Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Study Shows Certain Jobs Tied to Degenerative Brain Disease

Some Jobs Tied to Degenerative Brain Disease : Industrial Market Trends

Are you or your employees at risk for degenerative brain disease? In a study of more than 2.6 million U.S. death records, researchers have found that certain occupations are linked to increase risk for diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

While many of these job-disease relationships have been observed in previous research and could potentially be attributed to workplace exposures to chemicals (as is the case with farmers, welders and hairdressers), other links were harder to account for (such as the increased risk among teachers, clergy and bank tellers), according to the researchers, led by Robert M. Park of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Park readily acknowledges the limitations of studies like this, which use death certificates to find associations between occupation and disease risk. "At best," he notes to Reuters, such research can reveal general patterns that can then be studied further.

In their analysis, Park and his colleagues found that bank tellers, clergy, aircraft mechanics and hairdressers had the highest risk of dying from Alzheimer's disease.

Biological scientists, teachers, clergy members and other religious workers had the biggest odds of dying of Parkinson's disease.

The risk of death from pre-senile dementia--a form of dementia that surfaces before the age of 65--was most pronounced among dentists, graders and sorters in industries other than agriculture and, again, clergy.

Veterinarians, hairdressers and graders and sorters had the highest odds of dying from motor neuron disease, the most common form of which is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease--a fatal degeneration of the central nervous system.

The study, which has been published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, was based on the death records from 22 states between 1992 and 1998.

What's unclear is why these specific positions appear to be linked to brain degeneration. There are certain cases of chemical exposure in occupations like farming, but one wonders why the clergy would be at greater risk. Click here for additional information about this interesting study.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Lost Productivity Due to Employee Pain

Study documents pain's impact on workers, employers

If we start to think about all the recent studies that talk about how much time people waste or lose due to extenuating circumstances, isn't it a miracle that anything gets done at all? It would be interesting to add up the time lost according to all of the various studies and see how much time is left over for actual work.

A recent article on SHRM's Online takes a look at recent findings that reveal that one in three employees suffer from pain, in turn costing an organization approximately three and two-thirds list workdays per employee per month.

The findings are based on a survey of 1,039 active employees that included factory and nonfactory workers at an unidentified Fortune 100 company in the northeastern United States. It examined the “burden of pain on employee health and productivity,” according to researchers Harris Allen, Dr. David Hubbard and Sean Sullivan.

What can employers do to effectively run a business while offering assistance to their pain-adled employees?

In the paper, researchers advise the company to consider “nurturing a better quality of life for many of [the] employees while at the same time promoting a more productive workforce.” In other words, the company could be more realistic in its expectations of employees, Allen acknowledged to HR News.

Steps that researchers say employers in general can take:

• Identify sources of productivity and health losses by performing a claims data analysis and enlisting a third party to survey employees, reporting only group-level or aggregate data to the employer.

• Look at what company-sponsored programs are available and take stock of what you are doing now. You may want to simply augment what is being done, Allen said.

• Discover what vendors are available, look at your budget and perform a return-on-investment analysis to decide what steps to take.

• Implement those steps. Perform another evaluation after a reasonable period of time to get a credible idea if the action taken made a difference and, if so, how much of a difference.

• Educate employees about treatments available.

Celebrate 401(k) Day

401(k) Day

Did you know that this September 6th is 401(k) Day? this is your opportunity to join Captain 401(k) in battling Tax Maximizer, Low Contributor and the ultimate retirement arch nemesis, Savings Procrastinator!

Since retirement follows work, 401(k) Day officially falls on the day after Labor Day. Visit the official site to download the 401(k) Day Kit and start celebrating with your employees.

Captain 401(k) will be very proud of you.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

What's in a Name?

Employers better think twice before calling an employee by a nickname. A recent Ninth Circuit case, El-Hakem v. BJY Inc., reveals how, in some cases, the use of unwelcome nicknames can cause serious trouble.

In the El-Hakem case, the Ninth Circuit held that an employer could be held liable for discrimination on the basis of race by continuously referring to an Arabic employee by a non-Arabic name, rather than by the employee's Arabic name. In this case, a supervisor repeatedly referred to the plaintiff, Mamdouh El-Hakem, as "Manny." Despite El-Hakem's strenuous objections, the supervisor insisted on using the non-Arabic name of Manny rather than El-Hakem's given name. This conduct continued for almost a year.

A jury found that the supervisor intentionally discriminated against El-Hakem and awarded him $15,000 in compensatory damages and $15,000 in punitive damages. The Ninth Circuit upheld the jury's award, finding that the supervisor's intentional conduct created a hostile work environment. The court went on to state that even though the supervisor had not spoken words encompassing a group's ethnic characteristics or skin color (he did not make a "typical" racial slur), the record was clear that the supervisor intended to discriminate against El-Hakem's Arabic name in favor of a non-Arabic name.

Read the entire story on here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Get Back to Work!

Stop reading this headline and get back to work | CNET recently conducted a survey of over 10,000 employees to see how much time during the day is spent on non-work activities. The results are interesting although we here at Astron wonder what exactly falls into the category of "other."

Top time wasting activities:
* Surfing the Internet for personal use: 44.7 percent
* Socializing with coworkers: 23.4 percent
* Conducting personal business: 6.8 percent
* Spacing out: 3.9 percent
* Running errands off premises: 3.1 percent
* Making personal phone calls: 2.3 percent
* Applying for other jobs: 1.3 percent
* Planning personal events: 1.0 percent
* Arriving late/leaving early: 1.0 percent
* Other: 12.5 percent

The survey revealed that the top time wasting state is Missouri (avg. 3.2 hours per day) and the top time wasting industry was insurance.

Still, it's important to remember that all this goofing off isn't necessarily a bad thing. Bill Coleman, senior vice president at explained, "In some cases this extra wasted time might be considered 'creative waste'--time that may well have a positive impact on the company's culture, work environment, and even business results. Personal Internet use and casual office conversations often turn into new business ideas or suggestions for gaining operating efficiencies."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Business Travel's Popularity Wanes

According to Sales & Marketing's Performance eNewsletter, business travel has slowed down over the past few years. Results from a recent study by Robert Half Management Resources show that almost half of those employees surveyed say that they are traveling less than they did five years ago. The study shows that companies that scaled back during recent difficult economic times, have not increased their travel allowances despite the improving economy.

Survey respondents were asked:

"Are you currently traveling for business more or less frequently than you were five years ago?"

* Much more frequently: 15 percent
* Somewhat more frequently: 21 percent
* Somewhat less frequently: 21 percent
* Much less frequently: 27 percent
* No change: 16 percent

For more information about Robert Half Management Resources, visit

Monday, August 08, 2005

HRCI offers two new HR certifications

HRCI - About Us: Certified Mail e-newsletter: Summer 2005 - AS09

The HRCI Board of Directors recently announced the approval of two new certifications that "will encourage the matery of knowledge at an entry/administrative level and assess key competencies at a strategic business competency level." The certifications, Administrative-Level Certification and Strategic Business Competencies Certification, are designed to help advance the HR profession, and will be available in the near future.

For more information, click here.

27 workers fired over blog postings

Auto club fires 27 workers over blog posts - Tech News & Reviews -

When the Automobile Club of Southern California's management caught wind that a large group of their employees were posting comments that could be construed as harassment on, 27 workers lost their jobs. From

Club spokeswoman Carol Thorp said comments were made about other workers' weight and sexual orientation.

"When a worker complains about harassment, you take it seriously," Thorp said Friday.

Thorp said employees were also dismissed because they discussed online how they planned to slow down roadside assistance at work.

"That hits right at our basic service," she said.

This is just another incident in a long line of recent firings due to inappropriate employee blogging. Astron Solutions recently published a story on the topic in our Astronology newsletter titled, "Employee Blogs - Do You Know What They're Saying About You?"

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Astron at ASHHRA

Astron Solutions recently exhibited at ASHHRA's 41st Annual Conference and Exhibition at Disney in Orlando, Florida. As you can see, there was plenty of opportunity for the team members in attendance to balance work with fun in the "happiest place on earth."

From top to bottom:
Automation Expert, John Sazaklis anxiously awaits the booth visitors.

Enjoying the Citistreet party at Fisherman's Wharf in Universal Studios, from left to right, Tony DiBartolo, VP of HR, Bancroft Neurohealth, Jennifer Loftus, SPHR, CCP, CBP, GRP, National Director, Astron Solutions, John Vicik, VP of HR, Sherman Health, and Robin Clark, VP of HR, Morehead Associates.

Jennifer was the lucky winner of a glamorous new hat at Pleasure Island's water gun races! :-)

After a busy day, John relaxes outside of the House of Blues.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Is your job making you fat?

North Jersey Media Group providing local news, sports & classifieds for Northern New Jersey!

Most Americans spend their working hours either sitting behind a desk or standing on an assembly line. As a result of this lack of activity, many U.S employees are gaining weight. More than just packing on a few extra pounds, weight gain can contribute to diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and a plethora of other medical problems.

As stated in the article "Workplace eating habits can pack on the pounds," Americans are quickly gaining weight.
People are getting heavier in this country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, 65 percent of Americans age 20 or older are overweight or obese, with an estimated 30 percent of adults 20 and older falling into the obese category - that's more than 60 million people.

Fortunately, there are ways to combat employee weight gain. Madelyn Fernstrom, director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Weight Management Center suggests putting down the cookie and picking up a carrot to start. Making a point to get up and walk around is also a good idea. Fernstrom suggests plunking down the $15 or $20 for a pedometer, which measures how many steps you take. Aim for 10,000 a day.

Instead of e-mailing or calling your colleague down the hall, get up, go to their office. And every hour or so, walk a loop around your office floor. Skip the elevator and take the stairs.

Other suggestions are balancing your food intake, bringing lunch from home, and get accustomed to low-fat snacks. If you must have something sweet, try a piece of fruit-flavored gum or a hard candy.

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