Articles | Cases

Things you should know

Blunt-tip suture needles recommended to reduce injuries among health care workers

OSHA, NIOSH, and the Food and Drug Administration recently issued a joint safety communication urging health care professionals to help prevent needlestick injuries by using blunt-tip suture needles.

Studies show using blunt-tip suture needles instead of standard suture needles reduces the risk of needlestick injuries by 69 percent, according to the agencies. The document states that blunt-tip suture needles cost roughly 70 cents more per needle, but a 2007 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the cost savings of preventing needlestick injuries makes up the difference.

North Carolina passes law targeting employers without Workers' Compensation

State lawmakers' approval of HB 273,came in the wake of public criticism over the state's lax efforts to ensure that employers have insurance and that injured workers receive proper medical care and loss wage benefits. Under current law, employers are required to inform that Industrial Commission when they purchase, renew or cancel a policy. However, the commission contracts with the Rate Bureau to collect that information and has acknowledged that it does not monitor cancellations. As a result, they only find out an employer is without coverage when an injured worker files a claim.

The Industrial Commission's Fraud Unit reported that since January 2011, it had only pursued 225 such cases and collected a total of $30,500 in fines, which equals around $135 per case. In response to those facts, the commission has been holding hearings in attempt to resolve longstanding claims, some of which date as far back as 2006.

In addition to the fines and other penalties, the commission invoked a little noticed provision in the law that allows it to find employers in contempt for failing to meet their obligations and send them to jail. To date, the commission has yet to order anyone to jail, but the threat remains real.

Chairs, phones most contaminated surfaces in office buildings

Chairs and phones were the most bacteria-contaminated surfaces in 90 tested offices across the country, according to research from San Diego State University and the University of Arizona.

Taking 450 samples from office buildings in New York, San Francisco, and Tucson, AZ researchers identified more than 500 bacteria after swabbing chairs, phones, computer mice, keyboards and desktops. They found the primary source of bacterial contamination was from human skin and oral and nasal cavities. Surfaces inhabited by men were consistently more contaminated than those occupied by women.

The study appeared in the May 30 issue of PLoS ONE.

FMCSA shuts down 26 bus companies

Calling it an unprecedented crackdown, the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced it has shut down 26 bus companies throughout the country due to safety concerns.

The companies operated along Interstate 95 from New York to Florida and were overseen by three core companies: Apex Bus Inc. I-95 Coach Inc. and New Century Travel Inc. FMCSA issued the orders following a yearlong investigation that uncovered the following violations:

MSHA issues safety alert on struck-by incidents

Prompted by an "alarming upward trend" of miners being struck by, crushed or pinned by moving equipment, the Mine Safety and Health Administration recently issued a safety alert on the hazard.

The alert includes a list of best practices, including:

Working the night shift may lead to breast cancer

Women who work the night shift more than twice a week may have a higher risk of breast cancer, according to a study from the Danish Cancer Society. Researchers collected data on more than 18,500 women who had worked for the Danish military between 1964 and 1999, according to the study abstract. Comparing the work and lifestyle behaviors of 210 women with breast cancer and 900 women without it, they found working at night increased the risk of breast cancer by 40 percent. The risk doubled for women who worked the night shift at least three times a week for six years or more.

Researchers recommended women limit night shift work to less than three times a week. The study was published online May 28 in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

NIOSH publishes safe practices guide for nanomaterials

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published safety recommendations on engineering controls and safe practices for handling engineered nanomaterials in laboratories and some pilot scale operations. This guidance was designed to be used in tandem with well-established practices and the laboratory's chemical hygiene plan. The introduction of nanoparticles into the workplace has created a new dimension in Workers' Compensation occupational exposure claims.

Diesel exhaust declared a carcinogen

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), on June 12 classified diesel engine exhaust as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1). The IARC believes there is sufficient evidence that exposure is associated with an increased risk for lung cancer.