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Regional ERC Symposium, April 14-15, 2023

May 18, 2023, 15:11 PM by Jessica Bloomer
The Regional ERC Symposium took place on April 14, 2023, bringing together students and faculty from the University of Cincinnati, University of Illinois Chicago, and University of Michigan ERCs to discuss environmental and occupational justice.
By Cynthia Betcher

On April 14, 2023, University of Cincinnati (UC) ERC students attended the University of Michigan ERC Regional Symposium, followed by a visit to the Ford Rouge Factory the next day. In addition, UC students presented posters at the symposium. 
Xinyi poster

ERC trainee, Xinyi Niu, presenting a poster at the regional symposium

Posters presented by the UC ERC students included;
- Measuring Hazardous Pollutant Levels in Fire Stations, Ryan Bellacov
- Mental Health and Suicide Risk Among Veterinarians: An Integrative Review, Afton Erbe
- Fit Testing of N95 Respirators Fitted with an Ear Loop Strap System and the Novel Faceseal, Xinyi Niu
- Effects of Chronic Heat Stress and Shift Work on Postural Stability in Firefighters: A Pilot Study, Rachel Zeiler

Symposium Presentations
By Afton Erbe

The University of Cincinnati Education and Research Center (ERC) includes students in occupational health nursing, occupational medicine, environmental and industrial hygiene, and occupational safety and health engineering.  
Recently, a group of ERC students attended the ERC Symposium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Talks focused on occupational and environmental justice and, as someone who works in the clinical side of healthcare, these terms were relatively new to me. It was interesting and eye-opening for me to see the application of these terms from an environmental and industrial hygiene and occupational safety and health engineering perspective rather than just one of nursing or healthcare. 
In addition to the talks, this ERC Symposium provided us with the opportunity to meet and network with students and faculty at other universities, including the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois Chicago. As someone who values the pursuit of knowledge and innovation, I enjoyed learning about others research interests because it emphasized the need for interdisciplinary collaboration within both research and clinical practice.  

My research focuses on Total Worker Health, specifically the component of mental health within the workplace. During this symposium, I learned that occupational and environmental justice have the potential to directly impact the overall mental health of individuals and communities. This supports the idea that mental health not only needs to be considered and addressed on an individual level, but also on a population level to ensure that individuals have the tools and resources necessary to improve outcomes. 

Occupational and Environmental Justice
By Ryan Bellacov

The conferences started with Dr. Matthew Tejada from the EPA discussing Occupational and Environmental Justice. With the recent Biden administration, funding has increased in this area by 3X to start making more of an impact toward helping vulnerable populations in Environmental Health. Next, Donele Wilkins talked about lifting the voices for environmental and climate justice, especially locally. Several research projects focused on the Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) of environmental health. The best way to understand adverse health outcomes is the integration of determinants of health.  

Recognizing the term differences vs. disparities is essential when discussing occupational injustices. Differences are unnecessary, avoidable, unfair, and unjust. Social determinants of health are often categorized into an economic, physical environment, education, food, community, and health care system. One effective way to evaluate health disparities is by dividing research upstream or downstream. Upstream determinants often look at social causes. Often more downstream determinants are health behaviors such as sleep, diet, exercise, etc. 

One of the researchers at the conference focused on the daily livelihood of vast masses of the rural poor. Reducing Occupational Injustices for the rural poor has a broad focus and includes forest resources, grazing lands, in-shore fisheries, and irrigation water. Understanding the factors that lead to the success or failure of community management of these resources is thus critical to rural development.  

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Attendees during the speaker sessions at the symposium (photo provided by University of Michigan ERC)

Community Involvement 
By Kyle Siefert 
On April 14th, 2023, students from the University of Cincinnati visited Ann Arbor, Michigan to attend the ERC Regional Symposium. The first session of the symposium focused on reducing occupational injustices when working on reducing environmental injustices. Environmental justice addresses hazardous exposures to poor and marginalized groups and the restrictions that cause them to live in hazardous areas. Occupational justice is similar as it aims to ensure that all employees are protected equally and adequately from work exposures. This group of people tends to have higher rates of disease and cancers because of this injustice. Four speakers with federal, student, business, and academic backgrounds shared their diverse outlooks at tackling these two issues. 

Environmental and occupational injustice in today’s world stems from a history of inequality. It is not just one issue but cumulative impacts from several issues at home and at the workplace. Exposures at work can be compounded by exposures at home. Luckily, there is a larger shift towards recognizing and addressing these topics. Solutions from the speakers were discussed and many have great potential to build on one another. Community involvement in these issues is key. Community benefit agreements allow the people of the area to form agreements with companies and unions to be properly protected. Diseases stemming from environmental and occupational injustices are preventable and community monitoring programs help members recognize when exposures are high. Education of workers and community members increases awareness of these issues which keeps companies accountable. One’s health should not suffer at the workplace or at home. 

Poster Session
By Minhaj
Conferences are a great way for researchers, scholars, and professionals to share their work and learn from each other. One popular format for presenting research at conferences is the poster session. Poster sessions are a popular format for conferences because they allow for many presenters to share their work in a relatively small amount of space. The posters typically include a summary of the research project, including objectives, methods, results, and conclusions. The symposium was held at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where several posters were presented by research scholars in a poster session. It was a successful poster session that encouraged interaction between presenters and attendees, leading to valuable discussions and potential collaborations. 
Erbe poster
ERC trainee, Afton Erbe, presenting a poster at the regional symposium

The presenters and attendees took part in this poster session were from University of Cincinnati, Purdue University, University of Illinois Chicago, University of Michigan and others. Their research is quite related to environmental and occupational safety and public health and its challenges. I found an interesting part of the poster session was that the research focuses on climate change and weather conditions directly affecting the daily life of human beings and their occupations. The poster session depicted potential solutions to serious issues at the integration of occupational justice and environmental justice affecting public health. 
Zeiler poster
ERC trainee, Rachel Zeiler, presenting a poster at the regional symposium

Also, I came to know these issues are not limited to experimental laboratory research, moreover market research and surveys were done by some presenters. For instance, a presenter found that a small part of Michigan state is successful in occupational justice however, improvements are needed throughout the state.

In conclusion, participating in a conference poster session is a valuable experience for researchers at any stage in their career. We can make the most of this opportunity to showcase our work and network with other researchers in our field.

Occupational Justice Workshop: Collaborative Session
By Efosa Obariase and Amour Dondi

The Occupational/Environmental Justice Workshop hosted by the University of Michigan’s Center for Occupational Safety Engineering took place at the Michigan Union on the college campus. It presented an opportunity for students and faculty to exchange ideas on contentious issues relating to occupational justice and environmental justice and how it relates to the safety of workers in different industries. Keynote speakers were invited to educate and share valuable insights into these topics based on their experience in this field. It offered an opportunity for students and faculty from the different ERC funded institutions to interact. Three ERCs were represented at this workshop, the University of Illinois Chicago, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Michigan.

There was a collaborative session towards the end of the workshop where participants were assigned into one of eight groups. Each group had to come up with a five-minute presentation on occupational health and safety issues in an assigned industry and how occupational justice and environmental justice applied in that field. This session helped participants brainstorm and work together, coming up with ideas at short notice and it fostered interdisciplinary cooperation. The high point of this exercise was the slide presentations where each group showcased its creativity and ingenuity in coming up with a very informative slide presentation on occupational health and safety issues within just an hour. This is only confirmation that we are capable of coming up with a whole lot more if we set out mind to it.

Ford Rouge Factory Tour
By Xinyi Niu and Rachel Zeiler

The field trip to the Ford Rouge Factory in Dearborn, Michigan on April 15, 2023, was very educational. Thanks to our guides for their hard work and contributions on helping to coordinate this field trip. 

Over the years, the Rouge has undergone several transformations. In the 1920s, it was expanded to include a massive assembly plant that could produce 1,000 cars per day. During World War II, the Rouge was converted to produce military equipment, including B-24 Liberator bombers and tanks. After the war, the plant resumed producing cars and became known for its iconic Ford Mustang. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Rouge underwent a significant modernization effort, which included the installation of new robotics and other advanced manufacturing technologies. In 2003, Ford announced a massive redevelopment project for the Rouge, which included the construction of the Ford F-150 pickup truck.

The Ford F-150 is equipped with a range of advanced technologies that enhance its safety, connectivity, and overall performance. The F-150 provides a suite of advanced driver assistance technologies, including features such as lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. It also has a pro trailer backup assist, which allows drivers to easily maneuver a trailer in reverse by using a knob on the dashboard to control the direction of the trailer. The most important feature is the power; the F-150 combines a twin-turbocharged V6 engine with an electric motor. It provides excellent fuel efficiency and ample power for towing and hauling. Overall, the Ford F-150 is packed with advanced technologies that make it a capable and convenient pickup truck. It takes 23 hours to make an F-150 at the Rouge, and one is produced every 53 seconds. 
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“Living Roof” on top of the Ford Rouge Assembly Building

The students also saw the “Living Roof” from the Observation Deck. The “Living Roof” stretches over ten acres across the roof of the Ford assembly building. The roof is covered with Sedum plants, a type of succulent, that helps to protect the roof, insulate the building, and hold water. Water collected from the roof goes into the storm water system which dumps into the Rouge River, the Detroit River, and finally, Lake Erie. 
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1929 Model A in the Legacy Gallery

The final stop on the tour was in the Legacy Gallery. Students observed various Ford vehicles manufactured at the Rouge. 

1955 Ford Thunderbird “T-Bird” in the Legacy Gallery

Thank you!
Thank you to the University of Michigan ERC for hosting the Annual Regional Symposium and inviting our students and faculty to tour the Ford Rouge Factory. For event details and presentation recordings, you can visit the event website provided by the University of Michigan ERC.

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