Things you should know

Changes in employee health risk factors positively impact productivity – study

Changes in employee health risk factors have a significant impact on work productivity, reports a study in the April Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. According to a lead researcher the key implication is that health improvements must be maintained over time so the productivity impacts can accumulate.

New app addresses ladder safety

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced the availability of a new ladder safety smart phone app, which uses visual and audio signals to make it easier for workers using extension ladders to check the angle of the ladder, as well as access useful tips for using extension ladders safely. The app is available for free for both iPhone and Android devices at

Advocacy groups release database of State Plan regs

A new database represents the first comprehensive collection of all unique state occupational safety and health rules and laws. The database, launched April 1 by Public Citizen and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Public Health Law Research program, organizes State Plan-enforced standards into six categories: general industry, oil and gas, construction, maritime, mining and agriculture.

Users can compare state and federal rules, or research the unique rules in a particular state or industry. Any state rules identical to federal OSHA standards are not included in the database, nor are administrative-type rules such as recordkeeping.

PBMs report increase in average cost of workers’ compensation prescriptions

Two pharmacy benefit managers (PBM) indicate the average cost of a workers’ compensation prescriptions increased last year. Helios said the increase, the first in a decade, was 3.9%. Express Scripts Inc saw a 7% increase in overall prescription costs, which was offset by a 5.4% decrease in drug utilization, leading to workers’ compensation prescription drug spending per worker increase of 1.9% last year. Last year, Helios also saw a 4.4% decline in utilization. Increases were driven by rises in average wholesale price, costs for compounded medications, costs for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and costs for opioid painkillers.

Tobacco policies to promote workplace health

There is a new NIOSH publication on promoting workplace health through tobacco policies.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) increased most civil penalties

The periodic adjustments are based on cost-of-living increases and go into effect June 2, 2015. In some cases penalties will increase by 30 percent, up to nearly 50 percent. Examples of increases include the per-day penalty for operating a commercial vehicle by a driver who was placed out of service, which will increase to $3,100 from $2,100; knowingly falsifying records, which will jump to $11,000 from $10,000; and carrier financial responsibility violations, which will rise to $21,000 from $16,000. The notice and list of all the changes can be found here.

Heart Association makes recommendations on workplace wellness programs

Workplace wellness programs do not fully address employees’ heart health, according to a new report from the American Heart Association. The panel identified two crucial gaps: recognition programs inconsistently score wellness programs and wellness programs gloss over workers’ cardiovascular health.

AHA recommends seven factors that can help prevent heart disease among employees:

  • Be more active
  • Control cholesterol
  • Eat healthier
  • Manage blood pressure
  • Lose weight
  • Reduce blood sugar
  • Quit smoking
  • Additionally, AHA’s “My Life Check

Cal/OSHA issues guidance, Q&A, on updated heat rules

The California Department of Industrial Relations has issued a new guidance document to help familiarize employers on the state’s updated heat illness prevention rules, which went into effect May 1.

Millions have work-related asthma, CDC says

More than 15 percent of asthma cases among employed adults are work-related, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The study was published in the April 10 edition of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

More workers died on the job in 2013 than originally reported but lowest on record

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released revised worker fatality data showing that 4,585 workers died on the job in 2013, up from the preliminary count of 4,405 reported in September 2014. Farming, fishing, forestry and hunting occupations remain the most lethal per capita, with 500 employees killed in 2013, equaling a rate of 23.2 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. On an overall basis, the most workers were killed in the transportation and warehousing industry, which saw 733 workers killed in 2013, for a rate of 14.0 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers.

Transportation accidents were the leading cause of death with 1,865 fatalities. “Falls, slips, trips” were second at 724, followed by “contact with objects and equipment” at 721 fatalities. Male workers died at 5.4 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, compared with a rate of 0.5 for female workers. Workers over 65 had a fatality rate of 9.2, compared with a rate of 2.5 for workers between 25 and 34 years old. Deaths among Hispanic or Latino workers increased 9 percent between 2012 and 2013.

Physical therapy may be as good as surgery for common back problem

Physical therapy may work as well as surgery for easing symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis, a common cause of nerve damage and lower back pain among older people, a study suggests.

Free online program addresses job stress in nursing

A new online program from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, aims to help nurses cope with stress on the job.The free continuing education program consists of four 15 – 30 minute learning modules, case studies and reference materials.

Poultry workers at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome, other MSDs: report

More than half of workers evaluated at a poultry plant in Maryland experienced musculoskeletal disorder symptoms in a hand or wrist, according to a recent NIOSH evaluation conducted at the employer’s request. The report includes recommendations for employers.


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