The Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) has been awarded approximately $1.4 million through two competitive five-year grants funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to improve worker safety and reduce water contamination.
The first of the two grants comes from the CDC's Occupational Health and Injury Surveillance Program, which aims to improve worker safety and health through continued identification and tracking of work-related injuries, fatalities and hazards impacting Louisiana workers.
"Worker health is a crucial component of public health in Louisiana, and this grant will be used to improve worksite safety throughout the state," LDH Secretary Dr. Rebekah E. Gee said. "This program is crucial to protecting Louisiana's workers from unsafe conditions while on the job."
Tracking data will be used by LDH while identifying the State's priorities and inform decisions about injury prevention efforts performed in collaboration with state partners. This will help LDH improve the health of Louisiana's workers by supporting its work in:
- identifying worksites where workers are exposed to high levels of lead and other heavy metals,
- examining factors contributing to injuries and fatalities and using findings to improve worker training and promote changes in safety and health policies,
- educating employers and employees on how to protect themselves when working in hot and humid temperatures,
- training college students about occupational health through internship programs with local universities and
- referring worksites with known hazards to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for investigation.
In previous years, this funding has been used to evaluate the health effects of the BP oil spill, educate indoor shooting range users about the dangers of lead exposure, educate workers about the dangers of falls, conduct worksite hazard evaluations and refer hazardous worksites for investigation. It has also been used to build a regional network of public health workers, academicians and regulators to address regional occupational safety and health issues.
LDH has also been awarded the CDC's Environmental Health Services Support for Public Health Drinking Water Programs to Reduce Drinking Water Exposures grant, which is implemented in Louisiana as the Louisiana Private Well Initiative. The grant will help Louisiana to identify and address drinking water program performance gaps, improve efficiency within and the effectiveness of drinking water programs and identify and reduce exposures associated with drinking water contamination.
Louisiana's program works with communities and populations using small drinking water systems that are not covered under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), and it is estimated that over 500,000 Louisiana residents get their drinking water from such sources. Using the grant award, LDH will improve drinking water quality across the state by:
- examining five years of well data to find populated areas where analysis has shown contaminated water in the past,
- collaborating with community partners to educate at-risk populations and health care providers about drinking water contaminants and their associated health effects and
- educating policymakers representing the at-risk population about potential drinking water hazards in their area and encouraging them to develop policies and legislation to address the issue.
This funding has been used in past years to identify databases on water quality and quantity in private wells and other unregulated drinking water sources (UDWS), promote access to the databases for public and environmental health practitioners using the Environmental Public Health Tracking Portal and make recommendations to keep people from drinking contaminated water from UDWS.
"Access to safe, clean drinking water and safe working conditions are critical to maintaining public health," LDH Office of Public Health Assistant Secretary J.T. Lane said. "We strive to ensure that all Louisiana residents have the tools they need to stay safe and healthy, and these grant awards will help the Office of Public Health do just that."
For more information on our Section of Environmental Epidemiology and Toxicology program, contact the LDH Office of Public Health at (225) 342-8093.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state residents. To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH's Twitter account and Facebook.