October 15, 2014 | Volume 12, Number 20

NTSB Investigates Increase in Railroad Deaths, Issues Report

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a special investigation report on the recent increase in fatalities in the railroad and rail transit roadway industry.

The report notes that 15 workers died in 2013. Eleven of the deaths took place on freight railroads, this represents the largest number of railroad roadway workers killed while on duty in one year since 1995. The other four deaths happened on commuter or transit railways.

The report’s findings also include the necessity of national inspection protocols and the potential confusion arising from differences between the regulations of the Federal Railroad Administration and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The NTSB recommendations include additional training, harmonization of standards, a national inspection program and greater stakeholder participation.

For more information, download a synopsis of the report.

Cases of Progressive Massive Fibrosis in Coal Miners Rising

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that over the last fifteen years there has been an increase in the number of coal miners taking part in the agency’s surveillance program who have developed progressive massive fibrosis (PMF).

PMF is an advanced, debilitating, and lethal lung condition that has limited treatment options and no cure. Fifteen years ago, PMF had virtually disappeared among the program’s participants, but it is now on the rise because of excessive coal mine dust inhalation.

The new data comes from NIOSH’s Coal Workers Health Surveillance Program (CWHSP), which conducts radiograph testing and informs coal miners of their pneumoconiosis status. According to the CWHSP, there were 154 cases of PMF among the program’s participants, most of whom came from central Appalachia, between 1998 and 2012.

For more information, read the letter published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Learn more about the CWHSP.


Give Employees a Hand with Powered Hand Tool Safety

Powered hand tools are used in almost every industry, and for good reason, they get things done. However, these tools can cause serious injuries including electrocution, hearing loss, eye injuries, or even the loss of a limb!

Powered Hand Tools: Safety Is In Your Hands will show employees how to protect themselves from powered hand tools as well as basic tool safety precautions. Available on DVD, streaming video, handbook and coming soon as an interactive online course.

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Drug Use Among U.S. Workers Up in 2013

More American employees are testing positive for drugs, according to a study by Quest Diagnostics, which has conducted drug examinations and provided test statistics since 1988.

There were 7.6 million urine drug tests conducted by Quest Diagnostics in 2013, and the positivity rate for marijuana use was 3.7 percent, up from a 3.5 percent rate in 2012. The increase is a nationwide trend, but the rise was most prominent in Colorado and Washington, even before the legalization of the substance in both states. Experts suggest that the increase is due to “relaxed societal views” of using the drug.

An increase in positive results for amphetamines were also reported in 2013 compared with 2012. Only the use of oxycodones showed a decrease in the same period.

For more details, read the press release from Quest Diagnostics.


CDC Offers Flu Prevention Tips

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is providing several recommendations to help prevent flu, which costs the U.S. $87 billion each year and contributes to around 17 million lost workdays every flu season.

The CDC Foundation released some preventive resources in an issue of its Business Pulse, which featured an infographic that highlights the business impact of the flu: $10.4 billion a year in direct medical expenses and a $16.3 billion revenue loss.

Also included are statistics on hospitalizations and outpatient visits, and free resources such as brochures, posters, web tools and tips for employers and employees. The CDC recommends the Take 3 Approach: get vaccinated; follow preventive actions; and use flu antiviral drugs when prescribed.

For more information, visit the Business Pulse issue.

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