Occupational Health News Roundup

How well prepared are US workplaces for a severe outbreak of swine flu (or a similar disease)? Not very well, a survey from the Harvard School of Public Health finds:

In a national survey of businesses that looks at their preparations for a possible widespread H1N1 outbreak, Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers found that only one-third believe they could sustain their business without severe operational problems if half their workforce were absent for two weeks due to H1N1 (also known as "swine flu"). Just one-fifth believe they could avoid such problems for one month with half their employees out. The survey also found that while 74% of businesses offer paid sick leave for employees, only 35% of businesses offer paid leave that would allow employees to take care of sick family members, and even fewer would allow paid time off to care for children if schools/daycares were closed (21%).

When it comes to workers during a swine flu outbreak, healthcare workers will be at particular risk of exposure to the virus. The New York State Nurses Association has written an open letter to New York State Commissioner of Health Richard F. Daines and Administrators of Healthcare Facilities/Agencies in New York State, requests that the stateâs Department of Health update its guidelines to require fit-tested N95 respirators for workers caring for flu patients and that healthcare facilities invest in controlling infections and protecting their workers.

In other news:

Washington Post: John Moore, a communicationâs technician for the DC areaâs Metro system, died after being struck by a train. He is the fourth Metro worker to die this summer.

TIME: The Navyâs experiments with chemical and biological weapons on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques has left servicemen as well as residents demanding compensation for illnesses they say were caused by exposure to the experimental materials. 

NIOSH Science Blog: In the years since 9/11/01, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has established approval criteria and approved respiratory protection equipment for respirators that provide protection against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents.

Scripps Howard: A new study finds that workers who cut the granite used in kitchen countertops can be at risk of radiation exposure far in excess of the national safety limit.

BBC: The British government agreed to pay compensation to 750,000 miners suffering from lung and hand diseases â but it turns out that some of the miners' lawyers wrongly took cuts from the government payout.

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