Expert Pitch

For essential workers, occupational safety is more important than ever

31-Mar-2020 10:55 AM EDT, by Texas State University

Newswise — Hazard pay and essential workers are words and phrases that have been more in the news lately due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is a cascade of work-related hazards that are adversely affecting people’s physical and mental health,” said Dr. Celeste Monforton, Texas State University lecturer in the Department of Health and Human Performance. Monforton is an expert in the field of occupational health and safety. Her research looks into eliminating workplace hazards and improving the workplace environment.

She explained that when most people think about hazard pay, they probably think about coal miners, workers who build skyscrapers, or members of the military. Hazard pay is defined as a form of compensation for “staff members who have been requested to remain and report for work in duty stations where very hazardous conditions, such as war or active hostilities prevail.”

Now it is for a cashier at a store, or a barista in a coffee shop. The current industry standard is an extra $2 to $3 an hour, and is called “coronavirus hazard pay.”

Wages and benefits also affect health, Monforton said. “No paid sick leave – that’s a real consequence for workers now.” There is the mental stress – being out of work and not being able to provide or having to choose between going to work or sheltering at home.

The list of essential workers is long and the kind of workers most needed at this time are grocery store employees. By installing plexiglass “sneeze guards” between the cashier and the customer, companies like H-E-B are providing their employees a small measure of safety and security, Monforton said.

Monforton also studies the working conditions at poultry processing plants, where safety is a huge issue. There are slippery floors and fast-moving lines where workers stand shoulder to shoulder with sharp blades cutting chicken parts. Poultry plants use peracetic acid, a disinfectant that kills pathogens such as salmonella. “This disinfectant is effective for food safety. But it irritates mucous membranes and the respiratory system, so it causes workers to have a dry cough,” Monforton said, and added that a dry cough is also one of the symptoms of COVID-19. “It’s unsettling to workers because they don’t know whether their cough is from the virus or from the peracetic acid.”

On March 23, 50 workers in a poultry plant in Georgia walked off the job to protest working conditions. They cited possible exposure to the coronavirus and unsanitary conditions.

Workplace violence is also more prevalent, Monforton said, and people not keeping their distance is a form of aggression. She said that nurses experience the highest rate of violence in the workplace.

“If you have a job with encounters with the public, what protections are you given? Employees should not have to deal with a violent customer,” Monforton said.

Her advice for essential workers includes the basic tips: wash hands, keep the distance rules. She also suggests keeping open lines of communication on the job. “Talk with your supervisor, take a breath and consider this as a new day. Respectfully and with confidence, talk about your needs. This is really appropriate now.”

Filters close

Showing results

110 of 5639
access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 20-May-2021 10:00 AM EDT Released to reporters: 14-May-2021 2:40 PM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 20-May-2021 10:00 AM EDT The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

Released: 14-May-2021 11:25 AM EDT
Access to overdose-reversing drugs declined during pandemic, researchers find
Beth Israel Lahey Health

In a new study, clinician-researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) analyzed naloxone prescription trends during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and compared them to trends in opioid prescriptions and to overall prescriptions.

Released: 14-May-2021 11:00 AM EDT
No Excuses: Stop Procrastinating on These Key Health Checks
Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

A quick guide to the most-valuable preventive care that adults need to get scheduled, to catch up on what they may have missed during the height of the pandemic, and to address issues that the pandemic might have worsened.

Released: 13-May-2021 7:05 PM EDT
FLCCC Statement on the Irregular Actions of Public Health Agencies & the Disinformation Campaign Against Ivermectin
Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC Alliance)

FLCCC Alliance calls for whistleblower to step forward from within WHO, the FDA, the NIH, Merck, or Unitaid to counter this misrepresentation

Newswise: shutterstock_1724336896.jpg
Released: 13-May-2021 12:55 PM EDT
Kreuter receives $1.9 million in grants to increase vaccinations in St. Louis
Washington University in St. Louis

Matthew Kreuter, the Kahn Family Professor of Public Health at the Brown School, has received $1.9 million in grants to help increase COVID-19 vaccinations among Blacks in St. Louis City and County.

Released: 13-May-2021 11:35 AM EDT
COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines are Immunogenic in Pregnant and Lactating Women, Including Against Viral Variants
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

In a new study from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center researchers evaluated the immunogenicity of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines in pregnant and lactating women who received either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. They found that both vaccines triggered immune responses in pregnant and lactating women.

Released: 13-May-2021 10:30 AM EDT
Pandemic stigma: Foreigners, doctors wrongly targeted for COVID-19 spread in India
Monash University

The Indian public blamed foreigners, minority groups and doctors for the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the country during the first wave, due to misinformation, rumour and long-held discriminatory beliefs, according to an international study led by Monash University.

Released: 13-May-2021 9:15 AM EDT
28 Community Programs Receive Grants Through Penn Medicine CAREs Program
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Penn Medicine CAREs awarded grants to 28 projects, many of which aim to fill vast needs in the community created by the COVID-19 pandemic, while others seek to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Showing results

110 of 5639