New Software Monitors the Health and Safety of Emergency Responders

September 11, 2017

New Software Monitors the Health and Safety of Emergency Responders

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced the availability of a new software platform called ERHMS Info Manager™ to track and monitor emergency response and recovery worker activities during all phases of emergency response following a natural disaster or other public health emergency.

“The nation depends on more than 3 million emergency response workers who are trained and prepared to respond to disasters and other emergencies where they often face hazardous conditions,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “ERHMS Info Manager streamlines the important task of response worker health monitoring and surveillance saving organizations time while ensuring the health and safety of emergency responders.”

ERHMS Info Manager is a custom-built software product developed by NIOSH that emergency responder organizations can use to implement the Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance (ERHMS™) framework. The freely available software can be used by anyone involved in the deployment and protection of emergency responders, including: incident command staff, response organization leadership, health, safety and medical personnel, and emergency responders.

“By being able to easily collect, analyze, and report health data, ERHMS Info Manager decreases the time required to identify exposures and signs and symptoms illness throughout an emergency response to ensure workers are not harmed and can respond effectively,” said NIOSH ERHMS Coordinator Jill Shugart, MSPH. “Data collected before, during, and after a response also helps identify which responders would benefit from medical referral and possible enrollment in a long-term health surveillance program.”

ERHMS Info Manager uses CDC’s publically-accessible data management and informatics tool, Epi Info™ for creating forms, capturing data, and analyzing data specific to emergency response situations. ERHMS Info Manager allows users to:

  • Create responder profiles
  • Record response incidents and map incident locations
  • Assign responders to an incident roster
  • Design forms and surveys using custom and pre-built templates
  • Request information from responders by using forms and surveys
  • View and analyze forms and survey responses

The ERHMS framework provides recommendations for protecting emergency responders during small and large emergencies in any setting. NIOSH, along with partner federal agencies, developed the ERHMS framework following the collapse of the World Trade Center when the subsequent health problems experienced by responders illustrated an urgent need for improved health monitoring and surveillance of emergency responders.

Along with the launch of the ERHMS Info Manager software, NIOSH also developed a new landing page on its website for information related to emergency responder health monitoring and surveillance. From the new ERHMS web page, visitors will have easy access to:

  • The ERHMS framework
  • Online training tools
  • The ERHMS Info Manager software, user manual, and training videos
  • Additional resources

ERHMS Info Manager is a free software platform developed by NIOSH to track and monitor emergency response and recovery worker activities before, during, and after their deployment to an incident site.

Visit the website to learn more and to download and install the ERHMS Info Manager software.

NIOSH is the federal institute that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths. For more information about NIOSH visit

Making 3-D Printing Safer

Within the past decade, 3-D printers have gone from bulky, expensive curiosities to compact, more affordable consumer products. At the same time, concerns have emerged that nanoparticles released from the machines during use could affect consumers’ health. Now researchers report in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology a way to eliminate almost all nanoparticle emissions from some of these printers.

Recent studies on 3-D printers have found that when operating, the devices can release volatile organic compounds, aldehydes, and nanoparticles into the air. All of these substances have the potential to harm human health. But no research had been reported on strategies for preventing or reducing pollution from the machines. So Chungsik Yoon and colleagues decided to focus on testing various approaches for controlling the devices’ nanoparticle emissions.

For their study, the researchers worked with a 3-D printer based on fused-deposition modeling technology, the most commonly used process among commercially available models. They tested seven “inks” made out of thermoplastic materials under different temperatures. Of these, high-impact polystyrene and nylon had the highest nanoparticle emission rates; polylactic acid had the lowest. Printing at the manufacturer-recommended temperatures resulted in fewer emissions than doing so at higher temperatures. The researchers also analyzed eight methods for controlling pollution from the printers using varying combinations of fans, filters and enclosures. All of the designs removed at least 70% of nanoparticle emissions. The most efficient approach eliminated 99.95% of such pollution, and involved enclosing the printer and installing a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Based on their results, the researchers recommend using low temperatures, low-emitting materials, and enclosing 3-D printers with a HEPA or similar filter to reduce the release of nanoparticles.

Hometown Foods USA Fined $129,145 for Machine-Guarding, Noise Violations

Hometown Foods USA—a commercial bakery doing business as Bagelmania, Inc.—faces $129,145 in proposed penalties from OSHA after investigators found workers at its Medley facility exposed to amputation, fire, and noise hazards.

OSHA cited the employer for 16 serious and other-than-serious safety and health violations after receiving a complaint alleging machine-guarding, forklift, and noise hazards.

“Our inspection identified hazards that pose a serious threat to employees’ safety and health if not immediately corrected,” said OSHA Area Director Condell Eastmond. “Hometown Foods USA needs to establish and implement an effective safety and health management system to protect its workers.”

The agency issued serious citations due to the company’s failure to:

The company also was cited for not providing employees’ formal training on operating a powered industrial truck, failing to inspect powered industrial trucks for defects prior to putting them into service, and improper use of electrical cables.

Read more about the recent citations that OSHA issued to Hometown Foods USA.

Based in Miami, Hometown Foods USA provides private label and branded bagels and cakes to in-store bakeries, club stores, and foodservice distributors and operators.

Antibacterial Scrubs for Nurses Found to Be No Match for Germs

Clothing worn by healthcare providers can become contaminated with bacteria, however, having nurses wear scrubs with antimicrobial properties did not prevent this bacterial contamination from occurring, according to a study published online in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

As part of the Antimicrobial Scrub Contamination and Transmission (ASCOT) Trial, researchers from Duke University Hospital, followed 40 nurses who wore three different types of scrubs over three consecutive 12-hour shifts, taking a series of cultures from each nurses’ clothing, patients, and the environment before and after each shift.

“Healthcare providers must understand that they can become contaminated by their patients and the environment near patients,” said Deverick J. Anderson, MD, MPH, Director of the Center for Antimicrobial Stewardship and Infection Prevention at Duke University Medical Center and lead author of the study. “Although not effective, we looked to eliminate this risk for contamination by changing the material of nurses’ scrubs.”

In a random rotation, each nurse wore traditional cotton-polyester scrubs, scrubs that contained silver-alloy embedded in its fibers, or another type of scrub treated with a combination of antibacterial materials. The nurses did not know which scrubs they were wearing.

The researchers analyzed 2,919 cultures from bed rails, beds, and supply carts in each room and 2,185 cultures from the sleeve, abdomen, and pocket of nurses’ scrubs. No differences in contamination were found based on the type of scrubs worn.

Researchers identified new contamination during 33%, or 39 of 120 shifts. Scrubs became newly contaminated with bacteria during 16%, or 19 out of 120, shifts studied, including three cases of contamination of nurses’ scrubs while caring for patients on contact precautions where patients were known to be infected with drug-resistant bacteria and personnel entering the room were required to put on gloves and gowns. The mostly commonly transmitted pathogen was Staphylococcus aureus including MRSA and methicillin susceptible S. aureus. The nurses in the study worked in medical and surgical intensive care units, caring for one to two patients per shift.

“There is no such thing as a sterile environment,” said Anderson. “Bacteria and pathogens will always be in the environment. Hospitals need to create and use protocols for improved cleaning of the healthcare environment, and patients and family members should feel empowered to ask healthcare providers if they are doing everything they can to keep their loved one from being exposed to bacteria in the environment.”

The authors note that the scrubs were likely ineffective at reducing pathogens because of the low-level disinfectant capabilities of the textiles, coupled with repeated exposure in a short timeframe. They suggest antimicrobial-impregnated textiles might be effective if used in bed linens and patient gowns, given the prolonged exposure to patients.

Given the findings, the authors recommend diligent hand hygiene following all patient room entries and exits and, when appropriate, use of gowns and gloves—even if no direct patient care is performed to reduce the risk of clothing contamination of healthcare providers.

Funding for the study was provided by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Back to School Safety Message on Safe Practices During Classroom Science Demonstrations

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) recently released a safety message reminding teachers, staff, and school administrators about the hazards of using flammable materials, such as methanol, during classroom science demonstrations.

The newly released safety message features CSB Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland and Board Member Kristen Kulinowski, who both emphasize the importance of recognizing hazards prior to including such demonstrations in curriculums.

Educational demonstrations involving flammable materials are often performed at schools or museums to engage students and visitors by stimulating their interest in science. These demonstrations typically use methanol or other flammable liquids as a fuel for combustion. In response to three separate incidents that injured children and adults over an eight–week period in 2014, the CSB issued a safety bulletin titled, “Key Lessons for Preventing Incidents from Flammable Chemicals in Educational Demonstrations.”

The “Key Lessons” intended to ensure the safety of everyone in the classroom. These lessons include the elimination of bulk chemical containers during such demonstrations as well as the use of a safety barrier between the demonstration and the audience.

In the safety message Board Member Kulinowski emphasized that, “Demonstrators should prepare by asking themselves, ‘What could possibly go wrong here?’ and ‘Is the benefit worth the risk?’”

The CSB released this short safety message along with a one-page summary of the hazards of such demonstrations. CSB Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, “Our children and teachers need to make safety first, especially when conducting science experiments and demonstrations. Our alert is a lesson plan in safety.”

The Back to School Safety Message can be viewed on the CSB’s website and YouTube.

Gribbins Insulation’s Indianapolis Site Recognized for Outstanding Workplace Safety and Health

Gribbins Insulation Company, based in Evansville, Indiana, achieved recertification as a STAR participant in the Indiana Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) for its work at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis. Gribbins’ commitment to its staff and proactive approach to workplace safety and health is illustrated in a zero-injury streak of at least four years.

Gribbins Insulation is a commercial and industrial mechanical insulation contractor founded in 1985. The company has six locations in Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky, including an office and warehouse in Indianapolis.

“The company truly demonstrates how a culture of workplace safety and health can have a positive influence,” said Indiana Department of Labor Commissioner Rick J. Ruble. “Management and employees work hard to keep themselves and their coworkers safe. They’ve truly earned the VPP ‘STAR’ title.”

Gribbins Insulation’s Eli Lilly Indianapolis site has an impressive clean slate for OSHA-recordable injuries and illnesses, with no recordable cases or Lost Work Day cases for the previous four years. The national industry average Total Case Incidence Rate (TCIR) is 2.6 per 100 workers.

Many Moisturizers Aren't What They Claim to Be

Many skin moisturizers that claim to be fragrance-free or hypoallergenic are not, and may aggravate skin disorders such as psoriasis and eczema, according to a new study. Northwestern University researchers examined the top 100 best-selling, whole-body moisturizers sold at Amazon, Target, and Walmart for affordability and content. They found that 83% of so-called hypoallergenic products had a potentially allergenic chemical.

The researchers also discovered that 45% of products marketed as fragrance-free contained a botanical ingredient or one that reacts to a fragrance that can cause a skin rash or skin allergy.

In addition, moisturizers with "dermatologist-recommended" labels cost an average of 20 cents more per ounce than those that did not have the label.

"We looked into what it means to be dermatologist-recommended, and it doesn't mean much because it could be three dermatologists recommending it or 1,000," said study senior author Dr. Steve Xu. He's a resident physician in dermatology in Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

Moisturizers help patients with skin disorders by retaining moisture in the skin, reducing inflammation and helping to prevent infection, but buyers need to know if they contain allergens, Xu said. This is a challenge since manufacturers do not have to list every fragrance chemical in their products, he added.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has limited authority over cosmetics, Xu noted. "There's a huge loophole relating to fragrances, which is the No. 1 cause of skin allergies related to cosmetics," he said. Xu believes dermatologists have a responsibility to know what's in the skin products they recommend. "The more we know about the science behind moisturizers, the better we can guide our patients to what they like, what is safe and what is affordable," Xu said in a university news release.

For the study, the researchers used information from the North American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG), which identifies common skin allergens such as fragrance mix, parabens or tocopherol. Only 12% of the best-selling moisturizers were free of such allergens, according to the report.

Looking for allergen-free skin products? Your best bets are white petroleum jelly, some coconut oils that are cold-pressed and not refined, Vanicream's hypoallergenic products, and Aveeno Eczema Therapy moisturizing cream, Xu said.

And the three most affordable moisturizers without any NACDG allergens: Ivory raw unrefined shea butter, Vaseline original petroleum jelly, and Smellgood African shea butter, the researchers said.

The study was published September 6 in the journal JAMA Dermatology.

Southern Oregon Event to Focus on Workplace Safety, Health

A three-day event in southern Oregon will feature a variety of workshops and presentations designed to help employers and workers maintain safe and healthy workplaces. The event’s keynote presentation will focus on shaping Oregon into the safest place to work in the United States.

Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) encourages employers, workers, and safety professionals to mark their calendars for the October 17-19 Southern Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Conference at the Ashland Hills Hotel and Suites in Ashland.

The conference will cover everything from effective fall protection and fire safety measures to best practices in identifying hazards and improving ladder safety. On Wednesday, October 18, Kerry Barnett, president and CEO of SAIF Corporation, will deliver the keynote presentation. It will center on work to move Oregon toward becoming the safest place to work in the nation.

Most recently, Barnett served as executive vice president for corporate services and chief legal officer for Cambia Health Solutions, where he led strategic direction for public policy and government affairs, strategic communications, human resources, compliance, legal, and ethics.

Other conference topics include:

  • Improving safety culture
  • Safety committee operations
  • Fatigue at work: Causes, impacts, and solutions
  • Safety for supervisors
  • Workplace bullying: The greatest cost to your bottom line
  • Pre-task planning: A recipe for success

The Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers and Oregon OSHA are co-sponsoring the conference. Registration for the conference on Wednesday and Thursday is $175, with optional pre-conference workshops ranging from $50 to $130. For more information or to register, go to

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