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What we're working on right now in the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences.  December 2019/January 2020.

Occupational Injury Surveillance in Warehouse Workers

As the U.S. economy shifts towards greater online commerce, there has been a growth in the need for warehouse distribution centers across the country.  Over the past 10 years, employment in the warehousing and storage sector has almost doubled from 662,200 in 2009 to 1,180,900 in 2019 (BLS, 2019a). The number of warehousing establishments has grown by 22% during the same period (2009-2019).  

The primary occupations within this industry include (1) stock clerks and order fillers, (2) shipping, receiving and traffic clerks, (3) transportation, storage and distribution managers, (4) laborers and freight, stock and material movers, and (5) industrial truck and tractor operators.  In addition, many employees within this sector have non-traditional employment arrangements, including contingent laborers and temporary employment agency workers (“temps”), which makes them more vulnerable to injury and inadequate post-injury support. 

These jobs encompass a wide array of workplace hazards including ergonomic musculoskeletal hazards, hazardous chemicals and biologic agents, transportation and heavy equipment injuries (inc. forklifts and heavy trucks), being struck by or caught between heavy objects (inc. objects falling off racks as a result of inadequate pallet racking systems), and slips and falls.  The recordable injury rate based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that employees in the warehousing sector have an injury rate almost double that of the national average for the U.S. workforce (5.1 vs 2.8 cases per 100 full-time employees; BLS, 2019a). Furthermore, the rate of injury resulting in days away from work were more than twice that of all other U.S. workers for injuries caused by: (1) all sources of injury, (2) contact with object/equipment, (3) overexertion in lifting or lowering, (4) repetitive motion involving micro-tasks, and (5) transportation injuries not on roadways (BLS, 2019b).  

In addition, independent research has shown an elevated risk for cancer (Fritschi, 1996; Parent, 2000; Cano, 2001; Ji, 2005), respiratory sensitization to warehouse insects (Bernstein, 2009), carbon monoxide poisoning (Lofgren, 2008), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (Mitsumune, 2005; Matteis, 2019), venous thromboembolism (Zoller, 2012), arterial hypertension (Skrobonja, 1998), ischemic heart disease mortality (Tuchsen, 1996), adverse pregnancy outcomes (Li, 2010), and physical injury due to strenuous lifting and moving (Craig, 1998) among warehouse workers.  While all prior studies have focused on adverse health outcomes among the workers at these facilities, there are also potential health hazards for the communities living adjacent to these facilities from heavy truck emissions and motor vehicle collisions. 

Because this is a rapidly changing employment sector, there is a lack of comprehensive data on the type and severity of injuries suffered by employees in this sector.  Researchers from the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at UIC School of Public Health in collaboration with Change to Win and the Teamsters are conducting an analysis of public health surveillance data from six States – California, Illinois, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and Minnesota – to better describe the incidence and severity of injury among warehouse workers.   The primary data source involves ambulance run data, but workers’ compensation First Reports of Injury will also be used in the analysis.

  Total rate Contact with object, equipment Falls, slips, trips Overexertion and bodily reaction Transportation incidents Violence and other injuries by persons or animal Fires and explosions Exposure to harmful substances or environments All other events
All Industries 89.4 23.2 23.1 30 4.9 4 0.1 3.8 0.4
Warehousing and storage 182.4 45.8 31.8 87.1 12.4 1.3 - 3.6 0.3
Warehousing and storage 182.4 45.8 31.8 87.1 12.4 1.3 - 3.6 0.3
General warehousing and storage 190.1 48.1 33.1 92.6 10.9 1.4 - 3.8 0.2
Refrigerated warehousing and storage 149.9 37.6 17.6 58.7 30.9 - - 2.5 -
Farm product warehousing and storage 27.6 14.2 - - - - - - -
Other warehousing and storage 125.9 23.7 34.7 45.5 18.4 - - - -
*Incidence rates for nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work per 10,000 full-time workers by industry and selected events or exposures leading to injury or illness, private industry, 2017 (Corrected data in All other events column, July 2, 2019) 
 Summer and Fall 2019 Commencement Ceremony

Congrats to our Summer 2019 and Fall 2019 graduates! Commencment was held Saturday December 14, 2019.

PhD August 2019: Bakari Baker, Yu-Kai Huang, Abhilasha Shrestha

MS August 2019: Kendall Anderson, Jonathan Bressler, Morgan Lawson

PhD December 2019: Tessa Bonney, Emmanuel Kyeremateng-Amoah

MPH December 2019: Ehan Gnanendran, Lorenzo Pitts

Welcome new staff member Viable Shum, she is our Human Resource Associate and comes to us from Chinese American Service League.

Dana Madigan successfully defended her dissertation! Titled “Work and Health Needs of Individuals with Unstable or Lack of Housing” Congrats Dana!

Congrats to EOHS PhD student Lupita QuintanaTejeda for her drawing being selected for the UIC holiday card. Look at her amazing talent!


Hurtig, J., Chernoff, C., Koyama, J., Noguerón-Liu, S., Gil, C. O., Peele-Eady, T. B., Zanoni, J.… others. (2019). Contested Spaces of Teaching and Learning: Practitioner Ethnographies of Adult Education in the United States. Lexington Books. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=73S7DwAAQBAJ

Jagai, J.S., Krajewski, A.K., Jimenez, M.P., Murphy, M.S., Leibowitz, S.G., Lobdell, D.T. (2019). Watershed integrity and associations with gastrointestinal illness in the United State. Journal of Water and Health, 17 (6): 978–988. https://doi.org/10.2166/wh.2019.060

Smith, A. F., Huss, A., Dorevitch, S., Heijnen, L., Arntzen, V. H., Davies, M., Robert-Du Ry van Beest Holle, M., Fujita, Y., Verschoor, A.M., Raterman, B., Oesterholt, F., Heederik, D., Medema, G. (2019). Multiple Sources of the Outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease in Genesee County, Michigan, in 2014 and 2015. Environmental Health Perspectives, 127(12), 127001. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP5663

Coming Up, Events, and Other Reminders

EOHS recently posted job opening announcements for two tenure track positions. Please help us by sharing these openings with people in your networks. Please click on the job title to go to the job posting.

Open Rank Professor- Climate and Health

Assistant Professor- Occupational Safety and/or Industrial Hygiene

Earth Month 2020:  Nearly 50 years ago, the growing collective alarm over the conditions and trajectory of our plant boiled over into students taking action and organizing public teach-ins at universities across the nation, voicing their concerns and calling for change, marking the first Earth Day in 1970.   This action helped catalyze the EPA, Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.  But also since that time, global temperatures have risen, the CO2 level in the atmosphere has passed 400ppm, oceans have warmed and become more acidic, and plastic production has increased over 500%. 

From the food we eat to the packaging our vendors use, UIC makes strides every day toward minimizing the amount of garbage we send to the landfill. Though UIC sends almost half of all our trash to recycling or compost, and using recyclable plastic is a step in the right direction, plastic is still an oil-based product that never goes away. In fact, most plastics are only recycled one time before they reach the landfill. This Earth Day, we ask that you show your support for a truly Plastic Free UIC by advocating for a plastic free campus both online and out loud, wearing red on Earth Day, volunteering at a clean-up event, and creating a zero-plastic policy for your unit. 

Sustainability Internship Program Spring 2020: Do you want to make an impact on sustainability at UIC?  Register for US/PUBH 390 for the Spring 2020 semester. US/PUBH 390 (T/TH 2-3:15pm) provides anintellectual framework for students to apply classroom learning to hands-on, project-based internships that advance the overall mission of greater social, economic, and environmental sustainability in the campus community. In addition to receiving mentoring from experienced professionals, interns attend weekly seminars or field outings that cover a range of educational and skill-building topics—all for college credit. Questions? Email Sarah Koning at skonin2@uic.edu. More information about SIP can be found here.

Next Month

In our February newsletter Dr. Kirsten Almberg will describe the latest research on the emerging silicosis outbreak in stone countertop workers.


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