New OSHA Guidance on Abrasive Blasting

January 08, 2007


"This new guidance focuses on silica alternatives since most shipyards have moved away from using silica as a blasting agent," said OSHA Administrator Edwin G. Foulke, Jr. "However, alternative blasting materials may bring a different set of hazards, so we want shipyard employees and their employers to have the most up-to-date safety and health information possible."

The new guidance also addresses the specific air contaminants that employees may be exposed to during abrasive blasting. Other abrasive blasting safety and health hazards are discussed and recommendations on how to avoid these occupational hazards, such as engineering controls, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), exposure monitoring, medical surveillance and training on the OSHA Hazard Communication and PPE standards.

OSHA also recommends that employers perform an inspection of the worksite to identify additional hazards, such as excessive noise, static electricity, confined spaces, heat exposure and fall hazards. The guidance also encourages employers to research each of the discussed hazards, as well as understand the suggested preventative measures and the abatement that has been detailed in the guidance.

Although these guidelines are designed specifically for shipyard employment, OSHA hopes that employers with similar work environments will also find this information useful.

New Danger Label Required on All Portable Generators

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted unanimously (2-0) last week to require manufacturers of portable generators to warn consumers of carbon monoxide (CO) hazards through a new “Danger” label. The label states that, “Using a generator indoors CAN KILL YOU IN MINUTES.”

Manufacturers will be required to place the “Danger” label on all new generators and the generators’ packaging. The label warns consumers that a generator’s exhaust contains carbon monoxide, a poison that cannot be seen and has no odor, and that generators should never be used inside homes or garages, even if doors and windows are open.

The death toll from CO associated with generators has been steadily rising in recent years. At least 64 people died in 2005 from generator-related CO poisoning. Many of the deaths occurred after hurricanes and major storms. CPSC staff is aware through police, medical examiner, and news reports of at least 32 CO deaths related to portable generators from October 1 through December 31, 2006.

“These deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning are preventable,” said Acting CPSC Chairman Nancy Nord. “The warning labels are meant to stop consumers before they make what could be a fatal mistake.”

Generators should be used outdoors only, far from windows, doors and vents. The CO produced by one generator is equal to the CO produced by hundreds of running cars. It can incapacitate and kill consumers within minutes.

The new “Danger” label requirements for generators manufactured or imported will take effect 120 days after the regulation is published in the Federal Register.

In a separate action last month, the commission began rulemaking to address safety hazards with generators by approving an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR). The commission directed staff to investigate various strategies to reduce consumers’ exposure to CO and to enable and encourage them to use generators outdoors only. Those strategies include generator engines with substantially reduced CO emissions, interlocking or automatic shutoff devices, weatherization requirements, theft deterrence, and noise reduction.


Simple Radon Test Can Help Prevent Lung Cancer

Each year, nearly 20,000 people die from lung cancer caused by exposure to radon. A common source of exposure to radon that can be avoided is exposure in the home, yet only one in five homeowners has actually tested for radon. 

"Healthy homes make for healthy families," said Bill Wehrum, EPA's acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. "EPA is encouraging people to test for radon – a simple step to providing peace of mind."

Radon is an invisible radioactive gas that seeps into your home from underground, and can reach harmful levels if trapped indoors. The only way to know if your home contains high radon levels is to test for it. Nearly 80% of American homes have not been tested for radon, even though a simple test costing as little as $25 can help detect a possible radon problem. If radon is found, homeowners should consult with qualified professionals who can reduce radon exposure for a cost similar to many common home improvement repairs. State radon offices can help the public find qualified radon professionals.

"The invisible and odorless nature of radon makes it a real challenge when trying to raise awareness about its public health risk," said acting U.S. Surgeon General Kenneth Moritsugu. "Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, and it is completely preventable. You can protect your family with a simple first step, and I urge people to take action to prevent radon exposure by testing their homes."

EPA is launching a campaign to inform people about radon and is working with organizations across the country to educate the public on how to protect themselves from radon exposure in their homes. Local government agencies, non-profit organizations, schools, health care providers, radon professionals, and other community groups will work together to host events and activities to increase awareness about radon, promote testing and mitigation, and advance the use of radon-resistant new construction.

Free Radon Test Kits for Colorado Residents

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is offering free radon test kits to Colorado residents in January - national Radon Action Month. Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer and the primary cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Radon exposure causes approximately 20,000 lung cancer deaths annually in the United States, according to EPA estimates, and many of these lung cancers can be prevented.

"Nationally, about 1 in 15 homes has high radon levels, and that number is probably much higher in Colorado because 52 of the state's 64 counties are rated at high risk for radon," said Dennis E. Ellis, executive director of the state health department.

Radon gas is produced as part of the natural decay process of uranium. Highly mineralized areas, such as those in Colorado and its mountains, have a bounty of metals, including uranium. As a result, the risk to Coloradans from exposure to radon gas indoors is higher than the national average.

Radon risk comes from long-term exposure to radon in indoor air. Fortunately, radon testing is easy and inexpensive–and this month, free. 

If necessary, elevated radon levels can be effectively reduced for between $800 and $1,500-the cost of many average home repairs. The test kits are easy to use and remain in the home for approximately 48 hours. Homeowners mail the kit to a laboratory in a prepaid-postage envelope provided with the kit, and the results are returned to them in about two weeks.

ASSE Concerned with Impact of Industry Litigation on Communicating Risks to Workers

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) expressed concern over the recent lawsuit filed by industry groups challenging the OSHA use of threshold limit values (TLVs) used to communicate the risk of exposure limits to chemical hazards through OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom).

ASSE is concerned that, if successful, this suit could prevent workers from obtaining the best available information on chemical exposure limits from employers under the HazCom standard by preventing the inclusion of TLVs on material safety data sheets (MSDSs), a practice that has existed for 25 years.

“The issue of setting appropriate exposure limits for dangerous chemicals being used in the workplace is a difficult one that calls for cooperative efforts,” said ASSE President Donald S. Jones, Sr., P.E., CSP. “We feel OSHA is trying to ensure that employees have the best scientific data available on exposure limits to certain hazardous chemicals. The lawsuit against OSHA's use of TLVs in the HazCom Standard reinforces the need for all stakeholders to address updating workplace exposure limits, an effort that may well require direction from congress as well as leadership from OSHA.”

TLVs are developed by the American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). OSHA has long required inclusion of available ACGIH TLVs on MSDSs. Last January ACGIH announced that it had adopted TLVs for various substances including crystalline silica, iron oxide, propylene, and propylene dichloride. The lawsuit states that when ACGIH issued its revised TLVs, OSHA, by referencing them, wrongly amended its HazCom standard.

“Industry, safety, health and environmental professionals, worker organizations, OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and other stakeholders should work together to find a way to update exposure limits, instead of resorting to litigation,” Jones said. "The merits of the lawsuit aside, banning OSHA’s long standing practice of referencing ACGIH’s TLVs could deny workers and industry of critical data on exposure limits for a variety of hazardous chemicals. This cannot be in the best interest of workers, businesses, and the public."

Jones challenged the industry to join ASSE in urging cCongress to pass legislation requiring OSHA to begin a negotiated rulemaking process to update exposure limits or provide legal protections against litigation so that private organizations can achieve updated limits through the voluntary consensus-building process of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Either mechanism, Jones said, would allow any and all stakeholders to participate in the updating process, thereby helping to avoid the rancor, litigation, and lack of results that has plagued this issue for so many years, and increasing workplace safety.

New OSHA Partnership Formed to Protect Ship Repair Workers

Workers in the ship repair industry will be safer thanks to a new partnership formed between OSHA and the Virginia Ship Repair Association, Inc. (VSRA). OSHA and VSRA formalized the partnership at a ceremony on December 19, 2006.

The VSRA has over 160 member companies that work in or support the ship repair industry in Virginia and along the Mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. VSRA has a long-standing commitment to promote safety and health awareness to its members, which includes a strong training commitment to educational courses and seminars.

"We are pleased to join this partnership because it will foster positive relations between OSHA and VSRA," said Leo Edwards, the acting area director of the Norfolk OSHA office. "It will increase safety and health awareness in the association so the workers can go home injury free at the end of the day."

This partnership agreement reaffirms the close partnership that OSHA and VSRA have enjoyed for more than four years. The original partnership was ground-breaking in the ship repair industry when originally signed in 2002. The agreement has significantly reduced mishap rates and improved communications between OSHA and VSRA member companies.

OSHA's Strategic Partnerships for Worker Safety and Health are part of U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao's ongoing efforts to improve the health and safety of workers through cooperative relationships with groups including trade associations, labor organizations, and employers.

Partnership goals include increasing the number of ship repair employers who develop, implement, and maintain comprehensive safety and health programs that target the primary causes of injuries and illnesses in this industry; keeping the DART rate (cases with days away from work, job-transfer, or restriction) for participating employers below the national average; further reducing this level by 4% annually during the life of the partnership.

For more information, contact the Norfolk OSHA office at (757) 441-3820.

OSHA Renews Recognition of PPL Brunner Island for Workplace Safety and Health Success

OSHA has re-certified PPL Brunner Island as a "Star" site in its Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) for its success in implementing safety and health programs.

PPL Brunner Island is an electric generating facility in East Manchester Township, Penn. The company employs 410 workers and maintains injury and illness rates below the national average for its industry.

The Star Program is designed for employers who successfully incorporate comprehensive safety and health programs into their total management system. OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs are available to deserving employers in any industry. About 1,600 workplaces throughout the U.S. have earned the VPP flag.

OSHA and ACORN Form Alliance in N.J. to Provide Job Safety and Health Training for Hispanic Employees

Helping New Jersey's Hispanic employees stay safe and healthy on-the-job is the purpose of a statewide alliance recently announced by OSHA and the state chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).

ACORN is the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families working together for social justice and stronger communities. The alliance will focus on providing ACORN members, particularly non-English speaking employees, with training and education to recognize, avoid, or correct occupational hazards.

Under the alliance, OSHA and ACORN will offer training in Spanish and English, including a course for bilingual employees to learn to become trainers so they can help to communicate more easily with those who have limited English speaking ability.

The Avenel, Hasbrouk Heights, Marlton and Parsippany area offices of OSHA are participating in the alliance. The agreement will remain in effect for two years.

ASSE Conference Call on Impacts of OSHA Hexavalent Chromium Standard

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) will be host to an audio conference call January 17 from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM Central to discuss the OSHA Hexavalent Chromium Standard and its impacts on the safety, health, and environmental (SH&E) profession. Exposures to hexavalent chromium are addressed in federal specific standards for the general industry, shipyard employment, marine terminals, and the construction industry.

Hexavalent chromium, or Chromium hexavalent (Cr(VI)), compounds exist in many different forms. Chromates are used in many industries. For example, chromates are used as pigments for photography, in pyrotechnics, dyes, paints, inks, and plastics as well as for stainless steel production, leather tanning, wood preservation, and as anti-corrosion coatings. Occupational exposure of Cr(VI) occurs in several occupations but mostly among workers handling pigments, spray paints, and coatings that contain chromates; operating chrome plating baths; and welding or cutting metals that contain chromium. Welding that involves stainless steel, a metal that contains chromium, has a high exposure risk to hexavalent chromium.

There are health effects of exposure to hexavalent chromium. Various chromate compounds are known to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in humans. According to OSHA, an increase in lung cancer has been reported among workers in industries that produce chromate and manufacture pigments containing chromate.

The conference call will focus on the OSHA regulatory framework for hexavalent chromium, the requirements of the standard, the hexavalent chromium hazard assessment, and what is an accepted practice in terms of compliance as well as enforcement of the standard.

David O’Connor from the OSHA Directorate of Standards and Guidance will give a sixty-minute overview about the standard, its requirements, and how it must be implemented by SH&E professionals. There will be a question and answer session following the presentation.

O’Connor currently serves as an industrial hygienist in the Office of Chemical Hazards-Metals for the OSHA Directorate of Standards and Guidance. He has worked in the development of standards and guidance with OSHA for nine years. In addition to the hexavalent chromium rulemaking, he has been involved in projects related to hazard communication, blood borne pathogens, ergonomics, and beryllium. He received his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and a master’s from the University of South Florida.

Registrants will have access to the audio conference, a PowerPoint presentation, resource materials, articles, and a compact disk recording of the call. 

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