Health
National Center for Biotechnology Information | 26 April 2017

Analysis of Hearing and Tinnitus in Workers Exposed to Occupational Noise

Noise is one of the harmful agents to health that is present in the various branches of economic activity. Hearing loss and tinnitus are among the most frequently reported complaints by workers exposed to occupational noise.

The objective of this study was to analyze the hearing and tinnitus in normal-hearing workers exposed to occupational noise. This is a cross-sectional analytical trial in metallurgical industries, in which we evaluated normal-hearing workers through anamnesis, audiometry, and otoacoustic emissions.

A high prevalence of failure of otoacoustic emissions (40%) and tinnitus (66.6%) was observed. Both in the amplitude and in the signal/noise ratio, the higher the frequency of the sound, the worse the results. Despite having audiometry within normal limits, the results indicate that workers are suffering the effects of exposure and reveals association between failure of otoacoustic emissions and tinnitus in this population.

It is concluded that failures in distortion product otoacoustic emissions and tinnitus are predictors of hearing damage in normal-hearing workers.

Find the full paper here.

National Center for Biotechnology Information | 26 April 2017

Review of Measurement Techniques and Methods for Assessing Personal Exposure to Airborne Nanomaterials in Workplaces

Exposure to airborne agents needs to be assessed in the personal breathing zone by the use of personal measurement equipment.

Specific measurement devices for assessing personal exposure to airborne nanomaterials have only become available in the recent years. They can be differentiated into direct-reading personal monitors and personal samplers that collect the airborne nanomaterials for subsequent analyses.

This article presents a review of the available personal monitors and samplers and summarizes the available literature regarding their accuracy, comparability and field applicability. Due to the novelty of the instruments, the number of published studies is still relatively low. Where applicable, literature data, therefore, is complemented with published and unpublished results from the recently finished nanoIndEx project.

The presented data show that the samplers and monitors are robust and ready for field use with sufficient accuracy and comparability. However, several limitations apply (e.g., regarding the particle size range of the personal monitors and their in general lower accuracy and comparability compared with their stationary counterparts).

The decision whether a personal monitor or a personal sampler shall be preferred depends strongly on the question to tackle. In many cases, a combination of a personal monitor and a personal sampler may be the best choice to obtain conclusive results.

Find the full paper here.

Packaging News | 3 April 2017

Column: Why Do Businesses Ignore the Health in Health and Safety?

Jenkins

The recent World Economic Forum in Davos saw a great number of business moguls and political giants unite to address the world’s most pressing global issues.

But ask the attendees how they found the forum, as one BBC reporter did, and their response might be one of frustration at their lack of time to exercise, especially during the event.

It’s no secret that some of the planet’s most successful individuals stick to rigorous fitness regimes, which makes sense; the motivation and determination required to push yourself physically are the same skills needed to reach the top of the career ladder.

This got me thinking about the power of health and fitness and whether businesses on the whole should be doing more when it comes to health and wellbeing programs.

Health Over Safety
Most organizations have health and safety policies, and, as a manufacturing business, we take safety extremely seriously. However, in many organizations, “safety” dominates these policies and wellbeing initiatives often fall by the wayside. But, at what cost does this come to a business?

According to the Health and Safety Executive, 23.3 million working days were lost because of work-related ill health in 2014–15, and NHS England estimates that this costs employers and tax payers around GBP 22 billion a year.

Furthermore, research by the Department for Work and Pensions indicates that almost 50% of the UK workforce will be 50 or older by 2024.

This, coupled with the removal of the fixed retirement age 5 years ago, points to the fact that the UK workforce is aging and more people are suffering from long-term health problems.

A healthier workforce has a direct correlation with increased productivity and more engaged and committed employees. Individuals are more engaged and customers see a difference in the quality of their products; wellbeing is more than worth the investment.

Read the full column here.

BBC | 29 March 2017

Offshore Workers Exposed to Radiation

An offshore worker has called for action after he and colleagues were exposed to radiation, BBC Scotland can reveal.

EnQuest’s Thistle platform. Credit: EnQuest.

The incident happened on EnQuest’s Thistle platform, off Shetland, last December.

Rigging supervisor Steve Innes, from Sunderland, told the BBC he and fellow Wood Group contractors discovered they had been exposed to alpha radiation.

EnQuest said “additional precautionary steps” had since been taken.

Wood Group said it was committed to employee safety.

Mr Innes, who said he has struggled to find more work since raising concerns, said the workers now faced cancer fears, and blood tests were ongoing.

He said EnQuest had failed in its duty of care.

The men were working at Thistle, 125 miles northeast of Shetland, doing shutdown work with pipe equipment.

Innes claimed they were told there was a problem two-thirds of the way through the trip.

He claimed a health and safety manager told them a reading had been taken the night before and all the work was stopped.

He said, “We had all been working on it without the proper PPE (personal protective equipment), because they had assumed it was clear. At first we were all in shock. We have been exposed to radioactive material for hours at a time.”

Read the full story here.

Public News Service | 2 March 2017

Health Professionals Urge Halt to Attacks on Clean-Air Protections

Forty-thousand doctors, nurses, and public-health professionals have asked the oil and gas industry to stop opposing policies to reduce methane emissions.

Methane leaks can occur at every step, from the well to the consumer. Credit: Tim Evanson/flickr.com.

In an open letter to the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry lobbying group, the health advocates point out that opposing regulations that restrict methane emissions endangers public health. The gas developers are urging state legislators to support a bill that would prohibit the Department of Environmental Protection from having stricter regulations than those mandated by the federal government.

And as doctor Ned Ketyer, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health, notes, the Trump administration does not like regulations.

“The administration has made it very clear that as early as this week they’re going to start rolling back and removing regulations that protect public health,” he said.

The gas industry counters that burning natural gas is cleaner than burning coal or oil, and therefore helps clean the environment.

Read the full story here.

Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment, and Health

Mortality of Shift Workers

Is shift work associated with higher mortality risk? That question has been the subject of much discussion for decades. Mortality risk includes concerns that reflect not only incidence but also case fatality, treatment, information of death certificates, and competing causes of death—especially in advanced age. Although related, mortality and incidence are not the same; the former is broader.

Taylor and Pocock performed the first study using modern epidemiological methods. The cohort included 8,603 male manual workers followed for 12 years. The analysis presented results on indirect standardization [i.e., the standardized mortality ratio (SMR) among day, shift, and ex-shift workers, using the general population as a reference]. The results showed SMR of 97.3, 101.5, and 118.9 for the three groups, respectively. The authors concluded that “the evidence we have obtained … leads to the conclusion that shift work appears to have no adverse effect upon mortality.” In the following years, that study has often been cited as evidence against increased mortality among shift workers. However, a reanalysis of the data casts doubt on the interpretation of the results, arguing that internal comparison between the three groups might indicate that shift work actually increases mortality risk.

Read the full story here.

BMJ Journals | 23 February 2017

Organizational Characteristics Associated With Shift Work Practices and Potential Opportunities for Intervention

Shift work is a common working arrangement with wide-ranging implications for worker health. Organizational determinants of shift work practices are not well characterized; such information could be used to guide evidence-based research and best practices to mitigate shift work’s negative effects. This exploratory study aimed to describe and assess organizational-level determinants of shift work practices thought to affect health across a range of industry sectors.

This study points to organizational determinants of shift work practices that could be useful for targeting research and workplace interventions. Results should be interpreted as preliminary in an emerging body of literature on shift work and health.

Read the full story here.

American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine | 23 February 2017

Long Work Hours Linked to Higher Cardiovascular Disease Risk

Working long hours—particularly 46 hours per week or more—may increase the long-term risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) events such as heart attack, reports a study in the March Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

“In general, we found that the risk of CVD increased as the average weekly working hours increased,” write Sadie H. Conway of The University of Texas Health Sciences Center, Houston, and colleagues. They note that, among full-time workers, CVD risk appears lowest between 40 and 45 hours per week.

The researchers analyzed the relationship between work hours and CVD using data on more than 1,900 participants from a long-term follow-up study of work and health. All participants had been employed for at least 10 years. During the study, a physician-diagnosed CVD event—angina, coronary heart disease, or heart failure, heart attack, high blood pressure, or stroke—occurred in about 43% of participants.

Risk of CVD events increased by one percent for each additional hour worked per week over at least 10 years, after adjustment for age, sex, racial/ethnic group, and pay status. The difference was significant only for full-time workers, not part-timers. Among those who worked more than 30 hours per week, risk increased as weekly hours approached 40 but then decreased again between 40 and 45 hours per week.

Read the full story here.

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine | 23 February 2017

The Positive Effect of Resilience on Stress and Business Outcomes in Difficult Work Environments

Employers are adopting resilience training for their employees at a rate faster than any other intervention in the United States. Resilience—the ability to use positive mental skills to remain psychologically steady and focused when faced with challenges or adversity—contributes substantially to how workers deal with stress and perform at work. Employers are developing resilience to achieve a competitive advantage, similar to how the military trains active-duty soldiers and their family members to withstand challenges.

Interest in the psychological construct of resilience has grown significantly over the past decade, from fewer than 30 peer-reviewed studies per year before 2000 to more than 650 in 2014. In the past, resilience has been defined as “the ability of an individual to recover from a traumatic event or to remain psychologically robust when faced with an adverse event” and “the process of negotiation, management, and adaptation to significant sources of stress or trauma.” In other words, it reflects an individual’s ability to respond well and experience fewer harmful consequences when under duress. More recently, however, studies have examined how resilience influences responses to more common life challenges such as health events and work stress.

Broadly defined as the ability to “bounce back” from adversity, there is evidence attributes of resilience—such as emotion regulation, impulse control, causal analysis, self-efficacy, and realistic optimism—can be learned and developed. In this framework, resilience extends beyond one’s inherent predisposition toward life events and includes a set of acquired skills that mitigate the experience of stress and speed productive responses when setbacks occur.

As interest in employee resilience increases, employers may question whether individual resilience simply reflects the settings and environments in which employees work. It is plausible that employees feeling appreciated and supported at work report higher resilience, while those feeling unsupported in demanding jobs report lower resilience. Further, employers may question whether resilience can counteract the negative effects of a difficult or stressful work environment.

These are important questions because stressful work environments are a known health risk, with documented negative physical and mental health consequences. Job strain—combinations of high job demands, low decision latitude, and low social support—have been linked to stress, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, as well as rates of absence, disability, and turnover. Beyond producing general mental distress, there is also evidence suggesting that stressful work environments increase the likelihood of developing depression or anxiety for the first time. Further, recent findings point to difficult work environments as a contributing factor in the premature death of workers.

There is some evidence that resilience has a moderating effect on the negative relationship between job strain and job satisfaction. This suggests that workers’ learned ability to be resilient could have protective effects in demanding work settings. More broadly, employers require a better understanding of how resilience scores relate to important health and work outcomes, such as perceived stress, depression, job satisfaction, intent to quit, absenteeism, and self-reported job performance. It is also important to differentiate individual resilience from elements of the work environment, such as social support, job demands, and individual discretion. This cross-sectional study examines the question of whether having greater levels of resilience mitigates the negative effects of stressful work environments.

Read the full story here.

National Center for Biotechnology Information | 10 February 2017

Noise and Neurotoxic Chemical Exposure Relationship to Workplace Traumatic Injuries

More than 5,000 fatalities and 8 million injuries occurred in the workplace in 2007 at a cost of UDD 6 billion and USD 186 billion, respectively. Neurotoxic chemicals are known to affect central nervous system functions among workers, which include balance and hearing disorders. However, it is not known if there is an association between exposure to noise and solvents and acute injuries.

A thorough review was conducted of the literature on the relationship between noise or solvent exposures and hearing loss with various health outcomes.

The search resulted in 41 studies. Health outcomes included hearing loss, workplace injuries, absence from work because of sickness, fatalities, hospital admissions because of workplace accidents, traffic accidents, hypertension, balance, slip, trips, falls, cognitive measures, or disability retirement. Important covariates in these studies were age of employee, type of industry or occupation, or length of employment.

Most authors who evaluated noise exposure concluded that higher exposure to noise resulted in more of the chosen health effect, but the relationship is not well understood. Studies that evaluated hearing loss found that hearing loss was related to occupational injury, disability retirement, or traffic accidents. Studies that assessed both noise exposure and hearing loss as risk factors for occupational injuries reported that hearing loss was related to occupational injuries as much or more than noise exposure. Evidence suggests that solvent exposure is likely to be related to accidents or other health consequences such balance disorders.

Many authors reported that noise exposures and hearing loss, respectively, are likely to be related to occupational accidents.

Find the full paper here.

Underwriters Laboratories | 10 February 2017

How To Maximize Your Occupational Health Investment

What is occupational medicine? According to Wikipedia, occupational medicine specialists work to ensure that the highest standards of occupational health and safety can be achieved and maintained. While it may involve a wide number of disciplines, it centers on the preventive medicine and management of illness, injury, or disability that is related to the workplace.

The interesting part of this definition is the last part: “related to the workplace.” What does that mean? The obvious meanings include injuries or illnesses that occur at the workplace (e.g., slipping on the shop floor, injury caused by malfunctioning work equipment, or a contagious disease acquired at a hospital). Some meanings might even include injuries that happen outside of work but affect the worker (e.g., an arm broken at a sporting event that prevents normal job duties). Ask most people about occupational medicine, and you are likely to get an answer that somehow reflects back on these sorts of circumstances.

Increasingly, however, companies that manage workers are substantially broadening their definition of occupational medicine. These employers are providing employee benefits that carry a high and rapidly increasing cost, and those benefits plans cover impactful health conditions that result from factors well beyond the traditional scope of work-specific medicine. Furthermore, research shows that an employee’s overall health actually has a significant effect on the quality of their work productivity. Given the large investment companies are making in employee health and the causal link between overall health and quality of work, doesn’t it make sense for companies to maximize the effect of their investment?

Many companies are concluding that the answer to that last question is an emphatic “Yes!” and many are re-evaluating how they choose occupational medicine providers. The goal of this paper is to explore some of the dynamics that have led to this change and to provide some perspective for companies considering new service partners to help with their employee health initiatives.

Read the full white paper here (PDF).