Just before Memorial Day—the kickoff of the summer season—the Obama Administration released its agenda for upcoming regulatory action. In the worker safety world of OSHA, “regulatory action” rarely means a new regulation. Rather, it refers to a step along the long, drawn-out process to (maybe) a new rule to protect workers from occupational injuries, illnesses or deaths.
The items identified by the Labor Department suggested that OSHA planned a productive summer of 2014. Here’s what OSHA outlined for its summer tasks.
In May 2014:
- Convene a meeting of small business representatives to review a draft proposed regulation to better protect workers employed in healthcare, correctional facilities, homeless shelters and other settings from infectious diseases.
In June 2014:
- Publish a request for information from stakeholders to address the hazards faced by those who work on communication towers, in particular the risk of working at heights.
In July 2014:
- Publish a proposed rule to protect workers who are exposed to beryllium, which can cause lung cancer and chronic beryllium disease. More than two years ago, in February 2012, the world’s largest producer and supplier of beryllium AND the United Steelworkers handed OSHA the regulatory text of a proposed rule on beryllium. It was a document that the two key stakeholders had thoughtfully negotiated. They expected their effort would expedite OSHA’s work on a rule.
In August 2014:
- Publish a final rule to address confined space hazards for construction workers. In 1993, OSHA issued a confined space standard but it did not cover construction workers. The agency proposed a regulation in 2007 that would apply to the construction industry and the public comment stage of the rulemaking concluded in October 2008.
- Convene a meeting of small business representatives to review a draft proposed regulation to address the hazard of workers being struck when construction vehicles and other equipment are operating in reverse (backing up.) OSHA notes that in 2011, 75 workers were fatally injured in backing incidents.
- Publish a proposed regulation that would clarify employers’ obligation under an existing regulation to make and maintain accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
- Publish a request for information from stakeholders to better protect shipyard workers from fall hazards and make existing regulations consistent with industry consensus standards.
It’s hard for me to believe that OSHA was unable to accomplish a single one of these seven tasks. I have to wonder whether something else is going on. For all I know, the agency has completed its work on some of them and tied them up with a nice red bow, but higher ups in the Obama Administration have put the brakes on them. It wouldn’t be the first time the Administration has shown its aversion to new OSHA regulations. In 2010, OSHA proposed a change to the form on which just a fraction of employers are required to record work-related injuries and illnesses. The only modification was that employers would have been required to place a check mark—-a check mark—in a column on the form to distinguish musculoskeletal disorders from other injuries, such as burns or amputations. After completing the public comment period and extra stakeholder meetings, OSHA submitted the final rule for review to the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). It sat there for six months and then the Administration forced OSHA to ditch withdraw the rule. Then there was OSHA’s proposed rule on silica which was “under review” at OIRA for 2 1/2 years.
Whatever is going on—whether performance problems at OSHA or anti-regulatory obstruction higher up in the Obama Administration—OSHA set expectations of what it would accomplish over the summer months. Now Labor Day is upon us and it was a disappointing summer for progress by OSHA on new worker safety regulations.
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From the New York Times, August 28, 2014:
The World Health Organization warned on Thursday that the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, already the largest outbreak ever recorded, is going to get much worse over the next six months, the shortest window in which it might conceivably be brought under control. By then, the organization said, the virus could infect more than 20,000 people, almost seven times the current number of reported cases.
It is a frightening prospect that requires an urgent infusion of aid from public and private donors around the world. The situation as described by the health agency is so dire and the resources needed so daunting that it is hard to see how they can be supplied anytime soon.
The agency issued a road map listing tasks that must be carried out by countries with Ebola cases, nearby countries, the international community and nongovernmental organizations if the epidemic is to be contained.
A top official said the road map would require at least 750 international and 12,000 local health workers on the front lines delivering care. How can impoverished countries whose health workers are falling ill and dying or fleeing in fear possibly supply that many caregivers? If they cannot muster those workers, it seems inevitable that wealthier nations will need to step in with more personnel, but they, too, may have difficulty recruiting people.
The World Health Organization is belatedly catching up to a warning issued in June by Doctors Without Borders, a group that has been delivering care in some of the hardest hit areas, that said the epidemic was out of control. On Thursday, the health agency said that the reported death toll had risen to 1,552, from 3,069 cases of infection in four West African countries — Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria — and that the actual toll could be up to four times higher because many cases go undetected or unreported. That suggests there could already be up to 12,000 cases.
A top American official on the scene in West Africa said the situation is far worse than anticipated and raised concerns that, with each passing day, the virus might spread to additional countries. More than 40 percent of the total number of reported cases have occurred in the past three weeks. Most of those cases are concentrated in a few localities, offering hope that the outbreaks can be contained if more resources are sent to those places.
The road map could cost almost half-a-billion dollars over the next six months, not including broader support to provide food, sanitation and other necessities or to strengthen systems in afflicted countries that are so overwhelmed with Ebola cases that they can’t provide basic health services. Some local workers have shown immense courage in tending to the sick, but they need more protective gear, disinfectants, tents and body bags to prevent infection, which the health agency intends to deliver.
In a detailed timeline, the organization says its goal is to reverse the trend in new Ebola cases within three months and stop all residual transmission in six to nine months. It also hopes to stop any new transmissions in a country within eight weeks of a first case being identified. That seems achievable with a vigorous effort to trace and isolate anyone who has come into contact with an infected person although some contacts in a large country or city will probably be missed.
The World Health Organization emphasized the importance of preventing the spread of the virus to other nations by screening travelers at international airports, seaports and major land crossings to bar travel by people with illnesses that could be Ebola. Some airlines have canceled flights to the afflicted countries. But that is an overreaction, if good screening programs are established. It will be critical to keep air and shipping links operating to deliver medical supplies and other essential goods.
Read the article at NyTimes.com here.
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Namomi Kizhner has designed a collection of jewelry that harvests energy from the human body. A thought experiment more than anything, these jewels provoke a fascinating discussion about the ends to which humans will go in order to get the next hit of energy.
Appropriately called Energy Addicts, the project explores the numerous sources of energy the human body produces and then seeks to exploit them. Made of gold and a 3D-printed biopolymer, each jewel taps a particular involuntary physiological response.
“It interested me to imagine what would the world be like once it has experienced a steep decline in energy resources and how we will feed our energy addiction,” Kizhner told Dezeen.
“There are lots of developments of renewable energy resources, but the human body is a natural resource for energy that is constantly renewed, as long as we are alive.”
For example, stems on either end of the Blood Bridge are inserted into veins on the lower arm, and blood spins the wheels to produce energy – much like hydroelectricity.
The E-pulse Conductor is slightly less invasive – it harvests electrical pulses produced by the neurological system in the wearer’s spine. But the Blinker is kind of creepy. This piece of jewelry is mounted to the wearer’s nose and eyelids to harvest kinetic energy every time the eyes blink.
Kizhner designed this series as part of her graduation project in industrial design for Hadassah College in Jerusalem. Judging by her early project, this talented young designer is going places!
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