The CSB is an independent agency whose sole mission is to investigate accidents in the chemical industry and to make recommendations to prevent future accidents and improve safety. For over 20 years, the CSB has conducted hundreds of investigations of high consequence chemical incidents, such as the Deepwater Horizon and West Fertilizer disasters. The Agency’s investigations and recommendations have had an enormous effect on improving public safety. CSB’s recommendations have resulted in banned natural gas blows in Connecticut, an improved fire code in New York City, and increased public safety at oil and gas sites across the State of Mississippi. The CSB has been able to accomplish all of this with a small and limited budget. However, the President has proposed to eliminate this tiny, but effective agency in the 2018 budget.
In a statement released after the release of the President’s proposed budget, CSB's Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, “The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is disappointed to see the President’s budget proposal to eliminate the agency. The American public is safer today as a result of the work of the dedicated and professional staff of the CSB. As this process moves forward, we hope that the important mission of this agency will be preserved.”
Sleep Duration, Which Workers are Getting Too Little Sleep
March is Sleep Awareness Month. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society determined that adults require at least 7 hours of sleep per day to promote optimal health. Short sleep duration (< 7 hours per day) has been linked to various negative health outcomes including cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression, as well as safety issues related to drowsy driving and injuries. Each year, short sleep duration among the U.S. working population accounts for an estimated $411 billion cost to the economy and results in 1.2 million lost work days. Because work-related factors such as job stress and shift work are associated with sleep duration and quality, the workplace should be considered in the development of interventions.
On March 3, 2017, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published an article on short sleep duration by occupation group among 29 states using data from the 2013 and 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The survey responses for the question, “On average, how many hours of sleep do you get in a 24-hour period” were categorized as either short sleep (< 7 hours) or sufficient sleep (≥ 7 hours). The study found that among 22 major occupation groups, the highest prevalences of short sleep duration were among production (42.9%); healthcare support (40.1%); and healthcare practitioners and technical (40%) occupations. Prior research has found that these three occupation groups also have some of the highest prevalence rates of alternative shift work. A NIOSH study performed using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that night shift workers reported short sleep duration more frequently compared to daytime workers.
The current study on short sleep duration by occupation group also found that when broken down further into 93 detailed occupation groups, two out of the three groups with the highest prevalence of short sleep duration were transportation occupation groups: other transportation workers (54.0%) and rail transportation workers (52.7%). The Railroaders’ Guide to Healthy Sleep provides information for workers and managers on how to improve sleep and create a better work and life balance.
The NIOSH webpage on work schedules includes links to several educational resources on improving work schedules in order to promote sleep and improve health. These resources are for managers, workers, and the general audience. There are trainings and information specific to many different occupations including aviation, emergency responders, healthcare, and transportation.
OSHA's Safe and Sound Campaign Aims to Keep Workplaces Safe and Healthy
OSHA launched its Safe and Sound Campaign, calling on employers to review their safety and health programs to protect workers and reduce workplace injuries and deaths.
"Workplace safety and health incidents hurt workers and their families, and they cost businesses' capital better invested in growing their business and creating jobs," said Kim Stille, OSHA's Regional Administrator in Kansas City. "By identifying and controlling job-related hazards that can lead to injuries and illnesses, businesses can improve their safety and health programs, save money, and improve competitiveness."
OSHA has initiated 12 fatality inspections in Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska since October 1, 2016—up from seven for the same period of October 1, 2015 through February 1, 2016—and found a significant increase in fatalities associated with confined space entry and trenching and excavating. Fatalities involving workers being struck by motor vehicles also doubled from two to four persons for the same time period.
"With just a phone call, companies can contact OSHA for assistance in achieving safety compliance. Working together with businesses, unions, and employees, we can reduce these sobering statistics and implement and sustain workplace safety and health programs that can help employees avoid preventable injuries and deaths," Stille said.
Employers have proven that safety and health programs reduce the numbers of injuries and illnesses, and improve their bottom line. While there are different approaches to ensuring worker safety and health, all effective programs share three core elements:
- Management leadership. Top management commits to establishing, maintaining, and improving the program continually, and provides any necessary resources.
- Worker participation. Employers invite workers to identify solutions. Improved worker engagement can lead to better productivity, higher job satisfaction and worker retention—lowering turnover and recruitment costs.
- A systematic "find and fix" approach. Employers and workers examine their workplaces, proactively and routinely, to identify and address hazards before they can cause injury or illness.
Employers seeking to create a safety and health program should know that the process doesn't have to be complicated or demand outside consultants be employed; there are some simple, do-it-yourself steps to get started. OSHA's "Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs" page offers practical advice on how any organization can integrate safety and health programs.
OSHA also offers compliance assistance, tips, consultation for small- and medium-sized businesses, educational materials, training, and other information to employers and workers on common workplace safety hazards and how to prevent illness and injury—all at no charge.
"We don't want businesses, especially small ones, to believe they cannot afford to protect their workers. OSHA provides good safety information and will work with employers to help them comply with safety and health standards," Stille said.
Each state has its own On-Site Consultation Program. This free and confidential safety and health consultation program is targeted toward smaller businesses primarily; employers can find out about potential hazards at their workplace, improve programs already in place and even qualify for a one-year exemption from routine OSHA inspections.
NIOSH Proposes Revised Definitions for Describing Skin Exposures to Chemicals
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has proposed to clarify the definitions for “sufficient,” “limited,” and “insufficient” levels of evidence for the designation of NIOSH skin notations. In NIOSH Current Intelligence Bulletin (CIB) 61—A Strategy for Assigning New NIOSH Skin Notations, Appendix E.2, Evaluation of data, pp. 41–42 these levels of evidence are defined as the following:
NIOSH has proposed to clarify the definitions for the sufficient, limited, and insufficient levels of evidence to the following:
Evaluation of dose-related effects in studies with limited or insufficient evidence, mechanistic data, and analogous chemical properties may be factored into the classification scheme for determining the level of evidence for identified studies. Data sets that provide insufficient evidence will not be used as the basis for the NIOSH skin notation but, in some cases, may provide information to support or contradict evidence for the skin notation.
For data sets with conflicting findings, an overall determination based on the body of evidence will be developed by evaluating data adequacy, reliability and relevance, and assessing each study's quality of evidence. The studies with the best quality and validity to support the notation are identified and cited in the individual Skin Notation Profile documents.