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The 2018 Summer Occupational Health Internship Program (OHIP)

Posted on by Sarah Jacobs, MPH, and Robert Harrison, MD.

The 2018 Occupational Health Internship Program (OHIP) summer marked the program’s 15th year of placing students in the field with a worker or community based organization on projects that investigate work-related health and safety issues. This summer, 22 OHIP interns worked on 12 occupational health and safety projects in eight locations. At the start of the OHIP summer, the interns met in Los Angeles for a three-day national orientation, where they visited worksites to identify hazards and safeguards, listened to a panel of workers who sustained injuries or encountered hazards on the job, heard from alumni about their OHIP experiences, and participated in sessions related to OHS topics.

After the orientation, interns traveled to their OHIP sites to begin work with their host community-based organization or union. Two projects were based in the larger San Francisco Bay Area. One project evaluated the effectiveness of the 2017 State Building and Construction Trades Council of California “train-the-trainer” course on silica in construction. According to one of the interns, “I think our project was well-timed and appropriately focused; the [silica] standard was recently passed and a lot of our stakeholders were intimately involved with adjusting construction industry tasks to be compliant with the standard. It was nice that it was focused on a training course and determining its effectiveness, which added the whole health/worker-safety education component to the project.” Another intern team worked with a local of the Amalgamated Transit Union to investigate San Jose bus operators’ health perspectives on split shifts. The interns interviewed and surveyed over 100 bus operators and gathered noteworthy observations about a topic that has limited documentation. As a result, the interns were asked to write an article in an environmental and OHS journal about their findings.

Three teams in southern California were paired with host organizations that have been involved with OHIP projects for the past several years. One intern who worked with the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative on a project to improve nail salon workers’ health commented on her experience conducting interviews: “My ‘aha’ moment was when I interviewed nail salon workers and children of nail salon workers for our final give back product, our humanizing project. It was incredible to hear people share their stories, learn about their work ethic, resilience, passions, family, hardships, and successes. These stories were incredibly moving and empowering, and taught me the power of anecdotes in workers’ rights activism and movements.” The Warehouse Worker Resource Center hosted another pair of interns to investigate the precarious work arrangements of warehouse workers, and a local of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union hosted a set of interns to examine safety and health hazards in the meatpacking industry.

Another project on the west coast was based in Washington where a pair of interns worked on the Process Safety Management (PSM) in petroleum refineries in Anacortes with a local of the United Steel Workers (USW). The interns conducted interviews and focus groups to gather qualitative data and narrative stories to be used by the union to educate and increase engagement among members and the community for passing a new PSM standard for Washington State.

Two new sites joined OHIP this summer. One of these sites was in Puerto Rico where a team of interns worked with Servidores Públicos Unidos-AFSCME on a project to identify health and safety hazards of public sector workers post-Hurricane Maria. The interns’ findings revealed workers’ increased risk to various hazards including heat exhaustion, mold and humidity, and labor violence. The results were recommended to be included in the establishment of health and safety committees for the union’s contract negotiations.

The other new OHIP site was based in Idaho Falls where an intern team was paired with USW on a safety and health education project surrounding workplace exposure to beryllium. “The real-world experience and worker perspectives USW and OHIP imparted upon me have opened my eyes to the world of industrial hygiene and workers’ rights. I hope OHIP continues to provide this invaluable service to upcoming generations for years to come,” stated one of the interns.

Chicago had two OHIP projects this summer. A UFCW local hosted a project that focused on the health and safety conditions of food retail stores in Cook County. The other Chicago project documented hazards and injury experiences of scrap metal and electronic waste recycling workers. The team of interns were hosted by Centro de Trabajadores Unidos (CTU) to focus on recycling facilities in Southeast Chicago where little is known about working conditions inside these factories. The interns were able to gather stories from current and former employees, and document working conditions in a summary report which has the potential to influence community members, environmental justice organizations, CTU, and beyond.

Another two projects were based on the east coast. In New York City, an OHIP intern was paired with the New York State Nurses Association to assess the health and safety needs of working nurses. After analyzing survey results and talking with nurse members, the intern created five fact sheets for NYSNA on the health and safety threats to nurses. In Washington DC, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) hosted a team of interns to characterize hazards in the IBT-represented Department of Energy Sites. “I came into the internship program with limited experience with occupational health and safety and labor unions. As an intern, I had the invaluable opportunity to learn from leaders and experts in the field and to interact directly with workers’ in the trucking and radioactive waste industries. I am grateful to have worked with people who are passionate and driven in what they do,” commented one of the interns.

At the end of the 2018 OHIP summer, the interns wrote final reports and presented their projects at a web-conference hosted by NIOSH. Five of the 2018 interns received scholarships to present their summer projects at the upcoming American Public Health Association (APHA) conference in San Diego on the panel, “Occupational Health Internship Program (OHIP): Fifteen Years On – Still Shaping the Future of OHS”. The APHA session is on Tuesday, November 13 from 3pm-4:30pm. The interns’ hard work and dedication made impacts on their host organizations, workers, and their career paths.

The OHIP program is open to undergraduate and graduate students. To apply for the 2019 summer internship program, visit the OHIP website. The deadline to apply is Friday, February 15, 2019.

 

Sarah Jacobs, MPH, is a Program Coordinator at the UCLA-Labor Occupational Safety & Health Program (LOSH) and the National Program Coordinator for the Occupational Health Internship Program (OHIP).

Robert Harrison, MD, is a Professor of Medicine at UC San Francisco. 

 

OHIP is a part of the NIOSH-funded Training Program Grant and is housed within the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (AOEC). For more information, visit the OHIP website, or contact administrator coordinator Ingrid Denis (idenis@aoec.org, 1-888-347-2632) or program coordinator Sarah Jacobs (sjacobs@irle.ucla.edu).

 

Posted on by Sarah Jacobs, MPH, and Robert Harrison, MD.

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