New Information on Chemically Induced Hearing Loss

April 08, 2018

Each year, about 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work. Over 30 million U.S. workers are exposed to chemicals, some of which are harmful to the ear (ototoxic) and hazardous to hearing. In addition to damaging workers’ quality of life, occupational hearing loss carries a high economic price to society.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and OSHA published a bulletin, titled “Preventing Hearing Loss Caused by Chemical (Ototoxicity) and Noise Exposure,” warning of a potentially serious workplace hazard. The bulletin provides recommendations to employers and safety professionals about identifying ototoxicants in the workplace and establishing hearing conservation programs in workplaces where these chemicals cannot be replaced.

The NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) for occupational noise exposure is 85 decibels, A-weighted, as an 8-hour time-weighted average (85 dBA as an 8-hr TWA) using a 3-dB exchange rate. Exposures at or above this level are considered hazardous.

Use the NIOSH Hierarchy of Controls to reduce workplace noise to below the NIOSH REL whenever possible. Use hearing protection when hazardous noise levels cannot be adequately reduced.

New Nanotechnology Workplace Design Recommendations

NIOSH recently launched four new products intended to provide options to companies for controlling possible exposure of their workers to nanomaterials on the job. The documents provide recommendations on minimizing exposures during common processes and tasks.


California Premier Roofscapes Cited for Repeatedly Exposing Employees to Fall Hazards 

Cal/OSHA cited California Premier Roofscapes, Inc. for repeat violations of fall protection safety orders and proposed $134,454 in penalties. The Escondido-based company was investigated and cited on six different occasions over the past four years for putting its workers at risk of fatal falls.

Cal/OSHA opened the most recent inspection in August of 2017 after receiving a report that workers were not wearing proper fall protection while installing tiles on the roof of a three-story Chula Vista home. Inspectors found that California Premier Roofscapes failed to ensure their workers were wearing safety harnesses and other personal fall protection. Employees were not properly trained on fall protection and roof work hazards.

“California Premier Roofscapes has repeatedly put its workers at risk of potentially deadly falls from heights, disregarding basic safety requirements to protect its employees,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum.

Cal/OSHA issued citations to California Premier Roofscapes for four violations including:

  • One repeat-serious violation for failing to ensure that workers were wearing fall
  • protection.
  • One repeat general violation for failing to effectively implement and maintain a
  • written Injury and Illness Prevention Program.
  • Two general violations for not inspecting equipment prior to each use and
  • inadequate training on fall hazards and protection.


The first inspection with California Premier Roofscapes was opened in October 2014 after Cal/OSHA received a complaint that employees were working on an Irvine roof with no fall protection. Cal/OSHA inspected a California Premier Roofscapes’ residential construction site in Azusa the following day after receiving a complaint involving an unsafe portable ladder. The following month, Cal/OSHA investigated an accident involving a worker who suffered serious head and knee injuries after falling 15 feet from a ladder attached to scaffolding at a Carlsbad residential construction site.

In June 2015, Cal/OSHA opened an inspection and cited California Premier Roofscapes for a repeat serious violation after workers with no fall protection were reported on the roof of an Irvine construction site. In March of the following year, Cal/OSHA inspected a report that California Premier Roofscapes’ workers wore harnesses but were not properly tied off to prevent falls from the roof of a Tustin construction site. California Premier Roofscapes was cited for two repeat violations, one serious and one general category.

Falls are the leading cause of death in construction nationwide. In California’s roofing industry, falls have caused nine deaths and 162 serious injuries since 2014. A serious violation is cited when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious harm could result from the actual hazardous condition. A repeat violation is cited when the employer was previously cited for the same or a very similar violation and the earlier citation became final within the past 5 years.

All employers in California are required to have an effective written injury and illness prevention program, a safety program to identify, assess and control hazards in the workplace. Cal/OSHA has online tools and publications to guide employers on how to establish an effective safety program. Cal/OSHA’s resources on fall protection include safety and health factsheets, residential fall protection training and a construction safety pocket guide.

Proposed Penalties of $38,061 for Mr. Rooter Plumbing for Repeat Trench Hazards 

OSHA has cited Omaha-based plumbing contractor Gavrooden, Inc. for the second time in less than six months for failing to protect its workers from excavation collapse hazards. Gavrooden, Inc., doing business as Mr. Rooter Plumbing, faces proposed penalties of $38,061.

OSHA inspectors observed employees working in an unprotected trench while repairing a sewer line. OSHA cited the company for one willful and four serious violations for failing to use a protective system to prevent trench collapse; train workers on trenching hazards; and place soil piles a safe distance from the open excavation. OSHA cited the company in November 2017 for similar hazards at another worksite.

“Trenching and excavation are among the most hazardous jobs in construction,” said Jeff Funke, OSHA Omaha Area Office Director. “This employer has endangered workers by disregarding safety requirements to prevent cave-ins.”

OSHA’s Trenching and Excavation Safety booklet describes safe work practices that can protect workers from trench collapse and other hazards.

UL Announces PURE™ Safety Incidents to Help Improve Customer Safety Performance

UL has announced a new software module that can help small and medium-sized businesses better track their health and safety performance.

Building on UL's long history in workplace health and safety, the new PURE Safety Incidents module enables users to capture data that can help uncover the root causes of safety concerns before they become reportable incidents. This module is a streamlined version of UL's existing Incidents software, providing customers with a quickly-deployable, and user-configurable version they can use immediately.

"We have been in the workplace safety business since 1999," said Mark Ward, general manager of UL EHS Sustainability, "so we know that a company's employees are its most important asset. Safety isn't just a checkmark on a form; it can literally be a life or death issue. Customers who track near misses and observations have a better track record than those who wait for an accident to happen. Our new PURE Safety Incidents solution is built to help customers measure the data that matter most."

The PURE Safety Incidents solution is easily deployed, configurable, scalable, and mobile-accessible. It also offers integration with UL's PureOHS system used by hospitals and employee health clinics to manage employee health data.

Tyson Foods Works with Union to Improve Workplace Safety

Tyson Foods, Inc. and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) are expanding their collaborative efforts to make workplace safety improvements at the company’s food processing plants and commemorating 30 years of working together for safer workplaces. 

The three decades-long partnership is one union leaders call a model for the food industry. It began in 1988, with the launch of a landmark ergonomics program and has evolved to include improvements that have helped reduce workplace injuries and illnesses. While the primary focus has been Tyson Foods’ beef and pork operations, it is now being expanded to the company’s poultry business, which has been accelerating its workplace safety efforts in recent years.

“We’re proud of the progress we’ve made through our collaboration with the UFCW, and especially the active involvement of frontline team members,” said Steve Stouffer, president of Tyson Fresh Meats. “We know that all of us must remain diligent if we’re to achieve additional improvements.”

“We value the progress we’ve made at Tyson and are looking forward to expanding our partnership to create safer workplaces for all of their hard-working men and women,” said Mark Lauritsen, director of the UFCW’s Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division. “Working together with Tyson has meant empowering workers and their union to make a better, safer workplace.”

Examples of the company’s and union’s collaborative efforts include:

  • Plant safety audits by management and union representatives
  • Ergonomics and safety committees that enable frontline workers and their union to regularly meet with plant management on safety matters
  • Empowering frontline workers to stop the production line if a safety or ergonomics issue is detected
  • Project “Why Not,” which encourages management and frontline workers and their union to re-evaluate job functions for ergonomic improvement
  • Full-time safety and ergonomic “captains” responsible for day-to-day safety and ergonomic monitoring
  • “Captains of the Week,” who are workers allowed to leave the production line for one hour every day for a week to gain in depth exposure to safety and ergonomics programs


“We’ve worked hard over the years to create a culture where everyone is comfortable to speak up about safety issues,” said Sherry Louk, a nine-year Tyson Foods veteran and safety captain at the plant in Perry, Iowa. “Because we all want the safest workplace possible, there is an environment of empowerment where we can be honest about safety concerns and fix them before somebody gets hurt. At Tyson, I can say ‘I’ve got your back’ because the company and the union have mine.”

The next step in the company-union relationship is increased focus on the company’s poultry plants, where the UFCW represents workers at 12 locations.

“We value our frontline team members who are crucial to the continued success of our poultry businesses,” said Doug Ramsey, group president of poultry, Tyson Foods. “While we have existing programs to help train and protect our people and give them a voice in the workplace, we look forward to working more closely with the UFCW on additional ways we can improve.”

The UFCW currently represents more than 24,000 people employed by Tyson Foods or its subsidiaries.

Stand-Up for Grain Engulfment Prevention: April 9-13

To raise awareness about grain engulfment prevention and other hazards in the grain handling industry, OSHA and the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) have formed an alliance to provide information, guidance, and access to resources to help protect employees. The alliance partners - in cooperation with the American Feed Industry Association and the Great Plains Chapter of the Grain Elevator and Processing Society - will host a “Stand-Up for Grain Engulfment Prevention Week,” April 9-13, 2018.

The campaign includes a free webinar held on April 10 that will emphasize ways to prevent injuries and fatalities from grain bin engulfment, with toolbox talks on lockout/tagout, fall prevention, and grain handling. The University of Texas-Arlington has established a website with information on hosting or participating in local stand-up events, and educational resources for the grain industry.

“Employees in the grain industry must be trained on grain-handling hazards, and have the necessary tools to ensure they enter and leave a bin or silo safely,” said Kimberly Stille, OSHA Regional Administrator. “This campaign is intended to encourage industry leaders, farmers, and workers to implement best practices and effective safety and health programs to save lives.”

Stand Down for Roadway Worksite Injuries 

The Federal Highway Administration, the state of Georgia, local government organizations, and employers are partnering with OSHA to sponsor events to train road workers on the dangers from roadway work activities, during National Highway Work Zone Awareness Week, April 9-13. The Stand-Down encourages employers at Georgia construction sites to stop work voluntarily from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. EDT on a workday to review best safety practices and discuss struck-by hazards. For registration details, visit Georgia’s Struck-By Alliance Safety Stand-Down page.

“Too many workers are injured in roadway work zones every year,” said OSHA Southeast Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer. “The stand-down events will provide training and education on effective ways to protect the women and men who work on our nation’s roadways.”

For more information, contact OSHA’s Atlanta-West Area Office at 678-903-7301, Atlanta-East Area Office, at 770-493-6644, or Savannah Area Office at 912-652-4393.

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