Online Program

A Collaborative Effort to Improve Occupational Health Surveillance and Outreach, part 1

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Gail Bateson, MS, Worksafe, Oakland, CA
When new scientific or medical information becomes available on toxic chemicals, state and federal agencies face serious challenges in determining the specific workplaces where these chemicals are used.  Hazard alerts are developed and disseminated broadly but often fail to quickly reach those with the highest potential exposures. As a result, workers can suffer irreversible health effects, as was the recent case with many exposed to diacetyl.

 A California law that will go into effect 2016 is the first in the country to require companies that manufacture or distribute toxic chemicals to provide the state public health agency, upon request, with information on where a specific chemical is being shipped to a California workplace.  SB 193, signed by Governor Brown in fall 2014, will enable HESIS – the Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service – to send timely warnings directly to downstream users when  HESIS learns of a serious new or previously unrecognized health hazard posed by a toxic chemical .

This presentation describes the work undertaken by the state agency to clearly document the need for this new law. It begins with a review of the mandate and functions of the HESIS program, its track record in developing early hazard alerts and other guidance documents, and existing obstacles it faced regarding dissemination. Next, it explains the key elements of the 12-year effort by HESIS and worker health advocates to pass this new law. Finally, it reviews the next steps the agency may take to implement the new law.

Learning Areas:

Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Occupational health and safety
Protection of the public in relation to communicable diseases including prevention or control
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe how the current lack of knowledge about where chemicals are used adversely impacts the ability of public health agencies to effectively protect workers. Explain the purpose and basic requirements of the legislation passed in 2016. Explain how the tool provided through this new law will lead to quicker and better targeted dissemination of new scientific information to workers about specific chemicals used at their place of work.

Keyword(s): Occupational Health and Safety, Surveillance

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the current executive director of Worksafe, which was the lead organization advocating for the new law that I will be describing (although the work was lead by former ED Fran Schreiberg who is submitting an abstract for part 2. In addition, prior to joining Worksafe 5 years ago, I worked at the California Dept of Public Health's Occupational Health Branch where the original research to support the need for the law was done.
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.