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Things you should know

Workers and employers not doing a good job identifying and addressing high blood pressure

According to a report from the Gateway Project, designed by the Mid-America Coalition on Health Care, to assess the burden of hypertension in the workplace, many workers have high blood pressure and are unaware of it. In the project, 19% of workers reported having high blood pressure, when in fact 63% were hypertensive or pre-hypertensive.

Among employees with hypertension, 38% also had high cholesterol. In spite of this, 52% of employees stated that lowering their blood pressure was "not needed" in the next six months.

Using a draft tool from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the report found that participating employers' interventions for hypertension among employees rated only 51.6%, indicating more effort is needed.

DOL time sheet app available to employees

Employees can now keep track of their hours on their iPhone and iPod Touch, thanks to a new timesheet application from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The app enables employees to independently track the hours they work and determine the wages they are owed. It is available in English and Spanish and the DOL noted that this information could prove invaluable during a Wage and Hour Division (WHD) investigation when an employer has failed to maintain accurate employment records.

For workers without a smartphone, the WHD has a printable work hours calendar in English and Spanish to track rate of pay, work start and stop times, and arrival and departure times. The calendar also includes easy-to-understand information about workers’ rights and how to file a wage violation complaint.

Changing approach to shift work can improve employee health

Shift work that rotates forward, faster, and has more days off after night shifts may help improve workers' health, suggests a Netherlands study, “Effects of the New Fast Forward Rotating Five-Shift Roster at a Dutch Steel Company.” The study looked at 4,600 shift workers to better understand the effects of relevant shift system characteristics on their health and safety.

The initial rotation, which had been in effect for 25 years, used a backward rotating roster: three night shifts, two days off, three evening shifts, two days off, three morning shifts, and two days off. With the new roster, employees worked successively two morning and two evening shifts, one day off, two night shifts, and three days off.

The researchers found overall improvement in health outcomes with the new shift schedule. Absence figures decreased 0.6 percent. Improvements in health indicators were also found, such as with fatigue, musculoskeletal complaints, and health and workload. The most positive effects were found among older workers.

Grounds workers have higher fatality rate: report

Grounds maintenance workers died at a rate more than three times higher than the overall workforce in a five-year period, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2003 to 2007, an average of 13.3 GMWs per 100,000 died on the job, compared with a rate of 4.0 for all U.S. workers.

Among major events leading to fatalities, transportation incidents accounted for one-third, followed by contact with equipment and falls at approximately one-quarter each, and exposures to harmful substances or environments (16%).

The report recommended using targeted workplace safety interventions such as hazard identification and cultural- and language-appropriate training techniques as part of a comprehensive injury and illness prevention program.

Truck driver's history predictor of future crash risk

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) compared 2008-2009 data from the Motor Carrier Management Information System and the Commercial Driver's License Information System to similar analyses performed in 2005. Findings showed that "failure to use/improper signal" was the leading conviction associated with an increased likelihood of a future crash. The summary report of the research, the driver's likelihood of a future crash increased 96% with this conviction. Drivers with an "improper passing" violation or a "past crash" history had an 88% increase in likelihood of being involved in a crash compared with peers with clean driving records.

Workers silent about bullying in the workplace

Although 27% of employees experience workplace bullying, the majority do not confront or report the behavior, indicates a survey released recently by the job search website CareerBuilder.

Women were more likely targets, with 34% of female respondents reporting bullying, compared with 21% of males. Younger and older workers also were more likely to experience bullying than those 35-44 years old.

Common forms of bullying included having comments dismissed, and being falsely accused of mistakes, criticized, belittled and gossiped about.

Less than half of employees confronted their bully, but among those who did, 43% said the bullying stopped as a result, while 13% reported that the bullying became worse. Among those workers who took bullying complaints to human resources, 62% reported that no action was taken.

Burns replace contact dermatitis as the most frequent skin condition

According to a new epidemiological study of occupational disorders, burns are replacing contact dermatitis as the most frequent skin condition in Workers' Compensation claims. Burns accounted for 90% of claims by food workers and the majority of skin injuries in all other occupational classes, except for personal-care jobs. Workers lost an average of 4.2 days with burns, while construction workers missed an average of 8.1.