Occupational Health News Roundup

On Sunday in China’s Shanxi Province, an explosion rocked a coal mine where 436 people were working underground. Seventy-four of the workers died, and 114 were hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning. The New York Times’ Edward Wong puts this terrible death toll in context:

The mining industry in China has a poor safety record. The government, which has been trying to improve safety standards by closing illegal mines, reported last month that about 3,200 people died in mining accidents last year, a 15 percent decrease from the previous year.

But the death rate still indicates that China’s mines are the most dangerous in the world.

In January, Zhao Tiechui, a senior official in charge of coal mine supervision, told Xinhua about problems regulating the industry. The government has said that 80 percent of the 16,000 mines operating in China are illegal.

In other news:

Shreveport Times: The oil and gas industry brings money and jobs to Louisiana, but the jobs are dangerous ones: the annual fatality rate for oil and gas workers is seven times that of workers overall.

Los Angeles Times: In 1976, W.R. Grace had data showing that 63% of its workers who’d worked for a decade or more in Libby, Montana had lung abnormalities – but the company failed to use that information to protect its workers or the people living near its asbestos-contaminated vermiculite mine.

New York Times: Day laborers working on New Orleans rebuilding projects are frequent targets for thieves, who know the workers are given large cash sums at the end of the workday.

NIOSH: More and more pharmacists face violence from workplace robberies, which differs from the violence that other healthcare workers experience.

Associated Press: In the face of a national nursing shortage, hospitals are working harder to retain their nurses; one problem they’re addressing is the burnout new nurses often feel when faced with large responsibilities and too little supervision during their first months on the job.