Occupational Health News Roundup

In the New York Times, David Tuller describes the on-the-job violence nurses face, and efforts to make their workplaces safer: 

Three years ago, an enraged patient — 6 feet 4 inches and 275 pounds — smacked another patient, bit a health aide, threatened to kill [psychiatric nurse Karen] Coughlin and lunged forward to strike her. He was restrained before he reached her. 

“I really thought that my life was in danger,” she said. “It was probably the most terrified I’ve been in my 24 years of nursing.” 

In recent years, nurses like Ms. Coughlin have sounded the alarm about workplace violence, most of it committed by patients. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, half of all nonfatal injuries resulting from workplace assaults occur in health care and social service settings. 

Nurses and other personal care workers bear the brunt of such attacks, with 25 injuries annually resulting in days off from work for every 10,000 full-time workers — 12 times the rate of the overall private sector, according to the bureau. The most dangerous settings are psychiatric units and nursing homes, where patients are often confused, disoriented or suffering from mental ailments, as well as emergency rooms, where long waits for care can anger patients, and the people with them.

Hospitals’ security strategies include stepping up camera surveillance, security staffing, and employee training. 

In other news: 

Washington Post: Immigrant day laborers are often unaware of their legal options, or reluctant to pursue those options, when employers fail to pay them for their work. Nonprofit groups are stepping up their efforts to help these workers collect what they’re owed.

New York Times: Alcohol abuse is rising among combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Bloomberg: The Federal Aviation Administration is considering updating its rules on how many hours pilots can work in a 24-hour period. 

Occupational Hazards: The Association of Equipment Manufacturers wrote to Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and OSHA Administrator Edwin Foulke to urge them to complete the crane safety standards that have been in process since 2003. 

International Labour Organization: Fifty high-level decisionmakers from around the world met in Seoul and agreed to a major new blueprint for constructing a global culture of safety and health at work.

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