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Heat Illness and Death Among Workers — United States, 2012–2013

August 28, 2014 Comments off

Heat Illness and Death Among Workers — United States, 2012–2013
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

Exposure to heat and hot environments puts workers at risk for heat stress, which can result in heat illnesses and death. This report describes findings from a review of 2012‒2013 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) federal enforcement cases (i.e., inspections) resulting in citations under paragraph 5(a)(1), the “general duty clause” of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. That clause requires that each employer “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees” (1). Because OSHA has not issued a heat standard, it must use 5(a)(1) citations in cases of heat illness or death to enforce employers’ obligations to provide a safe and healthy workplace. During the 2-year period reviewed, 20 cases of heat illness or death were cited for federal enforcement under paragraph 5(a)(1) among 18 private employers and two federal agencies. In 13 cases, a worker died from heat exposure, and in seven cases, two or more employees experienced symptoms of heat illness. Most of the affected employees worked outdoors, and all performed heavy or moderate work, as defined by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (2). Nine of the deaths occurred in the first 3 days of working on the job, four of them occurring on the worker’s first day. Heat illness prevention programs at these workplaces were found to be incomplete or absent, and no provision was made for the acclimatization of new workers. Acclimatization is the result of beneficial physiologic adaptations (e.g., increased sweating efficiency and stabilization of circulation) that occur after gradually increased exposure to heat or a hot environment (3). Whenever a potential exists for workers to be exposed to heat or hot environments, employers should implement heat illness prevention programs (including acclimatization requirements) at their workplaces.

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U.S. Forest Service — New Report Shows Budget Impact of Rising Firefighting Costs

August 27, 2014 Comments off

New Report Shows Budget Impact of Rising Firefighting Costs
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a new report showing that as the cost of fighting forest fires has rapidly increased over the last 20 years, the budgets for other forest programs, including those that can help prevent and mitigate fire damage, have substantially shrunk. The Forest Service’s firefighting appropriation has rapidly risen as a proportion of the Forest Service’s overall budget, increasing from 16 percent in 1995 to 42 percent today, forcing cuts in other budget areas.

“Climate change, drought, fuel buildup and insects and disease are increasing the severity of catastrophic wildfire in America’s forests,” Vilsack said. “In order to protect the public, the portion of the Forest Service budget dedicated to combatting fire has drastically increased from what it was 20 years ago. This has led to substantial cuts in other areas of the Forest Service budget, including efforts to keep forests healthy, reduce fire risk, and strengthen local economies.”

New From the GAO

August 25, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Education of Homeless Students: Improved Program Oversight Needed. GAO-14-465, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-465
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665184.pdf
Podcast – http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/665378

2. Federal Real Property: GSA Should Better Target Its Use of Swap-Construct Exchanges. GAO-14-586, July 24.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-586
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665027.pdf

3. Regulatory Impact Analysis: Development of Social Cost of Carbon Estimates. GAO-14-663, July 24.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-663
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665015.pdf

New economic study shows marine debris costs California residents millions of dollars

August 16, 2014 Comments off

New economic study shows marine debris costs California residents millions of dollars
Source: NOAA

Marine debris has many impacts on the ocean, wildlife, and coastal communities. A NOAA Marine Debris Program economic study released today shows that it can also have considerable economic costs to residents who use their local beaches.

The study found that Orange County, California residents lose millions of dollars each year avoiding littered, local beaches in favor of choosing cleaner beaches that are farther away and may cost more to reach. Reducing marine debris even by 25 percent at beaches in and near Orange County could save residents roughly $32 million during three months in the summer.

EPA’s Proposed CO2 Rule for Existing Power Plants: How Would It Affect Nuclear Energy? — CRS Insights (August 4, 2014)

August 15, 2014 Comments off

EPA’s Proposed CO2 Rule for Existing Power Plants: How Would It Affect Nuclear Energy? — CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed rule on June 18, 2014, to address CO2 emissions from existing power plants. Because nuclear power plants directly emit little or no CO2, a significant policy question is whether EPA’s proposed regulations would encourage the growth of nuclear energy or at least the continued operation of existing reactors. The formula in the proposed rule for setting CO2 goals explicitly accounts for some existing nuclear capacity and reactors under construction, providing a potential incentive for states to try to keep those plants operating. However, EPA’s proposed rule allows states to develop their own plans for meeting the CO2 emission rate goals, making it difficult to predict how nuclear energy might ultimately fare.

The proposed EPA standards would set state-specific goals for the amount of CO2 that could be emitted in 2030 for each megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generated. EPA projects that, under those proposed emissions rates, U.S. power plants would produce 30% less CO2 by 2030 than they did in 2005 (the base year in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan).

McKinsey on Sustainability & Resource Productivity — Issue 2, Summer 2014

August 14, 2014 Comments off

McKinsey on Sustainability & Resource Productivity — Issue 2, Summer 2014
Source: McKinsey & Company

Articles in this issue

McKinsey on Sustainability & Resource Productivity—Introduction
In this second issue of McKinsey on Sustainability & Resource Productivity, we seek to establish the value of sustainability and to demonstrate how these opportunities can (and are) being captured in a range of industries.

Profits with purpose: How organizing for sustainability can benefit the bottom line
Becoming a sustainability leader requires big changes, but the effort is worth it—in both environmental and economic terms.

The human factor: Amassing troops for the ’resource revolution‘
Companies on the front lines of the resource revolution need to implement creative talent-management strategies.

Riding the resource wave: How extractive companies can succeed in the new resource era
With economic and social expectations rising in resource-rich countries, extractive companies must rethink how they do business.

Brave new world: Myths and realities of clean technologies
Don’t be fooled by high-profile setbacks. The cleantech sector is gaining steam—with less and less regulatory assistance.

Unconventional wisdom: Fracturing enters a new era
Faced with change on a scale not seen in decades, companies must alter their business plans to accommodate unconventionals or else risk irrelevance.

The disruptive potential of solar power
As costs fall, the importance of solar power to senior executives is rising.

Bioenergy in Europe: A new beginning—or the end of the road?
Bioenergy faces challenges in Europe, but there is reason to believe it can make a comeback.

CRS — Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014: Comparison of Select Provisions (July 14, 2014)

August 14, 2014 Comments off

Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014: Comparison of Select Provisions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA 2014, P.L. 113-121) became law on June 10, 2014. The conference report, H.Rept. 113-449, resolved differences between H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA 2013), and S. 601, the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (WRDA 2013). Both bills represented omnibus authorization legislation for water resource activities, principally associated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps).

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