News Briefs

Occupational health leader will be missed

The occupational health community has experienced the loss of one of its leaders. Geoff Kelafant, MD, MSPH, FACOEM, 45, died unexpectedly March 16 while on vacation in Cancun, Mexico.

Kelafant was medical director of Occupational Health and Employee Health at McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence, SC. Previously, he worked as medical director of the Occupational Health Department at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in Mattoon, IL.

He also has served as chair of the medical center occupational health section of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and as a consultant for the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

He received his medical degree from the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington and completed his occupational medicine residency at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

Through the years, Kelafant was an advocate for worker protection. He linked scores of clinicians together through his e-mail listserv, sharing his opinions and, questions.

Workplaces with high injury rates named

The Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupa-tional Safety and Health has alerted approximately 13,000 employers throughout the country that their injury and illness rates are significantly higher than the national average and encourages them to take steps to address safety and health hazards in the workplace.

The notification was simply a proactive step to encourage employers to take steps now to reduce the rates and improve safety and health for their employees, wrote John Henshaw in a March 2004 letter.

"The intent of the notification is to alert employers that their injury and illness rates are above average, but, as important, we also want to offer them assistance to help reduce those rates," he explained. "This process is not necessarily a negative; on the contrary, it provides employers a tremendous opportunity to take steps to improve workplace safety and health and create value for their organization."

OSHA identified establishments with the nation’s highest workplace injury and illness rates based on data reported by 80,000 employers surveyed by the agency last year (that survey collected injury and illness data from calendar year 2002). Workplaces receiving the alert letters had seven or more injuries or illnesses resulting in days away from work, restricted work activity, or job transfer (DART) for every 100 full-time workers. Nationwide, the average U.S. workplace had fewer than three DART instances for every 100 workers.

"The data collection initiative is conducted each year and gives us a clearer picture of those establishments with higher than normal injury and illness rates," Henshaw said. "This information allows us the opportunity to place our inspection resources where they’re most needed and to plan outreach and compliance assistance programs where they will benefit the most."

The 13,000 sites are listed alphabetically, by state, on OSHA’s web site at: www.osha.gov/as/opa/foia/hot_10.html.

AAOHN plans independent conference in 2005

The American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Inc. (AAOHN) in Atlanta plans to hold an independent conference in 2005, breaking a years-long tradition of cosponsoring the AOHC conference with the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). The AAOHN-sponsored Symposium and Expo is scheduled for April 29-May 6, 2005, in Minneapolis.

"We’re very excited about the new symposium, and committed to providing quality education for our diverse membership through an independent conference," said AAOHN president Susan A. Randolph, MSN, RN, COHN-S, FAAOHN.

AAOHN’s decision to host an independent conference came after a lengthy process involving numerous deliberations and meetings between AAOHN and ACOEM. In making its decision, AAOHN analyzed data from a number of sources, including past and current meeting attendance, membership demographics, feedback from membership surveys and AOHC evaluations, financial information, and occupational health trends data.

The AAOHN-sponsored conference will be open to all members, occupational and environmental health nurse nonmembers and occupational health and safety professionals. The meeting will include a symposium with educational sessions, networking opportunities, business and section meetings; and an exposition featuring an exhibit showroom, poster presentations, and networking and social events.

AAOHN will remain a co-sponsor of AOHC 2004, and will continue to work with ACOEM for a successful conference.

"We are very proud of our long-standing relationship with ACOEM," Randolph said. "We will continue to pursue a variety of opportunities to collaborate with all of our colleagues in the occupational health and safety arena with various public policy initiatives, educational and training endeavors and other means."

$15.7 million set aside for RTW programs

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded $15.7 million in grants to 28 states and the District of Columbia to help people with disabilities find and keep work without losing their health benefits. This brings the total in Medicaid Infrastructure grants to $57 million to 42 states and the District of Columbia. The grants advance the goals of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999, a law passed by Congress to encourage people with disabilities to work without fear of losing their eligibility under Medicare, Medicaid, or similar health benefits.

"These grants will help states to develop programs for working people with disabilities enabling them to go to work and receive health coverage through Medicaid," said HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson in announcing the grants.

Under this program, states use the grants to help people with disabilities retain their Medicaid coverage when they become employed, to help provide appropriate personal assistance services for those who need help bathing, dressing and other necessary activities, and to support other improvements to help people with disabilities to remain successfully employed.

To date, more than 59,000 working people with disabilities have received health coverage under such programs.