March 27, 2023
A new strategic plan available on the NIOSH website identifies research priorities and activities intended to prevent injuries, illnesses, and fatalities among workers in the American Indian and Native Alaskan (AI/AN) communities. According to NIOSH, little is known about the occupational health and safety of these workers, who comprise nearly 2 percent of the total United States workforce. The agency specifies that the plan is a starting point for collaborations with AI/AN tribes.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest numbers of AI/AN workers are employed in office and administrative support, sales, management, transportation and material moving, and food preparation and serving. From 2012 through 2021, an average of 36 AI/AN workers were killed on the job each year, but given the limited data available on these communities, official statistics likely undercount injuries, illnesses, and fatalities, NIOSH says.
The plan identifies objectives in four areas: research, practice, policy, and capacity building. The seven research objectives are intended to address gaps in data about AI/AN workers—for example, by identifying their occupational health and safety risks, characterizing the AI/NA workforce, and identifying factors that contribute to their occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. The eight practice objectives focus on improving health and safety practices by identifying topics for guidance materials and reviewing existing materials. The policy objectives call for assessing existing OHS laws that affect tribal communities, providing assistance to tribal leaders for developing their own laws, and other outcomes. The capacity building objectives focus on improving the ability of tribes to promote OHS in their communities through professional development, train the trainer programs, and other educational outreach.
Review the plan on the NIOSH website
Water Quality Violations Result in $53,000 Fine to San Juan Sand and Gravel Mine
BELLINGHAM, WASH. – The Washington Department of Ecology is issuing a $53,000 penalty to Myron Williams, Inc., for failing to protect water quality at its mining operation at Egg Lake Quarry on San Juan Island. This business has not complied with the requirements to protect water quality that must be followed by all sand and gravel businesses, despite repeated technical assistance, warning letters, and a field penalty from Ecology inspectors.
During a March 2021 site visit, Ecology inspectors documented numerous permit violations, including failure to safely store petroleum products and other hazardous substances, failure to clean up spills and leaks of pollutants, failure to label potentially hazardous substances, failure to monitor stormwater discharges to groundwater, and failure to submit information and reports. A follow-up site visit in August 2022 showed that many violations from the previous site visit were continuing to occur.
"This operation continually fails to meet their responsibilities to protect water quality and comply with standard permit requirements, leaving us no choice but to issue a fine for these violations," said Vince McGowan, Water Quality program manager for Ecology. “Moving forward, we expect the organization to make improvements in their operations to better protect water quality and the surrounding area from the hazardous substances they have onsite.”
Since 2018, Ecology has attempted to bring this business into compliance with the water quality permit, issuing several warning letters, a previous notice of violation, and a field penalty for failing to comply with permit requirements.
Water quality penalty payments to Ecology are placed into the state’s Coastal Protection Fund,
which provides grants to public agencies and tribes for water quality restoration projects.
US Department of Labor, Power Generation Workgroup Alliance Promotes Importance of Safety for Workers
OSHA Region VIII and the Power Generation VPP Workgroup, industry professionals committed to the goals of the OSHA's national VPP program
, have established an alliance to increase safety for power industry workers.
Among the two-year alliance's goals is the development of a Qualified Electrical Worker Training Program to develop best practices for protecting the safety and well-being of employees working near high voltage.
The Power Generation VPP Workgroup
's goal is to promote workplace safety excellence and OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program participation within the power generation industry by sharing ideas, networking, and solving site and industry wide safety and health concerns.
OSHA's Alliance Program
works with groups committed to worker safety and health to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses. These groups include unions, consulates, trade or professional organizations, businesses, faith- and community-based organizations and educational institutions. OSHA and the groups work together to develop compliance assistance tools and resources, share information with workers and employers and educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities.
"Our alliance with the Power Generation Voluntary Protection Program will enhance our efforts to provide power generation industry workers with more opportunities to learn and follow federal and industry standards to protect their safety and health," said OSHA's Regional Administrator Jennifer Rous in Denver.
"I'm looking forward to getting the QEW training program off the ground," Kelli Heflin, co-founder of the PGVPP workgroup, said, "and the continued sharing of best practices and challenges with the group because I find that we do come up with some pretty innovative solutions."
"As a workgroup, our growth has been strong and this year should be no different in that respect," co-founder Alex Miller said. "I look forward to engaging with our participants and finding out what they are looking to get out of the group and where we can focus our energy to provide value to the industry."
EPA Announces Virtual Listening Session on PFAS Strategic Roadmap for Pacific Southwest
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an upcoming virtual listening session on EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap for communities in the Pacific Southwest region of our country, including the U.S. Pacific Island territories, on April 13, 2023, and is inviting members of the public to participate. This engagement session will provide information about EPA’s ongoing work under the PFAS Strategic Roadmap
and what it means for communities in the Pacific Southwest. The session will also provide opportunities for communities to share feedback directly with EPA regional and program leaders to inform the actions described in the roadmap. In November 2022, EPA announced that it would hold a series of virtual regional community engagement sessions across the U.S.
EPA’s virtual regional community engagement session for the Pacific Southwest will be held via Zoom on April 13, 2023, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. PT.
The public can register to participate in the community engagement session at: https://pfascommunityengagement.org/register/region9/
“The goal of this session is for us at EPA to share information about the latest actions EPA is taking to reduce PFAS exposure and contamination,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “We want to hear from communities in the Pacific Southwest about their specific concerns and challenges in addressing PFAS contamination and how we can work together to overcome them.”
In October 2021, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan announced the Agency’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap
—laying out a whole-of-agency approach to addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which are a category of manufactured chemicals that can cause serious health problems, including cancer, if people are exposed to them over a long period of time. The Roadmap sets timelines by which EPA plans to take specific actions and commits to bolder new policies to safeguard public health, protect the environment, and hold polluters accountable. The actions described in the PFAS Roadmap each represent important and meaningful steps to safeguard communities from PFAS contamination. Cumulatively, these actions will build upon one another and lead to more enduring and protective solutions.
In November 2022, EPA released “A Year of Progress Under EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap
,” which underscores key actions taken by the agency during the first year of implementing the PFAS Roadmap. EPA continues to implement a whole-of-agency approach, advancing science, and following the law to safeguard public health, protect the environment, and hold polluters accountable. Concurrently with this one-year progress report, EPA announced that it will hold virtual community engagement events in each EPA region in 2023, which EPA’s Pacific Southwest region is announcing this week.
These engagements align with recommendations from the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council and EPA’s Roadmap commitment to engage directly with stakeholders. Recognizing the unique and pervasive impacts of PFAS on Tribal communities, EPA is also planning to hold a session specifically designed to hear from our Tribal partners.
USDOT Announces State and Local Funding To Improve Hazardous Materials and Pipeline Safety Nationwide
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced more than $25 million available in grant funding through its pipeline and hazardous materials safety programs. These grants are for projects that will train first responders, strengthen safety programs, improve safety, reduce environmental impacts, and educate the public on local safety initiatives. This includes projects that provide support to state inspectors for hazardous materials shipments and pipelines inspections, important safety training and educational programs for emergency response, and advance innovative safety technologies.
“We need to make sure our first responders are ready to respond to emergencies involving pipelines and hazardous materials,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “These grants will train firefighters and other first responders and help ensure that communities have the resources they need to keep their residents safe.”
This funding announcement comes after the Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine upended the lives of the community. Responders nationwide previously received training because of the Assistance for Local Emergency Response Training (ALERT) grant program, including 2,500+ responders in 137 different locations in Ohio. Several of those trained emergency responders were on the ground during the recent derailment. In addition to this existing funding, Secretary Buttigieg called on Congress
to increase funding to expand hazardous materials training for first responders. Additional funding for first responders
is part of the Bipartisan Railway Safety Act of 2023.
The funding will go towards the following grants:
- Pipeline Safety
- Pipeline Emergency Response Grants
- Competitive Academic Agreement Program Grants
- Technical Assistance Grants
- State Damage Prevention Grants
- One-Call Grants
- Hazardous Materials Safety
- Hazardous Materials Instructor Training Grants
- Hazardous Materials State Inspection Grants
- Assistance for Local Emergency Response Training Grants
- Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness Tribal Grants
- Supplemental Public Sector Training Grants
- Community Safety Grants
“Whether it’s dealing with a pipeline rupture or a train derailment—training is essential to the safety of our first responders and the communities they serve,” said PHMSA Deputy Administrator Tristan Brown. “These grant opportunities will help ensure first responders have what they need to address the unique challenges that exist in communities across the country.”
The Notices of Funding Opportunities provide more details on eligibility and how each grant improves and strengthens pipeline and hazardous materials safety. PHMSA will work to maximize grant awards based on the applications received. Each official notice of funding opportunity is available at https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/search-grants.html
under Department of Transportation-PHMSA on the agency drop-down menu. Applicants can also contact the appropriate agency representative identified in the respective notice of funding opportunity with further questions.
Since 2021, PHMSA has awarded more than $206 million in grants to eligible recipients for projects, research, and development activities that work to enhance the safety of America’s energy pipeline network and hazardous materials transportation. For Fiscal Year 2024, PHMSA requested a $21.5 million increase for its State Pipeline Safety Grants to reimburse states for up to 80% of their inspection costs, an $18.5 million increase in funding for its emergency preparedness grants that train emergency responders and volunteers, and a $3 million increase in Community Safety Grant funding to better prepare underserved communities for the transportation of hazmat and crude oil through communities. Details about prior grant awards and related projects can be found on PHMSA’s grant webpage
ECHA’s Risk Assessment Committee Backs PFAS Ban in Firefighting Foams
RAC has adopted its opinion on the proposal to restrict the placing on the market, use and formulation of all PFAS in firefighting foams, after sector-specific transition periods.
With 470 tonnes of PFAS released into the environment each year, the committee concluded that there is an EU-wide risk for people and the environment from their use in firefighting foams. The proposed restriction would effectively reduce emissions and the associated risks posed by these persistent substances. The committee’s concerns are based on the 'very persistent’ property combined with others, such as ‘mobility’.
“When a fire has occurred, or during training when firefighting foams are used, they are dispersed rapidly into the environment with no opportunity to collect them or to prevent the waste from entering the environment. This is seen as a European-wide problem and only certain sites have the possibility of applying risk management measures,” says Tim Bowmer, Chair of the RAC.
The draft opinion of the Committee for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC) also lends support to the proposed restriction. According to SEAC, the proposal is the most appropriate EU-wide measure for addressing identified risks, taking into account the availability of alternatives and the proportionality of its benefits and costs to society.
Nevertheless, SEAC suggests that a review of available and feasible alternatives is conducted before the end of the transition period for sites that produce, treat or store dangerous substances (covered by the Seveso Directive). This review is considered important to maintain safety where fires may have high impacts on the environment and human health. The 60-day consultation for the draft opinion is open until 15 May 2023.
“We are looking for more information during the consultation, for example, on the transition period needed for PFAS-containing portable fire extinguishers, and uses by the marine sector and municipal fire brigades,” says María Ottati, Chair of the SEAC. The committee is expected to adopt its opinion in June 2023.
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