The principles of worker protection

I believe that we can use the principles of worker protection to address other issues such as air pollution, hazardous chemicals, and food deserts- just to name a few.

If we think about air pollution there are already some measures in place to mitigate harm from air pollutants but there is more to be done. While the EPA sets regulations, they are not always enforced or monitored. There are some efforts made to eliminate potential exposures through substitution but this isn’t perfect. There are also few ways to eliminate the exposures at the source because many air pollutants are pumped into the atmosphere (ex: vehicle exhaust). Because of this, I would move down the worker protection hierarchy to think of ways in which we can educate the public on protecting themselves from air pollution. We can think about wearing masks in places that have heavy smog like cities or we can think about people living in cities who can keep their windows shut or have air purifiers in their homes.

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In terms of hazardous chemicals, I would think about this similarly to air pollution. There are standards set for safe drinking water- but not everyone lives in a place where it is enforced or monitored, leaving them subject to unhealthy pollutants. I believe that there should be more policies when it comes to safe drinking water because there are neighborhoods that are excluded from municipal water supplies that are regulated, and forced to receive water from unregulated sources. In the case of drinking water, we can think about community efforts to distribute water filters or purifiers for people who might be relying on well water that isn’t heavily monitored.

Another way I thought we could apply the principles of worker protection is to food deserts. These tend to be places where there is not a lot of access to fresh fruits and vegetables. There may be a high number of convenience stores and fast food establishments in comparison to grocery stores or fresh markets. At the first level of the hierarchy (elimination of potential exposures), we can think about replacing fast food places with fresh markets or grocery stores. The issue with this is potentially putting people out of a job. To mitigate this concern, we could offer the people working at the previous establishment if they would like to work in the new place. At the second level (engineering controls), we can bring in farmer’s markets or community health fairs where residents can access fresh fruits and vegetables if we are unable to remove the unhealthy foods. At the third level (administration controls), we can put in policies that regulate the number of fast food restaurants per mile in a community or state that for every 1 fast food restaurant, there must be 2 fresh markets/grocery stores within 2 miles. At the last level (personal), we can educate community members on how to eat healthier or just be healthier if they really don’t have access to places with healthy foods. This can be through sharing recipes in a community cookbook or promoting physical exercise through weekly community walks.

Student 2 Post

Module Seven, The Work Environment highlights several important factors that could be pertinent in other aspects of environmental health. For example, increased education would be a beneficial place to begin. Module 7 highlights the usage of PPE, engineering controls of exposure at the source, and various administrative controls through workplace practices (2022). Last week, we as students were tasked with writing a paper regarding Mercury consumption and the risks / benefits in pregnant women. A simple solution I offered would be to increase education regarding the risks of Methylmercury (MeHg), and how to buy more locally. This could be included in a QR code found at your local grocery shop near the fish. In relation to this weeks module, increased education regarding common workplace injuries, best practices and signs/ symptoms to look for pre-exposure would be a starting point. My current workplace involves sitting for extended periods of time causing back pain, severe blue light exposure from computer screens, and increased tasks involving typing, and various handwork. I have been here for 3+ years, and there is little to no support or education on things workers can do to break up lengths of time, increase physical activity on breaks, etc. Eliminating all potential exposures, as the hierarchy of priority mentioned is not possible in this role, though healthier alternatives could be offered as a resource to workers.

I have additionally been watching the MBTA’s downfall (which seems like a drastic word to use here, but due to the increasing issues year after year, maybe it is appropriate) which is driving people away from public transportation. Module 7 discussed how commuting can be costly, and the cost of fare has increased when service and quality has decreased. Prioritizing things that could actually be beneficial to our future generations would be highly advantageous, though it seems the T is moving in the opposite direction. The induced stress for communities who rely on the T is pushing them closer to buying vehicles, further contributing to car traffic and congested roads. The protection of T employees needs to be prioritized and supported, so service can be increased and the T can become reliable. That begins with creating a support system and an increase in advocacy for the workers doing the work.

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