FRA Proposal Seeks to Improve Working Conditions for Train Crews

June 24, 2004

Preventing hearing loss in train crews is the aim of a proposed rule offered by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The proposal is intended to reduce unnecessary noise exposure and potential hearing loss of railroad employees who work in locomotive cabs.

“This rule seeks to improve the working conditions for thousands of locomotive engineers and conductors across America,” said FRA Acting Administrator Betty Monro. “A quieter workspace not only protects against hearing loss, but contributes to better long-term health as well.”

The proposed changes would require manufacturers to design and build locomotives with quieter cabs and for railroads to maintain them to new standards. Noise reduction features such as better insulation, relocation of air brake exhaust piping, and less vibration from cab equipment already are being incorporated into newer locomotives. The rule supports these and other methods to reduce interior cab noise to the proposed lower levels.

In addition, the rule would require train crews to use hearing protection and railroads to provide training in hearing loss prevention, implement hearing conservation programs and conduct regular noise monitoring.

The FRA believes the changes will reduce the incidence of noise-induced hearing loss, and that the rule will not impose significant additional costs on the railroad industry.

 It responds to a mandate in The Rail Safety Enforcement and Review Act of 1992. In advance of this proposal, the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC), a consensus oriented rulemaking body comprising representatives from the FRA, the railroad industry, rail labor, manufacturers, suppliers and others, examined the issue of occupational noise and recommended that FRA update the existing noise standard.

 The docket number for the proceeding is FRA-2002-12357.

Safety and Health Information Bulletin Focuses on Pipeline Safety

 The bulletin was developed in association with the Research and Special Programs Administration's (RSPA) Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS), an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)

"We want to ensure that workers and employers are armed with information that can save lives and prevent injuries," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "Working with DOT's Office of Pipeline Safety, we've produced a document that will give the industry practical information and on the hazards and risks associated with pipeline work and the means to prevent workplace injuries and fatalities."

"This advisory will not only enhance the protection of pipeline workers, but serves as a starting point to protect all American citizens from accidents related to pipeline testing, maintenance and construction activities," added RSPA Deputy Administrator Samuel G. Bonasso, P.E. "We must continue to move forward in our efforts with other government agencies, such as OSHA, to ensure oversight and safety of our nation's pipeline transportation system."

De-watering of pipelines is a process conducted following the construction of the pipelines. The bulletin was designed to highlight potential hazards associated with the operations and to focus on work practices that will reduce the potential for unexpected separation of temporary de-watering pipes.

OSHA's area offices in the Pennsylvania cities of Allentown and Wilkes-Barre recently investigated two fatalities that occurred when the workers were struck by temporary de-watering piping that was not properly anchored and, due to excessive air pressure, eventually broke loose from its coupling.

The bulletin provides detailed background information on the procedures involved in ensuring the integrity of installed pipelines and reemphasizes OPS regulations on pipeline safety. A section of the bulletin is dedicated to descriptions of hazards focusing on insufficient anchoring, worn couplings, excessive air pressure, and lack of training.

The information offered in the bulletin was developed jointly by OSHA and OPS to increase awareness of the hazards involved in the pipeline de-watering and to encourage employers and workers to refocus their energies on ensuring proper procedures are followed during the process. A separate list of references and resources are also provided for more information. The bulletin is available on both OSHA's and OPS's websites.

RSPA's mission is to ensure the safe, reliable and environmentally sound operation of the nation's pipeline transportation system. 

Stone Cutting Company Fined $135,600 For Exposing Workers to Silica

OSHA has issued citations and proposed penalties to Quarra Stone Company, LLC, of Madison, Wis., for failing to protect workers from hazards associated with silica.

The penalty and OSHA citations are based on an inspection initiated in December 2003 under the agency's National Emphasis Program directed to reducing worker exposure to silica and the resulting lung diseases, silicosis.

As a result of that inspection, OSHA issued citations for 10 alleged serious violations and three alleged willful violations of federal workplace safety and health regulations including those designed to protect workers from exposure to silica dust and to protect their hearing. OSHA is alleging the firm failed to provide audiograms, medical evaluations and respirator fit testing for employees exposed to silica dust, and failed to protect workers from over-exposure to that dust.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Exemplary Science for Prevention of Work Injury, Illness Highlighted in NIOSH Papers

Nine scientifically exemplary studies by researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are nominated by NIOSH for a prestigious 2004 government science award. NIOSH also submitted nominations for an outstanding contribution to public health and a lifetime scientific achievement.

NIOSH submitted the nominations for the 2004 Charles C. Shepard Science Awards, sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of which NIOSH is a part. The awards recognize excellence in science at CDC during 2003. CDC will announce the winners on June 21, 2004.

"These nominations illustrate NIOSH’s ongoing leadership on the frontiers of health and safety science, and they show that our research is among the best in the world," said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. "The discoveries we make and the new scientific tools that we develop and use are essential for the increasingly complex task of preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths."

The studies nominated by NIOSH for the Shepard Awards were published in peer-reviewed journals in 2003. The nine papers:

  • Illustrate how NIOSH applies advanced laboratory techniques to identify potential health effects from workplace exposures, including effects at subtle levels in genes and cells that may help explain how occupational exposures can lead to cancer and other illnesses. The nominated papers include four such studies that produced new data for better understanding and assessing potential risks of work-related cancer, toxic effects from asphalt fumes, potential effects from arsenic exposures, and exposures to low-solubility particles.
  • Highlight NIOSH’s innovative use of death certificates, illness surveillance systems, and rigorous statistical methods to identify workplace exposures that may cause disease, and to identify worker populations that face serious risk of such illnesses. One of the nominated studies generated new information on statistical associations between crystalline silica exposure and risks for various illnesses. Another study identified a risk for acute pesticide-related illnesses in working youths.
  • Display NIOSH’s practical experience in devising and improving engineering controls and personal protective equipment. In this regard, three of the papers report findings from studies, that, respectively, 1) used three-dimensional laser scanning technology to help design fall-protection harnesses for today’s diverse workforce, 2) investigated respirator fit factors as an indicator of whether respirators perform as expected in actual workplace environments, and 3) evaluated the contributions of different engineering control measures for reducing levels of respirable dust generated in longwall mining operations.

NIOSH nominated the editors and staff of the "NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards" for outstanding scientific contribution to public health. The pocket guide is a key resource for occupational health professionals, employers, employees, and others. With the support of the National Technical Information Service and the private sector, CDC/NIOSH has disseminated more than 2.5 million paper and CD-ROM copies of the Pocket Guide to customers around the world.

NIOSH nominated Marilyn A. Fingerhut, Ph.D., for the lifetime scientific achievement award to recognize her outstanding career of scholarship and leadership in preventing occupational disease, injury, and death among workers. During Dr. Fingerhut’s 20 year career, she has conducted innovative and ground breaking research on dioxin, established herself as a champion and expert for occupational women’s health issues, and has moved forward global occupational health risk assessment. She also was instrumental in the development of the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA).


OSHA Unveils New Web Pages on Fireworks Safety

OSHA unveiled a new web page designed to help employers and workers understand and minimize risks in the pyrotechnics industry.

"The technical guidance on these pages will provide useful information to help assure the safety and health of workers in the pyrotechnic industry," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "Through our Alliance with APA, we have worked closely with industry experts in providing timely, accurate and relevant information to those who need it. With Independence Day celebrations just around the corner, we hope this information can help reduce the number of incidents that occur in commercial pyrotechnic displays."

The new web pages describe common hazards and controls found in the pyrotechnics industry and contain information for both fireworks retail sales workers, and display operators. OSHA has also included two new posters, developed jointly with the APA, which offers safety tips for display operators and for individuals involved in retail fireworks sales. The development of the posters is a direct byproduct of the Alliance with APA.

The site also references other federal standards associated with the industry, such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which addresses consumer usage. The OSHA website only addresses firework retail sales and commercial pyrotechnic displays. Best industry practices from the APA are demonstrated in streaming videos based upon National Fire Protection Association consensus standards. Additional videos illustrate how to safely celebrate with ground, aerial and waterborne fireworks displays.

Reference and resource material is a click away and includes information from the International Makers of Explosives and the International Society of Explosive Engineers.

Future sections in the pyrotechnic safety and health page will include detailed discussions focusing on fireworks manufacturing and transportation.