New Year, New CA Labor Laws

New Year's 2011 with streamers and confettiCA DIR Highlights New Labor Laws In The New Year

As the New Year begins, the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) reminds employers of new labor laws becoming effective in 2011. The intent of the new legislation varies from providing more flexibility to employers, to expanding paid leave for employees. The following new laws will go into effect on January 1, 2011:

New Off- Duty Meal Break Exemptions
AB 569 provides greater legal clarity to Labor Code section 512(a) which requires employers to provide their employees, who work more than six hours in a day, one 30-minute off-duty meal break after five hours of work.   The new law adds section 512.7 to the Labor Code and will exempt from the off-duty meal break requirement workers in specific industries who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that contains meal period provisions.   The employee groups include: construction workers, commercial drivers, security officers and employees of electrical and gas corporations or local publicly-owned electric utilities.   These are industries or positions where it was deemed an off-duty meal break can be impractical.  The revision was made to better meet the requirements of the particular positions.   The bill was introduced by Assembly Member Bill Emmerson (R-Hemet).

Workers’ Compensation Extended Eligibility for Public Service Workers
AB 2253 expands workers’ compensation eligibility for firefighters and law enforcement officers who have developed certain types of cancer that are reasonably linked to their jobs.  Existing law establishes that this presumption be extended for a period of three months for each full year of service the employee worked, not to exceed 60 months beyond their last day of service.  The pending legislation will expand that time frame to up to 120 months and will amend Labor Code section 3212.1.  The bill was introduced by Assembly Member Joe Coto (D-San Jose).

Organ / Bone Marrow Donors’ Leave and Benefits for Employees of Private Employers
SB 1304 requires private employers to permit employees to take paid leaves of absence for organ and bone marrow donation, similar to provisions existing for California state employees. Under the new law, private employers are prohibited from interfering with employees taking organ or bone marrow donation leave and after the conclusion of the leave of absence must allow them to return to the same job or an equivalent job. The bill, introduced by Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), further prohibits retaliation of the employee for taking the leave and provides employees to seek restitution if these rights are violated.

New Procedures Established and Definition Clarified for Cal/OSHA Serious Citations
California employers are legally bound to provide employees a safe workplace. California law has authorized DIR’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA, to enforce applicable safety and health regulations and issue citations when investigations reveal that an employer has committed violations of those standards, including serious violations that cause an employee to suffer or potentially suffer, among other things, “serious injury or illness” or “serious physical harm”. AB 2774, introduced by Assembly member Sandré R. Swanson (D-Alameda), amends labor code section 6432 to define serious physical harm and establishes a rebuttable presumption as to when an employer commits a serious violation of these provisions.  The bill further establishes new procedures and standards for an investigation when issuing serious citations.  (See IR #2010-28, “Cal/OSHA enforcement strengthened with signing of new law”

Five Apps to Help Prevent Illness This Flu Season

Flu season mightscreenshot of smartphone app called Outbreaks be upon us, but that doesn’t mean you have to get sick. Here are five apps to fight off the flu.
As temperatures continue to drop during the autumn season, a familiar sound fills the air: the drone of people coughing and sneezing in offices, homes and public transportation. Although your smartphone might be covered with disease-carrying bacteria, it can also contain many useful tools to help prevent illness. Here are our favorite apps to survive flu season:

Outbreaks Near Me
Hygienic practices such as hand washing are always a good starting place for disease prevention. But knowing that the flu virus is going around in your community might encourage you to practice even better habits.

HealthMap’s Outbreaks Near Me app, available for both Android and iPhone, tracks real-time disease outbreak information throughout the world. Outbreaks Near Me tracks local cases of a wide range of dangerous diseases.

The tool will alert you when contagious illnesses have been found in your community, and even lets you post about your own diagnosis. The app tracks both human and animal diseases—everything from swine flu to chickenpox to West Nile virus.

The Swine Flu App
During last year’s swine flu epidemic, researchers from Harvard Medical School released this comprehensive, reliable app equipped with everything you need to know about the dangerous disease, including diagnostic tests and prevention tips. It also provides location-based hotlines and emergency telephone numbers.

Harvard’s app is particularly useful to businesses. It has an entire section devoted to helping employers educate employees about flu prevention, and learn how to create a pandemic business plan.

Medslogscreenshot of smartphone app called "Home Remedies"
If you catch a bacterial infection or have a high fever, your doctor is likely to prescribe medications to help you get well. But certain drugs, especially antibiotics, require frequent and long-term dosages. The Medslog app helps you track all of your medications and reminds you when to take them. Users can simply enter items like prescription drugs or eye drops, as well as the dose and time. The app also lets users input data such as blood pressure and blood sugar. Users can even choose to e-mail their data to a doctor.

One of the simplest ways to prevent getting the flu this year is to get an annual flu shot. But during times of high demand, shot locations can be hard to find, especially in rural areas. The FluShotter app makes getting a flu shot easy. FluShotter contains information about thousands of locations where users can receive flu shots. The app tracks your shot history and can contain the records for multiple users—ensuring that the whole family is equipped to fight the flu this year.

101 Home Remedies
Luckily, there are even apps for the thousands of people who do end up getting sick this flu season. One of our favorites is 101 Home Remedies, which provides quick, natural remedies for many common ailments.

In addition to containing soothing treatments for the flu, the app has information about how to lessen its symptoms, like coughs and muscle cramps. 101 Home Remedies contains quick and natural remedies for everything from asthma to unexpected weight loss.

CAL/OSHA Reports Results On The Heat Illness Prevention Campaign

Cal/OSHA heat campaign promo items
Promotional items available from Cal/OSHA

In the summer of 2010, an ambitious heat illness prevention campaign was conducted in California to reduce heat-related fatalities and illness among low-wage, non-English speaking outdoor workers. The campaign strategy involved working at multiple levels to: 1) educate workers, employers and the community as a whole about needed prevention measures both during work and outside of work; 2) develop a ?community norm? that views heat illness as a serious issue which requires action in the workplace and community; and, 3) increase the visibility of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) as an agency responsive to workers’ needs.


• Effective messaging was developed and tested with input from representative workers, employers and community organizations.

• There was significant media coverage in the targeted, hottest regions of the state, and the media mix included billboards, large format posters, ads on lunch trucks and vans and radio ads.

• Media was developed in five languages:

• Print ads: Spanish, English, Hmong and Punjabi

• Radio ads: Spanish, Hmong and Mixteco

• A broad outreach component reached 178 community organizations, a large portion of which extended the campaign’s efforts by distributing materials and providing trainings in their communities.

• The impact evaluation findings indicate that the heat illness prevention campaign was effective in reaching non-English speaking workers, community organizations and employers. A large majority of workers reported awareness of campaign materials and positive attitudes towards the media messages.

Download attachment Download attachment >> HeatIllnessPreventionCampaignReport_702005691.pd

Caffeine Negatively Affects Children: Most Consume Caffeine Daily

photo of kid with can of JoltScienceDaily (Dec. 17, 2010) — Caffeine consumption in children is often blamed for sleep problems and bedwetting. Information on childhood caffeine consumption is limited, and many parents may not know the amount or effects of their child’s caffeine consumption. In a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers found that 75% of children surveyed consumed caffeine on a daily basis, and the more caffeine the children consumed, the less they slept.

Dr. William Warzak and colleagues from the University of Nebraska Medical Center surveyed the parents of over 200 children 5 to 12 years old during routine clinical visits at an urban pediatric clinic. Parents were asked to report the types and amounts of snacks and beverages their child consumed on a daily basis.

According to Dr. Warzak, “Some children as young as 5 years old were consuming the equivalent of a can of soda a day.” The authors also noticed that the older children drank more caffeinated beverages. “Children between the ages of 8 and 12 years consumed an average of 109 mg a day,” Dr. Warzak explains, “the equivalent of almost 3 12-ounce cans of soda.”

Researchers found, however, that caffeine was not linked to bedwetting in these children. “Contrary to popular belief,” Dr. Evans, coauthor and statistician, clarifies, “children were not more likely to wet the bed if they consumed caffeine, despite the fact that caffeine is a diuretic.”

The study authors stress the importance of parental awareness regarding their child’s caffeine consumption. “Parents should be aware of the potentially negative influence of caffeine on a child’s sleep quality and daily functioning,” Dr. Warzak asserts. The authors suggest that primary care pediatricians may be able to help by screening patients for caffeine consumption and educating parents about the potentially harmful effects of caffeine.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Elsevier Health Sciences, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Thinking Person’s Diet

photo of "think thin" t-shirt
Honey, I shrank my t-shirt

Thought for Food: Imagining Food Consumption Reduces Actual Consumption

If you’re looking to lose weight, it’s okay to think about eating your favorite candy bar. In fact, go ahead and imagine devouring every last bite — all in the name of your diet.
A new study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, published in Science, shows that when you imagine eating a certain food, it reduces your actual consumption of that food. This landmark discovery changes the decades-old assumption that thinking about something desirable increases cravings for it and its consumption.

Drawing on research that shows that perception and mental imagery engages neural machinery in a similar fashion and similarly affect emotions, response tendencies and skilled motor behavior, the CMU research team tested the effects of repeatedly imagining the consumption of a food on its actual consumption. They found that simply imagining the consumption of a food decreases ones appetite for it.

“These findings suggest that trying to suppress one’s thoughts of desired foods in order to curb cravings for those foods is a fundamentally flawed strategy,” said Carey Morewedge, an assistant professor of social and decision sciences and lead author of this study. “Our studies found that instead, people who repeatedly imagined the consumption of a morsel of food — such as an M&M or cube of cheese — subsequently consumed less of that food than did people who imagined consuming the food a few times or performed a different but similarly engaging task. We think these findings will help develop future interventions to reduce cravings for things such as unhealthy food, drugs and cigarettes, and hope they will help us learn how to help people make healthier food choices.”

Continue reading Thinking Person’s Diet