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Oregon Job Safety, Health Partnership Receives Award at Nora Symposium 2001

NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749
June 27, 2001

An innovative collaboration by business, labor, and government received a national award on June 27, 2001, as an exemplary partnership that mobilized research for reducing work-related dermatitis in the state of Oregon.

The NORA Partnering Award for Worker Health and Safety was presented to the Oregon Department of Human Services’ Health Division, Liberty Northwest Insurance Co., Columbia Helicopters Inc., Oregon Restaurant Association, United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 555, Enviroderm Pharmaceuticals Inc., and county health departments in Clackama, Coos, Hood River, Jackson, and Marion counties, Oregon.

The award was given under the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) at the NORA Symposium 2001, hosted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in Washington, D.C.

An honorable mention award was presented to UniSea Corp., Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and NIOSH for a partnership to protect workers in crab processing jobs from work-related respiratory problems and asthma. Work-related dermatitis and asthma are two of the most widely reported occupational illnesses in the U.S.

In the winning partnership, the Oregon Health Division partnered with Liberty Northwest Insurance Co. for access to workers compensation claims data related to occupational dermatitis. Those data provided researchers with greater ability to identify cases of occupational dermatitis than had been possible under the agency’s existing occupational illness tracking system.

In turn, following up on these new leads, the Oregon Health Division, Liberty Northwest, Columbia Helicopters Inc., and Enviroderm Pharmaceuticals collaborated on a training program for loggers to prevent dermatitis from poison oak exposure. During the time the program was in effect, Columbia Helicopters reported no workers compensation claims for dermatitis among participating workers.

In another partnership resulting from the data sharing, the Oregon Health Division and the Oregon Restaurant Association launched an effort that provided food service employers and employees with information for recognizing and reducing the risk of latex allergy. The alerts used in this effort subsequently were utilized by other states. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 555, partnered to help disseminate information to its members.

NORA is a national blueprint for research in 21 priority areas that will do the most to prevent job-related injury, illness, and death over the coming decade. NORA was established by NIOSH in 1996 with input and review from more than 500 individuals and organizations. Since then, NIOSH has worked closely with diverse partners to implement NORA in public- and private-sector planning for occupational safety and health research.

The NORA Partnering Award recognizes exemplary teamwork, innovative thinking, and strong science in the interest of worker health and safety. Organizations were eligible on the basis of participating in a NORA-related collaborative research project that resulted in the development of new equipment, practices, products, procedures, or policies that reduce hazardous work-related exposures and/or adverse health or safety outcomes. The award was presented at the NORA Symposium 2001 by Dr. Bonnie Rogers, Chair of the NORA Liaison Committee and faculty member at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

In the partnership that received honorable mention, UniSea, its safety committee, and NIOSH identified risk factors for job-related respiratory illness and asthma associated with crushing shells, boiling whole crabs, and separating legs and claws at a crab processing plant. The cause appeared to be crab proteins to which workers were exposed while performing those tasks. The findings resulted in process changes and worker training to reduce exposures. UniSea had 34 reported cases of worker respiratory problems from 1994 to 1998, preceding the changes, and none after the changes were made. UniSea and NIOSH also have reported the findings and actions of the partnership widely to others in the crab and fishing industry.

For further information on the National Occupational Research Agenda, call the NIOSH toll free number, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674) or visit NIOSH on the Web .