The news doesn’t stop, and neither does the need for safety professionals to stay informed. However, they do occasionally need to take a step back to see the bigger picture.
To that end, EHS Today has scoured the web for news that you might have missed. Hopefully, this information empowers, energizes or enrages you to double down on your commitment to creating a safer workplace.
Feel free to share what you’re reading in the comments below.
CDC Quantifies COVID-19 Death Toll
COVID-19 was the third-underlying cause of all U.S. deaths in 2020.
There were 345,323 U.S. deaths attributed to COVID-19, behind heart disease (690,882) and cancer (598,932), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. And the impact was disproportionately felt most by people of color.
Put another way, COVID-19 was reported as either the underlying cause of death or a contributing cause of death for some 11.3% of U.S. fatalities. It replaced suicide as one of the top 10 leading causes of death.
The report also found the age-adjusted death rate rose by 15.9% in 2020, the first increase in three years. Overall death rates were highest among non-Hispanic Black persons and non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native persons.
The reports are made using provisional data from the CSC’s National Vital Statistics System.
Read the full summary here.
A Closer Look at OSHA’s COVID-19 Enforcement
An original investigation by The Wall Street Journal of OSHA doesn’t hold back. The nearly 2,200-word piece is a gripping read right from the start:
“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration faced one of the biggest workplace-safety challenges in its 50-year history when the coronavirus struck.
“It didn’t meet the moment."
The piece thoughtfully explains why OSHA was not prepared to act swiftly at a federal or state level and details instances where those shortcomings resulted in lives lost. Worse, the investigation quantifies just how scared workers have been this past year: OSHA agencies received 72% more complaints from February 2020 through January 2021 than in the previous 12 months, and 61% of those were COVID-19-related.
To be fair, the lawmakers who helped create OSHA probably couldn’t have imagined a global pandemic like the one we have been living with for the past year and how challenging it has been for employers to determine whether COVID-19 was caught from the workplace or the community and how to classify deaths. It’s unclear how different the situation might be if OSHA had taken different actions, but it is laying those problems bare—and hopefully sparking conversations about what employers can do to better protect workers in the future.
Read the full story here.
Lessons on Happiness
More than a year into the global pandemic, The New York Times takes a look at Yale University’s most popular class ever.
Psych 157: Psychology and the Good Life, informally known as the Yale happiness class, has been adapted into a 10-week online course, The Science of Well-Being, offered for free on Coursera.
Since the course became available on Coursera in March 2018, nearly 3.4 million people have enrolled — and many people turned to the course while sheltering in place.
“Everyone knows what they need to do to protect their physical health: wash your hands, and social distance, and wear a mask,” Laurie Santos, course instructor and professor of psychology, told the Times. “People were struggling with what to do to protect their mental health.”
Past students shared what the course taught them and whether it made them any happier. As some of the past students explained, the keys to happiness aren’t exactly a secret; you just need to practice them.
Read the full story here.
DHS Invests in Respirator Research
This week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded a $14 million grant to a federal laboratory researching personal protective equipment and workplace safety technology.
The National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory in South Park, Penn., has been researching whether a reusable respirator could be used in health care settings, especially during global health emergencies. The elastomeric respirators are made of thick silicon and features protruding filters on each side that can remove 99.7% of airborne particles. They are bulkier than N95 respirators and have been used more in industrial workplaces rather than health care settings.
“The important role of PPE in providing potentially life-saving protection to workers has never been clearer,” John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Last year, the laboratory partnered with area health care network Allegheny Health Network and manufacturer MSA Safety to study the masks.
The results so far are encouraging. In a study, published in the June issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, MSA Safety lead scientist Zane Frund found the elastomeric masks cost Allegheny Health network fit about 94% of the time and cost at least 10 times less per month compared with disinfecting and reusing N95 masks.
Read more about the laboratory, and its connection with mining safety from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.