Currently, medical residents can work up to 30 hours without time off for sleep and are limited to working 80 hours per week (that’s down from working as many as 120 hours per week, which was often the case before new rules took effect in 2003. Recently, the Institute of Medicine recommended that residents only be allowed to work 16 hours before taking time off for sleep. Working too many hours without sleep is risky both for the residents and for the patients under their care.

Stephanie Desmon reports in the Baltimore Sun about a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine that estimates the cost of reducing residents’ duty hours could reach $2.5 million a year, mostly due to the cost of paying more residents and doctors to cover the same amount of time. Two doctors quoted in the Sun article question whether shorter resident hours will necessarily improve patient care, but one of them concluded that if research shows that shorter shifts equate to better patient outcomes, the cost will be worth it.

In other news: 

Science News: A study using data on workers who applied pesticides and their spouses (from the federally funded Agricultural Health Study) found that exposure to pendimethalin and EPTC appeared to increased pancreatic cancer risk in an exposure-dependent manner.

Washington Post: A survey of federal workers finds that employees value senior leadership that shares information with subordinates well and provides training and other opportunities.

EHS Today: Researchers at Marquette University were surprised to find that study subjects had lower heart rates when sitting in an office chair with a new design, compared to when sitting in a conventional office chair.

Washington Post: A construction worker working as a flagger was killed when a road sweeper struck her; a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic explained that the flagger is generally the most vulnerable of road-construction workers. 

NIOSH Science Blog: The National Institute of Safety and Health is in the process of moving its surveillance for occupational lung disorders (among coal miners and other workers) from convention screen-film X-rays to digital chest imaging. As the conversion happens, NIOSH invites comments on aspects of the transition that raise questions or concerns.