MSHA Urges Kids to "Stay Out and Stay Alive!"

May 01, 2003

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) kicked off its annual "Stay Out-Stay Alive" national public awareness campaign to warn children about the dangers of exploring and playing on mine property. Since 1999, more than 100 children and adults have died in recreational accidents on mine property.

"Active and abandoned mine sites can be an irresistible draw to outdoor enthusiasts, but they can also be deadly," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "If you haven't been trained as a miner, I urge you to find safer places to explore, because mines and quarries definitely are not playgrounds."

There are approximately 14,000 active and as many as 500,000 abandoned mines in the United States. As cities and towns spread into the surrounding countryside and more people visit remote locations, the possibility of contact with an active or abandoned mine increases. Over the next two weeks, MSHA personnel will deliver safety talks in schools throughout the country to educate children about the importance of steering clear of these sites.

Lauriski can personally testify to the dangers, having participated in both a rescue and a recovery at two abandoned underground mines in Utah. In 1989, a 10-year-old Boy Scout who became separated from his troop during a hike was rescued from an abandoned mine five days later. In 1996, Lauriski helped recover the body of an 18-year-old spelunker who fell to his death down an old mine shaft.

Hazards in underground abandoned mines include deep vertical shafts, horizontal openings supported by rotting timbers, unstable rock formations, and the presence of unused or misfired explosives. Water-filled quarries may conceal rock ledges and old machinery, and the water often is deceptively deep and dangerously cold. Old surface mines contain hills of loose materials in stockpiles or refuse heaps that can easily collapse.

MSHA pioneered "Stay Out--Stay Alive" in 1999 and today, more than 90 federal and state agencies, private organizations, businesses and individuals are active partners in the campaign.

OSHA Announces Limited Reopening on Two General Industry Rulemaking Records

OSHA announced it would reopen for 90 days its rulemaking records on proposed revisions to the Walking and Working Surfaces standard and fall protection provisions of the Personal Protective Equipment standard.

OSHA first proposed revisions on the two standards together in 1990 because of the interdependent nature of the hazards and working conditions that they address. Since then, technology has changed, industry practice has evolved and the costs of controls have been affected. OSHA is reopening the record to gather data and information on these advances and to invite public comment on specific issues concerning each proposal.

The Walking and Working Surfaces standard provides general industry requirements for employers to protect their workers from slips, trips and falls that may cause serious or fatal injuries. OSHA is seeking further comment on the issues of rolling stock and self-propelled, motorized equipment, in addition to qualified climbers, rung width on fixed ladders, hierarchy of fall protection controls, scaffolds and controlled descent devices, and anchors for suspended work.

The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standard for general industry contains requirements covering the use and maintenance of PPE, as well as specific provisions on requirements for various types of PPE such as eye, face, head and respiratory protection. OSHA is interested in comments on whether the agency should prohibit the use of body belts for fall arrest and on fall protection amendments to several existing general industry standards.

OSHA is seeking comments on these specific issues, and on the costs of compliance, especially for small employers. OSHA also will publish, in the future, a revised economic analysis for public comment. The agency will use the information from the two reopenings to determine how best to proceed with these rulemakings. Persons wishing to comment should send three copies of their comments, postmarked not later than July 31, 2003, to: Docket Office, Docket S-029, Room N2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20210. Comments of 10 pages or less may be faxed to the Docket Office at (202) 693-1648.

Further information on submitting comments can be obtained by calling the Docket Office at (202) 693-2350.

CSB Approves Report on DPC Chlorine Release, Calls for Industry-Wide System for Hose Identification

Saying that better equipment maintenance and quality assurance programs could have prevented last year's atmospheric release of chlorine from DPC Enterprises in Festus, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) approved its final report and recommendations on the accident and called for industry-wide measures to improve chlorine safety.

Meeting before a public audience that included residents, emergency responders, and company officials, the Board accepted the draft investigative report of its staff and also issued a new recommendation that state agencies convene a review of the health and environmental concerns voiced today by residents. 

The August 14, 2002, release of 48,000 pounds of chlorine from DPC Enterprises caused 63 people from the surrounding community to seek medical evaluation. The DPC facility repackages bulk dry liquid chlorine from tank cars into containers for industrial and municipal use in the St. Louis area. Spilled liquid chlorine vaporizes readily to form a toxic and corrosive gas.

The CSB report says that DPC installed an unsuitable hose connecting a chlorine rail tanker to equipment at its Festus facility. The hose braiding was made from stainless steel instead of the recommended alloy, Hastelloy C, which looks identical but is resistant to chlorine. While investigators found that a supplier had furnished DPC with an improper hose, they said one cause of the accident was DPC's lack of effective management systems to prevent such a hose from being placed in service.

The Board called on both DPC and its hose supplier, Branham Corporation, to improve quality assurance programs, e.g. through the use of analyses to confirm that hoses are made from the correct materials. The Board also voted to recommend that chlorine and hose manufacturing companies develop an industry-wide system for positive identification of hoses.

Another root cause cited by the Board was the lack of an effective testing and inspection program for the chlorine emergency shutdown system at DPC. Emergency shutdown valves failed to close properly once the chlorine leak had begun, greatly extending the duration and severity of the release. Investigators concluded that the valves were inoperable due to internal system corrosion, in turn caused by inadvertent introduction of moisture into the chlorine system. DPC's testing and inspection program was inadequate to uncover the faulty condition of the valves before the accident occurred and should be improved, the Board said.

The Board also recommended improvements to emergency response and community notification systems, while Board members praised the efforts of the mainly volunteer forces that responded to the accident. The report found a lack of adequate planning and training for a major release and noted that emergency breathing equipment stored at the plant became inaccessible once the leak had begun. Ultimately it took three hours for personnel in protective suits to reach the rail car and close manual valves cutting off the flow of chlorine, by which time more than half the contents of the tanker had been released.

"Materials verification, emergency shutdown, emergency response: none of these systems worked well enough to protect workers and the public," according to CSB Chairman Carolyn Merritt. Merritt expressed sympathy for the community concerns raised at the meeting and said "local agencies need to be responsive." Merritt earlier authored a successful amendment to the report calling for a follow-up community meeting to be organized by state agencies.

The CSB is an independent federal agency established in 1998 with the mission to protect workers, the public, and the environment by investigating and preventing chemical accidents. The CSB determines the root causes of these accidents and makes safety recommendations to government agencies, companies, and other organizations. The CSB does not issue fines or citations or apportion responsibility for accidents.

For further information, contact Daniel Horowitz, CSB office 202-261-7613 or cell, 202-345-4960.

HHS Offers Guidance on Air-Filtration, Air-Cleaning Systems to Guard Buildings Against Attacks

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced the release of new guidance to help facility specialists in business and government strategically select and use air-filtration and air-cleaning systems to protect occupants in buildings from chemical, biological, or radiological attacks.

Air-filtration and air-cleaning systems are critical tools for protecting workers and other building occupants from hazardous airborne materials. The guidelines will help building designers, building engineers, and others who make technical decisions to improve air filtration in buildings such as offices, retail facilities, schools, transportation terminals, indoor malls and sports arenas.

The HHS document, “Guidance for Filtration and Air-Cleaning Systems to Protect Building Environments from Airborne Chemical, Biological, or Radiological Attacks,” was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), in collaboration with a working group at the White House Office of Homeland Security, now the Department of Homeland Security.

“In addition to enhancing emergency preparedness, these guidelines also have value for reducing risks of occupational respiratory illnesses, improving indoor air quality and reducing maintenance and operating costs,” NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard said. “By selecting and maintaining the right filtration and cleaning systems, building operators can keep the air inside their workplaces cleaner, improve the efficiency of their ventilation systems and help reduce workers’ risks for occupational asthma, allergy and other respiratory illnesses,” he said.

The document recognizes the many complicated issues involved in choosing an appropriate filtration and cleaning system. Decisions appropriate for one building may not be appropriate for all buildings. Building engineers and managers need to assess different factors that will help them make the best decisions for particular situations. These factors include the intended use of the system, prevention of “filter bypass” or leakage around filters, life-cycle costs for the system and the potential for air leakage through the walls of the building.

According to the guidance, key steps for selecting and using appropriate filtration and cleaning include:

  • Identifying the types of filtration and cleaning systems that are effective against various chemical, biological and radiological agents, and determining what types are appropriate for use at a given location.
  • Identifying the types of systems that can be added on to an existing heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system to increase protection against chemical, biological and radiological agents.
  • Determining the types of systems that can be added on to existing buildings when the buildings undergo comprehensive renovation.
  • Deciding how to maintain filtration and cleaning systems properly once they are installed.

The guidelines supplement a May 2002 HHS report on safeguarding buildings against chemical, biological and radiological threats. The earlier report provided broad guidance about many aspects of ventilation systems; the new guidelines focus specifically on filtration systems, which remove particles from the air, and cleaning systems, which remove gases and vapors.

ASSE Offers Workplace Safety Tips for Teen Workers

Young workers are not as prepared and experienced as older adults when it comes to identifying and avoiding safety risks and hazards while on the job and are more apt to be injured. In order to prepare the millions of young workers who will enter the workforce in the next few weeks on workplace safety risks, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has developed a free 'Workplace Safety Guide for New Workers' brochure. It contains key state and federal contact information, important facts to know and workplace safety questions workers and parents should ask.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) the main causes for young worker fatalities are homicides, motor vehicle accidents, machine-related accidents, electrocution and falls. Unsafe equipment, stressful work conditions, inadequate safety training, inadequate supervision, dangerous work that is illegal or inappropriate for youth workers and rushing are the top causes of injuries to young workers.

In 2000 a total of 70 teen workers in the U.S. were fatally injured on the job and 77,000 more were seriously injured. Although most of those injuries are burns, cuts, and sprains, other serious injuries include broken bones, concussions and amputations.

Teens and their parents should become familiar with state and federal laws pertaining to youth labor. For instance, some duties teens may be prohibited by law from doing include driving, roofing, working with power-driven machines, working more than 10 feet above ground or floor level, and working at jobs with possible exposure to bodily fluids or hazardous substances.

For young workers, agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries to work in. Forty percent of the young workers killed from 1992-97 lost their lives in farming jobs. Agriculture hazards include working with heavy machinery, falls from working at unprotected heights, flying objects and natural hazards.

According to the DOL, the food service/fast food, retail/sales, janitorial/clean-up and office/clerical industries are the next most hazardous industries for teen workers. In the food service industry, the hazards include violent crimes, sharp objects, hot cooking equipment and slippery floors. Violent crimes and heavy lifting are the top retail/sales industry hazards to teens. Hazardous cleaning chemicals, slippery floors, heavy lifting and blood on discarded needles are the top janitorial/clean-up industry hazards. Repetitive trauma from consistent typing, back and neck strain and stress are hazards associated with office jobs for teens.

The offer of the brochure, also available in Spanish, is part of ASSE and the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering's (CSSE) annual North American Occupational Safety and Health Week (NAOSH) that runs this May 4 - 10. For a free copy of the ASSE 'Workplace Safety Guide for New Workers' call 847-699-2929 . The theme of NAOSH week is Prevention is the Cure/Prepare Young Workers for the Future. In addition to the brochure, close to 100 ASSE members in Houston, Texas have developed on their own time and are presenting for free classes on workplace safety at 26 Houston Independent School District High Schools.

Founded in 1911, the non-profit ASSE is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. It is the oldest and largest global professional safety organization with more than 30,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members.

Very Low Lead Levels Linked with IQ Deficits

A new study suggests that lead may be harmful even at very low blood concentrations. The study, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health, appeared in the April 17, 2003 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine.

The five-year study found that children who have blood lead concentration lower than 10 micrograms per deciliter suffer intellectual impairment from the exposure. The researchers also discovered that the amount of impairment attributed to lead was most pronounced at lower levels. The study was carried out by researchers from Cornell University, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and the University of Rochester School of Medicine.

An important feature of this new study is its focus on children with blood lead levels below 10 micrograms per deciliter, a threshold currently used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to define an elevated lead level. Previous research has been concerned primarily with lead's effects in the 10 to 30 micrograms per deciliter range, yet the new study finds lead-related impairments at lower levels.

"In this sample of children we find that most of the damage to intellectual functioning occurs at blood lead concentrations that are below 10 micrograms per deciliter," said Richard Canfield, Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University and primary author on the study. The amount of impairment attributed to lead exposure was much greater than the researchers had expected. "We were surprised to find that in our study the IQ scores of children who had blood lead levels of 10 micrograms per deciliter were about 7 points lower than for children with levels of 1 microgram per deciliter," Canfield said.

At the same time, the study found that an increase in blood lead from 10 to 30 micrograms per deciliter is associated with only a small additional decline in IQ. "Because most prior research focused on children with higher exposures than in our sample, we suspected that those investigators could estimate only the amount of additional damage that occurs after blood lead has reached 10 micrograms per deciliter - unaware that more damage may occur at lower levels," said Charles Henderson, Department of Human Development at Cornell.

Before 1970, childhood lead poisoning was defined by a blood lead concentration greater than 60 micrograms per deciliter. Since then, the threshold used to define an elevated blood lead level declined several times, before reaching the current value of 10 micrograms per deciliter. Under this definition, more than one in every 50 children in the United States between the ages of 1 and 5 years is adversely affected by lead, which has been linked to lowered intelligence, behavioral problems, and diminished school performance. Nearly 1 in 10 young children have a lead level above 5 micrograms per deciliter, according to CDC figures.

"Our study suggests that there is no discernable threshold for the adverse effects of lead exposure and that many more children than previously estimated are affected by this toxin," said Bruce Lanphear, Cincinnati Children's Hospital and director of the hospital's Children's Environmental Health Center. "Despite a dramatic decline over the last two decades in the prevalence of children who have blood lead concentrations above 10 micrograms per deciliter, these data underscore the increasing importance of prevention."

The study followed 172 children in the Rochester, N.Y., area whose blood lead was assessed at 6, 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, and 60 months, and who were tested for IQ at both 3 and 5 years of age. The researchers controlled for many other factors that contribute to a child's intellectual functioning, such as birth weight, mother's intelligence, income, education, and amount of stimulation in the home.

"Any detectable effect occurring from such a widespread exposure is cause for concern," Walter J. Rogan, M.D., said. Rogan is a NIEHS researcher who has studied lead exposure in children but was not an author on the study. "Relatively small changes in the mean IQ of a large number of children will dramatically increase the proportion of children below any fixed level of concern, such as an IQ of 80, and decrease the proportion above any 'gifted' level such as 120," Rogan said.

Asbestos Still a Major Occupational Hazard According to ASSE

While negotiators for businesses, insurers, labor unions and Congressional leaders iron out an agreement aimed at creating an industry-financed national asbestos trust fund to pay several billion dollars to hundreds of thousands of people with asbestos-related illnesses, the American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) reminds its members that asbestos is still a significant workplace safety concern.

According to ASSE Assistant Administrator for the Environmental Practice Specialty Jeff Camplin, CSP, materials containing asbestos are still being produced in the U.S. Many ‘friable’ asbestos products were banned in the 1970’s and the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) banned all other forms of asbestos products in 1989. An EPA ban and phase out rule prohibited the manufacture, importation, processing, and distribution of asbestos containing products in commerce. However, in 1991, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated the ban on most of the materials so that materials containing asbestos that were being produced in the U.S. at the time of the ban are now legal to produce, import and use today.

In a peer-reviewed paper titled “It’s Back—Asbestos gets a second wind,” Camplin states that the materials that may still be imported or produced with asbestos include: cement -- corrugated and flat sheeting, clothing, pipeline wrap, roofing felt, vinyl floor tile, cement shingle, millboard, cement pipe, automatic transmission components, clutch facings, friction materials, disc brake pads, drum brake linings, brake blocks, gaskets, non-roofing coatings and roof coatings.

In his paper, to be published in ASSE’s Professional Safety Journal, Camplin warns fellow occupational safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals that asbestos is still a problem and could grow even larger with new issues and risks evolving every day. Also, asbestos was the largest single factor in the rise of tort costs in 2001 resulting in a $6 billion increase in liabilities tied to asbestos claims, said Camplin.

“Asbestos can reappear even if all asbestos has been removed from the building. It can still be an issue even if inspection reports state no asbestos is present in a building,” Camplin said. “Asbestos inspections typically have flaws that SH&E professionals need to be aware of including knowing the proper inspection scope, lack of inspector and lab qualifications, new regulatory requirements and much more.”

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that is extracted from rock and have been used for centuries for its fire resistance and because it is not easily destroyed or degraded by natural processes. Exposure to asbestos occurs when one breathes in asbestos fibers. This can cause various forms of cancer, including mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung and abdominal cavities. It can also cause asbestosis, an emphysema-like condition. Symptoms may take 20 years or more to occur. However, by following safe work practices and by reporting any damage or disturbance to asbestos containing materials, exposure can be minimized.

Asbestos is present in our environment as a naturally occurring mineral, in consumer products and building materials said Camplin. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has identified several consumer products and building materials that have been inadvertently contaminated with asbestos. Camplin also notes that even when air in the work area has been declared clear of asbestos, asbestos fibers can still remain in the air and on surface work areas. At this time, there is no federal regulation requiring surface dust to be tested for asbestos, and, the existing analytical methods used to determine asbestos contamination in surface dust continue to be problematic, Camplin noted.

To address these issues Camplin states that SH&E professionals should use due diligence requirements to identify asbestos with or without existing asbestos inspections; realize that these emerging asbestos issues pertain to existing and new construction; and, that the EPA has developed excellent guidance for testing, cleaning and clearing asbestos contaminated buildings.

Camplin, an Illinois licensed asbestos professional since 1986, states that the U.S. Geological Survey reported that 13 thousand metric tons of asbestos were imported into the U.S. in 2001 and that worldwide mining of asbestos was estimated by the government at 2,050,000 metric tons in 2001, illustrating a growing risk.