September 8, 2015 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH 1Comment

In the fourth edition of “The Year in US Occupational Health & Safety,” which we released on Labor Day, we recap some of the key activities that occurred at the federal level in the previous 12 months. One of the most noteworthy events was the Ebola virus epidemic, which brought worldwide attention to the need for appropriate equipment and training for health care workers. We devote a section of the report to recapping the government’s response following transmission of the virus to nurses Nina Pham and Amber Vinson. We describe some of the efforts by National Nurses United, the California Nurses Association, and others to demand greater protections for health care workers.

Another notable event at the federal level was the release of OSHA’s new regulation on injury reporting. Beginning on January 1, 2015, employers are required to notify OSHA within 24 hours if a worker is hospitalized or suffers an amputation or loss of an eye. In the first six weeks under the new regulation, OSHA reported being notified about more than 1,400 such incidents. OSHA also issued a new regulation to protect construction workers from confined space hazards. It was a rule that had been in the works since 1994. The report recaps other OSHA actions, including significant enforcement cases and a proposed rule on beryllium.

Over the last 12 months, the Mine Safety and Health Administration received favorable decisions by the Court of Appeals for its regulation on respirable coal dust and its rule defining a “pattern of violations.” Mining industry groups had challenged the legality of the rules.

Researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health published numerous articles in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and released a Current Intelligence Bulletin which addressed electronic cigarettes. Leadership at the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) faced tough questions from members of Congress about employee whistleblowers and use of personal email. Two new members of the board took their positions in January 2015 and Chair Rafael Moure-Eraso resigned from his position in March 2015. A new chair and additional member of the CSB were sworn in in August.

The yearbook will remind readers of reports released during Workers Memorial Week and offers photos of Worker Memorial Day events. It also describes the US Worker Fatality Database, which was developed by workplace safety advocates and launched in April 2015. The open-access database provides case-specific information on work-related fatalities, including the victim’s name, age, employer, and industry.

Among these and other notable events, we tip our hat to Debbie Berkowitz, who is leaving OSHA after nearly seven years of service as a top agency official. As a colleague noted, “the good we accomplished—the big and small—have her fingerprints.”

We hope you will download and read the report. We couldn’t cover all of the key developments, so we’d love to hear your thoughts on the most important developments over the past 12 months. Leave a comment with your thoughts. Tomorrow’s post will highlight Section II of the report, which features events at the state and local levels.

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