Free Mobile Lifting Calculator App from NIOSH

August 21, 2017

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced the availability of a new, free mobile application (app) for smart phones and other mobile devices that can help workers stay safe when manually lifting objects as part of their job. The app, NLE Calc, is based on the Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation (RNLE), an internationally recognized standard for safe lifting.

The new app is designed to assist workers in manufacturing, healthcare, retail, and other industries where lifting is part of the job. NLE Calc determines a score based on the data you enter about your lifting task and provides recommendations to help you optimize the task, or perform it differently, in order to prevent injury.

NLE Calc is a quick and simple way for a worker to assess their risk for injury before they manually lift an object,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, MD. “The information workers used to find in a manual is now in their back pocket and can help prevent one of the most common, and costly, work-related injuries.”

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD), common in industries where lifting is part of the job, cause one-third of work-related injuries resulting in missed workdays, costing about $45 to $54 billion annually in lost productivity and treatment, according to estimates from the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine.

Based on the user’s input, the app calculates the lifting index, which is the ratio of the load lifted to the recommended weight limit for the lifting task, and displays the risk level as yellow (low), orange (medium), or high (red). Unlike most commercially available lifting apps, NLE Calc also gives workers the option of using the composite lifting equation to optimize multiple complex lifting tasks, for example, lifting many objects of various weights in succession or lifting objects in awkward positions.

In addition to calculating the lifting index, the app provides users with recommendations to optimize the lifting task. Some examples of recommendations include the following:

  • Bring the load closer to the body
  • Avoid twisting while lifting
  • Raise the load to waist height before lifting
  • Minimize the distance the load must be lifted


Workers, employees, and occupational health professionals around the world have been using the Applications Manual for the Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation (RNLE) for over 20 years to assess risks associated with lifting tasks, to prevent the onset of lower back pain, and to reduce WMSD. The manual outlines requirements and limitations to use the RNLE, procedures to assess physical demands of a lifting job, and sample problems to demonstrate how the equation can be applied to various workplace scenarios.

For more information about NLE Calc or the topic of ergonomics and musculoskeletal disorders, please visit the NIOSH website. To install the NLE Calc app on your iOS or Android device, visit iTunes or Google Play and search for NLE Calc.

DC Hot Stick Developed for First Responder, Worker Safety

With more volts than ever before in electric vehicles (EVs) and on solar-paneled rooftops, first responder and electrical worker safety is a growing concern. Researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are addressing the challenge with the development of a probe to accurately detect direct-current (DC) energy.

The DC “Hot Stick” probe designed under the sponsorship of the U.S. Fire Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, not only detects DC voltage, but also ensures that the probe is properly tapped into the electrical lines being tested. The latter is essential because false negatives may be obtained if a meter is not making proper contact, noted ORNL lead scientist Bruce Warmack of the Electrical and Electronics Systems Research Division.

Exposure to these high voltages is increasingly commonplace as technologies such as hybrid cars, EVs, and solar panel arrays, all of which contain large amounts of DC power, are adopted by a growing number of consumers. EVs, for instance, may carry as much as 400-600 volts, Warmack said. Battery packs are typically situated in the rear of EVs, with electrical cables running to the controller up front and to other devices.

“If you can imagine in an accident, a vehicle may be splayed open, and first responders need to know whether the car is carrying a charge before they can even touch it, much less cut through cables and extract a victim,” Warmack said. “That much voltage is potentially lethal and can cause arc flash hazards or trigger explosions.”

Similarly, installers and other technicians working on solar panel arrays need protection as well. Those installations can carry several hundred volts, Warmack noted.

The patent-pending probe that Warmack and his colleagues at ORNL created is designed to penetrate cable insulation and make proven contact with a conductor. The probe then indicates whether a cable is fully discharged of energy.

Making that contact is important. In preliminary work on the project, ORNL researcher Roger Kisner suggested a probe tip verification system that would ensure direct, galvanic contact was made.

One of the challenges for the project was dealing with DC voltage, which is more difficult than AC to work with, Warmack said. “In certain cases you can get electrical fields from DC, but it is easily interfered with by plastics and other kinds of materials. It’s more or less a science experiment to find DC unless you make direct contact with the conductor using a voltmeter,” he added.

The scientists created a device similar in appearance to most existing AC probes and familiar to first responders. In fact, the DC probe can be designed to slip onto the end of an AC probe, and its functionality is quite simple. A green light indicates proper contact, and if voltage is detected, a red light is illuminated.

The prototype is already being tested on a first responder vehicle in Frederick County, Maryland, Warmack noted. The Fire Administration has provided positive feedback so far, he said.

“The probe would give a firefighter or other first responder assurance very quickly that the conductor is either not charged or needs to be handled with care,” Warmack said. “Our probe makes sure that an emergency worker or electrician has made contact and isn’t just hitting air or a piece of plastic. There’s really no tool that does this as effectively. This technology can save lives.”

ORNL engineer Nance Ericson, who designed the circuits for the probe, noted that while the system was designed for electric vehicles and solar panels, it could also be used to make measurements in a variety of settings. The circuit he developed can detect the presence of both AC and DC energy—or can ensure that there is no stored energy present—a feature not available in existing electrical instruments.

“We see this technology extending well beyond the first responder community and improving the safety of electrical measurements in a wide variety of applications ranging from industrial power to home appliance repair,” Ericson said.

Going forward, Warmack and his colleagues envision the development of more probes to test across the country, as well as versions to check for DC voltage on smaller gauge wires found in other electrical systems. Future work could also see the addition of a microcontroller to the probe to give a digital readout, and to capture and process data.

Chlorpyrifos, n-Hexane and Coumarin Considered for Proposition 65 Listings

Chlorpyrifos and n-hexane will be considered for possible listing by California’s Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee (DARTIC) at its next meeting scheduled for Wednesday, November 29, 2017 beginning at 10 a.m. at the California Environmental Protection Agency, located at 1001 I Street in Sacramento. Chlorpyrifos will be considered for possible listing based on the developmental toxicity endpoint. n-Hexane will be considered for possible listing based on the developmental, male and female reproductive toxicity endpoints.

Chlorpyrifos was previously considered by the DARTIC in 2008, but was not added to the Proposition 65 list at that time. Substantial new, relevant data on developmental toxicity have become available since the chemical was previously considered for listing.

California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) in approximately one week will announce on its website the availability for public comment of hazard identification materials for chlorpyrifos and n-hexane. An announcement will also be published subsequently in the California Regulatory Notice Register.

Coumarin will be considered for possible listing by California’s Carcinogen Identification Committee (CIC) at a public meeting scheduled for Thursday, November 2, 2017. The meeting will be held in the Sierra Hearing Room at the CalEPA Headquarters building, 1001 I Street, Sacramento, California. The meeting will begin at 10:00 a.m. and will last until all business is conducted or until 5:00 p.m. The agenda for the meeting will be provided in a future public notice published in advance of the meeting.

OEHHA announced the availability for public review of the hazard identification document entitled: “Evidence on the Carcinogenicity of Coumarin.” The CIC will consider this document in making any listing decision on coumarin at its November 2, 2017 meeting. In preparing this document, OEHHA issued a request for information relevant to the evidence of carcinogenicity of coumarin. The data call-in period for coumarin opened on March 3, 2017 and closed on April 17, 2017. OEHHA considered information received from its request for information in preparing the hazard identification document. 

California Pursues New Health Protections on Chlorpyrifos

The California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) announced that both the California Department of Pesticide Regulation is pursuing health protections on one of the most widely used agricultural pesticides in the nation, chlorpyrifos.

The Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) released an updated draft risk assessment for public comment. This action marks the start of a public and scientific review of the document, which could lead to increased restrictions on chlorpyrifos statewide. DPR is currently developing interim restrictions on use of the pesticide and recommendations will be made to county agricultural commissioners next month.

“While chlorpyrifos has been protecting crops for more than 50 years, new information in the scientific community leads us to believe the level of risk it poses is greater than previously known,” said CalEPA Secretary Matthew Rodriquez. “We need to better understand the science to ensure our actions protect public health. The actions we are taking today reflect our commitment to the health and safety of all Californians, and the environment.”

DPR scientists believe chlorpyrifos may pose a public health risk as a toxic air contaminant based on its assessment of the latest studies in the scientific community. However, this new finding, indicated in the updated draft risk assessment has not been peer reviewed and must go through a public comment period and be independently evaluated by other scientists.

Next month, DPR will provide county agricultural commissioners with specific interim recommendations, including:

  • Increasing distances between sites where the chemical is applied and sensitive locations, such as homes and schools. These would be specific to each type of application method.
  • New restrictions on methods used to apply chlorpyrifos.


OSHA to Hold Second Public Meeting to Solicit Suggestions for Growing, Strengthening Voluntary Protection Programs

OSHA will hold the second of two meetings August 28, 2017, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to continue the discussion on the future direction of the agency’s Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP). The discussion will include a review of the July 17, 2017, meeting along with comments and suggestions from the public on potential avenues for action.

OSHA is seeking to reshape VPP so that it continues to represent safety and health excellence, leverages partner resources, further recognizes the successes of long-term participants, and supports smart program growth. OSHA invites stakeholders to provide new ideas on three broad categories which include:

  • Overall VPP process and flow
  • Corporate/long-term participant involvement
  • Special Government Employee activities


The meeting will be held August 28, 1 to 4 p.m. in Great Hall B of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. To attend, please register by August 23, 2017. Attendees can choose from several levels of participation in the discussion, which will cover general guidelines and key issues that were raised in public comments. The comment period closes September 15, 2017.

OSHA adopted the VPP on July 2, 1982; the program emphasizes cooperative action among government, industry, and labor to address worker safety and health issues and expand worker protection.

New York Paperboard Mill Fined $357,445 for 61 Safety, Health Hazards

A New York paperboard mill faces $357,445 in proposed penalties for exposing workers to 61 safety and health hazards.

OSHA in Syracuse opened an inspection of Carthage Specialty Paperboard, Inc., on December 27, 2016, in response to a complaint alleging unsafe working conditions. Inspectors discovered employees exposed to serious safety hazards, including more than 20 instances of machinery lacking safety guards to prevent employees from the risk of amputation.

Machinery in the mill did not have safety locks to prevent the accidental start-up of machinery during maintenance, and employees did not receive required training or personal protective equipment (PPE) to work on electrical systems with up to 2,300 volts. Metal catwalks did not have restraints to help protect employees from falls, some as high as 13 feet. Employees also entered confined spaces without prior atmospheric testing, or means to rescue persons overcome by fumes.

OSHA also issued citations for exposing workers to struck-by hazards when the company failed to inspect cranes and hoists.

“The violations found during this investigation put employees at serious risk of injury or even worse,” said OSHA Area Director Christopher Adams. “This is a significant number of hazards for a single workplace. Carthage Specialty Paperboard must implement corrective measures to protect their employees’ safety and health.”

The Carthage-based company has notified OSHA of its intent to contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

OSHA Investigation Finds Hospital Workers Remain Exposed to Serious Workplace Hazards

A Massachusetts behavioral health facility faces $207,690 in proposed penalties from OSHA for violations found while conducting a follow-up inspection.

On June 29, 2017, OSHA issued UHS of Westwood Pembroke, Inc.—doing business as Lowell Treatment Center—a notification for failure to abate violation involving workplace violence. This follows a serious violation related to the same hazards that federal safety and health inspectors found on May 19, 2015. As a result of the 2015 inspection, the employer and OSHA entered into a Formal Settlement Agreement on April 12, 2016, which outlined specific provisions of a workplace violence prevention program.

OSHA opened a follow-up inspection on January 5, 2017, after Lowell Treatment Center failed to provide documentation to show that it had implemented a workplace violence program, and the agency's Andover Area Office received a complaint alleging employees remained at risk. OSHA found the center had failed to comply with multiple terms of its agreement, and that—despite previous citations and worker injuries—the risks for workers to suffer fatal injury or serious harm still existed. OSHA also cited the company for one repeat violation and three other-than-serious violations related to recordkeeping.

"Our inspectors found that employees throughout the Lowell Treatment Center continued to be exposed to incidents of workplace violence that could have been greatly reduced had the employer fully implemented the settlement agreement," said Galen Blanton, OSHA's regional administrator in Boston.

UHS of Westwood Pembroke, Inc., is one of the nation's largest health-care management companies. Through its subsidiaries, UHS operates 350 behavioral health facilities, acute care hospitals, ambulatory centers, and freestanding emergency departments throughout the U.S., the United Kingdom, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. With approximately 130 workers, the Lowell Treatment Center is a 41-bed satellite facility of Westwood Lodge. The center is a psychiatric hospital that offers inpatient hospitalization and partial hospitalization for adolescents and adults. 

UHS of Westwood Pembroke has notified OSHA of its intent to contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Cintas Cleanroom Resources Awarded Rising Star Award for Workplace Safety and Health 

Cintas Detroit Cleanroom Resources K-15, an industrial launderer located in Westland, was awarded the Michigan Voluntary Protection Program (MVPP) Rising Star Award from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) for workplace safety and health excellence. 

“It is a pleasure to recognize Cintas for its company culture that promotes excellence in workplace safety and health,” said MIOSHA Director Bart Pickelman. “Implementing best practices for increased worker safety exemplifies a true commitment among management and staff at this facility.” 

Cintas’ best practice was the installation of Graceport devices (electrical voltage checkers) on the washers and in the dryer chases. The devices, known as permanent electrical safety devices (PESDs), assist with the verification of de-energization during lockout/tagout of equipment so workers will never be exposed to voltage by validating zero energy from outside the panel.

The MVPP assists employers and employees by providing a mechanism and a set of criteria designed to evaluate and recognize outstanding safety and health management systems. The program is designed to establish a cooperative relationship between management, labor, and MIOSHA. MVPP participants implement safety and health management systems that provide protections beyond what is required by MIOSHA standards.

There are two levels of recognition in the MVPP. The Michigan Star program is designed for workplaces that have an exemplary safety and health management system with injury and illness incidence rates below the industry average for the last three years. The Rising Star program provides the "stepping stone" for those establishments that have the desire and potential to achieve Star Status within one to three years. Rising Star participants have a good safety and health management system and have incidence rates at or below the industry average for two out of the last three years.

“The MVPP journey was a true commitment from every one of our employee-partners, and it’s such an honor to receive this award,” said Brian Manning, plant manager of Cintas’ Detroit Cleanroom location.  “Our employee-partners have worked hard for this, and I’m so proud of each of them. I also give our corporate leadership a lot of credit for supporting our efforts, and guiding us with their corporate safety vision. 

Cintas’ Detroit Cleanroom becomes Cintas Corporation’s first Michigan location to be recognized with MVPP honors. Headquartered in Cincinnati, Cintas has a total of 55 facilities recognized under the VPP program, and is currently ranked fourth in the U.S. for companies with VPP sites; more than 300 facilities throughout the world are actively pursuing VPP recognition. Cintas provides a wide range of products and services including uniforms, mats, mops, restroom supplies, first aid and safety products, fire extinguishers and testing, and safety and compliance training. The Detroit site employees 56 people in the Westland area.


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