New NIOSH Reports on Welding, Ergonomics, and Mold Published

August 14, 2006

Three new health hazard evaluation reports are available from NIOSH:


  • NIOSH investigators responded to an employee request to assess whether smoke from plasma cutting and welding was associated with employee complaints of sore throat, runny nose, eye irritation, coughing, migraines, and vomiting. The findings suggested that exposures to metal fumes, carbon monoxide, and ozone did not exceed applicable occupational exposure limits. To address irritant symptoms, however, the NIOSH investigators made recommendations to improve general ventilation and hazard communication training.
  •  NIOSH investigators responded to a management request to address concerns about ergonomic aspects associated with the lifting of materials when filling customer orders. The evaluation indicated that workers generally used good practices, such as positioning themselves to avoid reaching across pallets while lifting, and adjusting the height of storage and delivery pallets. However, the evaluation found a risk of musculoskeletal injuries when factors such as the weight of objects being lifted were assessed through the Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation and other criteria. Recommendations, including using lifting devices and reducing the weights of bundled building materials, were made to reduce the risk of injury.
  • NIOSH investigators responded to requests from managers of a cruise line and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, operating at a marine terminal. The requests concerned possible health problems related to mold exposure. Employees in the marine terminal had higher rates of respiratory complaints than employees from a nearby, non-contaminated facility. The NIOSH investigators made numerous recommendations, including recommendations to install vapor barriers between interior and exterior walls, seal holds in the building envelope, evaluate engineering options to stop water from entering the building, improve ventilation, conduct routine maintenance, and seek evaluation and care from an experienced occupational medicine physician.


Worker Dies after Cutting Drum with a Torch

OSHA is investigating a recent death of a worker at United Rentals in Lebanon, Penn. Dwight Druschel, was killed when a 55-gallon metal drum he was cutting with an acetylene torch exploded.

“All work-related fatalities and accidents resulting in three or more employees being admitted to the hospital are investigated by OSHA,” said Bob Fink, director of the Harrisburg regional office, which covers 14 mid-state counties. “We instituted an inspection on Friday and will be continuing it this week,” Fink said. “At this point, it is very early, and there are no specifics which we can release.”

The flame from Druschel’s torch either built up pressure or ignited a flammable residue inside the drum. No determination was made by the city, and all evidence was turned over to OSHA.



OSHA Secretary Comments on New Workplace Fatality Data

. The number of workplace fatalities totaled 5,702 last year, down from 5,764 in 2004. The fatality rate also declined last year to 4.0 per 100,000 employees, down from 4.1 in 2004.


Fatal falls declined 7 percent last year from an all-time high recorded just a year earlier. Further, fatal work injuries among roofers dropped by 44 percent, and fatalities among women in 2005 (402) were the lowest annual total ever recorded by the census. While the number of fatalities among Hispanic employees edged up slightly last year due to increased employment of Hispanic workers, the actual fatality rate declined.

"Today's report is positive news for our nation and all workers," said Foulke. "The overall decrease in workplace fatalities is the third lowest annual total recorded since BLS began collecting this data. More importantly, this shows that more men and women were able to return home safely from their jobs.

"Many of our initiatives to reduce workplace fatalities are showing tremendous successes, but there is still more work to do," he said. "The data released today highlight areas where our resources must be focused in order to eliminate fatalities on the job. We remain committed to doing just that."


SouthCentral Wisconsin Building and Construction Trades Council Joins OSHA in Alliance

Workers in south central Wisconsin stand to benefit from an alliance signed between the Building and Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin (BCTC) and OSHA. The alliance is designed to reduce and prevent some of the most common workplace injuries and illnesses in the construction industry.

BCTC and OSHA officials signed the formal alliance to provide business and employee organizations with resources that will focus on reducing and preventing falls and electrical hazards, in particular by addressing the implementation of effective safety and health programs throughout the construction industry.

"Injuries due to falls and electrical hazards covered in this agreement continue to be among some of the top safety issues in the country," said OSHA Area Director Kim Stille, Madison, Wis. "Joining with an organization with the stature and reputation of the BCTC to combat these issues will ultimately make south central Wisconsin workplaces safer places to be."

Workers from the BCTC will work with OSHA personnel to develop training and education programs on work-related safety issues. The alliance calls for OSHA and the BCTC to share information regarding best practices or effective approaches, and then publicize results through developed materials, training programs, workshops, seminars or lectures. Officials from both organizations will also speak, exhibit and appear at conferences, local meetings or other events, and disseminate information for Wisconsin workers.



New OSHA Publication on Fire Service Building Fire Protection

“Our new booklet offers practical and important information that can help save lives,” said Edwin G. Foulke, Jr., Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA. “Fire service can be very dangerous work and our new manual is one more resource that can be used to help keep firefighters and other emergency responders safe.”


Fire service operations take place in stressful and time-sensitive environments. Decisions are often made in unfamiliar settings and without vital information, such as what is burning, where the fire is spreading, or the location of occupants. Poorly located fire hydrants, inaccessible fire department connections, confusing zone information, unmarked valves, or improperly designed standpipes are examples of features that can slow fire service operations. Delays, however brief, can dramatically affect an operation and its outcome.

OSHA’s new manual explains how fire service operations can be influenced by different building features and offers considerations for design professionals that can help facilitate these operations. The manual includes chapters and narratives on building and site design, sprinkler systems, standpipe systems, fire department connections, fire alarm and communications systems, as well as various firefighting systems.

The material in Fire Service Features of Building and Fire Protection Systems is appropriate for all fire service organizations, including fire brigades and fire departments. Many of the discussions can help during responses for other emergencies such as hazardous material releases, emergency medical care, non-fire rescues and terrorist events.


Indiana Magnesium Foundry Had Numerous OSHA Violations

After a fire in April 2005 that killed one person and injured four others, the Indiana Labor Department found nine serious violations at the National Magnesium & Aluminum Foundry in Fort Wayne, Ind. They included not keeping the foundry clean and orderly, not using protective equipment, faulty wiring, and not giving employees proper training. Fines for those violations amounted to $6,000, which were paid.

The foundry was then re-inspected about three months later. That time, it was fined for a repeat violation for not properly training employees on hazardous chemicals in their work area. It was also cited for having rotating blades exposed, using a wet/dry vacuum to pick up magnesium dust, and for not having eye washes. Total fines were up to almost $70,000.

The foundry made corrections, including a training session for employees, and asked that the fines be lowered. In early July, the foundry settled with the Department of Labor, sending a check for $46,900 to cover all the reduced fines.

Less than a month later, on August 1, a second fire destroyed the building. Despite the state violations, the Fort Wayne Fire Department said the foundry was in compliance with the city's fire code at the time.



“Kiddie Kollege" Closed Down After Testing Revealed Excessive Mercury Levels

New Jersey Attorney General Zulima V. Farber announced last week that her office is investigating how a South Jersey daycare center came to be operating on the site of a former industrial property that is contaminated with mercury.

Located in Franklin Township, the Kiddie Kollege daycare center on Delsea Drive voluntarily halted operations in late July after both the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health and Senior Services determined the building was not fit for occupancy.

The determination was made on the basis of air and surface samples that found unacceptably high levels of mercury throughout the building. A naturally occurring element, mercury is toxic to humans when inhaled or ingested.

Farber said the Attorney General’s Office is working in cooperation with the DEP and the DHSS to determine who is responsible for what she termed an "outrageous" situation.

"Through daily exposure to excessive levels of a known contaminant, children and their care-givers potentially have been put in harm’s way, and that is unconscionable," said Attorney General Farber. "There are many, many questions that must be answered with regard to how this was allowed to occur."

The single-story Kiddie Kollege building was formerly the site of Accutherm, Inc., a manufacturer of thermometers and related instruments. Accutherm ceased operations at the site more than a decade ago.

The site was subsequently obtained via lease by Kiddie Kollege which, after renovating the property with paving and cosmetic improvements, reopened it as a daycare center in January 2004.

Until it halted operations on July 28, Kiddie Kollege had been providing daycare services for children ages 8 months to 13 years old.

"As soon as the DEP discovered that the formerly abandoned site was housing a day care center, inspectors moved in, took samples and shut it down," said DEP Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson. "We remain committed to working with the AG's office and DHSS to get to the bottom of this egregious and unconscionable situation. A daycare center should be a safe haven, not a room full of toxic mercury."

New Jersey Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., said, "Exposure to mercury is a serious health concern, and the Department acted quickly to protect children and staff by recommending that everyone vacate the building until further notice, which is the most important and effective way of protection. The department is working with the center operators and local public health officials to test for mercury exposure among children and staff to determine what, if any, additional health measures should be taken."



Guide to Help Local Governments Meet Accessibility Needs During Natural and Civil Emergencies

The Justice Department recently revised and expanded a publication to assist local government planners, first responders, and emergency staff prepare for and meet the unique needs of people with disabilities during natural and civil emergencies.



“Recent events taught us all that people with disabilities can be among the most vulnerable members of our communities during an emergency or natural disaster,” said Wan J. Kim, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. “All public officials should learn from the lessons of Hurricane Katrina and go forward better prepared to meet the needs of all of their citizens. We hope local officials will find this publication valuable and will follow the action steps it describes.”

The Civil Rights Division has made it a priority to work with localities to ensure that the needs of persons with disabilities are met during an emergency. To date, the division has entered into formal agreements with 28 communities under its Project Civic Access initiative to ensure that local governments include the interests of persons with disabilities in their emergency planning activities. Communities including Newark, N.J., Memphis, Tenn.; Arlington and Loudoun Counties, Va.; and Maui, Hawaii, have begun efforts to include the needs of persons with disabilities in their emergency preparations. The department’s revised guidance will provide even more information to help them.


Guide to Physical Activity for a Healthy Heart

About 60 percent of U.S. adults do not get the recommended levels of physical activity, yet research suggests that regular physical activity is essential for maintaining a healthy heart. To help people jump-start and maintain a physical activity program for their heart, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has developed a new publication.

 Physical inactivity is one of several major heart disease risk factors that you can do something about. The 44-page guide is full of practical tips, including sample walking and jogging programs, instructions for finding your target heart rate zone, ideas for making fitness a family affair, and an overview of the best physical activities for a healthy heart.

"When it comes to getting in shape, what's good for you is good for your whole family," said NHLBI's Karen A. Donato, S.M., R.D., program coordinator of both "We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children's Activity and Nutrition)", NIH's national education program to prevent childhood obesity, and the NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative. "To maintain health, all adults should be moderately active for at least 30 minutes per day on most days of the week. To help manage body weight and prevent unhealthy weight gain, at least 60 minutes per day is recommended. Children and adolescents also need to be active for at least 60 minutes per day. So pry the kids off the couch and help yourself stay fit as well by doing enjoyable activities together."

There are many ways people can incorporate physical activity into everyday life such as:


  • Use the stairs – both up and down – instead of the elevator. Start with one flight of stairs and gradually build up to more.
  • Park a few blocks from the office or store and walk the rest of the way. If you take public transportation, get off a stop or two early and walk a few blocks.
  • While working, take frequent activity breaks. Get up and stretch, walk around, and give your muscles and mind a change of pace.
  • Instead of eating that extra snack, take a brisk stroll around the neighborhood or your office building.
  • Do housework, gardening, or yard work at a more vigorous pace.
  • When you travel, walk around the train station, bus station, or airport rather than sitting and waiting.

In addition to providing information on protecting your heart, the guide addresses the many other benefits of regular physical activity such as burning extra calories, building stamina, improving balance, strengthening your lungs, and boosting the way you feel. It deals with the myths and motivational barriers associated with physical activity, while providing practical advice and suggestions for getting the most health benefits from a physical activity program.

The new guide is the latest in the NHLBI "Your Guide to Better Health" series. The series provides science-based health information and features testimonials from people about their real-life experiences with improving their health. Other guides include, "Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure with DASH", "Your Guide to a Healthy Heart", "Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol with TLC", "Your Guide to Living Well with Heart Disease", and "Your Guide to Healthy Sleep".