Author Archives: Leonard Jernigan

Night Shift Work Causally Linked to an Increase in Breast Cancer

Today’s post comes from guest author , from Jon L Gelman LLC.

Working at night increases the risk of breast cancer according to a recent study.

Objectives The potential mechanisms that link night-shift work with breast cancer have been extensively discussed. Exposure to light at night (LAN) depletes melatonin that has oncostatic and anti-estrogenic properties and may lead to a modified expression of estrogen receptor (ER) α. Here, we explored the association between shift work and breast cancer in subgroups of patients with ER-positive and -negative tumors.

Methods GENICA (Gene–ENvironment Interaction and breast CAncer) is a population-based case–control study on breast cancer with detailed information on shift work from 857 breast cancer cases and 892 controls. ER status was assessed by immunohistochemical staining. Associations between night-shift work and ER-positive and -negative breast cancer were analyzed with conditional logistic regression models, adjusted for potential confounders.

Results ER status was assessed for 827 cases and was positive in 653 and negative in 174 breast tumors. Overall, 49 cases and 54 controls were “ever employed” in shift work including night shifts for ≥1 year. In total, “ever shift work” and “ever night work” were not associated with an elevated risk of ER-positive or -negative breast tumors. Night work for ≥20 years was associated with a significantly elevated risk of ER-negative breast cancer [odds ratio (OR) 4.73, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.22–18.36].

Conclusions Our case–control study suggests that long-term night-shift work is associated with an increased risk of ER-negative breast cancers. Further studies on histological subtypes and the analysis of other potentially relevant factors are crucial for discovering putative mechanisms

The report:  Rabstein SHarth VPesch BPallapies DLotz AJustenhoven CBaisch C,Schiffermann MHaas SFischer H-PHeinze EPierl CBrauch HHamann UKo Y,Brüning T, “Night work and breast cancer estrogen receptor status – results from the German GENICA study”, Scand J Work Environ Health 2013;39(5):448-455 doi:10.5271/sjweh.3360,  2010;36(2):163-179 2010;36(2):134-141
 
Read more ablout “breast cancer” and workers’ compensation:
Jul 02, 2013
Objectives Long-term night work has been suggested as a risk factor for breast cancer; however, additional studies with more comprehensive methods of exposure assessment to capture the diversity of shift patterns are …
 
Dec 15, 2012
A semiconductor plant worker, who had been exposed to solvents and radiation while working 5 years at a semiconductor factory in South Korea has been held to have suffered an compensable disease related to her …
 
Mar 18, 2011
Fire fighters in Canada are supporting legislation that would establish a legal presumption that breast cancer is an occupationally related illness. The legislation also creates a presumption that 3 other cancers (skin, prostate …
 
Dec 05, 2012
Breast Cancer and the Environment: A Life Course Approach – Institute of Medicine: “With more than 230,000 new cases of breast cancer expected to be diagnosed in the United States in 2011, many wonder about the role …
 

The High Cost of Fat

Today’s post comes from guest author Thomas Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

We have reported regularly on the impact of obesity on workers’ compensation (see WFW October 2005 “Diabetes and Work Injuries” Alan B. King, M.D. and WFW Winter 2009 “The Rising Impact of Obesity on Workers’ Compensation” book review).

A recent study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, in September 2016 reported that obese and overweight workers are more likely to result in higher costs related to workers’ compensation claims, especially for major injuries.

In a study analyzing 2,300 workers in Louisiana, Dr. Edward Bernacki of the University of Texas—Austin found that workers’ compensation costs and outcomes for obese workers (defined as a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher) incurred higher costs related to their workers’ compensation claim. This study noted that after three years about 10% of claims for significant injuries were still open, meaning the worker had not yet returned to work. Obesity and overweight did not play a role in the delayed return to work. However, for workers with major injuries, overweight was associated with higher workers’ compensation costs. In the group with the higher Body Mass Index, costs averaged about $470,000 for obese workers, $270,000 for overweight workers compared to $180,000 for normal weight workers (with a Body Mass Index between 25 and 30). The study made adjustments for other factors including the high cost of spinal surgeries and injections and, after making the adjustment for these factors, obese or overweight workers with major injuries were twice as likely to incur costs of $100,000 or more. Significantly, Body Mass Index had no effect at all on costs for closed claims or less severe injuries.

Previous studies (including a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2015 linked obesity to a higher rate of workplace injuries and a longer time off. However, the cost effects were not studied until this recent assessment. The new results indicate obesity is a significant risk factor for higher costs in major workers’ compensation injuries.

One significant finding in the study was that more than three-fourths of the workers’ compensation claimants were overweight or obese. Further studies are planned. Previous studies include those from the National Council on Compensation Insurance, Inc. (NCCI) “How Obesity Increases the Risk of Disabling Workplace InjuriesEditor’s Note:  According to most studies, there is a strong correlation between Body Mass Index and injuries such as ankle fracture severity and increase risk of osteoarthritis. For workers’ compensation practitioners, one wonders whether these studies are a prelude to an assault on the “as is” doctrine. Each of us in our own practice can recognize some of the wide-ranging effects in costs of obesity, from special procedures for hospital treatment of obese patients such as open MRIs and more extensive surgical procedures to a reduced fuel economy in commercial vehicles due to fat drivers. Additionally, the cost of treatment for obese patients with work-related injuries increases the work-related injury potential to medical staff (lifting, transferring, etc.). Increasing admissions of severely obese patients leads to a corresponding increase in medical workplace injuries related to lifting and maneuvering obese patients. Workers’ compensation practitioners may see obesity as yet another “pre-existing condition” to surmount in future causation and extent of disability battles.

Keep Ag Worker Safety in Mind this Harvest Season

Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

As harvest kicks off on the Great Plains, please take the time to be safe and make sure you understand the safety policies of your business, whether you’re a worker, a supervisor, or the employer.

The information and resources below are a sometimes-stark reminder of the need for safety all year when it comes to agricultural jobs, especially at harvest, when long hours and the urgency of the time available all affect a person’s decision-making abilities.

First, here’s a summary of a news release from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation that was the result of an elevator supervisor’s death in a soybean bin in March of this year. Sympathies go to the “41-year-old elevator superintendent’s” loved ones. This person’s death is especially tragic because Cooperative Producers Inc. has been cited seven times since 2011 for grain handling safety violations. This most recent violation resulted in a proposed fine of $411,540 and also earned the Hastings, Nebraska-based company a spot in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

In this most recent incident, the worker was with two others in a soybean bin, and he “suffocated when his lifeline tangled in an unguarded and rotating auger,” according to the news release.

“OSHA investigators determined three workers, including the elevator superintendent, had been standing over the unguarded auger using a pole in an attempt to dislodge soybean debris in a grain bin that contained more than 50,000 bushels of soybeans sloped 12 to 20 feet up its walls.

“During its investigation, the agency found CPI failed to:

  • Disconnect a subfloor auger before allowing workers to enter.
  • Test atmospheric conditions in grain bins before allowing workers to enter.
  • Implement procedures to prevent sudden machine start-up or unintentional operation, a process known as lockout/tagout.
  • Install adequate machine guarding to avoid contact with moving parts.”

The Nebraska State Patrol on Twitter at @NEStatePatrol recently shared a news release that focused on being even more careful and aware of other vehicles than usual, which was the other motivation for today’s blog post.

Harvest is really ramping up just in time for the days to get shorter and machinery operators to be traveling to and from the fields at hard-to-see hours, especially dawn, dusk and at night. In addition, with the school year starting recently, more inexperienced drivers are driving with school permits on rural roads and might not be able to react as quickly as other drivers would anticipate.

“Combines, grain carts, tractors, and other agricultural implements typically travel at slower speeds,” according to the patrol’s news release. “Due to their dimensions and loads, operator visibility is often reduced. Motorists are reminded to be aware and utilize caution when approaching, following or passing farm vehicles.

“‘Harvest time means tall crops and often limited visibility at rural intersections,’” said Colonel Brad Rice, superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol in the news release. “‘Motorists should also be aware of the possibility of wildlife moving around due to the increased activity in the fields.’”

Here are some of the firm’s previous blog posts with additional resources about agricultural jobs and workers’ compensation, grain-handling safety, and harvest.

Please take the time during harvest, and all of the time, to know and follow safety policies and procedures in agricultural jobs. If you’re an employer or manager, it is essential that workers are trained in and implement safety efforts, regardless of the hustle and bustle of the season, harvest or otherwise.

Make sure to contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer if you or a loved one has questions about a work-related incident or injury.

I Can’t Do My Old Job, So I Qualify for Disability, Right?

Today’s post comes from guest author Roger Moore, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

It’s not uncommon for workers to expect to qualify for disability when they are unable to work in a job that they have held for years. The question becomes does that mean they are disabled under Social Security Administration rules? As in most cases in dealing with the law, the answer is maybe!

For workers under the age of 50, applicants must prove that they are also unable to obtain any work in the general economy, even if they can’t do their typical jobs. This includes unskilled work, and the SSA makes no distinction for what type of pay cut a worker must accept to remain gainfully employed. For instance, let’s assume a worker was earning $20 an hour as an electrician, but could no longer handle the rigors of that employment. If that person can do a minimum-wage job full time or at the level of substantial gainful employment as set by the SSA, then a person is not considered disabled under the SSA rules. Many people are surprised that the SSA would require this. Even if jobs don’t exist within the current labor market, the SSA would require a worker to move herself to a larger market to continue to be employed.

For individuals over the age of 50, the primary question is did they acquire skills from prior employment that would enable them to transition into other employment areas. If those skills would allow the worker to transition to alternate employment, then they are not considered disabled. If those skills are too specialized and don’t easily transition to alternate employment, the worker may very may well be disabled, according to SSA rules.

Westport, WA Seafood Company Fined More Than $100,000 for Unsafe Forklifts

Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case, from Causey Law Firm.

Forklifts are among the most hazardous vehicles in the workplace, with a great risk of injury and death if they’re not maintained and operated safely. Employers who knowingly and repeatedly expose workers to unsafe forklifts may face stiff penalties.

That’s what happened with a company in Westport. The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has cited Ocean Gold Seafoods Inc., a total of $117,740 for willful and repeated serious workplace safety violations at its seafood processing plant. Many of the violations were related to forklift safety.

The fines include a willful violation with the maximum allowed penalty of $70,000 for not performing regular safety inspections and not fixing defective items on the vehicles, like nonworking horns and broken seatbelts.

An L&I inspection found that the company rarely performed forklift inspections, and defects that were reported weren’t fixed. There were several instances where forklift seatbelts weren’t in working order, including one that was pulled completely out and wouldn’t retract. Other defects included machines without working horns. This prevented operators from notifying employees in limited visibility areas that a forklift was coming through the door and put pedestrians at risk of being struck and killed.

The employer was cited for a repeat-serious violation with a penalty of $15,400 after the inspector saw two workers operating forklifts without wearing their seatbelts. The seafood company was cited for the same issue in August 2015.

Being crushed by a forklift tipping over is the leading cause of forklift-related deaths in the U.S. If there’s an accident or tip-over, operators are much safer strapped into the seat because they are at lower risk of falling out.

Ocean Gold was cited for nine additional violations for exposing workers to fall hazards; failure to ensure emergency brakes were set on unattended forklifts; defective stair tread; exposed electrical wires; equipment and clutter stored in front of control panels; and unsafe use of extension cords. The violations carried penalties totaling $32,340.

A serious violation exists in a workplace if there is a substantial probability that worker death or serious physical harm could result from a hazardous condition. A willful violation can be issued when L&I has evidence of plain indifference, a substitution of judgment or an intentional disregard to a hazard or rule. General violations are the lowest level and are cited when the violation itself wouldn’t cause serious injury or death.

The employer has 15 days to appeal. Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.

 

Workers’ Compensation Advocate David DePaolo Will be Missed

David DePaolo

Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

David DePaolo, founder of WorkCompCentral, recently passed away. He was one of the most authentic individuals in the workers’ compensation industry, who often advocated for the injured worker in his blog posts.  

Mr. DePaolo was an intellect, visionary and bridge to all sides of the table in the workers’ compensation arena. It is people like him that the workers’ compensation systems around the country need in order to make things fair, reasonable and just for all.

Thoughts go to his family and loved ones.

Workers’ Compensation ‘Reform,’ Profits: What NCCI Shared

Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Workers’ compensation laws are under constant attack by “reformers” from industry, insurance and self-insureds. NCCI is the National Council on Compensation Insurance, a group that participates in many aspects of workers’ compensation, including setting premiums. The NCCI recently released presentations regarding big issues in workers’ compensation, including information about prescription drug cost-control (listed first below) and an insurance industry financial review (listed last below). These presentations were part of the NCCI’s 2016 Annual Issues Symposium. 

These presentations are interesting. I recommend reviewing them for a snapshot of our current workers’ compensation system in America. The financial review link (“Shape of Things to Come … ” above) shows  high net income for the  insurance industry. Is the constant pressure to “reform” workers’ compensation law fair and reasonable? Is maximizing profit for the insurance industry more important than fair compensation of worker injury and death?

What can we do about shift work?

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon L Gelman, from Jon L Gelman LLC.

SHIFTWORK

There has been a lot of research published in the past few years around the effect of shift work and our health since the World Health Organisation classified night shift work as a probable carcinogen back in 2007. In 2012 research for the HSE estimated that the additional breast cancer risk associated with night shift working would have translated into about 2,000 extra cases of breast cancer (out of a total of about 43,200 in Britain) in 2004. That would mean around 550 additional deaths and makes it the biggest occupational killer after asbestos. A study in 2013, based on 2,300 women in Vancouver found that women who worked night shifts for 30 years or more were twice as likely to develop breast cancer.

More research was published this week on the link between shift work and cancer. The new one comes from researchers in the Netherlands and Germany and appears to support previous research suggesting a link between night-shift work and breast cancer. Although this research is in mice it is important because it provides the first experimental proof that shift work increases breast cancer development.

However it is not just breast cancer that is more likely to be caused by shift working. Shift work has been shown to lead to heart problems, type2 diabetes and obesity. It is also linked to stomach problems and ulcers, depression, and an increased risk of accidents or injury. We have known about these problems for many years and researchers continue to find links between…

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