Occupational Health News Roundup

For the Christian Science Monitor, Marilyn Gardner writes about pregnant women who stay on the job until the day their babies are due (or even until the minute they go into labor) and start working again soon after their babies’ births, because they’re unable to take more time off. The Family Medical Leave Act allows new parents 12 weeks of leave – but it’s unpaid leave, and the requirement only applies to companies with 50 or more employees. Gardner explains:

Call it the American way of maternity. Eighty percent of pregnant women who work remained on the job until one month or less before their child’s birth, according to newly released Census data for 2003. In 1965 that figure was 35 percent.

Most women work until close to their due date for two reasons: They need the income and they want to use their maternity leave after the baby arrives. …

Europeans take a different approach. In France, expectant mothers receive six weeks of maternity leave before the birth and 10 weeks after. They are required to take at least two weeks before and six after. In Finland, women receive 17.5 weeks of maternity leave. They can begin as early as eight weeks before their due date or as late as two weeks before the expected date. Other European countries offer similar policies.

 

And speaking of the Family Medical Leave Act, this year is its 15th anniversary. The Washington Post’s Nancy Trejos looks at some of the changes to the law that workers and employers are pushing for.

In other news:


New York Times: At least 12 U.S. military personnel have been electrocuted in Iraq, due to flawed electrical work by contractors. The former director of the Defense Contract Management Agency says the agency doesn’t have the capability to oversee these kinds of contracts.

Associated Press: Veterans Affairs Department investigators say that many Iraq veterans with traumatic brain injuries aren’t getting appropriate healthcare and job assistance.

NIOSH: Because hearing protectors only work if they fit and are worn correctly, NIOSH has developed an online tool workers can use to check their hearing protection in a minute or less.

Occupational Hazards: By one estimate, half our population isn’t getting sufficient sleep – and workers running on too little sleep have a higher risk of getting injured and compromising workplace safety.

Washington Post: South Korean workers spend more time on the job than their counterparts in other free-market democracies — including about 560 more hours of work a year than U.S. workers. Compared to other developed countries, they rank first in suicides and last in childbearing.