NIOSH Recommends Precautions to Curb Possible Exposures of Workers to Asbestos Linked With Vermiculite From Libby, Montana

May 22, 2003

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued a fact sheet with recommendations for limiting occupational exposures to asbestos associated with vermiculite from Libby, Montana. NIOSH cautions that, in general, any vermiculite that originated from a mine near Libby should be regarded as potentially contaminated with asbestos.

People may be occupationally exposed to vermiculite in work-related activities involving insulation and other construction or home materials, agricultural and horticultural materials such as potting mixes and soil conditioners, brake shoes and pads, and other products. Available data, including information collected and reported by NIOSH to miners and others in Libby in the 1980s, show that vermiculite ore mined near Libby until 1990 was contaminated with asbestos and asbestos-like fibers.

Much of the vermiculite from the mine near Libby was used in the manufacture of ZonoliteTM Attic Insulation, but not all ZonoliteTM product was made with vermiculite from that same mine. NIOSH's findings and recommendations in the fact sheet, pending additional research and technical assistance that NIOSH is conducting to answer current questions about occupational exposures to vermiculite, include these:

As with any asbestos-containing or asbestos-contaminated material, the only way to know the amount of asbestos present is to have the material tested. Negative results from testing can be falsely reassuring when less than 1% of the sample is asbestos. Disturbing contaminated vermiculite with less than 1% asbestos can still result in hazardous concentrations of airborne asbestos fibers.

When a work activity involves vermiculite known or presumed to be contaminated with asbestos, OSHA's asbestos standards should be consulted.

If vermiculite is known or presumed to be contaminated with asbestos, general precautions should be followed to limit potential asbestos exposure: Avoiding the handling or disturbance of loose vermiculite. Isolating work areas with temporary barriers or enclosures. Using wet control methods if feasible. Avoiding use of compressed air for cleaning. Avoiding dry sweeping or other dry clean-up methods. Using disposable protective clothing or clothing that is left in the workplace. Using proper respiratory protection. Disposing of waste and debris in accordance with OSHA and EPA standards.

Workers who have had significant past exposure, or have significant on-going exposure, to asbestos, to vermiculite from Libby, or to other asbestos-contaminated materials should consider getting a medical examination from physician who knows about diseases caused by asbestos.

The full fact sheet, NIOSH Recommendations for Limiting Potential Exposures of Workers to Asbestos Associated with Vermiculite from Libby, Montana," DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2003-141, is available by calling the toll-free NIOSH information number 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674).

OSHA Cites Keystone Ski Resort For Violations of Workplace Safety Standards

OSHA's area office in Denver has concluded its investigation the Nov. 25, 2002 accident in which employee Benjamin Bornstein, 28, was engulfed by water in a snowmaking pit's below-ground vault. OSHA's area office in Denver is citing the company for two alleged willful and one alleged serious violation, with a total penalty of $128,250.

According to Adam Finkel, OSHA's regional director, the first alleged willful violation involved failure to post required warning signs on confined spaces and to develop and utilize a written "permit space program" for confined spaces, as well as a lack of confined space training for employees.

The second alleged willful violation was the employer's failure to inform an outside rescue service of the hazards associated with confined spaces at their workplace and failure to provide the rescue service with access to the confined spaces so they could plan and practice appropriate rescue operations.

The alleged serious violation is associated with the employer's failure to provide an egress ladder for entry into confined spaces.

A serious violation is one where there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, involving a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. A willful violation is one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to decide to comply, to request an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Failure to Develop Procedures for Confined Space Entry Leads to $146,000 Fine

A Menomonie, Wis. company is facing $146,000 in fines proposed by OSHA following a November 2002 accident in which an employee died while servicing a grain storage silo at a Boyceville, Wis. farm.

An OSHA investigation into the fatality revealed that Brave Harvestore, Inc., a company that builds and services grain and silage silos, failed to develop and implement a permit-required confined space entry program and did not have procedures and practices for safe entry into confined spaces. OSHA also charged the company with failing to provide adequate training for workers and allowing them to enter confined spaces without appropriate equipment, including respirators, body harness and retrieval lines, and testing equipment to evaluate the atmospheric safety inside the silo.

Brave Harvestore employs approximately 25 workers. A major part of their routine service includes replacing 'breather bags' inside the silos. The bags prevent air from entering the silo and reacting with stored forage. The low oxygen atmosphere promotes fermentation and prevents spoilage of the feed. Consequently, the low oxygen atmosphere promotes formation of toxic gasses and an oxygen deficient atmosphere.

OSHA has inspected brave Harvestore two previous times, the first in 1982 following a fatality and the second as the result of a formal complaint in 1990. Both inspections were related to silo construction rather than servicing.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

OSHA Small Business Outreach Seminars On Hazard Communication To Be Offered In New York

Helping small Upstate New York employers ensure the safety of their employees using hazardous chemicals is the goal of seminars being offered by the Buffalo office of OSHA in conjunction with area organizations and colleges.

The same seminar, on the topic of hazard communication, is being offered at six different locations during June as follows:

June 5, 2003 9:00 - 11:00 a.m.
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Erie Community College South Campus, Orchard Park, NY
NCCC Corporate Training Center, Lockport, NY
June 12, 2003 9:00 - 11:00 a.m.
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Jamestown Community College, Jamestown, NY
Jamestown Community College, Olean, NY
June 19, 2003 9:00 - 11:00 a.m.
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Genesee Community College, Batavia, NY
SUNY Brockport MetroCenter, Rochester, NY

"The hazard communication standard continues to be one of the most frequently violated OSHA standards," said Art Dube, OSHA's Buffalo area director. "OSHA has been enforcing this standard for 17 years now and employers still fail to communicate appropriate hazard information to their employees. I find that both remarkable and quite disturbing,"

The seminar will explain how small business owners can properly comply with the hazard communication standard and properly make hazard information available to their employees and to other employers who may be exposed to chemicals they use in the workplace. It will cover labeling of containers, material safety data sheets, information and training, hazards associated with non-routine tasks and developing an adequate hazard communication program.

The session is part of the OSHA Small Business Seminar Series that the federal agency will offer this year to assist small Upstate New York employers in complying with workplace safety and health standards.

To register for one of the June seminars, and to obtain more information, contact Gordon DeLeys at the Buffalo OSHA Area Office at 716-684-3891 extension 244 or email

CSB to Host Live Webcast May 28 on New Strategic Plan, Fielding Live Public Comments

On Wednesday May 28, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) will host a live webcast focused on its new five-year draft Strategic Plan and invite live participation from the public. From 10 to 11 a.m. Eastern time, Board Member John Bresland, COO Charles Jeffress, and CSB staff will appear in a live webcast providing an overview of the new plan and fielding live emailed comments and questions from the public. No fee or registration is required to participate, but viewers will need the Windows Media Player to receive the broadcast.