Work carried out by WHWB members often involves traveling outside of our home country. Environments encountered during these travels may present risks that we are unaware of or are unfamiliar with. Tom Fuller, WHWB member who recently completed OHTA training in Botswana (see below), created a presentation to help us understand the risks, plan, and respond to situations when traveling in foreign countries. Click here to open the presentation:
WHWB Newsletter – Training Update March 11, 2021
Seventeen countries, three languages, 48 participants!! Workplace Health Without Borders (WHWB) partnered with OSHAfrica, University of Brasilia, IOHA and the OHTA to provide training in a new way! We used both synchronous (together) and asynchronous (on your own time) training to deliver an integrated learning experience.
The pandemic has caused all of us to rethink how we do things. What the WHWB Training group has discovered has changed our minds and our approach to Occupational Health/Industrial Hygiene Training (OH/IH). A small group of WHWB colleagues decided we had to move to online training due to the pandemic’s travel constraints. So we asked ourselves how would we accomplish this and what would we teach? A couple of new WHWB Board members were instrumental in pointing us in our current direction. They are Dr. Vanessa Cruvinel, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Brasilia, Brasilia, Brazil and Mr. Ehi Iden, Executive Director OSHAfrica, Lagos, Nigeria. They had direct contact with people asking for training in OH/IH in their countries. The course material was only available in English.
However, not all of our participants had sufficient English to take the course without some assistance in their own languages. WHWB has members who speak various languages, so we asked for their help in teaching or finding instructors for the OHTA’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Awareness class using Zoom as the virtual conferencing service. The student would study the online training material provided in English at their own pace. Each of four weeks we held a tutorial in the language of the participants covering a specific portion of the online course. Having our Tutors mostly in the same time zone as our participants and having them arrange other Tutors to help with the weekly question and answer sessions kept the training fresh and interactive.
The OHS Awareness course cost $50 USD, but two WHWB Board members provided a solution to this roadblock as well. One Board member said, “if we offer the students a scholarship, they will feel engaged and actively pursue this training. We want them to value this opportunity.” Another Board member is President of the Belgian Center for Occupational Hygiene (BeCOH), another non-profit, who provided the scholarships. The training course was offered in French, Portuguese and English. Each language group had a coordinator who set up the tutorial session appropriate for the time zone and day of the week that was good for the participants.
The training started February 15th using Zoom with all participants including tutors, coordinators and student participants. They were provided an introduction to the different partners and introduced to the tutors of each language group. They were shown how to use the online, interactive training material. In addition, immediately following this session they were emailed their individual password and sign-in information for the online portion of the class. They could start studying whenever they had time.
The pilot course will have four tutorial sessions for each group and will end March 18th with a wrap-up session with instructions for the final exam which is coupled to a course evaluation. The course evaluation will be two-pronged. One is to ask about the online material. The other is to ask about the process using the synchronous/asynchronous teaching tutorials in their language. We also will pose a question for them, “How will you use this training?”
The training is continuing at the writing of this article, but so far we have been amazed at what we have learned. The people are from very diverse backgrounds, such as from an investment group, national park service, human resources person to more traditional OHS backgrounds such as mining and oil and gas. We will us this knowledge to pursue sustainable OHS training, but we will cast our nets wider, ask bigger questions about who needs this training and definitely try to use Tutors who speak the language of the students.
 University of Brasilia, Brazil, Dr. Vanessa Cruvinel, Professor of Epidemiology, WHWB Board member,
Perry Gottesfeld, President of OK International, presented to WHWB on August 26, 2019 about OK International’s project on lead exposure in Nigeria.
Since 2016, Occupational Knowledge International (OK International) has been working in mining communities in Northern Nigeria to prevent ongoing severe lead poisoning as shown here. Nigeria is home to the world’s worst reported lead poisoning that has resulted in the death of hundreds of children, and impacted thousands in mining communities throughout the Northwestern region. Working closely with these impacted communities, the organization provided training and encouraged simple practices like changing clothes, hand hygiene, and wet methods (instead of dry mining and processing), to reduce exposures.
Despite extensive blood lead testing and the ongoing treatment of severely poisoned children in these communities, there was little understanding of the extent of the problem among adults. To better assess adult exposures and evaluate this intervention, a randomly selected group of almost 60 miners had their blood lead levels tested quarterly over 19 months. Air samples were also collected to assess the efficacy of wet mining and processing.
Lead poisoning in this region of Nigeria first came to light in 2010 when Doctors Without Borders identified the problem. Since then it was discovered that the gold ore in this region contains high levels of lead which are released in mining and processing. In addition, some of these communities have begun to mine lead ore since the initial investigation was conducted. Exposure to lead was linked to contaminated dust and soil, and for children primarily through hand to mouth contact, with other routes contributing to a lesser degree.
The project was a huge success as lead levels were reduced by a third in the adult miners. Reducing blood lead levels in chronically exposed workers is challenging, given that the half-life of lead in bone is measured in years. The results also show that these interventions were able to significantly reduce the extreme exposures (greater than 80 ug/dl) while reducing overall lead poisoning in these communities.
The miners (more than 2,000 have been trained over 3 years) gave their support, cooperation and even funded some of the improvements. The technology provided was intentionally low cost and locally available to help encourage other communities to take this to scale. This investment does not change the overall economics of artisanal small-scale mining. Contributions from the community included miners coming together to buy a generator and the fuel to pump bore well water for the ore processing site. A big part of the success of this study was due to the the close working relationship with these communities, village leaders, miners, the mining leadership and the regional governments. It was a team effort! Of course there were a few challenges such as working in rural communities, bringing education to miners themselves and making the change in mining practices.
While encouraging the adoption of safer mining practices, OK International has also emphasized the need to build local capacity to expand this work. This group is working with the environmental and mining staff from State Governments and the Nigerian Ministry of Mines and Steel Development to implement safe mining practices. The Ministry has shown interest in investing in safer mining which is extremely encouraging.
The project has also demonstrated that the same measures to reduce lead exposures reduced respirable silica by 80%. These results are important in demonstrating the potential for improving all artisanal small-scale mining even in areas without high lead content in the ore.
The organization published the results summarizing these findings in BMJ Journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine in 2019 and the results of the air samples were reported in the Annals of Work Exposures and Health in 2019.
The first of ongoing special COVID-19 Teleconferences was held on Monday, March 23rd at 5PM Eastern Daylight Time. Our presenter was Lawrence Svirchev, AIHA Ambassador to China. He has researched aerosol transmission and protecting health care workers. His presentation and articles that Laurence has shared are available in this folder.
It was decided during this call to have more frequent WHWB teleconferences to discuss COVID-19, probably weekly. Check emails from WHWB for upcoming calls. Given our expertise and the current global shortage of personal protective equipment, PPE will likely be a Focus Topic for WHWB during this crisis.
Highlights of Svirchev’s presentation and the articles mentioned above include:
- What is COVID-19?
- Heroes: People who saved lives, suffered, and bought us time
- Epidemiological Trajectory
- The work of Industrial Hygienists
- Hierarchy of Controls
- Behavior of infectious aerosols in still air and route of exposure
- Influenza transmission and the role of Personal Protective Equipment
- Routes of exposure – deposition of small particles
- Protecting the faces of Healthcare workers – knowledge gaps and research priorities for effective protection against occupationally acquired respiratory infectious diseases
UNITED KINGDOM BRANCH REPORT
The UK Branch has been very active. Peter Baldwin has continued to lead the UK Branch with Dorothy Cook also doing a lot of the “heavy lifting” to keep the UK Branch moving forward.
Most of the UK Branch meetings have been held by teleconference, but a face to face UK Branch meeting was held at BOHS 2019 in Brighton on the 4th of April. Two further face to face meetings were held at HSE London Victoria, one on April 29 and one on August 19.
The main objectives over the past year have been to:
- Investigate new ways of fund-raising
- Develop the WHWB-UK web-page
- Work on these key projects:
A silica Awareness e-learning course, an Engineering Fellowship Eco LEV-Fan System Competition (requiring the use of recycled materials), OHTA On-Line Exams, Mentoring as well as two projects in Africa. One was the Bayo Awosanya presentation on WHWB/WHWB-UK at the OSH Conference November 21-22 in Kenya, and Nsoh Marius’s presentation on “Acute respiratory infection related to air pollution in Bamenda, North West Region of Cameroon”, which he plans to further develop for his PhD.
A membership development plan was prepared by Sean Young to recruit other occupational health professionals with the aim of extending membership amongst other specialists. WHWB is also publicised at BOHS conferences and regional meetings, where there have been a number of sign-ups for membership. Ways of engaging involvement of members on projects are being pursued also.
UNITED STATES BRANCH REPORT
The US Branch has continued to thrive and grow under the leadership of Dr. Albert Tien, and Dr. David Goldsmith takes over from Albert in 2020. WHWB thanks Dr. Tien and looks forward to aligning WHWB’s efforts with the WHWB (US Branch) moving forward.
At their last in person Board of Directors Meeting, held in Ann Arbor, Michigan in October, these four projects were endorsed for 2020:
1.Engineered Quartz Countertops: The US Branch is initiating a project to investigate the issue of exposures to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) during the manufacture and installation of “engineered stone” kitchen countertops.
2. Sustainable Fashion: A project was launched to look at worker health and safety as well as other sustainable practices together with designers, operating officers and founders of fashion companies. The first public forum on Sustainable Fashion was held November 7 in lower Manhattan with about a dozen delightful and totally committed people mainly from the fashion world. The discussion included the NYC shirtwaist factory fire and Rana Plaza.
3. Healthy Nail Salons: WHWB-US has worked closely with the University of Michigan and the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative to support the formation of the Michigan Healthy Nail Salon Cooperative. WHWB-US has developed a toolbox to build awareness of the hazards encountered by nail salon workers and their clients. Additionally, an audit program has been put together to help nail salon operators improve working conditions and client experience.
4. Advocacy for a Ban on the Export and Use of Asbestos: China, Russia and Canada are the largest exporters of asbestos in the world. The USA has recently reversed its position on banning the sale and export of asbestos. Asbestos has been recognized by the IARC as a known human carcinogen. Much of this asbestos is exported to the developing world which has not developed nor enforced legislation to restrict or ban the use of asbestos.
New Student Chapters: A new student chapter has been formed in Washington DC for GWU and Georgetown U. Dr. David Goldsmith and Gayle Goff spearheaded the effort. Dr. Goldsmith has agreed to become the faculty sponsor.
AUSTRALIA BRANCH REPORT
The Australian Branch is now incorporated with special thanks to Dr. Elaine Lindars and Dr. Clare Wood. Tanya Jenke (WHWB) International Board Member is also on the Australian Board.
Workplace Health Without Borders is undergoing registration with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).
2018/19 Objectives and Activities: The main objectives over the past year have been to obtain charitable status and to sign up members for WHWB – Australia
The Australian branch received a $5000 donation from OHMS Hygiene for assistance with paperwork from Nexus Lawyer Jeremy Kennedy. In 2019 WHWB-Australia has worked to obtain charitable status. This is expected to be granted by the end of the 1019/20 year.
There have been a total of 8 Australian branch meetings via teleconference with the Trustees over the period November 2018 to June 2019.
The AGM occurred on Saturday, November 30th at 12:45 PM as a face to face meeting as part of the Australian Institute for Occupational Hygiene (AIOH) annual conference programme in Perth, Australia.
• Grow membership base
• Establish regional project that reflects WHWB Vision
• Continue with monthly meetings for Trustees
• Establish cadence for membership meetings
Membership forms were sent out in June 2019 to all people who expressed interest in joining the Australian branch. Each member was notified that they would become a member of WHWB International and asked to pay a $30 AUD membership fee. A total of 7 members have registered as of June 30, 2019.
BRICK KILN PROJECT
The most notable achievement of the year of the Brick Kiln Committee was the receiving of the IOHA Collaboration Award. Other achievements received this year were the awarding of two micro-grants from the AIHA-International Affairs Committee. Steven Verpaele, MS of BeCOH and Jennifer Galvin received and carried out a Video Project to describe the proper way to prepare and conduct sampling for silica dust. The videos were taken in Egypt in conjunction with a project being conducted by Bahira Lotfy and in Tanzania in conjunction with activities of Aristides Medard. The editing of the video is being carried out by Jennifer Galvin and her son and should be available in the near future.
Dr. Steve Thygerson, Dr. Seshananda Sanjel, Dr. David Parker and Homraj Acharya are collaborating to establish the Center for Environmental and Occupational Health in Nepal. This Center will receive, collect, collate and disseminate information concerning sampling, analysis, medical information regarding TB and silica exposure, workplace health related issues and epidemiology concerning brick kiln workers. The grant allows the purchase of a computer and associated equipment for the Center and partial support for a staff person, EOHC coordinator, Mr. Govinda Panta, MPH. The work of the brick kiln committee is a great example of global collaboration involving Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Tanzania. Congratulations to Dr. Carter, colleagues and the global network associated with the Brick Kiln Committee.
IOHA STATEMENT ON THE RECOGNITION OF HEALTH AND SAFETY AS A FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE AND RIGHT AT WORK
In February 2019, at the beginning of their centenary year, the International Labour Organisations (ILO) Global Commission on the Future of Work launched the report “Work for a Brighter Future”. In this report the Commission recommends establishing a Universal Labour Guarantee including fundamental workers’ rights:
An “adequate living wage”, limits on hours of work, and ensuring safe and healthy workplaces.
Read their Joint Statement here
OSHAfrica was the first African (continental) health and safety conference to be held on African soil – http://www.oshafrica2019.com/. This conference will be held every 3 years with the next conference scheduled for Nairobi, Kenya in 2022. This historic event brought together stakeholders from across Africa and beyond to discuss the existing challenges in Occupational Safety and Health in Africa.
Topics fit in with the main theme of the conference: “Occupational Health and Safety in Africa. Challenges and Actions” and include OSH in construction, mining, manufacturing, gas and oil and healthcare workers; Improving health and safety in the informal sector; OSH training and competency improvement; Occupational health diseases, rehabilitation and return to work; Occupational health assessment and fitness to work; Mental health in workplaces; Employee assistance programmes; Workplace violence and assault; Aged workforce and pre-retirement programmes; Drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace; Personal protective equipment; and Workplace inspection and audits.
WHWB (International) is extremely grateful for the training (and flexibility) shown by Claudina Nogueira and Jakes Jacobs (former President of IOHA) representing WHWB through “The New Partnership for Africa’s Development is the development agency of the African Union (NEPAD)”. Strategically, the alliance between WHWB (International) and NEPAD is extremely important for WHWB to broaden its support through capacity building in Africa.
PHYSICIAN INTEREST IN WHWB
Dr. Clare Wood (Occupational Physician from Queensland and WHWB International Board Member) has initiated and is spearheading a health care provider’s sub-group for WHWB (International). Dr. Wood and colleagues have tentatively been accepted to present a concurrent session at AOHC (American Occupational Health Conference) which is the largest US occupational physician conference. Dr. Wood has also initiated a project which is trialling a mentoring process for occupational physicians.
The vision of Workplace Health Without Borders (WHWB) is ‘A world where workers, their families and communities do not get ill because of their work’. The vision of this Newsletter is to keep members up to date on the work that is being done, report on upcoming events, and encourage people to volunteer and join WHWB. We encourage readers to submit articles and information for the newsletter, including identifying potential future projects.
In addition to meetings, Webathons, and emails to WHWB Members; WHWB provides members and interested professionals with 2 major sources of information, the WHWB website, (whwb.org) and WHWB Special Bulletins and Newsletters. Newsletters are published periodically as are Special Bulletins for conferences such as AIHCE. Also, as articles are written, they will appear at the newsletter site: WHWB.News.
Everyone on our email distribution list receives a link to the newsletter when a new issue is released, but if you wish to do so you can read all articles to date as they are released by simply going to: whwb.news.
If you have any material that you would like considered for publication in the newsletter, please contact the editor at: firstname.lastname@example.org. These communication tools are for the entire membership. Contact the editor if there is an article you would like to see or a topic you would like to learn more about.
Contribute to the Newsletter and Website
You can help WHWB by contributing articles for the newsletter or website in whatever form you prefer. You can send us an article, a link, even a long document that we can edit for the newsletter. And if you would like to talk to us, just send us an email to email@example.com and one of us will contact you.
Help write for the Newsletter and whwb.news site
We are always looking for writers and editors so if you have an interest, even if you’ve never written for a newsletter before, contact us. It’s fun and a chance to get to know others in the global workplace health community with similar interests.
Are you interested in having a mentor in occupational health/hygiene? Are you a senior level professional interested in providing mentorship to people new to the field? If yes, you should participate in WHWB’s Mentorship Program!
The following questions and answers are intended to provide you with more information pertaining to the WHWB Mentorship Program.
May anyone apply to the mentorship program?
Yes, anyone is welcome to apply. With WHWB, mentees may be any student, new hygienist, or anyone with a genuine desire to be matched with a mentor. With regards to mentors, the only thing we ask is that they have an accreditation from their county’s accreditation body – CIH, CSP, ROH, COH, etc. In the case of a mentor shortage, preference is typically given to those in locations where local hygiene expertise is in short supply and/or those working towards entry level qualifications. Generally, the matching process takes within a month to 6 weeks.
What can I gain from the program as a student/young professional?
This is up to you! The more you put into the program as a mentee, the more you will get out of it. The mentors are dedicated professionals and will do whatever they can to assist you. Plus, they may benefit from the relationship too. Some benefits are listed below:
- Assistance studying for accreditation exams – Guidance and support offered by mentors may increase candidates’ likelihood of success. Initially, this is what the program was intended for – helping people study OHTA modules in preparation for writing BOHS examinations that would accredit them as occupational hygiene technologists. Since all our mentors have their respective accreditation, their past experience writing the exam and working in the field since is an asset.
- Answers to questions – If there is something you don’t know and are trying to figure out but can’t on your own, your mentor may be able to help. If they don’t know the answer or what direction to point you in, they may know someone who does. Mentors may access the entire membership through the mentoring committee and can usually be put in touch with a specialist who can help.
- Building your network – By participating in the mentorship program, you gain another contact in occupational hygiene. Moreover, through engaging with your mentor you may be introduced to specialists and other professionals in the field. In having more people in your network, you have access to more assistance and greater opportunities.
How am I paired?
Ideally, people are matched within the same country, but this challenging. The next best option is to pair people based on their time zone. For example, we have mentees from western Africa paired with mentors in Britain. We also try to pair those who speak the same first language.
How and how often do mentors/mentees typically meet?
This may be whatever suits the mentor and mentee. The mentor will be able to answer emails from the mentee as well as meet online via Zoom/Skype (we prefer zoom as it allows screen sharing). In the beginning, it is typical to meet twice a month for up to one hour. However, this can be more frequent (such as once per week) and may fluctuate depending on the circumstances. Ultimately, it is up to the mentee, and meetings may be as often as they desire.
Is mentoring at a distance practical?
One of our mentors describes her personal involvement mentoring a young hygienist from Mongolia. Read her experience here.
Thanks for reading! We hope you can benefit from our Mentorship Program. Still have questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Date and place: Throughout February 2019 a training course was organized in the auditorium of Centro de Referência Especializado de Assistência Social (CREAS) in the city Estructural, Brasilia, Brazil. The training was divided into five meetings including approximately 120 collectors (60 in the morning shift and 60 in the evening shift).
Coordinator: Vanessa Cruvinel, Professor of Epidemiology in the Public Health Department of the University of Brasilia (UnB).
Contributing professors: Carla Pintas and Dayani Galato, professors in Public Health and Pharmacy, respectively, and João Melo, professor in Production Engineering, at the UnB.
Background: World-wide an estimated 20 million people earn their living from recycling waste (ILO Green Jobs Report, 2013). Waste picking often involves the collection, sorting, and processing of materials with little or no health and safety protection measures. Waste pickers may work in the streets, open dumps, sanitary landfills, and sorting warehouses, where each workplace presents different degrees of risks and vulnerabilities to waste pickers. Workers are exposed to many adverse health outcomes from contact with medical waste, heavy metals, dusts and chemical vapors; heat and cold stress; falls and other injuries. Most of these workers are under informal employment without access to social protection where on average, earnings are low and risks are high. Brasilia, Brazil was home to the largest dumpsite in Latin America (the second largest in the world), the Structural dump. As part of the official closure plan for the open dump, Public Health Brasilia asked to partner with UnB to describe the demographic variables and prevalence of chronic, communicable, and non-communicable diseases in the 1200 waste pickers who worked at this site.
Objective: The proposal for the five-session training course was a continuation of the activities of the “Stop, Think and Discard (PPD)” program of the UnB. This program is responsible for providing health promotion workshops focusing on topics addressed in the 2017 health questionnaire regarding health outcomes of the scavengers working in the Structural dump. With results from the survey, priorities were identified for health education, which formed the basis of the training sessions.
Description of Actions:
The topics covered were:
- Water borne diseases
- Non-communicable diseases
- Communicable diseases and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Accidents and occupational risks
- Course evaluation
Professor Vanessa Cruvinel began the training course with a presentation about the data found in the epidemiological survey, considering that the collectors who were present had participated in the diagnosis. An active methodology was used that focused on the demands, prior knowledge, dialogue and qualified listening.
All meetings began with a reception of the collectors, video presentation for sensitization, practical activities and individual interviews. The interviews had up to 15 guiding questions to better understand the illness process and their expectations, knowledge and doubts about the diseases in question. These interviews served as a source for the planning of future health promotion actions that were carried out in the next meetings.
Meeting 1 – Water borne diseases
The lecture was given by students of nursing, phonoaudiology, physiotherapy, and collective health of the “Stop, Think, and Discard” program. The forms of contagion, symptoms, treatments and ways of preventing diseases (leptospirosis, cholera, hepatitis A, verminoses, dengue, zika and chikungunya) were discussed. This topic was chosen as a priority for the first meeting, since 1/3 of the collectors interviewed in 2017 reported having had at least one of these diseases previously. Data confirmed waste pickers experienced continuous bouts of diarrhea episodics (24.9%), intestinal worms (12.6%), hepatitis A (1.7%) and leptospirosis (0.7%). Women had almost a 3 times greater chance of having worms in relation to men; those who didn’t filter the water had a 1.8 times greater chance of having worms in relation to those who did. Dengue, zika and chikungunya viral infections occurred in 28.60% of collectors. These findings show that the sanitary conditions of the site and the surrounding area, the lack of access to treated water in some neighbourhoods of the Estrutural, and the inadequate storage of available resources act as facilitating factors for the rapid multiplication of waterborne diseases and vectors such as Aedes aegypti.
Meeting 2 – Non-communicable diseases
Recyclable collectors also suffered from non-communicable diseases like hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity which often occur due to social determinants and poor diet. In relation to chronic diseases, 24.2% of the waste pickers confirmed hypertension. According the anthropometric measures, 32.6% were overweight and 21.1% were obese. Of the total, 10.1% reported diabetes, 17.2% high cholesterol. Women were more affected with a statistical difference (p=0.005) and (p >0.001), respectively. In Brazil, women present a higher proportion of those with high cholesterol (15.1%) than men (9.7%) and hypertension (27.5%) and (23.6%), respectively (PNS, 2013).
With regards to respiratory diseases, 14.3% reported bronchitis, with a statistical difference between men (9.7%) and women (16.4%) (p =0.003); 8.8% asthma and 9.8% had pneumonia with no difference between men and women (p= 0.066) and (p=0.124), respectively. In Brazil, the number of deaths by these respiratory diseases varies from 19.7 to 29.4 per 100,000 people.
Meeting 3 – Communicable diseases and sexually transmitted infections (STIs);
Recyclable collectors were also exposed to communicable diseases, including sexually transmitted infections. Of the total, 1.6% of the sample had tuberculosis. About 75,000 new and recurrent cases of tuberculosis were registered in Brazil in 2016, equivalent to 200 cases per day. Worldwide, about 10.4 million people were infected with tuberculosis in 2016, and 10% of the victims have HIV. Brazil accounts for one-third (33%) of the entire burden of tuberculosis in the Americas, and is one of a group of countries accounting for almost 40% of all tuberculosis cases in the world as well as 34% of cases of HIV coinfection (Data: www.who.int/tb/data).
According to serology’s there were 28 positive cases of syphilis, 6 cases of HIV/AIDS infections, and 33 cases of hepatitis B. The study was extremely important to identify the cases, allowing the worker to know about their health condition and receive timely treatment within the basic care for their protection and prevention of their communicants.
Meeting 4 – Accidents and occupational risks
The majority of waste pickers (68.70%) reported accidents, and most of them (89.69%) were related to exposure to sharp objects including needles, glass and syringes during their work activities despite using gloves, boots and long-sleeved shirts as personal protective equipment (PPE). Many of these people have been working as recyclable collectors for most of their working life with an average of 15 years. Most of them did not report the accident, did not search for treatment, and had no social insurance or support from the coop.
“When I worked at the open dump, I used a hook to rip the bags. I hit a flask of insecticide and it exploded in my eye. I used water and didn’t go to the hospital. After 15 days, I went back to work. It was 4 years ago. When I walk under the sun, it burns too much” – male 29
Professor Dayani Galato talked about medical waste, places of correct disposal, laws, medication, and risks of accidents. The dialogue was to familiarize the waste pickers with the importance of using all PPE, reporting accidents immediately and searching for health care in the case of an accident.
Meeting 5 – Course evaluation
In the final meeting, the scavengers were divided into groups of 8 people. Each UnB student who was present during the course was responsible for a group. Each group was asked to answer three questions:
- Which activities they liked most
- If during the course they had changed some habit either at home or at work
- Which other topics of interest they would like to be addressed in future courses
- Activities that they liked the most: Many of them said they enjoyed all the activities, especially the lectures that spoke about STIs, and the diseases that are transmitted through water. Besides those, they reported the importance of using PPE for accident prevention, including the disposal of medicines, protection of hearing health, and practice of gymnastics and stretching to prevent hypertension.
“The gym was good. It taught us a lot of good things about the water and how to always exercise. I’m walking every morning. I teach my granddaughters to wash their hands before they eat and to brush their teeth. I do not have a water tank at home. I store in bottles in the refrigerator” – female 65
“I enjoyed the care to avoid sexual diseases and sugar care to prevent diabetes. I’m trying to boil the water at least for the kids to drink. Now I’m walking. I’m feeling much better. More willing, more courageous. I learned more about how to store medicines, shelf life, water care, hygiene, food, washing vegetables, especially leaves … the class was very good. I learned a lot” – female 64
“I learned a lot of things. I’m practicing much more water hygiene in the washing of the hands. About my health, I ride a bike every day, I don’t have high blood pressure or diabetes. I learned to save medications better. To use some medicines, we need to be careful because we don’t have a doctor to consult. And it’s not just me, many people want to find a way to get well” – male 62
- Change of habits: Many reported that they began to wash their hands before and after going to the bathroom, started to consume only treated water, began to use safety equipment, practiced physical exercise, decreased consumption of salt and soda, and started to separate household garbage and appropriately discarded medicines.
“I think the course was wonderful. I like to know about hygiene, about water care and what happens when we do not use filtered water. I liked the gym. Decrease salt – I’m just putting in a pen cap to make food. I could not reduce sugar, especially in coffee. I’m taking the medicines I no longer use to the pharmacy. I used to throw them in the trash. I liked the movie that talked about obesity. Now we’re wearing gloves, glasses, and boots. We just don’t have a hard hat” – female 62
“I was already following many things that were taught exactly. I’m alone and I have to take care of myself. I’m hypertensive and I like salt and after training, I learned to use a pen cap for all of the food. Now I’m boiling the drinking water. We’re feeling better now. It does not taste strange. We have no more belly pain. I could not start doing the exercises yet. At work, we are wearing a hard hat, gloves, lab coat, long sleeves. We always have the precaution of telling colleagues when you have a needle in the trash. Lately it has subsided. Inspection is better. I have no partner, I am a widow, but if I do I will use a condom for prevention” – female 48
“I enjoyed learning more about the leg and bone diseases a lot. I started to ride a bike. I have high blood pressure issues. I started to run a little bit. I have a gout issue, and after I started doing physical exercises it greatly improved the pressure, improved self-esteem. I was afraid to die and after I started to do physical exercises, everything got better. I learned to pay attention to ‘beware of water’ to avoid dengue and avoid cockroach, rat, bad smell. All this I learned from you. I started to wash my hands. It was worth it. I’m picking on the streets, I wear gloves and boots and white glasses and a hard hat. I’ve never suffered an accident. About medicines, I taught my wife to save medications better, look at the expiration date. I pack in a closed can and take it to the health post. The classes were very good!” – male 54
- Topics for future courses: Collectors suggested talking more about contagious diseases, skin cancer, depression, drug and alcohol use, domestic violence, and cooperativism.
There was great participation of the collectors in relation to the proposed activities. They asked a lot of questions and added new information always valuing their own unique experiences. The feedback was very positive. The waste pickers were very grateful for the activities that were carried out throughout the month and asked for other opportunities to gain more knowledge on the topics that were addressed.
Students are encouraged to create and support student chapters in their region, and join their local WHWB branch. Currently, there are student chapters from the University of Michigan and George Washington University. We welcome students from all fields of study to join and create student chapters to promote health & safety locally and on a global scale.
Current projects going on with the WHWB-US Student chapters: child labour in the gold industry, various work in different parts of the world assisted by the university, and noise exposure measurement in South East Asia.
Some benefits of the current student chapters include: representation within WHWB-US, access to student travel grants or funding for research projects, mentoring, networking opportunities to find internships or employment, participation in US funded projects, running for leadership positions in WHWB-US branch, and also membership in WHWB International.
Requirements for forming a Student Chapter
- Students need a faculty sponsor agreeing to lead the student chapter. A letter of intent is then sent to their local branch e.g. WHWB-US to start a student chapter. Once approved, the students can join.
- Student chapters are required to send quarterly updates of the members in their chapters. If students are passionate about an OHS issue, they are welcome to discuss their projects with their faculty sponsor, and include their progress in their quarterly reports.
- Students can have their own projects or they can join WHWB projects. Students have a $10 membership fee.
- Students chapters can also help in fundraising activities for themselves and for their local WHWB.
At the last WHWB (International) AGM in October 2018, we discussed drafting a Memorandum of Collaboration between the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and Workplace Health Without Borders (WHWB). Well it gives me great pleasure to announce that the Memorandum of Collaboration has now been signed and finalised by myself and Dr. John Howard, Director of NIOSH. A special thank you to both Marianne Levitsky, WHWB (International) Secretary; and Dr. Margaret M. Kitt, Deputy Director for Program (NIOSH); for making this happen. The Memorandum can be viewed at this link.
The mission of NIOSH to “To develop new knowledge in the field of occupational safety and health and to transfer that knowledge into practice” aligns with the WHWB (International) mission: “To prevent work-related disease and injury around the world through shared expertise, knowledge and skills”. By partnering with NIOSH, WHWB can help translate practices to prevent occupational disease and work related fatalities throughout the world, especially in parts of the world where guidance is badly needed. This collaboration paves the way for more consistent communication, shared expertise, and extends our network and capacity for “new ways” to protect workers, their families and communities. NIOSH has more than 1,300 employees from a diverse set of fields including epidemiology, medicine, nursing, industrial hygiene, safety, psychology, chemistry, statistics, economics, and many branches of engineering.
Thank you NIOSH.
Dr. Kevin Hedges, President Workplace Health Without Borders (International).
WHWB has an International group, and three branches globally: WHWB-US, WHWB-UK and WHWB-Australia. Each of the branches run independently of WHWB-International but we share information and co-ordinate our activities.
Prospective members can choose to join both WHWB International and their local branch if there is one. If there is not a branch in your country, you may wish to join a branch in a time zone close to yours – makes meetings much easier!
To become a member of WHWB International, a membership form is available on our website and can be submitted to the email address on the form. You should receive a confirmation of membership within a few days. There are no membership dues required by WHWB International, although donations are encouraged. Membership processes between the branches differ slightly.
Below is a summary of the different membership processes for each of our branches:
WHWB-US: To become a member of WHWB-US you need to fill out the form on their webpage. They ask employed members to pay dues of $40 per year to cover some of their operating expenses such as insurance, as well as to help fund their projects. Students, unemployed individuals and retirees are asked to pay $10 dues per year. The dues can be paid online or sent to their headquarters in Ann Arbor. By joining WHWB-US you are also put on the WHWB-International emailing list unless you choose otherwise. WHWB-US has a separate website www.whwb-us.org.
They welcome members to contribute in various ways: (1) through joining committees (Communication, Strategic Planning and Website Development), (2) participating in one of their four initiatives (Healthy Nail Salons, Silica Exposure Assessment particularly for engineered counter tops, the Vietnamese Training Initiative, and Sustainable Fashion Design and Consumer Education), (3) presenting at conferences and performing outreach to acquaint others with our mission and goals, and (4) developing their own project to bring workplace health to underserved populations of workers and their communities. WHWB-US is a membership organization so they need members to participate, at the very least, in their online quarterly meetings.
WHWB-UK: The UK branch of WHWB encourages members to join from the same time zone. Prospective members will be required to fill out a form on the WHWB International website and submit a donation. Once submitted your information will be sent to the UK branch. Members from the WHWB-UK branch can participate in various ways: Volunteering, writing articles, participation at branch teleconferences and meetings, and financial contributions. Examples are:
WHWB-Australia: Having only been established in December 2018, WHWB-Australia is looking for members in the Asia-Pacific region from an Austral-Asian base. Interested individuals can connect with the branch through their WHWB-Australia webpage and will be required to complete a membership form, with the payment of a small amount for membership dues. Members can participate in the branch projects, volunteer as mentors and participate in regular meetings.
Members of WHWB in general are an active group and there are multiple ways members can get involved in WHWB, regardless of their branch. A member can contribute to WHWB by volunteering for training overseas, writing articles, donating, serving as a mentor or mentee, contributing stories or new research, joining the Communication team or Social Media team, contributing to Go Fund Me sponsorship campaigns for conference financial aid, supporting people in academic pursuits/studies, and starting a student chapter.
Perhaps the best way to contribute to WHWB is by attending the teleconferences – which are also open to the public. If you would just like to receive emails regarding WHWB teleconferences and other WHWB notices, please email: email@example.com.