Occupational Health News Roundup

José Herrera, a contract worker at a Citgo refinery in Corpus Christi, was working on equipment when a pipe ruptured and scorched one-third of his body with 550-degree oil. Herrera is now disabled and in constant pain, even in his sleep. Workers’ compensation insurance covers his extensive medical costs, but his lost-wages compensation equals only about $37,000 annually, compared to the approximately $100,000 he earned before the accident. It will still be another two or three years before doctors can tell Herrera whether he’ll be able to return to work.

Herrera is now suing the refinery owner and its parent company, claiming “that the accident stemmed from a lack of proper maintenance along with a defective design and improper plans,” the Austin-American Statesman’s Kate Alexander reports. The ruling in a case that the Texas Supreme Court is re-hearing will determine whether Herrera can sue Citgo, or whether Texas’s workers’ compensation law provides worksite owners with a unique ability to avoid being liable for injuries suffered by contractors.

In other news:

Reuters: Three disasters in Chinese coal mines killed 42 people over the course of four days.

Washington Post: So far in 2008, 93 active-duty soldiers have committed suicide.

Spokesman Review (Washington): Firefighters face an increased risk of cancer.

NIOSH: Given the difficulty of getting properly fitted respirators to rescue workers such as those responding on 9/11, it’s important to look at the needs of respirator users and possible improvements to respirator design and technology.

UPI: A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found suicide rates are higher among U.S. doctors than the general population.