August 30, 2021
A study in Italy has identified a dose-response relationship between the concentration of everyday pollutants and the incidence of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. The research was presented at ESC Congress 2021.1,2
“We studied seven common pollutants and found that as the concentration of each rose, the risk of cardiac arrest increased,” said study author Dr. Francesca R. Gentile of the IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo Foundation, Pavia, Italy. “The findings suggest that air quality should be incorporated into predictive models to assist health systems in planning service requirements.”
Air pollution has been established as a potential trigger for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest3 but the relationship with specific air pollutants remains controversial because of the number of mechanisms involved. The study examined the associations between short-term exposure to particulate and gaseous pollutants and the incidence of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
The study was conducted in the provinces of Pavia, Lodi, Cremona and Mantua in southern Lombardy, which cover 7,863 km2 across metropolitan and rural areas with more than 1.5 million inhabitants. Data on the daily incidence of cardiac arrest in 2019 were obtained from the regional cardiac arrest registry Lombardia CARe. Information on daily concentrations of particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, benzene, sulphur dioxide and ozone across the study territory were provided by the regional agency for environmental protection (ARPA).
The authors calculated the median daily incidence of cardiac arrest in 2019, then classified each day as higher or lower incidence than the median value. Using the concentration values provided by monitoring stations across the study territory, the authors computed the mean daily concentration of pollutants.
A total of 1,582 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occurred in the study region during 2019, with a median daily incidence of 0.3 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The concentrations of PM10, PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, benzene, and sulphur dioxide were significantly higher on days with a cardiac arrest incidence above the median, compared to days when incidence was below the median. In the initial analysis ozone showed a countertrend, being at significantly higher concentration in the low-incidence period.
The researchers then evaluated the relationship between the concentration (or dose) of each pollutant and the probability of having an incidence of cardiac arrest over the median value. After correcting for the average daily temperature, a dose-response relationship was demonstrated for all the tested pollutants, including ozone, where a rise in concentration was associated with a higher probability of cardiac arrest. An inverse relationship was found for temperature, with the probability of cardiac arrest rising as temperature dropped.
Dr. Gentile said: “The observed relationships between concentrations of individual pollutants and the likelihood of cardiac arrest could be used in future to predict the incidence of this life-threatening condition in specific geographical areas. We hope that air pollutant monitoring can improve health service efficiency by being factored into ambulance forecasting models and warning systems. In addition to being a threat to the ecosystem, evidence is accumulating that dirty air should be considered a modifiable factor that contributes to cardiovascular disease.”
New Guidance Recommends Face Coverings for California Workers Indoors
In addition to the requirements of the COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards
(ETS) and as a best practice, Cal/OSHA encourages employers and workers to follow the recent update from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recommending that all individuals wear face coverings while indoors regardless of vaccination status.
Employers should ensure that any employee who requests a face covering at work is provided one, as required by the ETS.
Free Spanish Online Training for Fall Protection in Construction
Employers and workers who speak Spanish and engage in construction activities in Oregon now have a free and flexible way to improve their understanding of fall protection, thanks to an online video training course produced by Oregon OSHA.
The course, “Fall Protection for Construction
,” is designed to help Spanish-speaking employers and workers meet the requirements of Oregon OSHA’s fall protection standards. Oregon OSHA launched an English version
in 2020. It is the fourth course in the division’s “Fall Protection Suite
,” which tackles fall hazards across specific industries and different on-the-job situations.
“This new course reflects Oregon OSHA’s ongoing commitment to expand our educational offerings for Spanish-speaking employers and workers in a way that fits their busy schedules, and that helps them maintain safe workplaces,” said Roy Kroker, consultation and public education manager for Oregon OSHA.
The multimedia “Fall Protection for Construction” course features insights from industry leaders and practical demonstrations. It highlights the relevant requirements, and explains terms and processes. It covers a comprehensive set of fall protection topics in construction. They include the purposes of fall arrest and fall restraint systems; fall clearance calculations; scaffolding; guardrails; leading edge work; and holes and openings.
Falls are the leading cause of injury and death in construction work. In Oregon, from 2016 to 2020, there were 1,520 accepted disabling claims in construction because of falls to a lower level.
Package Delivery Robots’ Environmental Impacts: Automation Matters Less than Vehicle Type
Whether a robot or a person delivers your package, the carbon footprint would essentially be the same, according to a University of Michigan study that could help inform the future of automated delivery as the pandemic fuels a dramatic rise in online shopping.
The researchers examined the environmental impacts of advanced residential package delivery scenarios that use electric and gas-powered autonomous vehicles and two-legged robots to ferry goods from delivery hubs to neighborhoods, and then to front doors. They compared those impacts with the traditional approach of a human driver who hand-delivers parcels.
They found that while robots and automation contribute less than 20% of a package’s footprint, most of the greenhouse gas emissions come from the vehicle. Vehicle powertrain and fuel economy are the key factors determining the package’s footprint. Switching to electric vehicles and reducing the carbon intensity of the electricity they run on could have the biggest impacts in sustainable parcel delivery, the researchers say.
Their study is a life cycle analysis of the cradle-to-grave greenhouse gas emissions for 12 suburban delivery scenarios. It’s unique in that it doesn’t just tally emissions from the delivery process. It also counts greenhouse gases from manufacturing the vehicles and robots, as well as disposing of them or recycling them at the end of their lives.
“We found that the energy and carbon footprints of this automated parcel delivery in suburban areas was similar to that of conventional human driven vehicles. The advantages of better fuel economy through vehicle automation were offset by greater electricity loads from automated vehicle power requirements,” said Gregory Keoleian, the Peter M. Wege Endowed Professor of Sustainable Systems at the U-M School for Environment and Sustainability and a professor of civil and environmental engineering.
“For all delivery systems studied, the vehicle-use phase is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, highlighting the need for low-carbon fuels for sustainable parcel delivery. It is critically important to decarbonize grids while deploying electrified vehicles.”
E-commerce and COVID-19-related demand for contactless delivery has stoked industry interest in robots and autonomous vehicles to make the process more efficient. UPS and Waymo are testing an autonomous delivery van in Arizona, for example. Ford Motor Co. and Agility Robotics are exploring a system that would use a two-legged walking robot to cart packages from the delivery van to the doorstep. And Amazon and FedEx are among those testing drones and autonomous delivery robots.
Indeed, the automated last-mile delivery market has the potential for sevenfold growth and could reach $11.9 billion by 2030, according to Allied Market Research. The “last mile” refers to the final leg of a product’s journey from a local distribution center to the customer. It’s also the most expensive, most carbon-intensive and least energy-efficient link in the supply chain.
Automated last-mile approaches have the potential to reduce delivery costs between 10% and 40% in cities, studies have shown. But their environmental impacts should be explored before automated approaches are widely adopted, researchers say.
The team evaluated emissions from three delivery scenarios and four vehicle platforms. Delivery scenarios include:
- Conventional, in which a human drives the vehicle the “last mile” around the neighborhood and delivers each package to the doorstep一also referred to as the “final 50-feet”
- Partially automated, in which a human drives the last mile and a robot completes the final 50 feet
- Fully automated, in which a connected and automated vehicle drives the last mile and a robot takes parcels to doorsteps
For each scenario, they analyzed internal combustion engine and battery electric powertrains on two sizes of delivery vehicle一a roughly 120-cubic-foot van about the size of a Nissan cargo van and 350-cubic-foot model based on the Ford Transit full-size cargo van.
They found that the smallest carbon footprint一167 grams of CO2 per package一came from conventional delivery with the smaller, electric van. And the largest一at 486 grams per package一came from the partially automated scenario that relied on the larger, gas-powered van and a two-legged robot.
“Results suggest that automated delivery systems could have slightly greater life cycle greenhouse gas emissions than conventional delivery systems for smaller-sized vans, but there is potential opportunity to reduce emissions for larger-sized vans,” Keoleian said. “Compared to the conventional scenario, full automation results in similar greenhouse gas emissions for the large gasoline powered cargo van, but 10% higher for the smaller battery electric van.
Keoleian added that no single automated delivery system will suit all situations, and in addition to environmental performance, other factors will need to be considered, such as life cycle costs, safety, visual impact and social sustainability factors such as employment impacts.
Nanojars Capture Dissolved Carbon Dioxide, Toxic Ions from Water
Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere can dissolve in oceans, lakes and ponds, forming bicarbonate ions and other compounds that change water chemistry, with possible harmful effects on aquatic organisms. In addition, bicarbonate can reenter the atmosphere as carbon dioxide later, contributing to climate change. Now, researchers have developed tiny “nanojars,” much smaller than the width of a human hair, that split bicarbonate into carbonate and capture it, as well as certain toxic anions, so the ions can be removed and potentially recycled.
The researchers presented their results
at the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS Fall 2021 is a hybrid meeting being held virtually and in-person Aug. 22-26, and on-demand content will be available Aug. 30-Sept. 30. The meeting features more than 7,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.
“We originally developed nanojars to extract harmful negatively charged ions, like chromate and arsenate, from water,” says Gellert Mezei, Ph.D., who is presenting the work at the meeting. “But it turns out that they also bind strongly to carbonate.” Carbonate or other ions captured in the nanojars could later be disposed of or recycled into useful products, he says.
Nanojars are tiny containers made up of multiple repeating units of a copper ion, a pyrazole group and a hydroxide. The jars only form when an ion with a –2 charge, such as chromate, arsenate, phosphate or carbonate, is present. When the proper ingredients are added to an organic solvent, the repeating units form and assemble into nanojars, with the –2 charged anion bound tightly at the center.
To remove anions from water, the researchers added the solvent containing the nanojar components, which formed an organic layer on top of the water. “The solvent doesn’t mix with the water, but the anions from the water can enter this organic layer,” explains Mezei, who is at Western Michigan University. “Then, the nanojars form and wrap around the ions, trapping them in the organic phase.” Because the water and organic layers don’t mix, they can easily be separated. Treating the organic layer with a weak acid causes the nanojars to fall apart, releasing the anions for disposal or recycling.
The researchers have used nanojars to remove toxic anions from water. “We’ve shown that we can extract chromate and arsenate to below EPA-permitted levels for drinking water –– really, really low levels,” Mezei says. The nanojars have an even higher affinity for carbonate, and adding a molecule called 1,10-phenanthroline to the mixture produces nanojars that bind two carbonate ions each instead of one.
The team has also made nanojars that are selective for certain anions. “The original pyrazole building block makes nanojars that are totally selective for –2 charged ions, but they can’t discriminate among these ions,” Mezei says. By using two pyrazoles tethered by an ethylene linker as a building block, the researchers made nanojars that bind preferentially to carbonate. More recently, they’ve shown that using two pyrazoles with a propylene linker produces sulfate-selective nanojars. These anion-selective nanojars will be important for applications in which only certain –2 charged ions should be removed.
The researchers have also been working on making the process more suitable for real-world applications. For example, they’ve swapped a weak base, trioctylamine, for the strong base, sodium hydroxide, originally used to make nanojars. “Trioctylamine, unlike sodium hydroxide, is soluble in the organic phase and makes the formation of the nanojars much more efficient,” Mezei says. Interestingly, trioctylamine causes nanojars to form with slightly different structures, which he refers to as “capped” nanojars, but they appear to bind carbonate just as tightly.
So far, all of the experiments have been conducted at the laboratory scale. Developing a system to treat large volumes of water, such as in a lake, will require collaboration with engineers, Mezei says. However, he envisions that contaminated lake water could be pumped into a station for treatment and then returned to the lake. Some ions, such as phosphate, could be recycled for useful purposes, such as fertilizer. Carbonate might be recycled to make “green” solvents, called carbonate esters, for the nanojar extraction itself. “Whether this process for removing carbon dioxide from water –– and indirectly, the atmosphere –– would be competitive with other technologies, that I don’t know yet,” Mezei says. “There are many aspects that have to be taken into account, and that’s a tricky business.”
New Device Detects Unprecedented Range of Potentially Harmful Airborne Compounds
Many of the products we encounter daily — from deodorant to pesticides to paint — release molecules that drift through the air. Breathing in enough of the wrong ones can cause serious and potentially long-term health problems. However, it can be hard to estimate exposure because current devices are limited in what they can detect. Researchers have reported development of a new personal air-sampling system that can detect an unprecedented range of these compounds from a special badge or pen attached to someone’s shirt or placed in a pocket.
The researchers presented their results at the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS Fall 2021 is a hybrid meeting being held virtually and in-person Aug. 22-26, and on-demand content will be available Aug. 30-Sept. 30. The meeting features more than 7,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.
“In every situation there’s a unique set of compounds that could be present in the air, including potential hazards that we do not know about,” says Allen Apblett, Ph.D., the project’s senior researcher, who is presenting the research
. “Using a single material, we can capture many classes of these compounds, called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and potentially offer a much more comprehensive picture of exposures.”
The U.S. military is eager to better understand the health threats its personnel face and has provided considerable funding for the project. However, the new sampler could also be used in many workplaces and at home, says Apblett, who is a professor at Oklahoma State University and co-founder of Airotect, the company developing the sampler.
VOCs are a major source of air pollution. The compounds originate from numerous household products, as well as from fuels such as gasoline and from industrial processes. Depending on which VOCs someone encounters and their level of exposure, problems ranging from nasal irritation to cancer can result.
Because someone’s exposures can vary as they move about, researchers have sought to design simple, lightweight detectors that can travel with the person and don’t need electricity. Badges containing substances that absorb gases are already in use in some workplaces, but these materials have a shortcoming: They latch onto certain varieties of VOCs better than others. If a worker is concerned about, for example, the VOCs formaldehyde, benzene and naphthalene in one location, they would likely need two or more types of these devices to test for them, Apblett says. “We circumvent that with a material that can absorb the broadest spectrum of volatile organic compounds.”
That new material is a silica with nanoscale pores contained within a roughly credit-card-sized badge that attaches to clothes. Airotect’s team is also experimenting with other configurations to hold the silica, such as one that resembles a pen that could rest within a pocket or a fabric badge that could be sewn on. The silica, known as OSU-6 and developed by a graduate student in Apblett’s lab, binds VOCs in its tiny pores through normally weak electrical attractions, known as van der Waals forces. The tight curvature of OSU-6’s nanopores significantly enhances these forces, making it possible to bind VOCs much more strongly than the industry standard. Because these bonds are physical, not chemical, in nature, they allow the material to latch onto a wide range of compounds.
When in use, the badge is opened to expose three OSU-6-filled tubes to the air. The length of time it’s worn depends largely on the potential exposures. Afterward, the badge is sent to a lab where the VOC-laden material is warmed to release the compounds so the researchers can identify and quantify them.
Apblett and his colleagues at Airotect have so far tested the material’s ability to detect well over 100 compounds in lab-based experiments. They have also found that OSU-6 stabilizes unstable or reactive compounds, making it more feasible to analyze traditionally difficult-to-monitor reactive compounds. The team has begun testing the sampler’s ability to pick up pollutants common in workplaces such as commercial-scale manufacturing operations and agricultural production facilities. They have also begun using it in real-world military scenarios, including military deployments and a student’s dormitory room. Once launched, the air sampler will be available to industry and the public, with the cost for device and the lab analysis starting at $75.
Alarming Suicide Rate in Construction Workers
While the hazards most often associated with workplace deaths in the U.S. construction industry – falling, being struck-by or crushed by equipment or other objects, or suffering electrocution are well-known – a recent study finds that another potential killer is taking lives at an alarming rate.
While the CDC continues its research to understand the disparity, OSHA has formed a task force of industry partners, unions and educators to raise awareness of the types of stress that can push construction workers into depression and toward suicide. In addition to alerting stakeholders, the task force encourages industry employers to share and discuss available resources with their workers. The task force is calling on industry to take part in a weeklong Suicide Prevention Safety Stand-Down, Sept. 6-10, to raise awareness about the unique challenges construction workers face. The stand-down will coincide with National Suicide Prevention Month
“Work-related stress can have severe impacts on mental health and without proper support may lead to substance abuse and even suicide,” stated Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick
. “Workers in construction face many work-related stressors that may increase their risk factors for suicide, such as the uncertainty of seasonal work, demanding schedules and workplace injuries that are sometimes treated with opioids.”
The Suicide Prevention Safety Stand-Down started as a regional initiative in OSHA’s Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri, offices with these task force members: Builders Association
, Associated General Contractors of Missouri
, University of Kansas, University of Iowa, Washington University, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
, local unions and several employers. More than 5,000 people participated in the 2020 Suicide Prevention Safety Stand-Down, and OSHA encourages others to join the effort in 2021.
“Like many workplace fatalities, suicides can be prevented,” said OSHA Acting Regional Administrator Billie Kizer in Kansas City, Missouri. “We encourage employers to use all available resources, familiarize themselves with the problem and learn to recognize the warning signs of depression. We also urge workers to seek help if they feel overwhelmed or overcome by a loss of hope.”
Additional information on suicide prevention in the construction industry includes the following:
Depression More Common in Workers with Diabetes
Diabetes affects more than 34 million adults in the U.S. Now, a new study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has found that workers with diabetes may be at increased risk for depression. Among workers with diabetes, young adults and women are most likely to experience depression. The study was published online
August 25, 2021 in the journal Diabetes Spectrum.
“This study illustrates that for working-age people, having diabetes puts them at an even greater risk for depression,” said study author and NIOSH Epidemiologist Harpriya Kaur, Ph.D. “In addition, we found certain factors, specifically age, gender, and co-existing chronic conditions are associated with depression among workers with diabetes.”
Researchers looked at data from the 2014-2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the world’s largest telephone survey, from all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories to identify study participants. For their analysis, they included respondents who reported being employed at the time of the survey and as having diabetes — a total of 84,659 people.
Researchers found that the prevalence of depression among workers with diabetes was 30% higher than those without diabetes and among survey respondents, prevalence of depression decreased with age.
Young adult workers with diabetes, aged 18 to 34 years, were found to have the highest prevalence of depression—nearly 30% reported experiencing depression compared to just over 11% of workers surveyed over age 65. Additionally, for young adult workers with diabetes, those who had another chronic condition were almost three times as likely to report depression.
When researchers looked at the data by gender, female workers with diabetes in all age groups were more likely to self-report depression than their male counterparts.
“A strength of this study is the large population-based sample that allowed us to explore the relationship between diabetes and depression among workers by age group and other characteristics including demographics and physical health conditions,” said Kaur. “Having a better understanding of which groups may be at greatest risk can help inform preventive measures such as tailored educational messages and health promotion resources in the workplace.”
$145K in Penalties Upheld by Judge for Denver Contractor that Repeatedly Ignored Safety Requirements
A federal administrative law judge has upheld citations and penalties against a Denver roofing contractor for ignoring federal requirements to protect workers and subcontractors repeatedly from the risk of workplace falls – the leading cause of injury and death in the construction industry.
An administrative law judge with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission granted the U.S. Department of Labor's request for summary judgment after an April 2019 federal safety and health inspection found Premier Roofing LLC failed to conduct site safety inspections and repeatedly exposed its employees and workers of M&M General Construction LLC, a subcontractor, to fall hazards at a large Aurora roofing project. OSHA had issued repeat citations to both companies.
While M&M settled its penalties in 2019, Premier Roofing LLC later contested its citations to the commission. On Aug. 6, the judge affirmed Premier Roofing's serious citation for failing to conduct safety inspections and its repeat citation for lack of fall protection. The court also ordered the company to pay $145,858 in penalties that OSHA levied.
"Exposing workers to fall hazards is an all-too-common violation in the roofing industry," said OSHA Area Director Chad Vivian in Englewood, Colorado. "Premier Roofing has repeatedly put its workers at serious risk at its jobsites. Employers have a responsibility to inspect their worksites for hazards, train their employees to recognize and correct hazards, and enforce safety rules on the job."
"Although Premier had a safety program requiring employees to wear fall protection while working at heights, it still allowed its employees to work on roofs without wearing any such protection, while also ignoring numerous similar violations by its subcontractor. Contractors have an obligation to take steps to protect their workers, and those of their subcontractors. A safety program is useless if it sits on a shelf gathering dust," said U.S. Department of Labor Regional Solicitor John Rainwater in Denver.
Pennsylvania to Increase Anti-Litter Efforts
Continuing the commonwealth’s battle against litter as the summer travel season winds down, Governor Tom Wolf highlighted agency efforts to clean up and cut down on this unsightly illegal activity.
“Through public education, enforcement, clean ups, and volunteering, the commonwealth is working tirelessly to beautify Pennsylvania,” Governor Wolf said. “We cannot keep our communities clean without the public’s help, and I call on everyone to take personal responsibility for ending this ugly practice.”
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) crews across the state have expanded their routine litter pickup operations and these enhanced cleanups will continue through Labor Day. Cleanups are occurring on higher-traffic roadways where volunteer groups cannot safely pick up litter. Motorists are reminded to slow down, drive with caution, be alert for stopped or slow-moving vehicles, and watch for workers near the roadway, along interchanges and entrance/exit ramps.
PennDOT spends roughly $14 million annually on statewide litter efforts. Department programs such as Adopt-A-Highway
allow groups and businesses to volunteer to adopt or pay to sponsor cleanup and beautification on roadways across the state.
“Every dollar we have to spend on litter cleanup is a dollar we cannot invest in our system,” PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said. “We are grateful for the work of our crews and volunteers, though what we really need is an end to littering.”
The department also unveiled new anti-littering messages
that will appear on its electronic message signs across the state through September 2. Appearing when active travel alerts are not displayed, the messages aim to appeal to travelers’ civic pride and address a finding of a 2019 statewide litter survey
– cigarette butts were among the most common items found in the estimated 500 million pieces of litter on Pennsylvania roads.
To underscore littering as an illegal practice, this summer the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) initiated Operation Clean Sweep, a project reinforcing a zero-tolerance mindset with litter enforcement and sharing anti-litter messages throughout the year. The operation complements a 2018 state law allowing the designation of Litter Enforcement Corridors.
Litter Enforcement Corridors have a high aesthetic or historic value worth preserving or need some additional help with litter issues. Approved segments will be marked with signs to notify motorists of additional litter fines: doubled penalties for motorists caught scattering rubbish and tripled when it is done by a commercial business.
Local governments can help tackle litter in their communities by designating Litter Enforcement Corridors or working with PennDOT
to identify potential state-owned corridors.
“The Pennsylvania State Police is committed to keeping Pennsylvania beautiful by enforcing the state’s litter laws,” said Colonel Robert Evanchick, commissioner of the PSP. “Littering is 100 percent preventable with fines beginning at $300. The public is encouraged to report any litter violation they witness by contacting their local law enforcement agency.”
Other state agencies and partners actively work on litter prevention and cleanups year-round and reiterated the harm of litter.
"Most litter along the road isn't going to decompose in our lifetime. If you saw it today, you're likely to see it again the next time you pass by, still leaching, breaking into microplastics, creating hazards for people and wildlife, and diminishing our communities and landscape," said Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell. "On top of this, litter cleanup is a big cost to state government and local communities, and ultimately all Pennsylvanians. Ending the littering habit will benefit everyone and everything that lives in Pennsylvania."
Additionally, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful urges Pennsylvania residents to participate in Pick Up Pennsylvania, in support of the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. This annual event – from September 1 through November 30 – is an opportunity to improve neighborhoods and Pennsylvania’s waterways by coordinating or participating in a litter cleanup. Registration
is now open.
During this period, registered events can get free trash bags, gloves, and safety vests provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, PennDOT, and the Ocean Conservancy, as supplies last.
“Whether you are cleaning up a local waterway, your local park or the street that you live on – it all makes a difference in reducing the amount of litter reaching our oceans. We are honored to provide the resources and supplies needed to help volunteers improve our communities,” said Shannon Reiter, president of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful. “Picking up litter is something we can all do to support our communities. Please lend a hand and join us in a cleanup this fall.”
Petroleum Terminal Fined for Hazardous Waste Violations
EPA announced a settlement with Chevron USA Inc. for violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA
) at the company’s facility in Montebello, CA. According to EPA, Montebello is a historically marginalized and overburdened community that experiences high cumulative pollution exposure. EPA under the Biden Administration is prioritizing the use of enforcement tools to advance environmental justice. Under the settlement, the company will pay a $132,676 civil penalty.
“EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment by inspecting facilities that manage hazardous waste and requiring companies to comply when violations are found,” said EPA Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Director Amy Miller. “It is critical that facilities like Chevron maintain compliance with federal hazardous waste regulations. If they don’t, they will face significant penalties.”
The Montebello facility is a petroleum bulk storage terminal which receives gasoline and diesel fuel by pipeline from the Chevron El Segundo Refinery and blends them into petroleum products. These products are loaded onto commercial trucks at the tanker truck loading rack. The Montebello Facility also operates a tank farm with ten aboveground storage tanks to store products.
An October 2019 EPA inspection of the facility identified hazardous waste violations, including failure to conduct assessments and maintain certifications for tanks storing hazardous waste and failure to maintain records regarding compliance with RCRA Air Emission Requirements.
In response to the inspection findings, the facility agreed to pay the civil penalty and comply with the statutory and regulatory requirements. Federal law requires facilities that generate hazardous waste to implement safe generation, handling, transportation, and disposal practices. Improper management of hazardous waste may cause harm to public health and the environment.
Chemours Cited for Air Quality Violations
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) is undertaking an enforcement action against Chemours for exceeding the facility wide GenX annual air emissions limit.
Under the stringent emissions requirements in the facility’s air permit
, Chemours must demonstrate compliance with the GenX emission limit of 23.027 pounds per year. This limit equates to a 99% percent reduction from GenX emissions in 2017.
In March 2021, excess GenX emissions resulted in noncompliance with the rolling 12-month totals for March, April, May and June of 2021. As of June 30, 2021, Chemours reported annual GenX emissions of 32.024 pounds.
The Notice of Violation
details the noncompliance and next steps in the enforcement process. Chemours must submit a written response to DAQ by September 10, including a timeline of events leading to the exceedance and a detailed plan of action for compliance.
Air quality deposition and stack test data from the Chemours facility are updated and posted as results are analyzed. The most recent data can be found here
North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality to Relocate September 1
Effective Wednesday, Sept. 1, the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality will move its operations from the Gold Seal Building on Divide Avenue to the Normandy Building at 4201 Normandy Street, Bismarck, ND 58503-1324. Although the physical address is changing, all other contact information will remain the same, including email addresses, phone numbers, and the website.
OSHA Investigation Finds Willful, Serious Violations at FBS Manufacturing Corp. Facility
An OSHA safety and health investigation concluded that a Marietta manufacturer allowed a forklift operator to work on elevated storage racks without fall protection, resulting in the employee’s death.
On Feb. 13, the 55-year-old worker fell 15 feet onto a concrete floor while attempting to move cabinets from metal storage racks onto his forklift’s pallet. The cabinets also fell, landing on top of him. Co-workers called for help after finding the worker beneath the cabinets. Taken to a nearby hospital, the worker died the next day.
OSHA determined that FBS Manufacturing Corp. – operating as Kitchen & Bath Solutions – willfully failed to ensure that employees used fall protection as required. In addition to the willful violation, OSHA cited the employer with five serious violations for exposing workers to the following hazards:
- Damaged exit signs; and routes with inadequate lighting.
- Failure to train employees on operating powered industrial trucks safely and not inspecting or removing faulty forklifts from service.
- Electrical shock from uncovered outlets and use of damaged extension cords without ground pins.
OSHA proposed $167,933 in penalties
for citations. “FBS Manufacturing Corp.’s failure to implement legally required safety procedures led to tragedy for a worker and his family,” said OSHA Area Office Director Jeffery Stawowy in Atlanta-West. “The fact that this incident was preventable only deepens their loss. This case should remind all employers that prioritizing production or profits over safety is never an acceptable choice.”
FBS Manufacturing Corp. produces reconstituted wood products and imports and wholesales cabinets.
U.S. Minerals, Inc. Exposed Employees to Arsenic at Anaconda Plant
U.S. Minerals, Inc., a corporation accused of exposing employees to elevated levels of arsenic at its Anaconda facility, has admitted violating the Clean Air Act, said Acting U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson. In addition, U.S. Minerals has agreed to settle a related civil case regarding violations brought by OSHA.
U.S. Minerals pleaded guilty to one count of negligent endangerment, a misdemeanor, under the Clean Air Act as charged in a criminal information. The corporation faces a maximum penalty of five years of probation and a fine as determined through statute.
Under the terms of a plea agreement in the criminal case, the government and U.S. Minerals will jointly recommend to the Court that the company be placed on probation for five years and pay a $393,200 fine. The agreement recommends probationary conditions in which U.S. Minerals will implement a nationwide environmental health and safety plan that applies to all of U.S. Minerals’ facilities throughout the United States and a medical monitoring program for current and former employees who have been exposed to elevated levels of arsenic during their work at the Anaconda plant, which has ceased operations.
U.S. Minerals also has agreed to resolve a related civil case brought by OSHA, alleging 19 serious health and safety violations with a total penalty of $106,800. Under the terms of that agreement, U.S. Minerals will accept all citations as issued and pay the penalty as assessed.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen L. DeSoto presided. Sentencing in the criminal case was set for Dec. 10 in Butte before U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen.
“Throughout Montana’s long history with mining, operators like U.S. Minerals have sacrificed worker safety for profit. These operators need to know that there are severe consequences to this kind of callous behavior. This is an important case because it not only holds the operator criminally responsible for poisoning its own workers, but it also prevents U.S. Minerals from doing this again anywhere in the country. I want to thank Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan G. Weldon, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric E. Nelson, the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, the Department of Labor, Office of Safety and Health Administration, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services for their diligent work on investigating this case and bringing these wrongdoers to justice,” Acting U.S. Attorney Johnson said.
“This case demonstrates that EPA and its federal law enforcement partners will hold companies accountable when they engage in conduct that places their employees in danger from exposure to airborne releases of hazardous air pollutants such as arsenic,” said Lance Ehrig, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Montana. “The criminal and civil penalties serve to provide deterrence, and the 5-year national compliance plan requires U.S. Minerals to implement an inspections, training and auditing program to ensure a safer working environment at all its facilities. Finally, and importantly, health monitoring will be assured for current and former employees at the U.S Minerals Anaconda facility that were exposed to airborne arsenic.”
“The employees of U.S. Minerals were finally given the justice they deserved through a joint effort between the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Department of Justice, and our staff at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Working together, we were able to leverage our resources and hold U.S. Minerals accountable for overexposing employees to inorganic arsenic and violating multiple federal laws,” said Galen Blanton, Regional Administrator for OSHA’s Denver Region 8.
The government alleged in court documents that U.S. Minerals, which has multiple facilities throughout the United States, manufactured silicate abrasive, a substance sold to industrial and governmental customers. Raw materials used in the production process were obtained from a copper slag pile located within the Anaconda Superfund site. The government further alleged that from July 2015 until February 2019, U.S. Minerals negligently released into the air inorganic arsenic, a hazardous air pollutant, and exposed employees. Exposure to arsenic is known to cause lung and skin diseases, including an increased risk of skin cancer, and may also cause cardiovascular effects and other cancers.
The government further alleged that in July 2015, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) inspected the site, collected air samples from throughout the outdoor facility and conducted personal monitoring of employees on site. An analysis determined employees were exposed to levels of arsenic and lead, which exceeded both NIOSH and OSHA exposure limits, and that there were high levels of arsenic and lead in the ambient air.
In late 2015, OSHA inspected the facility and found numerous violations of health and safety standards. The violations included employees being exposed to inorganic arsenic at levels that ranged between 1.25 and 4.75 times the OSHA permissible exposure limits. As a result of the inspection, OSHA issued 19 serious violations with penalties totaling $106,800.
The government also alleged that in April 2018, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services learned of a U.S. Minerals employee diagnosed with arsenic poisoning at a local hospital. Over the next few days, the state learned of three additional U.S. Minerals employees who had high levels of arsenic in their urine. State officials conducted a site visit in June 2018, noted “apparent inhalation hazards” and shared their findings with U.S. Minerals. A second inspection in October 2018 found the previous violations had not been addressed and that employees were still exposed to hazards.
In addition, the government alleged that on Feb. 20, 2019, after the investigation discovered numerous employees with high levels of arsenic, the state issued an order for U.S. Minerals to cease and desist operations until it implemented controls and protected its workers. The state lifted the order and allowed U.S. Minerals to resume operating in March 2019 under certain conditions. One of those conditions required U.S. Minerals to provide the state with quarterly medical monitoring reports related to arsenic and lead testing results on employees. Documents provided by U.S. Minerals to the state showed there were still employees who periodically tested high for arsenic and lead.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan G. Weldon and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric E. Nelson are prosecuting the criminal case, which was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division, OSHA, NIOSH, and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor is litigating the OSHA matter.
Washington Governor's Industrial Safety and Health Conference to Be Held Virtually
As the state continues to see an increase in the number of COVID-19 Delta Variant cases, the 70th annual Governor’s Industrial Safety and Health Conference will now be held virtually at the end of September.
The Governor’s priority is the health, safety and wellbeing of the people living and working in our state. In the coming weeks, the Department of Labor and Industry will confirm speakers, tailor sessions to online formats, etc.
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Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7). Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s new Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule. Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training
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