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Select Month: March 2012

Getting Closer to Understanding the Economic Burden of Occupational Injury and Illness

Categories: Economics

A recently published landmark paper by J. Paul Leigh (Milbank Quarterly 2011 89 (6):728-772 ) makes a significant contribution to understanding the economic burden of occupational illness and injury.  The paper entitled “Economic Burden of Occupational Injury and Illness in the United States” shows that the annual direct and indirect costs are at least $250 billion. This amount exceeds the individual cost of cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

As Leigh notes, the cost of injury, illness, and death from these other diseases are generally easier to assess because they require a small number of primary data sources, typically 1 to 4.  In contrast, estimates of the burden of occupational injury and illness are more difficult to accomplish because they rely on far more primary and secondary sources of data on more than 18 diseases and a substantial number of injury types.  In fact, Leigh used more than 40 data sets in conducting this rigorous analysis.

Help Wanted: Spray Polyurethane Foam Insulation Research

Categories: Chemicals, Construction, Engineering Control, Environment/Green Jobs, Exposure, Personal Protective Equipment

walls insulated with spray polyurethane foamEnvironmentally friendly doesn’t necessarily mean worker friendly. In many cases, new “green” technologies and products have reached the market without being adequately evaluated to determine whether they pose health or safety risks to workers in manufacture, deployment, or use. Spray polyurethane foam—commonly referred to as SPF—is a case in point. Its use as insulation has been on the upswing because of the laudable aim of builders and property owners to improve energy efficiency. As popular as it has become, however, much remains unknown about spray polyurethane foam—specifically the health implications of its amines, glycols, and phosphate upon workers.

Polyurethane foam has a high R-factor (or R-value), so it resists the flow of heat and, when used as insulation, increases a building’s energy efficiency. Because of this, it has become a favorite in the world of energy-conscious construction and renovation. While better insulation clearly means less energy consumption, what’s not clear is the level of protection and ventilation workers need so that they remain safe during the installation process.

NIOSH Research on Work Schedules and Work-related Sleep Loss

Categories: Emergency Response/Public Sector, Health care, Manufacturing, Mining, Motor Vehicle Safety, Sleep, Stress, Total Worker Health, Transportation, Women

Yesterday, in honor of National Sleep Awareness Week, we blogged about sleep and work and the risks to workers, employers, and the public when workers’ hours and shifts do not allow for adequate sleep.   This blog provides a brief overview of some of the work that NIOSH intramural scientists are carrying out to better understand these risks and ways to prevent them.

Nurses/Reproduction Issues/Shift Work

NIOSH studies are examining shift work and physical demands with respect to adverse pregnancy outcome among nurses, specifically the association between work schedule and risk of spontaneous abortion, preterm birth, and menstrual function.  This research was the first to look at shift work and pregnancy in U. S. nurses.  NIOSH researchers are collaborating with the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which is the largest, ongoing prospective study of nurses. Results have shown that an increased risk of several reproductive outcomes, including spontaneous abortion, early preterm birth, and menstrual cycle irregularities, are related to shift work, particularly working the night shift.

Sleep and Work

Categories: Emergency Response/Public Sector, Health care, Manufacturing, Mining, Motor Vehicle Safety, Sleep, Stress, Total Worker Health, Transportation, Women

We know that sleep is important.  The need for sleep is biologically similar to the need to eat and drink, and it is critical for maintaining life and health and for working safely.  Sleeping 7 to 8 hours a night is linked with a wide range of better health and safety outcomes. NIOSH has been actively involved in research to protect workers, workers’ families, employers, and the community from the hazards linked to long work hours and shift work. In honor of National Sleep Awareness Week, we have summarized the sleep and work issue below and, in a companion blog tomorrow, will highlight NIOSH research in this area. 

A growing number of American workers are not getting enough sleep. Research shows an increase from 24% in the 1980s to 30% in the 2000s in the percentage of American civilian workers reporting 6 or fewer hours of sleep per day—a level considered by sleep experts to be too short (Luckhaupt, Tak, & Calvert 2009).

 
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