and manufacturing, are exposed to hazards covered under existing Cal/OSHA regulations.
A violation is classified as serious when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious harm could result from the actual hazard created by the violation. Violations are classified as accident-related when the injury, illness or fatality is caused by the violation.
New Study Finds Higher than Expected Number of Suicide Deaths among U.S. Veterinarians
The study is the first to show increased suicide mortality among female veterinarians. Female veterinarians were 3.5 times as likely, and male veterinarians were 2.1 times as likely, to die from suicide as the general population. Seventy-five percent of the veterinarians who died by suicide worked in a small animal practice.
Since 2000, the proportion of female veterinarians who died by suicide has remained stable at 10%; however, the number of deaths has increased steadily. An earlier study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found female veterinarians have a higher prevalence of risk factors for suicide including experiencing depression and suicide ideation and attempts. Today, more than 60% of U.S. veterinarians are women. In 2017, of the 110,531 veterinarians in the U.S, 66,731 were female and 43,662 were male.
“Our findings suggest mortality from suicide among veterinarians has been high for some time — spanning the entire 36-year period we studied,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. “This study shines a light on a complex issue in this profession. Using this knowledge, we can work together to reduce the number of suicides among veterinarians.”
As in the general population, firearms were the most commonly used method of suicide among veterinarians. However, 37% of suicide deaths among veterinarians were caused by pharmaceutical poisoning, which is 2.5 times higher than pharmaceutical poisoning among the general U.S. population. Sixty-four percent of deaths among women and 32% of suicide deaths among men in the veterinary profession were from this type of poisoning.
For this study, NIOSH researchers looked at records from 11,620 veterinarians who died during the years 1979-2015. Data for the study came from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. The AVMA maintains a data set of deaths of all known U.S. veterinarians using information from obituaries submitted to JAVMA and from life insurance policies. These sources provided age, sex, race, clinical positions, and species specialization. The National Center for Health Statistics maintains the National Death Index, which provided underlying cause of death information for the deceased veterinarians. Using specialized software, researchers calculated proportionate mortality ratios (PMRs) to compare suicide deaths among veterinarians with the proportionate mortality in the broader U.S. population. The PMRs indicated that suicide accounted for a greater proportion of deaths in veterinarians.
According to a 2016 report by CDC, nearly 45,000 Americans, ages 10 or older, died by suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and is 1 of 3 leading causes that are on the rise.
Suicide is seldom caused by a single factor. Some factors specific to the veterinary profession may include:
- Demands of practice such as long work hours, work overload, and practice management responsibilities.
- Ever-increasing educational debt-to-income ratio.
- Poor work-life balance.
- Access to euthanasia solution used for animals and the training to calculate a dose that could also be lethal in people.
NIOSH’s hierarchy of controls
—a framework used to make recommendations on methods of controlling occupational hazards to help prevent occupational illnesses and injuries—could be used to help guide suicide prevention measures in the veterinary profession. This could include strategies to change the way people work such as scheduling shorter work shifts and restricting access to euthanasia solution.
“Collaboration among multiple stakeholders in the profession such as professional associations, veterinary schools, and suicide prevention experts could help contribute to an effective and comprehensive suicide prevention strategy within the profession” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D.
In 2017, CDC released Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices
, a collection of strategies and approaches based on the best available evidence, including teaching coping and problem-solving skills and identifying and supporting people at risk. This resource can also help inform veterinary stakeholders as they make decisions about prevention activities and priorities in the veterinary profession.
Fatal Forklift Accident at Drywall Company
OSHA has cited Midwest Drywall Company Inc. for safety violations after part of a forklift fatally crushed an employee at the company’s Wichita, Kansas, facility.
The inspection revealed that a hydraulic boom hoist cylinder came free from the supporting slings, and landed on top of the employee. OSHA cited the company for serious violations of forklift, machine guarding, and control of hazardous energy standards. Proposed penalties
“Employers must take proactive steps to ensure that suspended and supported loads are properly secured at all times, and that employees are kept clear of such loads,” said OSHA’s Wichita Area Director Ryan Hodge. “Companies should implement a comprehensive safety and health program that addresses recognition of hazards, safety precautions, and safety training.”
Dairy Cited after Fatal Grain Bin Incident
OSHA has cited Thiele Dairy for failing to develop and implement safety and health programs related to grain bin entry after an employee suffered fatal injuries. OSHA inspectors determined that an operating sweep auger lacerated an employee’s leg as he attempted to remove corn from inside a grain bin at the Clearwater, Nebraska, dairy. OSHA cited the company for eight serious violations of the grain bin safety standard, and one other-than-serious violation for failing to report the fatality within the required eight hours.
“Mechanical equipment inside grain storage structures present serious hazards that are well-known in this industry,” said OSHA Area Office Acting Director Matthew Thurlby, in Omaha. “This employer’s failure to follow safety requirements led to a tragedy that could have been prevented.”
The company faces penalties totaling $78,899. The dairy – jointy owned by brothers Ron, Tom, and Bill Thiele – has 15 business days from receipt of the citations
and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission
Contractor Fined for Asbestos Violation
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) announced that it has assessed a penalty of $51,937 on contractor Stephen Faro and his business, JAM Quality Home Improvement of Worcester, for violations of asbestos regulations that occurred at an occupied residential property in Worcester.
In December 2016, MassDEP inspectors responding to a complaint inspected a renovation project being conducted by Mr. Faro and observed asbestos-containing pipe insulation that had been improperly removed from pipes in the basement of the residence. MassDEP personnel observed numerous fragments and sections of dry, uncontained friable asbestos insulation on the basement floor and in unmarked, unsealed household trash bags. After being informed of the violations, Mr. Faro was required to retain a licensed asbestos contractor to clean and decontaminate the property and to remove any remaining asbestos-containing materials in compliance with the regulations.
Mr. Faro failed to file a notification of the asbestos removal work with MassDEP and did not have the property surveyed for the presence of asbestos-containing materials before starting the renovation and asbestos removal activity, both of which are required by MassDEP regulations. State regulations also require notification to MassDEP 10 working days before commencing any asbestos removal work so that the Department is aware of the removal work and has the opportunity to conduct inspections to ensure compliance with the regulations.
“As a licensed home improvement contractor, Mr. Faro is well-aware of asbestos-containing insulation on heating systems and must ensure that those materials are properly removed by licensed personnel and handled in accordance with the regulations,” said Mary Jude Pigsley, director of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester. “Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and following required work practices is imperative to protect workers as well as the general public. Failure to do so will result in significant penalties, as well as escalated cleanup, decontamination and monitoring costs.”
Property owners or contractors with questions about asbestos-containing materials, notification requirements, proper removal, handling, packaging, storage and disposal procedures, or the asbestos regulations are encouraged to contact the appropriate MassDEP Regional Office for assistance here
First Day Hikes are Jan. 1
On Jan.1, annual First Day Hikes will take place at 31 state parks and historic sites across Missouri. Participants can choose from 34 free, guided hikes that range in difficulty from easy to moderate, cover distances up to seven and a half miles and use a variety of trails in every region of the state.
In its eighth year, the annual event is part of America’s State Parks First Day Hikes effort, which gives people the opportunity to start the year off right with an outdoor hike at a state park. A list of state parks with guided First Day Hikes and other related activities is available at https://mostateparks.com/FirstDayHikes
“First Day Hikes is a national event encouraging friends and families to push back from the dinner table, turn off the television and take a hike in their favorite state park,” said Ben Ellis, director of the Department of Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks. “What better way to start off a new year than fresh air, friends and the beauty of nature. Hope to see you on the trail New Year’s Day!”
Nationwide last year, almost 55,000 people took part in guided hikes that covered more than 133,000 miles for the First Day Hikes in state parks in all 50 states. Details on every state’s 2018 hikes are located at https://naspd.org
. As in the past, participants are encouraged to log their adventures on social media with #FirstDayHikes.
For more information on state parks and historic sites, visit https://mostateparks.com
. Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
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