Things you should know


EEOC proposes rules that GINA does not prohibit wellness incentives

In a shift, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a proposed rule clarifying that the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) does not prohibit employers from offering limited incentives to employees when their covered spouses provide information about their current and past health status in a health risk assessment (HRA) that is offered as part of a voluntary wellness program that is part of a group health plan.

The proposed rule clarifies that an employer may offer, as part of its health plan, a limited incentive (in the form of a reward or penalty) to an employee whose spouse (1) is covered under the employee’s health plan; (2) receives health or genetic services offered by the employer, including such services as part of a wellness program; and (3) provides information about his or her current or past health status.

The EEOC invites the public to comment on the proposed rule, referencing RIN 3046-AB02, by December 29, 2015.

Workers’ Compensation and MRIs for back pain: study

A new study published in Spine examines the geographic variation in the early MRI for acute work-related low back pain from a large workers’ compensation data source. The rate of early MRI scanning varied from 6 percent to 58.4 percent across the country and researchers recommended efforts to address inappropriate referral patterns “based on private MRI facility ownership” and improved quality of communication with low-income patients.

BLS: Despite decrease in lost-worktime rate, injury severity may be on the rise

Although the overall rate of occupational injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work fell in 2014, the number of median days needed to recuperate increased, according to a Nov. 19 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The number of median days away from work increased to 9 in 2014 from 8 in 2013 for the overall workforce. BLS considers this a “key measure” of injury and illness severity. The days-away-from-work incident rate for falls on the same level in the private industry also increased – to 16.6 in 2014 from 15.4 the previous year.

Infection-control association offers ‘do’s and don’ts’ on masks, respirators

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology has released two fliers for health care workers on proper use of procedure masks and N95 respirators. The resources provide do’s and don’ts for wearing both types of protective equipment in non-surgical situations.

Stretching, resistance-training programs could limit MSDs: study

Workplace training programs that emphasize stretching and resistance can help prevent and manage upper-extremity musculoskeletal disorders, according to a recent report from the Institute for Work & Health in Canada. Researchers found “strong evidence” that resistance training aids neck, shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist and hand health. They also found “moderate evidence” that stretching programs, workstation forearm supports, and computer mouse vibration feedback prevents and manages upper-extremity MSDs.

The report was published Nov. 12 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

NIOSH to employers: Protect workers in ‘moderately cold’ conditions

“Moderately cold” work conditions pose health and safety risks for employees, and employers should take steps to improve worker comfort, according to NIOSH. At the American Public Health Association’s annual conference, researchers presented a case study examining working conditions of airline food preparation employees, who spend as many as eight hours per day in refrigerated rooms at 40°F – a temperature required by food safety rules. Workers in other industries – including food preparation and processing, cold storage, supermarkets, and transportation – may experience similar conditions. Such cold environments can increase the risk of injury or aggravate an existing injury, NIOSH states.

AIHA fact sheet addresses PPE for engineered nanoparticles

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) has published a fact sheet, Personal Protective Equipment for Engineered Nanoparticles that aims to improve safety for workers in the nanotechnology industry. Topics covered include a general overview, Hierarchy of Controls, PPE effectiveness, PPE type, and other considerations such as PPE removal, reuse and disposal.

Customized physical therapy for low back pain may provide more relief than general information

A new study reported in Reuters Health says that individualized physical therapy achieves more rapid reduction in pain and long-term superior improvements in function/disability than general advice on the best ways to remain active.

Return to work guidelines help reduce time away from work – Texas

On average, injured employees in Texas returned to work after 37 days in 2013, down from an average of 47 days in 2012 and 51 days in 2011, 2010 and 2009, according to “Return to Work in the Texas Workers’ Compensation System,” a report by the Texas Department of Insurance’s Workers’ Compensation Research and Evaluation Group. A spokesman for the department said 2005 workers’ comp reforms, which include return to work guidelines, contributed to the improvements.

Grain association issues alert on preventing engulfments

A recently released safety alert from the National Grain and Feed Association aims to help protect workers from grain engulfment and other hazards.The alert includes a poster on best practices for entering grain bins and a video, produced jointly with the National Corn Growers Association, about grain bin safety on farms.

Contractor groups issue 13-step plan for construction safety

The Associated General Contractors of America and Carolinas Associated General Contractors have issued a 13-step plan aimed at reversing the trend of construction worker fatalities.

NIOSH: Texas convenience stores lack precautions to deter robberies, prevent violence

Many Texas convenience store owners fail to take precautions that could prevent robberies and protect workers from violence, according to a new NIOSH study. Researchers examined a random sample of nearly 600 convenience stores in Dallas and Houston and found that less than 10 percent were in compliance with Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design guidelines, even though 79 percent claimed to be in compliance. The study was published in September in the journal Injury Prevention.

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