MICHIGAN'S PROJECT SENSOR
(Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risks)
Since 1978, hospitals, physicians, clinics and employers who know or suspect an individual has a work-related illness must report it to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) within 10 days under Public Act 368 of 1978, Part 56 as amended. Project SENSOR (Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risks) is a federally funded grant to assist the state in conducting patient and workplace follow up based on the approximately 10,000 occupational disease reports received each year at LARA. Under Michigan Law, conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, respiratory illness, hearing loss, dermatitis, work-related stress, heavy metal poisoning, and heat stroke are all reportable. It is a misdemeanor to neglect to report patients to the LARA, punishable by a $50 fine per report not submitted.
The occupational and environmental health team at Michigan State University under the direction of Kenneth Rosenman, M.D., works with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to administer the occupational disease reporting and surveillance program. Interviews of patients with occupational lung disease, including work-related asthma and silicosis, are routinely conducted to determine the patient's workplace conditions and exposures. Individuals with other conditions are selectively followed up. A Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) enforcement inspection may then be conducted to determine current conditions and exposures at the facility where the patient developed their illness.
Occupational disease reporting by health professionals is critical to document the nature and extent of work-related illness in Michigan. It facilitates the prioritization of intervention efforts and helps determine the most effective and efficient manner to direct limited resources to reduce the burden that occupational diseases place on workers and their families. In addition, the prevention of occupational diseases benefits companies by reducing claims for Workers’ Compensation.
The SENSOR project uses occupational disease reports to target evaluation and intervention strategies that are effective in identifying workplaces in Michigan with problems. Inspections at workplaces of individuals who develop occupational asthma, for example, consistently identify large numbers of fellow workers with asthma or respiratory symptoms compatible with asthma, despite air monitoring at these same facilities that typically reveals the exposure to be within permissible limits. Inspections at foundries continue to identify over-exposures to silica along with a lack of appropriate respiratory protection or engineering controls. Interviews with noise-induced hearing loss patients indicate a frequent lack of hearing testing and hearing protection in facilities where workers are exposed to excessive levels of noise at work, especially in industries such as construction, that are not as adequately protected by Michigan OSHA regulations.