142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

Little data: Sentinel surveillance of occupational injuries and illnesses are crucial for action

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Monday, November 17, 2014

Elise Pechter, MPH, CIH , Occupational Health Surveillance Program, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston, MA
Letitia Davis, ScD , Occupational Health Surveillance Program, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston, MA
MyDzung T. Chu, MSPH , Occupational Health Surveillance Program, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston, MA

Work-related poisonings collected by the Massachusetts-Rhode Island Poison Control Center (PCC) are infrequent events, which provide information not available elsewhere about workplace chemicals that caused injuries.  These sentinel health events can be monitored by health departments to describe occupational hazards and to implement prevention.


Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) funds the PCC as part of injury surveillance.  The PCC data had not been available to the Occupational Health Surveillance Program (OHSP) within MDPH.  OHSP collaborated with the PCC to report work-related poisonings for sentinel surveillance. OHSP trained the PCC’s Poisoning Specialists to ask about industry, occupation, employer name, and job tasks for occupational poisoning calls. OHSP reviewed cases and evaluated the need for follow-up.  Methods for review and referral were based on sentinel surveillance of work-related amputation and burn injuries.


From July-December 2013, there were 88 occupational poisonings, 61% males.  Predominant exposures reported were chemicals (30%) and cleaning products (23%).  While most exposures were deemed nontoxic or minimally toxic, 11% were moderate; 23% were lost to follow-up. Data on industry/occupation or job tasks were available on 49-59% of cases.  Among the 19 workers exposed to 31 cleaning products, 12 were alkaline and eye injuries were common; 10 of these workers were <25 year-olds. Detailed data about occupational poisonings can be collected and describe hazards in the workplace, which may be used for follow-up.


The PCC is an important data source about occupational poisonings that may not be identified in existing surveillance data sources, and an important sentinel of uncorrected workplace hazards.

Learning Areas:

Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Define sentinel surveillance of occupational injuries and illnesses List sources of sentinel work-related injuries and illnesses Describe importance of sentinel surveillance for hazard identification and follow-up to abate hazards

Keyword(s): Occupational Health and Safety, Data Collection and Surveillance

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been intervention coordinator for over a decade and responsible for referrals of sentinel injuries for enforcement. I have worked with OSHA and state agencies to tailor methods to follow-up injuries and ensure hazard abatement.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.