Many top OSHA positions go unfilled, the future of drones in construction and “mum’s the word” on climate change as far as the EPA is concerned. These were among the top stories featured on this week.


Workers and power outages: getting out of the building a concern

With extreme weather and its effects increasingly in the headlines, a new survey reveals what worries workers when it comes to power outages. An online poll among 2,072 U.S. adults ages 18 and older commissioned by Cintas Corporation found that more than a third (34 percent) would not feel very confident in their ability to navigate the building safely.


EPA reg helped reduce arsenic in U.S. drinking water

Study shows federal government plays critical role in protecting human health

New research conducted at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health finds exposure to arsenic in drinking water was significantly reduced among Americans using public water systems following a 2006 EPA regulation on maximum levels of arsenic. Compliance with the regulation led to a decline of 17 percent in levels of urinary arsenic, equivalent to an estimated reduction of more than 200 cases of lung and bladder disease every year.


When your heart skips a beat…it’s not good

Men develop irregular heartbeat earlier than women

Men develop a type of irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation, about a decade earlier than women on average, and being overweight is a major risk factor, according to a large new study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation. In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart, or atria, quiver instead of beat to move blood effectively.


Trump orders drone integration program

President Trump this week directed U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao to launch an initiative to safely test and validate advanced operations for drones in partnership with state and local governments in select jurisdictions. The results of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program will be used “to accelerate the safe integration of UAS into the national airspace and to realize the benefits of unmanned technology in our economy,” according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).


Hazards unabated at NJ warehouse

OSHA has again cited a Moonachie, New Jersey hair distribution company, and proposed $181,280 in penalties, after finding continued safety hazards at the employer's warehouse. The agency initiated an inspection of Mane Concept’s facility in April after receiving a complaint alleging imminent safety hazards.


Toys, teething rings soon to be safer

In what the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is calling “a major victory for public health,” the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted 3-2 last week, to ban several harmful phthalate chemicals from plastic used in children’s toys and child care articles. Phthalates are commonly used as a plastic softener in children’s toys and child care articles, such as teething rings.


A NIOSH Science Blog post

Can drones make construction safer?

Dr. John Howard, Dr. Christine Branche &Vladimir Murashov PhD

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) often called drones are increasingly used for military, recreational, public, and commercial purposes. UAVs have the potential to prevent injury and death in the construction industry where nearly 1,000 workers died in 2015. Advancements in UAV technology could help reduce construction-related injury and death from falls, toxic chemical exposures, electrical hazards, or traumatic injury from vehicle and equipment collisions.


Are you doing enough of the “perfect exercise”?

A new study concludes that walking has the potential to significantly improve the public’s health. It finds regular walking, even if not meeting the minimum recommended levels, is associated with lower mortality compared to inactivity. The study appears early online in American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Harvard study IDs human capital metrics measured by global companies

Human capital metrics, including occupational safety and health data, frequently are collected by a majority of global companies, yet many of these firms are not publicly reporting the information, according to a study released today by the Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program in conjunction with the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability (CSHS). "Corporate Disclosure of Human Capital Metrics" is authored by Aaron Bernstein and Larry Beeferman of the Harvard Law School Pensions and Capital Stewardship Project.

EPA silences its climate change scientists

On the heels of a new report from Government Accountability Office (GAO) noting that climate change is costing the federal government billions, the EPA this week canceled speeches by three agency scientists, who were scheduled to discuss climate change at a conference in Providence, Rhode Island.

A FairWarning story

California judge tosses out $417 million verdict in talc-ovarian cancer case

Myron Levin

Overriding a huge jury verdict against Johnson & Johnson, a Los Angeles judge has ordered a new trial in the case of an ovarian cancer victim who claimed she contracted the disease through longtime use of the company’s talc powders for feminine hygiene.


Cal/OSHA: Protect outdoor workers from wildfire smoke

Firefighters aren’t the only workers who are exposed to smoke from California’s wildfires. Employees who are working in outdoor areas in proximity to wildfire smoke – which can contain chemicals, gases and fine particles that can harm health – must also be protected, according to Cal/OSHA.


Ala. framing company workers exposed to fall hazards

Workers at a Birmingham, Alabama framing company were wearing fall protection harnesses when OSHA inspectors visited the sight, but the harnesses were not tied off to prevent a fall. Structural Subcontractors Service, LLC was cited for exposing workers to fall hazards and faces proposed penalties totaling $102,669.


Airline pilot survey highlights need for mental health support

In March 2015, Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed into the French Alps, killing all 150 people onboard. An investigation found that the co-pilot deliberately steered the plane into the mountainside. It also revealed that he had a history of depression, although the airline company was unaware of this crucial information.


A Confined Space blog post

What’s going on inside OSHA?

Jordan Barab

Back from vacation and checking in with people to see what’s going on at the agency charged with assuring the safety and health of American workers. And the answer is not much…and a lot. The Mysteriously Missing Assistant Secretary: The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee yesterday approved the nominations of a Deputy Secretary (Patrick Pizzella), the head of Wage & Hour (Cheryl Stanton), and the head of MSHA (David Zatezalo), all on identical party line votes (all the R’s voted for the nominees, and all of the Dems voted against.) 


Half dozen workers injured at NYC construction site

Six construction workers were injured last week – four seriously – at a Brooklyn, New York worksite. According to news sources, the injuries occurred when a two-story brick building that was under construction collapsed after a load of cinder blocks was placed on its roof.


Supervisor support critical to employee well-being and workforce readiness

Fewer women than men report opportunities to develop skills needed for career growth

Nearly half of American workers are concerned about the changing nature of work, and although most report that they have the skills they need to perform their current job well, those without supervisor support for career development are more likely to distrust their employer and plan on leaving within the next year, according to a new survey released by the American Psychological Association. 


NJ scaffold put workers “dangerously close to power lines”

Co. owner cited previously for same violations

A South Jersey construction company owner with a long history of workplace safety violations was cited by OSHA for exposing workers to serious scaffold hazards at a job site in Philadelphia. The owner, Vyacheslav Leshko faces $191,215 in proposed penalties. OSHA inspectors responded to a complaint of unsafe working conditions at DH Construction LLC., and discovered employees performing masonry and bricklaying while working on a scaffold that was dangerously close to power lines.