August 27, 2018
New OSHA Guidance on Silica Standard
OSHA has posted new frequently asked questions (FAQs) and training videos on the Agency’s standard for respirable crystalline silica in construction.
Developed by OSHA in cooperation with industry and labor organizations, the FAQs
provide employers and workers with guidance on the standard’s requirements. In addition, a series of six new videos
instruct users on methods for controlling exposure to silica dust when performing common construction tasks, or using construction equipment. The videos cover topics including handheld power saws, jackhammers, drills, and grinders.
Why Polluted Air Could be a Threat to Your Kidneys
There is good evidence that polluted air increases the risk of respiratory problems such as asthma -- as well as organ inflammation, worsening of diabetes and other life-threatening conditions. But new research suggests air pollution can also fuel something else: chronic kidney disease, or CKD, which occurs when a person’s kidneys become damaged or cannot filter blood properly.
Recently published in PLOS ONE, a University of Michigan study highlights the lesser-known connection.
“Similar to smoking, air pollution contains harmful toxins that can directly affect the kidneys,” says Jennifer Bragg-Gresham, M.S., Ph.D., a Michigan Medicine epidemiologist and the study’s lead author.
“Kidneys have a large volume of blood flowing through them, and if anything harms the circulatory system, the kidneys will be the first to sense those effects.”
People with diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure or heart disease are at increased risk of developing CKD. Which is why high-risk patients who live in heavily populated or polluted areas should recognize the danger and take precautions, Bragg-Gresham says.
Air pollution contains fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, which is a cocktail of microscopic particles.
Because these particles are virtually weightless, they can stay in the air longer, causing humans to unavoidably inhale them on a regular basis without knowing it. PM2.5 can lead to serious health effects when inhaled often.
By reviewing Medicare claims data and air-quality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the study’s authors found a positive association between CKD rates and PM2.5 concentration.
Says study co-author Rajiv Saran, M.D., a Michigan Medicine nephrologist and director of the United States Renal Data System Coordinating Center at U-M: “If you look at areas that are heavily polluted versus areas that are less polluted, you will find more chronic kidney disease.”
According to figures cited in the new research, chronic kidney disease afflicts more than 27 million Americans. People with CKD have an eightfold increased risk of cardiovascular mortality.
Unfortunately, PM2.5 is almost impossible to avoid. We encounter air pollution from many simple everyday activities, such as cooking and driving. Other contributors are smoking, burning wood, packaged spray products, household appliances and, perhaps the most obvious, industry and vehicle emissions.
Air pollution also contains heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium -- all of which are known to negatively affect the kidneys.
The U-M research examined several prior studies on the issue, including an effort conducted in select coal-mining areas of Appalachia that found a 19% higher risk of CKD among men and a 13% higher risk in women compared with those who lived in counties with no mining.
The good news: PM2.5 levels are much lower in the U.S. than in other industrialized countries such as China and India.
“What this means for the countries with higher PM2.5 is significantly higher odds of CKD,” says Bragg-Gresham, also an assistant research scientist at U-M. “Our research was only able to examine a small range of PM2.5 values present in America but was able to find a significant association.”
However, it’s still important to take precautions when exposed to air pollution, especially for people who have existing health conditions or who live in densely populated or polluted cities.
“In heavily polluted areas, consider wearing masks that cover your nose and mouth, limit hours outside and limit long hours commuting to work in high traffic as well,” Saran says, adding that the risk should be taken seriously.
“Many people don’t see the seriousness of air pollution because it isn’t something visible, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important for your health.”
NIOSH Data Collection for Inorganic Lead REL Update
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is collecting scientific data on inorganic lead, to develop updated recommendations on the potential health risks, medical surveillance, recommended measures for safe handling, and to establish an updated Recommended Exposure Limit (REL).
Inorganic lead is a naturally occurring soft, gray metal used in various forms since ancient times. Occupational exposures occur in a wide range of industries including, but not limited to, the following: Construction, smelting and refining, firing ranges, automobile repair, electronic waste recycling, metal recycling, and many others. Significant occupational exposures to inorganic lead are through inhalation, ingestion, and through the skin, principally through damaged skin.
The current NIOSH REL for inorganic lead is 50 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) as a time-weighted average (TWA) concentration for an 8-hr work shift during a 40-hr workweek.
- De-identified (without personally identifiable information such as name, social security number, date of birth, etc.) inorganic lead breathing zone airborne exposure measurements with corresponding blood lead level concentrations;
- Information on possible health effects observed in workers exposed to inorganic lead, including exposure data (airborne, blood, and/or surface) and the method(s) used for sampling and analyzing exposures;
- Description of work tasks and scenarios with a potential for exposure to inorganic lead;
- Information on control measures (g., engineering controls, work practices, personal protective equipment, exposure data before and after implementation of control measures) that are being used in workplaces with potential exposure to inorganic lead;
- Surveillance findings including protocol, methods, and results; and (6) other relevant information related to occupational exposure to inorganic lead.
The current REL for inorganic lead is 50 μg/m3
as a TWA concentration for an 8-hour work shift during a 40-hour workweek. As part of an effort to identify RELs that may not be adequate to protect workers from adverse health effects due to exposure, NIOSH is reexamining the REL for inorganic lead. The OSHA lead standard, 29 CFR 1910.1025
, established a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for inorganic lead at 50 μg/m3
for an 8-hour period with an action level of 30 μg/m3
for an 8-hour period. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH®
) threshold limit value (TLV®
)-TWA for lead and inorganic compounds is 50 μg/m3
with an A3 carcinogenicity classification (confirmed animal carcinogen with unknown relevance to humans).
NIOSH is seeking to obtain materials, including published and unpublished reports and research findings, to evaluate the possible health risks of occupational exposure to inorganic lead. Examples of requested information include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Identification of industries or occupations in which exposures to inorganic lead may occur.
- Trends in the production and use of inorganic lead.
- Description of work tasks and scenarios with a potential for exposure to inorganic lead.
- Workplace exposure measurement data of inorganic lead (airborne and surface) in various types of industries and jobs with an emphasis on de-identified, breathing zone airborne inorganic lead exposures with corresponding blood lead levels. De-identified data do not contain personally identifiable information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity.
- Case reports or other health information demonstrating potential health effects in workers exposed to inorganic lead.
- Information on control measures (g., engineering controls, work practices, PPE) being taken to minimize worker exposure to inorganic lead.
- Educational materials for worker safety and training on the safe handling of inorganic lead.
- Data pertaining to the feasibility of establishing a more protective REL for inorganic lead.
Electronic or written comments must be received by October 22, 2018.
You may submit comments, identified by CDC-2018-0059 and Docket Number NIOSH-315, by any of the following methods:
- Federal eRulemaking Portal: https://regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
- Mail: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH Docket Office, 1090 Tusculum Avenue, MS-C34, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226-1998.
NIST Details Steps to Keep Buildings Functioning After Natural Hazards
After an earthquake, hurricane, tornado or other natural hazard, it’s considered a win if no one gets hurt and buildings stay standing. But an even bigger victory is possible: keeping those structures operational. This outcome could become more likely with improved standards and codes for the construction of residential and commercial buildings, according to a new report
recently delivered to the U.S. Congress by the National Institute of Standards and Technology
“Current standards and codes focus on preserving lives by reducing the likelihood of significant building damage or structural collapse from hazards,” said Steven McCabe
, director of the NIST-led, multiagency National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program
(NEHRP) and one of the authors of the new publication. “But they generally don’t address the additional need to preserve quality of life by keeping buildings habitable and functioning as normally as possible, what we call ‘immediate occupancy.’ The goal of our report is to put the nation on track to achieve this performance outcome.”
The impact of a natural hazard on a community is usually most evident in the lives lost and physical destruction, but the accompanying economic shock, social disruptions and reduced quality of life can often be devastating as well. “Cities and towns can be rebuilt, but lifestyles are damaged, sometimes permanently, if businesses, schools, utilities, transportation and other essential operations are out of service for an extended period,” said Therese McAllister
, manager of NIST’s Community Resilience Program
and another report author.
The infamous 1906 San Francisco earthquake provides a dramatic example of that impact. In the half-century following the 1840s Gold Rush in California, San Francisco was the fastest growing metropolitan area in the region. That all changed on April 18, 1906, when the quake and resulting fires destroyed 80% of the city, killed some 3,000 residents and left nearly 300,000 people—three-fourths of the population—homeless, out of work and without essential services. Though San Francisco would rebuild quickly, the disaster diverted trade, industry and people south to Los Angeles, which then supplanted the “City by the Bay” as the largest, most important urban center in the western United States.
Even with modern building codes and standards in place, there is still room for improvement, as evidenced by the massive damage from the May 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri
, and the three major 2017 hurricanes striking Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico
“Immediate occupancy performance measures would help avoid catastrophes because they could build up a community’s resiliency against natural hazards so that people still can live at home, still can go to work and still can have the supporting infrastructure providing them services such as water and electricity,” McCabe said.
In 2017, Congress tasked NIST to define what it would take to achieve immediate occupancy performance codes and standards for all buildings in all types of natural hazards, specifically in terms of fundamental research needs, possible technological applications based on that research and key strategies that could be used to implement any resulting regulations.
“The report provides valuable information about steps that could be taken to achieve immediate occupancy in the future,” McAllister said.
The potential research activities presented in the report to Congress were developed with the assistance of a steering committee of recognized experts and stakeholder input obtained during a national workshop hosted by NIST in January 2018. The workshop participants identified four key areas that they believe must be considered when developing plans to achieve immediate occupancy performance: building design, community needs, economic and social impacts, and fostering acceptance and use of new practices.
For example, the report states that immediate occupancy performance measures must be developed, established and implemented with a sensitivity to how they will economically affect building owners, business operators, occupants and even whole communities. “You have to make sure that the cost of keeping buildings functional after natural hazards remains reasonable enough that everyone will be able to afford them,” McCabe said.
The report also discusses key challenges facing the effort to make buildings functional in the wake of natural hazards, such as motivating communities to make the investment, managing how costs and benefits are balanced, and garnering public support.
Finally, the report concludes by recognizing that “increasing the performance goals for buildings would not be easily achieved, but the advantages may be substantial” and that making such objectives a reality “would entail a significant shift in practice for development, construction and maintenance or retrofit of buildings.” The report, its authors state, is the first step toward creating an action plan to achieve immediate occupancy across the nation with coordinated and detailed research goals and implementation activities.
“Our report outlines the steps that could be taken for a big raise of the bar—perhaps the biggest change in building standards and codes in 50 years—but one we believe is possible,” McCabe said.
New NIOSH Resources Help Fire Fighters Recognize Symptoms of Rhabdomyolysis
Firefighting, both structural and wildland, involves tasks in environments that place fire fighters at increased risk for rhabdomyolysis (often referred to as rhabdo) when on the job. Rhabdomyolysis is a breakdown of muscle tissue that releases proteins and electrolytes into the blood stream and can cause heart and kidney damage. If left untreated, severe rhabdo may be fatal or result in permanent disability. Heat exposure and intense physical effort are just two of many known risk factors for rhabdo.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) developed two sets of factsheets—one for structural firefighters and their healthcare providers and another for wildland firefighters and their healthcare providers—to increase awareness about the signs and symptoms of rhabdomyolysis and help fire fighters get early treatment to prevent more serious medical problems. NIOSH also developed wallet cards for both types of fire fighters that remind healthcare providers that fire fighters have an increased risk for rhabdo.
Symptoms of rhabdomyolysis may include:
- Muscle cramps, aches, or pain that are more severe than expected
- Exercise intolerance – unable to complete a usual workout routine
- Abnormally dark (tea- or cola-colored) urine
Symptoms may not appear for up to several days after a fire fighter was physically active or exposed to heat. Rhabdo symptoms may look similar to heat cramps and dehydration. The only way to tell for certain if rhabdo is occurring is to have a healthcare provider draw blood to check for creatine kinase, an enzyme inside of muscle tissue that is released when muscle is injured or dies. Early diagnosis and start of treatment for rhabdo is essential and can ensure recovery from rhabdo without any lasting effects.
The factsheets are available from the NIOSH website. NIOSH also encourages fire fighters to share the factsheets with their healthcare provider.
Factsheets for wildland firefighters and their healthcare providers:
Factsheets for structural firefighters and their healthcare providers:
For more information on work-related heat stress, go to the NIOSH website
Two Colorado Construction Companies Cited for Safety and Health Hazards after Worker’s Fatal Fall
OSHA has cited Hammers Construction Inc. and Montes Construction LLC after a fatal fall at a Greenwood Village, Colorado, worksite. The companies face proposed penalties of $177,893. OSHA inspected the worksite in March 2018 after an employee fell while installing metal roofing panels on a storage unit building. OSHA cited the two construction companies for failing to use adequate fall protection and restrict employees from standing on the mid-rails of scissor lifts. OSHA also cited Montes Construction LLC in January 2018 for failing to provide fall protection, and now faces a willful citation.
“These employers failed to protect their employees from well-known and preventable fall hazards,” said OSHA Area Director David Nelson, in Englewood, Colorado. “This tragedy could have been prevented if they had met their obligations and provided the required fall protection.”
Ohio Steel Supplier Gets Maximum Fine After Employee Fatally Struck
OSHA has cited National Material Company LLC for failing to protect workers from tip-over hazards after an employee suffered fatal injuries at the steel supply plant in Mansfield, Ohio. OSHA cited the steel supplier for one willful violation, and proposed the maximum penalty allowed by law of $129,336.
Investigators determined that six steel coils—weighing approximately 1,775 pounds each—struck the employee after the coils tipped while being moved. Three other instances of coils tipping over occurred at the plant in the past two years. No injuries resulted from those incidents.
“Employers are required to ensure safe work procedures in their facilities,” said OSHA Toledo Area Office Director Kimberly Nelson. “This tragedy could have been avoided if the company had changed its coil transfer procedures after experiencing this serious hazard in the recent past.”
Omaha Railcar Cleaning Company and Two Owners Charged with Violating Environmental and Worker Safety Laws Related to Workers’ 2015 Deaths
Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services LLC (NRCS), its president and owner, Steven Michael Braithwaite, and its vice president and co-owner, Adam Thomas Braithwaite, were charged in a 22-count indictment with conspiracy, violating worker safety standards resulting in worker deaths, violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) which governs hazardous waste management
, and submitting false documents to a federal agency. Adam Braithwaite was also charged with perjury. The indictment was returned by a grand jury in Omaha, Nebraska and announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division Jeffrey H. Wood and United States Attorney Joseph P. Kelly.
According to the indictment, NRCS and Steve and Adam Braithwaite failed to implement worker safety standards and then tried to cover that up during an OSHA inspection. The defendants also mishandled hazardous wastes removed from rail tanker cars during the cleaning process.
Two of the company’s workers were later killed and another injured when the contents of a railcar ignited while being cleaned.
“Protecting the health and safety of American workers at hazardous job sites is of paramount importance,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Wood. “The defendants in this case failed to live up to that responsibility, even falsifying documents to evade worker safety requirements. Tragically, employees at the defendants’ facility lost their lives while working in these unsafe conditions. Today’s indictment shows that the Department of Justice will prosecute those who knowingly seek to thwart federal laws that protect the safety of American workers.”
“Whenever a company or its employees knowingly fail to comply with environmental laws, both the public and the environment are placed at risk” said Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This case demonstrates the importance of environmental compliance to safeguard public health and safety.”
“An important mission of the Office of Inspector General is to investigate allegations of fraud committed against the Department of Labor’s regulatory agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to defend the missions of those regulatory agencies, which includes assuring safe and healthful working conditions for American workers,” said Steven Grell, Special Agent-In-Charge, Dallas Region, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.
The indictment alleges that after a 2013 inspection of NRCS, Steve Braithwaite entered into a written agreement where he represented that NRCS had been testing for benzene
since July 2014. After OSHA returned to NRCS in March 2015 to conduct a follow-up inspection and was turned away by Steve Braithwaite, Steve and Adam Braithwaite created documents that were submitted to OSHA to falsely show that NRCS had been purchasing equipment to test the contents of railcars for benzene and had taken other required safety precautions. During inspections by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2013 and 2014 respectively, NRCS was informed that it was required to test its wastes to determine if they were hazardous in order to properly dispose of them, rather than send all untested waste to a landfill not permitted to receive hazardous waste. The indictment alleges that was not done before April 2015.
On April 14, 2015, the contents of a railcar ignited while being cleaned by NRCS employees. Two employees were killed and a third injured. Two days after the explosion, NRCS had three railcars tested to assess whether their contents were hazardous; two were determined to be hazardous.
OSHA regulations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act require that the air in confined spaces
such as rail tanker cars be tested for various gases including flammable and explosive ones before workers are allowed to enter, and that workers exposed to certain chemicals wear respirators for which they must be assessed and fit tested. EPA regulations under RCRA require assessments of wastes for whether they are hazardous and that hazardous wastes be treated and disposed of at appropriate facilities. Hazardous wastes include those that are ignitable and those that contain benzene. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, benzene causes human cancer and has other health effects.
The case was investigated by EPA Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General. Senior Counsel Krishna S. Dighe of the Department of Justice, Environmental Crimes Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald J. Kleine of the District of Nebraska are prosecuting the case.
United States Attorney Kelly reminds the public that an Indictment is merely a formal charging document and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
OSHA Finds 44 Safety and Health Violations After Inspection of Ohio Manufacturing Facility
OSHA has cited Sperry & Rice LLC for 44 safety and health violations at its rubber and plastic manufacturing plant in Killbuck, Ohio. The company faces penalties totaling $400,775.
OSHA inspected the facility in response to a complaint, and cited Sperry & Rice LLC for failing to provide newly hired employees with information on the use and safe handling of hazardous chemicals. OSHA also cited the company for failing to provide adequate machine guards, personal protective equipment, respiratory protection, and fall protection; exposing employees to electrical safety, and tripping hazards; and failing to train workers on lockout/tagout procedures to prevent machines from unintentionally starting.
“Employees are at increased risk when they are not adequately trained and effective safety and health procedures are not implemented,” said OSHA Columbus Area Office Director Larry Johnson. “Employers are required to train employees on their first day about on-the-job hazards and safe handling procedures and provide personal protective equipment to keep them safe.”
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