The results were published in the web journal of BMC Genomics on Feb. 11, 2008.
Earlier studies have shown that mobile phone radiation (radiofrequency modulated electromagnetic fields; RF-EMF) alters protein expression and activity in human endothelial cell line. STUK’s new study is globally unique, because, for the first time, it has examined whether a local exposure of human skin to RF-EMF will cause changes in protein expression in living people.
In the study, a small area of forearm skin in 10 volunteers was exposed to GSM signal for one hour. Afterwards, skin biopsies were collected from exposed and non-exposed areas of skin and all extractable proteins were examined. The analysis of 580 proteins identified 8 proteins that were statistically significantly affected.
”Mobile phone radiation has some biological effect. Even if the changes are small, they still exist”, says Dariusz Leszczynski, research professor at STUK. According to Leszczynski, it is much too early to say if these changes induced by mobile phone radiation have any health effects.
”The aim of this project was not detecting any possible health effects, but to find out whether living human skin responds to mobile phone radiation and whether proteomics approach is useful in sorting out this issue,” he states.
Turtle Studies Suggest Health Risks From Environmental Contaminants
The same chemicals that keep food from sticking to our frying pans and stains from setting in our carpets are damaging the livers and impairing the immune systems of loggerhead turtles—an environmental health impact that also may signal a danger for humans.
Jennifer Keller, a researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, S.C., reported on February 16 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) that a scientific team monitoring the blood plasma of loggerhead turtles along the U.S. East Coast consistently found significant levels of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs).
PFCs are used as nonstick coatings and additives in a wide variety of goods, including cookware, furniture fabrics, carpets, food packaging, fire-fighting foams, and cosmetics. They are very stable, persist for a long time in the environment and are known to be toxic to the liver, reproductive organs, and immune systems of laboratory mammals.
Keller said that in a 2005 study, PFC concentrations measured in the plasma of turtles found along the coast from Florida to North Carolina indicated that PFCs have become a major contaminant for the species. The levels of the most common PFC, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), were higher in turtles captured in the north than in the south. Data recently evaluated by NIST and College of Charleston graduate student Steven O’Connell shows that this northern trend of higher PFOS concentrations continues up into the Chesapeake Bay.
Blood chemistry analyses of PFC-contaminated loggerheads suggested damage to liver cells and the suppression of at least one immune function, which could lead to a higher risk of disease. To support the “cause-effect relationship” between PFCs and illness, the researchers exposed Western fence lizards to the same PFOS levels found in loggerheads in the wild. The lizards showed significant increases in an enzyme that indicates liver toxicity. They also had signs of suppressed immune function.
These findings, Keller said, indicate that current environmental PFC exposures—at concentrations comparable to those seen in human blood samples—are putting marine species at an enhanced risk of health problems from reduced immunity and may suggest a similar threat to us.
Keller reported that a recently completed study led by colleague Margie Peden-Adams of the Medical University of South Carolina showed PFOS is toxic to the immune systems of mice at concentrations found both in loggerhead sea turtles and humans. The ability of the mouse immune system to respond to a challenge was reduced in half by PFOS—and this occurred at the lowest level of the compound ever reported for a toxic effect.
If our immune systems have a similar sensitivity to PFOS, Keller explained, humans could be immuno-compromised from current environmental exposure to PFOS.
OSHA Issues Guidance on Working Safety With Portland Cement
“Those who work with portland cement are at risk of developing skin problems, and OSHA is committed to providing information that will help employers keep their employees safe from cement-related skin problems,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr.
Portland cement is a generic term used to describe a variety of building materials that have strong adhesive properties when mixed with water. Wet portland cement can damage the skin because it is caustic, abrasive, and absorbs moisture. It also contains trace amounts of hexavalent chromium, a toxin harmful to the skin. Portland cement is an ingredient in concrete, mortar, plaster, grout, stucco, and terrazzo.
The new guidance addresses ways to prevent or minimize skin problems through the proper selection and use of gloves, boots, and other personal protective equipment, including kneepads; proper skin care and work practices, such as use of pH neutral or slightly acidic soaps; and ways of making cement products less hazardous.
OSHA estimates that there are more than one million employees that work with either portland cement or concrete, which contains portland cement. The product is estimated to account for 25% or more of all work-related skin problems, while occupational skin disease is estimated to account for 10%-15% of all work-related diseases.
Health Department Emphasizes Taking Precautions Against Flu Virus
As flu activity remains widespread, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is reminding the public to take precautions against spreading flu viruses and to receive a vaccination against the flu if they have not already done so.
Recommended precautions include proper handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when sick. Cover the mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands. Additionally, although this season’s flu vaccine does not match all of the circulating viral strains, the vaccine still offers a degree of protection and the vaccine remains available.
“Even in cases where the vaccine does not match the strain, it can often lessen the severity of the symptoms as well as the likelihood of complications,” stated Dr. Gail Hansen, Kansas State Epidemiologist. “It’s also important to remember that Kansas typically experiences peak influenza activity around this time of year, and we expect to see high activity for a few more weeks.”
The department first reported “widespread” activity to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) effective January 26. At that time, 10 other states were also reporting widespread activity. As of the week ending February 9, all but six states are reporting widespread activity and five of those are reporting ‘regional’ activity, the next highest flu activity level.
The CDC definition of ”widespread” flu activity is “outbreaks of influenza or increases in influenza-like illness cases and recent laboratory-confirmed influenza in at least half the regions of the state.”
Hansen emphasized that, with few exceptions, almost everyone should get vaccinated against the flu, especially those in the following groups:
- Children age 6 months to 5 years old
- Pregnant women
- People age 50 and older
- People with chronic medical conditions
- Residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities
- Household contacts of people at high-risk of contracting the flu (listed above)
- Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children under age 6 months
- Health care workers
People who should not be vaccinated against the flu include:
- People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs
- People who have had a severe reaction to the flu vaccination in the past
- People who developed Guillain-Barre syndrome within six weeks of getting an influenza vaccine previously
- Infants less than 6 months old
- People who have a moderate to severe illness with a fever should wait to get vaccinated until they recover
“The flu shot is made with dead influenza virus and cannot cause the flu,” Hansen said. “The nasal flu vaccine is made with a live weakened virus, which is why it is recommended only for healthy persons 2 to 49 years of age who are not pregnant.”
Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness, and its symptoms include sudden onset of fever, sore throat, muscle aches, and non-productive cough. More serious illness can result if pneumonia occurs. Influenza is spread by direct contact with an infected person or by airborne droplets that produce infection when they are inhaled or ingested off the hands. Persons are most contagious during the 24 hours before they develop symptoms and are usually somewhat infectious for the next six or seven days. The incubation period, the time from when the virus enters the body until symptoms appear, is usually one to three days.
Safe Kids Kansas Offers Guidelines to Prevent Tip-Overs and Entrapment
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that in 2005 at least 3,000 children younger than 5 were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms because of injuries associated with TV tip-overs. Between 8,000 to 10,000 people—mostly children—each year go to the emergency room with injuries from furniture tipping over, and about six are killed. In the years between 2000 and 2005, the CPSC states they were sent notifications of 36 deaths due to TVs tipping over and 65 deaths due to furniture tipping over. Kids can be seriously injured or killed as a result of climbing on shelves, bookcases, dressers, TV tables, and other furniture.
“If a piece of furniture is top-heavy or unstable, fasten it to a wall using angle braces or anchors,” says Jan Stegelman, Safe Kids Kansas coordinator. “Keep heavier items on lower shelves or in lower drawers.” Televisions, stereos, or favorite toys sitting on a table or stand might entice a child to reach for the top and pull down the object, the stand, or both.
“Tie up loose cords, too—a child pulling on an electrical cord, or tripping on one, could pull an appliance off a stand,” says Stegelman.
In response to several child fatalities from furniture-related head injuries, Reps. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Vito Fossella (R-NY), and Frank LoBiondo (R-NY) introduced legislation to establish a federal government safety standard for furniture in danger of tipping over. If passed, the legislation would require certain furniture to be sold with anchoring devices.
Kids are also in danger of suffocation if they become accidentally trapped in a cabinet, toy chest, or laundry machine. In 2006 alone, there were more than 3,800 injuries to children ages 2–14 involving toy chests. Always supervise children around any confined space and keep the doors closed and locked.
Toy chests that meet voluntary standards set by the CPSC are equipped with lid supports that hold the lid open in any position. The standards also call for ventilation holes to prevent suffocation. “If you have a toy chest with a lid that doesn’t stay open, the CPSC recommends you remove the lid or install a spring-loaded lid support,” says Stegelman.
“These are not hazards that kill thousands of children every year, like vehicle crashes or drowning, but they are so easy to prevent and the consequences can be so severe,” says Stegelman. “Don’t underestimate the possibility of a small child being crushed by unsteady furniture.”
Kansas Department of Health and Environment Encourages People With Disabilities to Plan for Fire Emergencies
Recent fires have tragically resulted in injuries or deaths involving people with disabilities in various parts of Kansas. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) encourages those with disabilities to take the necessary precautions to protect their safety in the event of a fire.
“You need a smoke alarm on each level of the home and in every sleeping area, and to make sure each one actually works,” says Lori Haskett, Injury Prevention Director with the Kansas Fire Injury Prevention Program at KDHE.
Haskett said that people with disabilities may be at greater risk for fire injury because of difficulty hearing an alarm, lack of mobility to reach safety quickly, inability to crawl low under the smoke, or various other mobility, sensory, or cognitive disabilities.
Advance preparation could be the key to saving someone’s life in a fire emergency. KDHE offers the following fire safety tips for persons with disabilities:
- Smoke alarms with a vibrating pad or flashing light are available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
- Smoke alarms should be tested monthly and batteries need to be changed at least once a year.
- Smoke alarms should be replaced after 10 years of use.
- If you live in an apartment building, it is safest to live on the ground floor.
- If you live in a multi-story home, it is safest to sleep on the first floor.
- Being on the ground floor and near an exit will make your escape easier.
Plan Your Escape
- Plan your escape around your capabilities.
- Know at least two exits from every room.
- Place your bed close to the window if you plan to use it as an exit.
- If the window does not open easily, keep a hammer close to the window in order to break it in an emergency.
- If you use a walker or wheelchair, check all exits to be sure you get through the doorways.
- Make any necessary accommodations, such as providing exit ramps and widening doorways, to facilitate an emergency escape.
- Tactile markings at baseboard level can show the way to exits if you are unable to see clearly, for any reason.
If You Are Unable to Escape
- Keep your door closed.
- Hang a sheet or cloth out the window to show the fire department where you are.
- Close the window if smoke is entering the room from the outside.
Don’t Isolate Yourself
- People with disabilities unfortunately are often excluded from escape plans and fire safety drills. Speak up to ensure that you receive the fire safety information you deserve.
- Speak to your family members, building manager, or neighbors about your fire safety plan and practice it with them.
- Ask emergency providers to keep your special needs information on file.
- Keep a phone near your bed and be ready to call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number if a fire occurs.
- Contact your local fire department’s non-emergency line and explain your needs. They will probably suggest escape plan ideas and may perform a home fire-safety inspection and offer suggestions about smoke alarm placement and maintenance.
Smoke alarms should be tested at least once a month and the batteries replaced every six months, except for lithium batteries that last for 10 years. A working smoke alarm reduces the risk of dying in a fire by about 50%.
KDHE receives funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct the Kansas Fire Injury Prevention Program.
OSHA Proposes Fines of Nearly $465,000 for Fire Safety, Exit Access, and Other Hazards at Deutsche Bank Tower
OSHA has cited Bovis Lend Lease and John Galt Corp. for 44 alleged violations of workplace safety and health standards at the former Deutsche Bank headquarters located in Manhattan, N.Y.
The two contractors, who were responsible for demolition and asbestos abatement work on the building, were cited following an Aug. 18, 2007, fire, which took the lives of two New York City firefighters.
“Construction and demolition sites must be kept safe at all times for both employees and emergency responders,” said Louis Ricca Jr., OSHA’s acting regional administrator in New York.
“Employers must adhere to safety and health standards, and prepare completely and effectively for workplace emergencies,” said Richard Mendelson, OSHA’s area director in Manhattan. “Failure to do so can—and, in this case, did—cost lives.”
OSHA’s citations address fire-related hazards, including a missing section of the standpipe system and insufficient water pressure and water supply for fighting fires inside the tower. Citations also include numerous safety hazards that exposed employees to death or serious injury from falls, falling objects, electrocution, and the inability to exit the tower swiftly and safely in the event of a fire or other emergency.
As a result of its inspection, OSHA cited both Bovis and Galt for the following hazards:
- Failing to inspect and maintain firefighting equipment to ensure that the standpipe system was operational and that sufficient water supply and water pressure were available for firefighting
- Obstructed emergency exit access (including sealed emergency stairwells, emergency stairwells blocked by construction, and unlighted stairwells)
- Inadequate emergency escape procedures
- Unmarked exits
- Lack of fire extinguishers, emergency alarm procedures, and fire cutoffs
- Failing to develop and follow a fire protection program
- Smoking permitted in work areas
- Temporary structures inside the building made of combustible materials
- Scaffolds erected too close to power lines
- Unprotected sides and edges of work areas, unprotected floor openings, missing or broken guardrails, and missing stair rails
- Exposed live electrical parts, electric panel boards in wet locations, and other electrical hazards.
The two contractors face a combined total of $464,500 in proposed fines for these conditions. Individually, Galt was issued 3 willful and 22 serious citations, carrying $271,500 in fines. Bovis was issued 2 willful and 17 serious citations, with $193,000 in fines for these conditions.
Previous OSHA inspections at the jobsite had resulted in Galt being fined $88,500 for 26 violations and Bovis being fined $18,000 for 5 violations.
Mendelson noted that the size of the fines currently proposed against Bovis and Galt reflects the scope and severity of the cited conditions and the classification of several of the citations as willful, the most severe category of citation. Each of the willful citations carries a proposed penalty of $70,000, the maximum allowed under the law.
Paradise Energy Electrical Contractors Inc., an electrical subcontractor, also was issued five serious citations, with $6,250 in proposed fines, for a scaffold erected too close to a power line and other electrical hazards.
OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health. The agency issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
“OSHA will continue to work with other regulatory agencies overseeing this project to identify and address safety and health concerns prior to, and after resumption of, demolition and remediation operations,” said Mendelson.
Each company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to request and participate in an informal conference with OSHA or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA’s Manhattan Area Office.
OSHA Fines Masonry Contractor More Than $195,000 for 21 Safety Violations
OSHA has cited Herrera’s Construction for 21 safety violations with $195,200 in proposed penalties after inspectors visited jobsites in Birmingham and Calera, Ala.
“Poorly constructed scaffolding and a careless attitude toward fall protection caused unnecessary risks for this company’s employees,” said Roberto Sanchez, OSHA’s area director in Birmingham, Ala. “OSHA will not tolerate lackadaisical attitudes about safety.”
OSHA has cited Herrera’s Construction for eight repeat violations with proposed penalties totaling $160,000. In addition, 13 serious violations were noted with proposed penalties of $35,200. Violations include the company’s failure to address fall protection, failure to properly erect scaffolding, and allowing employees to work without proper personal protective equipment. The company had been cited for similar violations in 2005.
A repeat violation is defined as one for which an employer has been cited previously for a substantially similar condition after the original citation has become a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
The Pelham, Ala.-based company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to contest the violations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Murphy Oil USA Inc. Takes Corrective Action After OSHA Conducts Safety Inspection
OSHA and Murphy Oil USA Inc. have agreed on a settlement after the agency’s safety inspection revealed violations of federal workplace safety standards at the company’s refinery in Superior, Wis.
Murphy Oil has agreed to pay $179,100 in fines and already has taken corrective action to eliminate unsafe working conditions.
OSHA initiated a safety inspection at the facility in August 2007 as part of the agency’s National Emphasis Program for petroleum refineries. OSHA found during the inspection that alarms used to alert operators of failing positive-pressure systems were deactivated and not continuously monitored.
Murphy Oil also has agreed to abate issues associated with fall protection, emergency action and response plans, lockout/tagout procedures that are intended to prevent machinery from functioning while employees perform maintenance, firefighting training, and safety management procedures.
Murphy Oil USA Inc. employs about 155 employees in Superior and 2,000 production and 4,000 retail employees nationwide. OSHA has inspected this site twice and cited it for one serious violation in the past.
“Injuries and fatalities from incidents at refineries are preventable,” said Mark Hysell, OSHA’s area director in Eau Claire, Wis. “We are pleased that Murphy is taking quick corrective action to ensure a safe working environment. The company has committed to long-term improvements in its safety and health management systems, which we hope will place the company among the best in the industry.”
OSHA operates a vigorous enforcement program, conducting more than 39,000 inspections in fiscal year 2007 and exceeding its inspection goals in each of the last eight years. In fiscal year 2007, OSHA found nearly 89,000 violations of its standards and regulations.
OSHA Cites N SKY Construction for Multiple Safety Violations Following Texas Fatality
The alleged failure to protect its employees from safety hazards has brought Texas-based N SKY Construction LLC multiple citations from OSHA following a fatality at the company’s worksite in Seabrook, Texas.
N SKY Construction was cited for one willful, 18 serious and two other-than-serious safety violations carrying $110,600 in proposed fines following an OSHA inspection which began on Aug. 22, 2007, at the company’s Endeavour Condominium worksite. The investigation revealed that an employee, who was sweeping floors as part of a clean-up crew, backed off an unprotected edge and fell 29 floors to his death. The company, which specializes in high-rise construction, had 37 employees, with an additional 25 contract workers, at the site.
“This employer ignored safety and health rules that could have prevented the tragic death of this employee,” said Dean McDaniel, OSHA’s regional administrator in Dallas.
The willful violation is for failing to provide employees with fall protection on open-sided flooring and edges, which could result in fall hazards of greater than 300 feet. A willful violation is one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.
Serious violations include the company’s failure to provide fall protection on unprotected sides and edges; provide employees with fall protection training; provide adequate and sufficient fire protection throughout the site; properly secure and store compressed fuel gas cylinders; and protect employees from live electrical parts in temporary wiring. A serious violation is one involving a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Other-than-serious violations are for failing to follow OSHA regulations related to recordkeeping.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director in Houston, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
OSHA Cites M-D Building Products for Multiple Repeat Safety Violations
The alleged failure to protect its employees from safety hazards has brought M-D Building Products in Oklahoma City, Okla., $107,500 in proposed penalties from OSHA in response to an August 2007 follow-up inspection.
In October 2005, OSHA cited the company $177,000 for violations following an amputation. The August 2007 follow-up inspection resulted in OSHA citing the company with three serious and four repeat violations. M-D Building, a manufacturer of decorative molding assortments and weather-proofing products, has about 400 employees at its Oklahoma City facility.
“Within the past few years, the company has had a history of severe injuries including amputations of an arm, hands, and fingers; burns; and electrical shock,” said Carlos Reynolds, OSHA’s acting district director in Oklahoma City. “If this employer had implemented periodic safety inspections, as required, many of these injuries could have been avoided.”
The three serious violations were for failing to correctly certify that energy-control procedures were conducted; failing to perform forklift operator evaluations; and failing to provide adequate machine guarding. A serious violation is one involving a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
The four repeat violations included failing to conduct periodic inspections of energy-control procedures with maintenance employees and failing to provide machine guarding to protect employees from rotating and nip points on machinery. A repeat violation is proposed when the same OSHA standard or a like standard has been violated within the last three years.
M-D Building Products has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s Oklahoma City area director, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review commission.
OSHA Proposes Nearly $70,000 in Penalties Against Construction Contractor for Five Safety Violations
OSHA has proposed $69,500 in penalties against Bowlin Grading for alleged willful, repeat, and serious safety violations.
OSHA cited the construction contractor after inspecting the company’s East Point, Ga., construction site where employees were installing a new storm drainage system.
The company was cited with an alleged willful violation and a $49,500 proposed penalty after finding that a supervisor allowed employees to work in an unprotected 13-foot deep trench. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.
“Trench cave-ins can occur very quickly, and employees working in deep trenches need a shoring or shielding system. Simply assigning employees to keep watch for signs of soil collapse is insufficient,” said Andre Richards, director of OSHA’s Atlanta-West Area Office.
One alleged repeat violation carrying an $8,000 proposed penalty was issued for failing to train employees to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions, such as the hazards of a cave-in. The company had been cited for a similar violation in 2006.
Three alleged serious violations with $12,000 in proposed penalties were cited: allowing a damaged portable ladder to be used on unstable ground while not training employees to recognize and avoid the associated hazards.
The Williamson, Ga., company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to contest the violations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Apartment Complex Agrees to Pay $66,000 to Whistleblower Terminated for Requesting Protective Equipment in Insecticide Cleanup
As the result of an investigation and legal action by the U.S. Department of Labor, a Flushing, N.Y., apartment complex will pay $66,000 in back wages to a former employee who was fired after objecting to unsafe working conditions.
An employee of Second Housing Co. Inc., was ordered to clean up insecticide residue in the complex’s basement despite his not having been trained in the handling of hazardous materials and the absence of personal protective equipment (PPE). Concerned for his health and safety, he repeatedly asked for PPE and was fired as a result.
A whistleblower investigation by OSHA found that Second Housing had discharged the employee in retaliation for raising legitimate safety and health concerns.
Under a consent judgment signed Jan. 24, 2008, by U.S. District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano, Second Housing will pay the back wages, plus interest, and inform its employees of their whistleblower rights under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. If payment is not made, the court will appoint a receiver with the power to liquidate the company’s assets to secure compliance with the monetary terms of the judgment.
“All employees have the right to safe and healthful working conditions without fear of retaliation or termination,” said Louis Ricca Jr., OSHA’s acting regional administrator in New York. “When that right is denied, the Labor Department will not hesitate to take appropriate and effective legal steps to ensure its restoration.”
The judgment, which Second Housing agreed to without admitting or denying the charges, also prohibits the company from discharging or discriminating against any employee who files an OSHA complaint. The judgment was entered in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Section 11(c) of the OSH Act protects an employee’s right to file a complaint with OSHA or bring safety and health issues to the attention of his or her employer.
Recycling Plant Cited by OSHA for 22 Alleged Safety Violations Following Employee’s Death
OSHA has cited an Auburn, N.Y., scrap metal recycling plant for a total of 22 alleged serious and repeat violations of safety standards following the Nov. 6, 2007, death of an employee who became caught in a conveyor belt. Auburn Metal Processing LLC faces $44,100 in proposed fines.
OSHA’s inspection found that conveyors and other machinery at the plant lacked adequate guarding to prevent employee contact with moving parts and that hardware and procedures to lock out their power sources to prevent startup while employees worked on them were not supplied and used. The conveyors also lacked start-up alarms to warn employees.
“It’s imperative that these safeguards be promptly, completely, and effectively implemented to prevent this sort of accident from occurring again,” said Christopher Adams, OSHA’s area director in Syracuse, N.Y.
In addition, OSHA’s inspection identified a cross-section of hazards at the plant, including no program to regulate entry into permit-required confined spaces; the use of damaged forklift trucks; an uninspected and improperly maintained crane; damaged electrical cords; ungrounded electrical equipment; inadequate fire protection where flammable liquids were stored; and lack of reflective clothing for employees exposed to vehicular traffic after dark.
As a result, OSHA issued the plant 16 serious citations, with $23,100 in fines. OSHA defines a serious violation as a condition that exists where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result.
OSHA also issued the plant six repeat citations, with $21,000 in fines, for hazards similar to those cited during an earlier OSHA inspection. These included lack of backup alarms on loaders; failing to replenish spent fire extinguishers; unguarded open-sided floors and platforms; missing stair rails; improperly maintained air cleaning hoses; and additional instances of unguarded machinery. OSHA issues repeat citations when an employer has previously been cited for a substantially similar hazard and those citations have become final.
Auburn Metal Processing has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to request and participate in an informal conference with OSHA or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
New Alliance Formed Between OSHA, NIOSH, and NHCA
A new alliance between OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) was recently formed to provide information to NHCA members, young employees, small businesses, and others on reducing and preventing exposure to noise and ototoxic (hearing damaging) chemicals.
“Millions of employees face the risk of hearing loss due to occupational exposure to high noise levels on the job,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke, Jr. “We are pleased to join with these organizations. Through this alliance, we are committed to develop and provide resources to eliminate the risk of hearing loss and help employers protect the hearing of their employees.”
The alliance will develop guidance and training materials on the recognition and prevention of hearing loss caused by workplace hazards and communicate such information through workshops, seminars, and print and electronic media. OSHA will utilize the expertise of NIOSH and NHCA representatives to develop compliance assistance tools and web pages to help employers and employees in affected industries. Alliance representatives will address hearing conservation issues at annual conferences, meetings, and other events.
“We are pleased to join with OSHA and NHCA in this collaboration to prevent work-related hearing loss, one of the most common occupational illnesses,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “This is a particularly important and timely collaboration for protecting young workers from exposures that can greatly diminish their quality of life and for helping small businesses stay productive and competitive in today’s demanding economy.”
Deanna Meinke, Ph.D., president of NHCA, stated, “By participating in this formal alliance, NHCA looks forward to sharing our member’s expertise, field experiences, and creativity with OSHA and NIOSH. NHCA envisions successful advancements in our mutual efforts to reduce and ultimately prevent hearing loss due to workplace noise and ototoxin exposure.”
NIOSH is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. The agency’s 1,400-member staff represents a wide range of disciplines including epidemiology, medicine, industrial hygiene, safety, and psychology. The NHCA is a national organization that focuses on preventing hearing loss due to noise and other environmental factors. Its members include audiologists, engineers, industrial hygienists, and safety and medical professionals who provide guidance on hearing loss prevention through educational opportunities, conferences, publications, and collaboration with other professional organizations.
OSHA Forms Innovative Alliance With Puerto Rico Shipping Association
A new, innovative alliance has been signed between OSHA and the Puerto Rico Shipping Association (PRSA) in an effort to reduce hazards and injuries, as well as to increase safety awareness for employees and employers in Puerto Rico’s maritime industry.
“The alliance will provide PRSA members and others with training and information to protect employees against hazards common in the maritime industry,” said Louis Ricca Jr., OSHA’s acting regional administrator in New York. “This innovative effort will utilize OSHA’s new maritime safety course as well as develop new training materials.”
Under the alliance, OSHA and PRSA, which represents 35 employers in the territory’s maritime industry, will work together to develop a curriculum for accident prevention training for maritime supervisors, deliver the OSHA’s new 10-hour course in maritime safety, and establish a safety syllabus for training maritime crane operators.
A key component of the alliance will be the first Maritime Industry Safety Awareness Week to be held in June in which all PRSA members will present training sessions for their employees. The alliance also will promote PRSA members’ participation in OSHA’s cooperative programs, including the Voluntary Protection Programs, safety consultation, and the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program.
OSHA safety and health alliances are part of U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao’s ongoing efforts to improve the health and safety of employees through cooperative partnerships with trade associations, labor organizations, employers, and government agencies. OSHA currently has more than 460 alliances throughout the nation with organizations committed to fostering safety and health in the workplace.
OSHA Seeking Nominations for Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health
The committee was established under section 107(e) of the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (40 U.S.C. 3704(d)(4)) to advise Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao on formulating construction safety and health standards and policy matters that arise in carrying out these responsibilities.
Nominations will be accepted for seven vacancies in the following categories: three employer representatives, three employee representatives, and one public representative. Members will serve a two-year term. Any interested person or organization may nominate one or more qualified persons for membership.
Nominations must be submitted no later than March 14, 2008, and should be submitted to the OSHA Docket Office, Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20210. The phone number is 202-693-2350.
New Test Analyzes Your Breath for Signs of Disease
Exhale on a cold winter day and you will see the water vapor coming out of your mouth. Light up your breath with a Nobel-Prize-related tool, and you could potentially detect trace amounts of more than 1,000 compounds, some of which provide early warning signs of disease. In a new paper,* a team led by Jun Ye, a physicist at JILA, a joint institute of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado at Boulder, has demonstrated an optical technique for simultaneously identifying tiny amounts of a broad range of molecules in the breath, potentially enabling a fast, low-cost screening tool for disease.
“It is exciting to imagine the potential of analyzing all major biomarkers in one’s breath at once,” Ye said. “For example, nitric oxide can indicate asthma, but it also appears in breath with many other lung diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, and bronchiectasis. However, if we simultaneously monitor nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, hydro-peroxide, nitrites, nitrates, pentane, and ethane, all important biomarkers for asthma, we can be much more certain for a definitive diagnosis of this important disease.”
Existing methods for detecting trace amounts of molecules from the breath are either bulky, slow, limited to specific molecules, unable to distinguish very well between multiple compounds, or inaccurate at measuring their concentrations. In this new approach, the researchers analyze human breath with “frequency combs,” an optical tool cited in the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physics shared by JILA fellow Jan Hall. Frequency combs are generated by a laser specially designed to produce a series of very short, equally spaced pulses of light. Each pulse may be only a few millionth billionths of a second long. The laser generates light as a series of very narrow frequency peaks equally spaced, like the teeth of a comb, across a broad spectrum.
In the experiment, student volunteers exhaled breath that entered an optical cavity where it was “combed” by the light pulses. By detecting which colors of light were absorbed and in what amounts—essentially looking for light absorbed near the “teeth” of the comb—the researchers could detect specific molecules and their concentrations. For example, a student smoker who participated in the experiment had a level of carbon monoxide that was five times greater than a nonsmoker in the experiment. The optical comb approach allows the researchers to simultaneously analyze a very broad spectrum, covering many possible molecular compounds, with high precision, frequency resolution, and sensitivity. The technique is in early phases and would require clinical trials before it could become available at a doctor’s office, but it could lead to one of the first widespread applications of frequency combs.
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