Robert Harrison, MD, MPH
Robert Harrison, MD, MPH, is chief of the Occupational Health Surveillance and Evaluation Program (OHSEP) in the Occupational Health Branch of the California Department of Public Health. Under a cooperative agreement with NIOSH, OHSEP tracks work-related asthma, fatal occupational incidents, carpal tunnel syndrome and pesticide poisoning.
Harrison founded and directed the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) Occupational Health Services for over 20 years. He is currently a senior attending physician and clinical professor of medicine at UCSF. He has diagnosed and treated over 10,000 patients with work- and environment-induced diseases and injuries.
Harrison received his BA from the University of Rochester and his MD from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He is board certified in internal medicine and occupational medicine. He has served on the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) Standards Board and has authored numerous publications on occupational medicine.
California Expanded Program: Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (CA/FACE)
PHI in partnership with the Occupational Health Branch of the California Department of Public Health will conduct an expanded Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program to reduce the incidence of work-related injury and illness by maintaining and enhancing capacity for occupational health surveillance and intervention in California. The program includes the following components: occupational health indicator and three priority focus areas (work-related asthma, fatalities, and pesticide illness).
California Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE)
FACE, a program in the Occupational Health Branch of the California Department of Public Health, identifies and investigates fatal occupational injuries. California is one of nine states with FACE programs funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Although California FACE tracks only fatalities occurring in Los Angeles County -- where one worker dies every three days, on average -- investigations can take place throughout the state.
California Occupational Health Indicators
OHSEP worked with several other states and NIOSH to develop a set of Occupational Health Indicators, which are used to measure work-related injuries, illnesses, exposures and other factors that can influence worker health. Each indicator was selected because it is important to public health and can be calculated using a data source readily available for most states. OHSEP annually updates the California data for an Employment Demographics Profile and 20 different Occupational Health Indicators. Indicators and other OHSEP projects are highlighted in the state Occupational Health Branch's monthly electronic newsletter, Occupational Health Watch.
California Workers’ Compensation Surveillance
The project seeks to enhance the capacity of California to use existing state-level workers’ compensation data to conduct public health surveillance including 1) collection, analysis, interpretation, use, and dissemination of findings on the incidence of occupational injuries, illnesses, deaths and exposures to hazards; 2) identification of trends, emerging issues, high-risk industries and worker populations; and 3) development of recommendations for workplace interventions.
Cleaning for Asthma-Safe Schools (CLASS)
OHSEP's California Work-Related Asthma Prevention Program created CLASS to help schools adopt safer cleaning methods to protect workers and students from asthma. CLASS is developing guidelines to help interested school districts launch green asthma-safer cleaning programs and is partnering with districts to pilot-test them. The guidelines describe the cost savings and benefits of switching to greener, healthier products and how to transition to asthma-safer cleaning; they provide a list of common cleaning ingredients that can cause asthma.
Occupational Chemical Exposures in California and Breast Cancer Risk
The objective of this pilot exposure study will be to collect detailed information on occupational chemical exposures in a workforce identified as a priority of concern for breast cancer. Depending on what is most appropriate to the workforce and exposures being studied, a variety of approaches will be considered for data collection including participant questionnaires/interviews, field observations, workplace exposure sampling, and biological monitoring. The results from this pilot study will provide important preliminary data to inform the design of future studies of breast cancer, as well as the development of intervention strategies to reduce exposures. PHI’s approach has a number of innovative elements, foremost of which is the integration of community, worker and employer input throughout the entire course of the project. Input from a diverse advisory committee and periodic town-hall style meetings with key stakeholders who have an interest and expertise in worker health will be used to inform the design and implementation of the study. In particular, such input will help to identify women employed in the ‘informal economy’ consisting of jobs that are not captured by government data and may operate outside established labor laws and lack health safeguards. This engagement will enhance the dissemination of our results to affected communities and policy-makers, ensuring our findings are appropriately translated to meaningful efforts that ultimately could lead to the prevention of occupationally-caused breast cancer.
Occupational Pesticide Illness Prevention Program (OPIPP)
OPIPP tracks cases of acute occupational pesticide illnesses in California, supported by a cooperative agreement with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). OPIPP protects workers by determining the magnitude and underlying causes of over-exposure to pesticides in the workplace. These tracking activities also serve as an early warning system of any harmful effects not detected by manfacturer testing of pesticides.OPIPP shares reports of work-related pesticide illness with other states, NIOSH and the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Toxic Paint Removers: Safer Alternatives
The project will create a digital video that can be used as a training tool/awareness piece to inform/education construction workers, contractors and union apprenticeship programs about the hazards of DCM (methylene chloride) paint removers and the availability of well performing safer alternatives.
Tracking Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
OHSEP uses medical provider and other reports to track carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) cases, select cases for follow-up, and plan workplace interventions with prevention recommendations for employers and employees. OHSEP has identified California establishments with two or more claims of CTS among employees with the same job title within any 12-month period between 2006 and 2011. A large retail club company with multiple establishments has been selected as the target of initial ergonomic evaluation.
Work-Related Asthma Prevention Program
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides funding to California, Michigan, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York to track work-related asthma and maximize prevention efforts. The California Work-Related Asthma Prevention Program in the Occupational Health Branch of the state Department of Public Health aims to identify industries, occupations and exposures that put workers at risk for work-related asthma. By identifying and understanding the risk factors, we can find new ways to help employers and workers prevent work-related asthma.