Tag: workers

US Department of Labor finds electric vehicle battery maker again exposes workers to serious health hazards after investigation of Commerce fire

OSHA cites SK Battery America for 5 serious violations; faces more than $77K in fines

ATLANTA – For the second time in less than a year, federal workplace safety inspectors have found a global electric vehicle battery manufacturer exposing employees to serious safety and health hazards at its Commerce plant, after workers suffered potentially permanent respiratory damage in an October 2023 lithium battery fire.

After investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration learned of the fire at SK Battery America Inc., they determined the company failed to train its employees on how to protect themselves adequately in the toxic atmosphere that left multiple workers injured. The agency cited SK Battery for five serious violations after finding the company did the following: 

OSHA has assessed the company $77,200 in proposed penalties, an amount set by federal statute.

In December 2023, OSHA cited SK Battery for exposing employees working with cobalt, nickel, and total dust to levels above the Permissible Exposure Limit and failing to institute feasible administrative or engineering controls, among other hazards. The December 2023 inspection also found the employer exposed workers to high levels of occupational noise and failed to implement a monitoring program and audiometric testing.

Another inspection resulted in a citation that was issued in January 2024 for a hazard associated with the company’s energy control program. The company is contesting these findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

“On multiple occasions in less than a year, we have found SK Battery America failing in their responsibility to meet required federal standards designed to help every worker end their shift safely,” said OSHA Area Office Director Joshua Turner in Atlanta-East. “While emerging industries bring innovation and employment opportunities to our communities, they must also ensure that

The Big Idea: Give all Canadian workers paid sick leave

Canadians are working while ill to avoid losing income. Instituting country-wide sick-leave policies is a healthier option.

(Photo illustration by Maclean’s, background photo via iStock)

For the past 16 years, I’ve worked as a family doctor in community clinics throughout the country—in Yellowknife, La Ronge, Saskatchewan, Toronto, and in Sydney, Nova Scotia, where I’m based right now. In all of these clinics, I’ve encountered patients facing the same crippling dilemma: work while ill or lose income because their employer doesn’t provide them with paid sick days. As a doctor, my typical advice is for them to stay home and take all the time they need to recover. Many aren’t able to, and some end up back in my office a week later with a more severe version of their initial illness. I don’t blame them: we live in a country where paid sick leave is seen as a privilege, rather than a universal right.

One of my current patients is a single mom of two young kids who works two part-time jobs in health care, neither of which offer her paid sick leave. Because she has difficulty covering basic expenses, she will sometimes go to work when sick—even though she works with vulnerable patients, many of whom are at risk for severe illnesses if she infects them. She confided that, sometimes, she also sends her sick kids to school if child care isn’t an option.

After many years of witnessing scenarios like hers, in 2018, I joined the Decent Work and Health Network, or DWHN, an advocacy group of health-care workers focused on creating equitable conditions for all workers, including migrant workers. Factoring in the recovery times for common minor illnesses, worker experiences and evidence from other countries, DWHN is pushing for a minimum of 10 employer-provided, provincially mandated

Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Four years after hospitals in New York City overflowed with Covid patients, emergency physician Dr. Sonya Stokes remains shaken by how unprepared and misguided the American health system was.

Hospital leadership instructed health workers to forgo protective N95 masks in the early months of 2020, as covid cases mounted. “We were watching patients die,” Stokes said, “and being told we didn’t need a high level of protection from people who were not taking these risks.”

Droves of front-line workers fell sick as they tried to save lives without proper face masks and other protective measures. More than 3,600 died in the first year. “Nurses were going home to their elderly parents, transmitting Covid to their families,” Stokes recalled. “It was awful.”

Across the country, hospital leadership cited advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the limits of airborne transmission. The agency’s early statements backed employers’ insistence that N95 masks, or respirators, were needed only during certain medical procedures conducted at extremely close distances.

Such policies were at odds with doctors’ observations, and they conflicted with advice from scientists who study airborne viral transmission. Their research suggested that people could get Covid after inhaling SARS-CoV-2 viruses suspended in teeny-tiny droplets in the air as infected patients breathed.

Ignoring this body of research was convenient at a time when N95s masks were in short supply and expensive, said Peg Seminario, an occupational health expert, and a former director at the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, which represents some 12 million workers.

Now, she and many others worry that the CDC is repeating past mistakes as it develops a crucial set of guidelines that hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and other facilities that provide health care will apply to control the spread of infectious diseases. The

New Brunswick officials paid nursing firm for meal allowances workers never received

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The Campbellton Regional Hospital in northern New Brunswick.Chris Donovan/The Globe and Mail

New Brunswick officials paid for the meal allowances of nurses and orderlies deployed to the province by private staffing agency Canadian Health Labs, but that money was never passed on to the company’s workers, according to nine sources, as well as documents obtained by The Globe and Mail.

A Globe investigation into the skyrocketing costs of private travel nursing published in February found that CHL invoiced health authorities in Newfoundland and Labrador $1.6-million in meal allowances for the nurses it dispatched to that province, but told workers they were required to pay for their own food. Newfoundland’s province’s Liberal government has asked its comptroller-general to probe those billings.

The Globe has confirmed that the same billing discrepancy took place in New Brunswick, a province that leaned more heavily on CHL than Newfoundland. The province’s Vitalité Health Network, which delivers French-language medical services, paid CHL for meal allowances for its travelling staff, but the company’s workers were told they were on their own when it came to paying for meals, documents and interviews show.

Unlike Newfoundland, The Globe has been unable to determine the total cost of the meals billed to Vitalité by CHL. The company’s current nursing deal with Vitalité runs to 2026 and is worth a maximum of $93-million.

Toronto-based CHL entered the travel nursing business during the pandemic and quickly carved out a niche relocating health care workers to Atlantic Canada so they could take on jobs at understaffed health facilities.

As part of its contracts with Vitalité, CHL charged taxpayers $46 a day for meal allowances for each out-of-province nurse or personal support worker, the health authority confirmed to The Globe.

But nine nurses CHL assigned to Vitalité told

‘Digital safety kit’ offers guidance for public health workers dealing with online harassment | News

January 31, 2024 – Political divisions that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic prompted an uptick in online harassment of people working in the public health arena—and the harassment hasn’t died down. In response, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Health Communication (CHC) has produced a Digital Safety Kit for Public Health that aims to help public health workers and researchers navigate hostile online experiences and perhaps avoid them altogether.

The toolkit was put together by Samuel Mendez, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Mendez, who focuses on organizational health literacy and online communication, is also a research assistant and student advisory board member at the CHC. The kit, which Mendez wrote about in a January 23 opinion piece in Harvard Public Health, provides a wealth of information about online harassment—how to recognize it, how to respond, how to make a plan to protect yourself, and what institutions can do.

The idea for the toolkit grew, in part, as Mendez watched colleagues, including doctors, scientists, and public health communicators, experience online harassment—and have to deal with it mostly on their own.

“My friends and peers, even those at a university or research center, have found that they can’t count right now on their institutions to have a lot of resources lined up to respond effectively,” Mendez said in an interview. “There are guides from content creators and streamers and social media influencers that offer a lot of individual advice—for instance, how to keep your public profile separate from your personal profile—and it’s great that those resources are available. But I found that existing advice doesn’t really translate well to public health, because in the world of public health a certain amount of your professional information has to be public because you get federal

Why health-care workers must become team players

No one practitioner can do it all given the health issues people face today. Patients — especially those with chronic or complex health needs — are better served by a team whose skills complement each other.

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Canada is in the midst of a primary care crisis. Primary care is the first point of contact Canadians have with the health-care system outside of hospitals — often via a family physician or nurse practitioner. Unfortunately, an estimated 6.5 million Canadians do not have a family physician or a nurse practitioner.

Provincial government plans to address the crisis have largely focused on increasing the number of health workers. But increasing numbers alone, by making more spots available in medical and nursing schools, and recruiting health workers from out of country, will not be enough to solve the crisis.

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B.C. Tories call for top doctor’s job over continued vaccine mandates for health-care workers

The Conservative Party of BC is calling on the New Democrat-led government to fire Dr. Bonnie Henry over a continued requirement that health-care workers in the province be vaccinated against COVID-19.

In the legislature this week, Abbotsford South’s Bruce Banman — one of only two Conservative MLAs — accused the “extreme leftist NDP government” and its “unelected bureaucrats” of failing British Columbians with its mandate in the midst of a health-care crisis. He and party leader John Rustad, who represents Nechako Lakes, doubled down on their call on Thursday.

Click to play video: 'BC Greens remove deputy leader Dr. Sanjiv Gandhi for inappropriate tweet'

BC Greens remove deputy leader Dr. Sanjiv Gandhi for inappropriate tweet

“British Columbia is one of very few jurisdictions in the world that refuses to hire back unvaccinated health-care workers,” Banman posted on X.

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“We need these people in the system. We’ve got ERs that are shutting down, hospitals that are a mess … I think it is incompetent not to hire these people back and put them to work.”

The calls came just before the deputy leader of the BC Greens, Dr. Sanjiv Gandhi, stepped down for “liking” a post on X that compared Henry, the provincial health officer, to Josef Mengele, the infamous Nazi doctor who experimented on concentration camp victims during the Second World War. Gandhi has since said that the “like” was accidental.

“In mid-September, an individual I follow on X (formerly Twitter) posted a letter and comments, including an impassioned critique of healthcare delivery

Montreal health care workers star in MUHC’s Got Talent

MUHC’s Got Talent returns for its second year on Tuesday evening, this edition at Montreal’s MTELUS.

The McGill University Health Centre’s (MUHC) health care professionals will showcase their hidden talents on its stage for a good cause.

“We are bringing here on stage, doctors, researchers, nurses, friends of the MUHC,” said Marie-Hélène Laramée, MUHC President and CEO. “All of those dollars are going towards innovative research, and excellent patient care.”

In 2022, their inaugural event raised $677,000 to support a variety of causes at the MUHC.

MUHC’s Got Talent rehearsals on Nov. 6th, 2023. (Credit: Pamela Pagano/CityNews)

Modelled after the hit TV show, the fundraiser supports causes at the MUHC closest to each performer’s heart, from cancer research to respiratory care.

“It’s extremely exciting,” said Dr. Matthias Friedrich, cardiologist at the MUHC who also performed in last year’s event.

“It’s similarly frightening to me,” he added. “But I’m also totally looking forward to feeling the energy of the audience.”

“The foundation supports so many of our programs,” said Dr. Marcel Behr, Director of the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity. “It’s an opportunity to be silly for an evening and do something we normally don’t do.”

Every $1 donation = 1 vote. And the Foundation will award multiple prizes, which will benefit each winner’s cause.

MUHC’s Got Talent rehearsals on Nov. 6th, 2023. (Credit: Pamela Pagano/CityNews)

“It’s so exciting to be with outstanding nurses,” said Carissa Wong, one of many nurses performing in the show with “The Pillars” choir.

They are showcasing their talent at the event while supporting the recruitment and training of MUHC nurses. ⁣

“We’ve gathered since September,” she added. “Singing every week together.”

MUHC’s Got Talent rehearsals on Nov. 6th, 2023. (Credit: Pamela Pagano/CityNews)

The MUHC’s work, appreciated by many like Patricia Soussana who was

Canadian health-care workers bill COVID-19 overtime

As health-care workers continue to leave the profession due to burnout and being overworked, we’re receiving a better understanding of how it’s impacting their well-being and that of their patients.

A new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) shows that during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was 2021-2022, staff in inpatient units at hospitals all across the country logged 14 million overtime hours.

“If you were to equate that to people working, say, the equivalent of a full-time job, people who are already employed were working the equivalent of over 7,000 extra full-time jobs,” explained Kate Parson, program lead for Health Human Resources at CIHI.

She says one concern highlighted by this report is the detrimental impact on the most vulnerable people. “… [it] could disrupt patient care or sometimes decrease the quality of care, just because of system-level issues,” she explained.

Staff in inpatient units at hospitals all across Canada logged 14 million overtime hours during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. (CIHC)
Staff in inpatient units at hospitals all across Canada logged 14 million overtime hours during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. (CIHI)

Parson adds it’s not just the burnout factor for healthcare workers, adding they’ve seen an increase in physical ailments among them as well, including ulcers, pneumonia, and UTIs.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses working in the hospital sector increasingly reported experiences of burnout, moral distress, and a desire to leave the profession. In 2022, the number of registered nurses working in hospitals and providing direct care to patients declined slightly, by 1 per cent (828 fewer RNs),” the report noted.

“In the same year, Statistics Canada reported 95,800 vacant nursing, personal support worker and health care worker jobs, a record high for the industry.”

The CIHI says there was also an 80 per cent increase in the number of purchased hours, from 850,000 in 2020-2021 to more than 1.5 million

Data-Driven Advice for Health Care Workers Experiencing Contact Dermatitis

There is no definitive way to distinguish between dyshidrosis, allergic contact dermatitis (ACD), and irritant contact dermatitis (ICD) of the hands in health care workers. Matthew Zirwas, MD, leads research at Bexley Dermatology Research in Bexley, Ohio and has found a calling in generating tangible data and treatment solutions in contact dermatitis, pruitis, atopic dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis. He presented strategies to distinguish and treat the type of contact dermatitis on the hands of health care workers during the session “Contact Dermatitis Vs. Something Else” at Maui Derm NP+PA Fall 2023 in Asheville, North Carolina from September 27-30.1

Spotting Key Differences

“Patch testing is uncomfortable, inconvenient for the patient, and expensive if they have a high deductible plan, so I avoid it if I can,” Zirwas said. He explained that there are a few other telltale signs to diagnose either dyshidrosis, ACD, or ICD. Dyshidrosis tends to be strictly limited to the palms. Compared to ACD, ICD of the hands tends to be described by patients as less itchy and more dry/irritated/painful, more likely to spare the palms, less discreet, more seasonal, less severe, more variable, more responsive to symptomatic therapy, and more difficult to cure.

Research Conducted in the Height of the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic presented an opportunity to gather data on the impact of hospital-mandated gloves, types of soap, and types of hand sanitizer on the skin. One study assessed hand hygiene strategies on skin barrier function. Health care workers (n=60) were randomized at the start of a shift to sanitize their hands with water and soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, or disinfectant wipes over the span of 8 hours. Investigators found that skin barrier function was worsened by soap and water, not the sanitizer or wipes. Alcohol-based hand rub was better at reducing bacteria counts.2

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