NIOSH Strategic Research on Welding Identifies Data Needs, Advances Studies

August 21, 2003
More than 400,000 men and women are employed in welding and related occupations in the U.S., according to estimates. Some studies suggest that occupational exposures to welding fumes may pose the risk of serious respiratory, neurological, and reproductive effects. However, the available data generally are too limited to offer conclusive answers. Thus, scientists and policymakers face a need for more and better data.

Working with partners in the welding industry, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is pursuing strategic research to identify areas where more comprehensive, detailed, and intricate data are necessary, and to fill in those gaps.

Earlier this year, NIOSH published the single most comprehensive review of scientific literature on health effects associated with welding. The article, “Health Effects of Welding,” noted that past investigations have found bronchitis, airway irritation, and other respiratory illnesses in large numbers of welders. However, critical differences between the studies and a shortage of dose/response data make it difficult to compare results and confidently link given exposures with given effects.

As the article also noted, some studies have suggested that welding fumes may pose risks for lung cancer and nervous system damage. This is because such fumes may contain nickel, chromium, and manganese. Nickel and hexavalent chromium are classified as potential occupational carcinogens, while studies have associated chronic exposure to manganese with a risk for a Parkinson’s-like disease. But data are lacking for 1) determining whether welders are exposed to those or other fume components at levels that could trigger such effects, and 2) understanding how exposures at given levels may lead to serious, long-term effects.

Two complementary types of research are needed to fill those gaps, NIOSH suggested:

  1. A continuation of epidemiological studies to provide a better understanding of the role that welding fumes may play in immunosuppression, lung cancer development, neurotoxicity, skin damage, reproductive disorders, and other effects that some studies have associated with the components of welding fumes.
  2. Toxicology studies using state-of-the-art techniques to examine key biochemical reactions to welding fumes, at the molecular level, in laboratory experiments. With such data, scientists will have better insight into the ways in which subtle genetic and cellular changes might lead to tumor formation, nerve damage, or other adverse changes in tissues and organs.

In the meantime, the needs identified by NIOSH in the journal article are guiding an in-house research effort in NIOSH’s Health Effects Laboratory Division in Morgantown, W.Va. With the help of welding industry partners, NIOSH scientists designed and installed a sophisticated robotic arm that can be programmed to weld at specific intensities, using specified techniques, for given durations. This device allows NIOSH to generate welding fumes under realistic conditions. An exhaust trunk in the arm collects the resulting welding fumes, which are transported to a closed chamber, diluted, and then introduced into a laboratory exposure chamber for further use in exposure tests.

Because the process is computerized and controlled, NIOSH can identify all the critical characteristics of a given sample of fume with great accuracy: what metals or other materials it contains, at what temperature it formed, and from what welding process it resulted. Having installed and tested the arm, NIOSH plans to use it initially for laboratory studies under the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) to examine whether exposures to fumes are followed by cell injury, DNA damage, or other reactions that may signal a risk for serious long-term effects. Those results will significantly increase scientists’ certainty in answering current questions, such as the question of whether welding fumes contain levels of manganese high enough to pose a risk for damage to the nervous system.

The article “Health Effects of Welding” was published in the journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 33(1):61-103 (2003). For additional information on the article, the NIOSH studies, or the NIOSH computerized welding arm, contact James M. Antonini, NIOSH Health Effects Laboratory Division, at

New Jersey Officials Add Reactive Chemicals to List of "Extraordinarily Hazardous Substances"

U.S. Chemical Safety Board Chair Carolyn Merritt commended the recent action by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection which adds reactive chemicals to the list of “extraordinarily hazardous substances” that trigger the risk management planning requirements of New Jersey’s Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act. The action is designed to provide greater protection for residents living near industrial facilities.

Chairman Merritt said, “The CSB is very concerned about reactive hazards. I am happy to see this kind of life-saving action being taken in New Jersey and commend New Jersey officials. We would like to see action taken on a federal level as well in the interest of protecting workers and residents who live near chemical plants.”

Following an extensive, two-year study of reactive hazards in the chemical industry, the 5-member CSB Board last fall approved recommendations to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on the need for additional regulation of reactive hazards. The CSB study identified 167 reactive incidents which caused 108 deaths over a twenty year period. Dr. Gerald Poje, on behalf of the CSB, earlier this year had urged New Jersey officials to take action.

Chemical products often are made through the process of chemical reactions. However, when chemicals are improperly mixed or improperly exposed to heat, pressure or incompatible substances, they can explode and cause death and destruction of property. “We have found a need for plant management to study potential reactive hazards before they make changes to their processes because accidents occur when inadequate safety and control measures are in place,” Chairman Merritt said.

New Jersey announced it would require companies handling reactive chemicals to prepare accidental release prevention plans and examine safer technologies to prevent industrial incidents like the tragic ones that occurred at Napp Technologies in Lodi in 1995 and at Morton International in Paterson in 1998. Both explosions were the result of the improper mixing of certain chemicals.

FMCSA Proposes Requirements For Entry-Level Driver Training

The U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed training requirements for entry-level truck and bus drivers who hold a commercial driver's license (CDL), except transit vehicle drivers. The proposed rule would affect truck and bus drivers with less than two years' experience operating CMVs.

"This proposal responds to Secretary Mineta's call for a renewed commitment to safety as our top priority," stated FMCSA Administrator Annette M. Sandberg. "These training requirements will reduce crashes caused by entry-level drivers of large trucks, school buses, and motor coaches."

FMCSA is proposing required training in the following four additional areas: driver qualifications, hours-of-service limitations, driver wellness, and whistle-blower protection. The agency believes driver knowledge of these areas is vital to large truck and bus safety.

Current CDL requirements address driver testing and licensing. Under these requirements, individuals seeking to become CMV drivers must prepare for CDL tests by studying such areas as vehicle inspection procedures, off-road vehicle maneuvers, and operating a CMV in traffic.

The federally required training would serve as a minimum standard that entry-level drivers must meet before they may operate a truck or bus on public roads. Although the proposal does not specify a required number of hours for the new training, the agency estimates that it will take approximately 10.5 hours for large truck and motor-coach drivers and 4.5 hours for school-bus drivers.

Under the proposal, employers would have 90 days to ensure that all currently employed entry-level drivers receive the required training. Evidence that a driver has received the training would be maintained in the driver's qualification file. Drivers with one to two years' experience operating a CMV with a CDL, who have a good driving record, could be grandfathered and not required to take the training. Employers would issue a Certificate of Grandfathering to those drivers whose experience and driving record qualify them to be grandfathered. This rulemaking is required under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991.

Written comments on this notice of proposed rulemaking should be sent by Oct. 14 to the USDOT Docket Facility, Attn: Docket No. FMCSA-97-2199, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590-0001; fax (202) 493-2251. The rule was published on Aug. 15, 2003 in the Federal Register. It also can be viewed on the Internet after searching at Comments may be submitted at

OSHA and Liberty Mutual Research Institute Form Alliance to Foster Workplace Safety and Health

OSHA's Boston Regional Office and the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety have formed a strategic alliance for sharing safety research information and best practices for identifying causes of and reducing work-related injuries.

"I am delighted that Liberty Mutual and OSHA will be working together," said John L. Henshaw, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, during a ceremony marking the signing of the alliance agreement at the LMRIS facilities in Hopkinton, Mass. "Liberty Mutual's long expertise in tracking and developing solutions to work-related injuries will be of great value to OSHA's mission of reducing injuries and illnesses in the workplace."

Signing for Liberty Mutual was Karl Jacobson, senior vice president of loss prevention, who said: "The alliance will focus on the principal causes of work-related injuries and how to give employers the information they need to combat them. Slips, trips and falls, for example, cost employers $13.4 billion in 2001, according to The Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index. The alliance might review the findings of the various studies done at our Research Institute on how to measure and control floor slipperiness -- a leading cause of slips, trips and falls -- and through the alliance, better promote the understanding of controlling slips and falls in the workplace."

The Alliance will involve OSHA Region I and the LMRIS working together to share information about causes and solutions to work-related injuries developed by LMRIS research and OSHA experience, including hazard recognition strategies and analytical tools, cost-benefit information demonstrating the effectiveness of sound safety interventions; promote the benefits of establishing comprehensive safety and health management systems in the work environment; convene or participate in forums and roundtable discussions on work-related injuries to discuss innovative solutions in the workplace; establish lines of communication to assure that outreach resources are used efficiently to further the goals of this alliance and to keep both organizations informed about each other's occupational safety and health outreach and emphasis programs.

An implementation team made up of representatives of both organizations will meet to develop a plan of action, determine working procedures, and identify the roles and responsibilities of the participants. In addition, they will meet at least semi-annually to track and share information on activities and results in achieving the goals and objectives of the alliance. The agreement will remain in effect for one year and be renewed annually thereafter. It may be modified at any time with the concurrence of both signatories or terminated with 30 days written notice from either signatory.

Boston-based Liberty Mutual Group is a diversified international group of insurance companies, and is the leading provider of workers compensation insurance, programs and services in the United States. Liberty Mutual Group employs more than 37,000 people in more than 900 offices throughout the world.

OSHA's Boston Regional Office has overall responsibility for federal safety and health enforcement in workplaces throughout Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

OSHA Cites Nightclub and Band for Workplace Safety Violations Following Fatal Fire

OSHA has completed its inspection prompted by the Feb. 20 fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I. The fire, which killed 100 people, including seven employees, was ignited by a pyrotechnic display staged during a performance by the band, Great White.

Derco, LLC, doing business as The Station, owns and operated the nightclub. Derco was cited for alleged willful and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and faces $85,200 in fines, while Jack Russell Touring, Inc., Great White's corporate entity, faces a $7,000 fine for an alleged serious violation.

The willful citation to Derco is for installing a door within the exit route near the stage that did not open in the direction of travel. A fine of $70,000 is proposed. Six serious citations were issued to Derco for covering walls and an exit door with highly flammable foam; having an exit door indistinguishable from the walls due to the foam covering; no written emergency action plan; no written fire prevention plan; failing to designate and train employees to assist the evacuation of other employees; and failing to review fire hazards with employees. $15,200 in fines are proposed for these items.

Jack Russell Touring was cited for failing to safeguard employees against fire hazards from the pyrotechnic display in that unused pyrotechnic materials were not stored at least 50 feet from unprotected heat sources; no pyrotechnic plan had been developed; no walkthrough and representative demonstration was conducted prior to the display; pyrotechnic operators were not licensed and approved as required; two or more fire extinguishers were not readily accessible; personnel with a working knowledge of fire extinguishers were not present; pyrotechnic devices were not mounted so that fallout from the devices would not cause injury; each device was not separated from the audience by a minimum of 15 feet; and smoking was not prohibited within 25 feet of the pyrotechnics.

Each company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

MSHA Proposes New Rules On DPM Exposure

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has issued a proposed rule addressing miners' exposure to diesel particulate matter (DPM) in underground metal and nonmetal mining operations. The agency also announced that public hearings on the proposal will be held in September to allow public comment on the rule. A notice of proposed rulemaking was published in the Federal Register on August 14, 2003.

The proposed rule would change the interim diesel particulate matter (DPM) concentration limit to a comparable permissible exposure limit measured differently but considered to be more accurate. The proposal would also, among other actions, implement an enforcement strategy that is currently used at metal and nonmetal underground mines, and allow MSHA to consider economic as well as technological feasibility in determining if mine operators qualify for an extension of time in which to meet the DPM limits. The full text of the proposal can be found on MSHA's website at

MSHA also announced that it will conduct three public hearings to receive comments from the mining community on the proposed rule. Hearings are scheduled for Salt Lake City, Utah, on Sept. 16; St. Louis, Mo., on Sept. 18; and Pittsburgh, Penn., on Sept. 23.

MSHA is asking for comments on the proposed rule. Comments must be clearly identified as such and may be transmitted electronically to or by fax to 202-693-9441. Written comments may also be addressed to MSHA, Office of Standards, Regulations and Variances, 1100 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va., 22209-3939. The comment period closes Oct. 14, 2003.

FDA Unveils 5-Part Strategic Action Plan To "Protect and Advance America's Health"

In a comprehensive 5-part strategic action plan entitled "Protecting and Advancing America’s Health: A Strategic Action Plan for the 21st Century," the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) outlined how it is taking new steps to protect and advance public health for America. The plan, which sets some new specific actions and performance measures directly related to achieving FDA’s public health mission, establishes a framework for achieving five broad priority goals for FDA. The action plan is not an exhaustive list of the Agency’s many ongoing regulatory activities; rather, it highlights some of the specific steps that FDA is taking to address new challenges facing the agency.

  1. Efficient, Science-Based Risk Management. The agency’s approach to efficient risk management requires the use of the most current biomedical, statistical, managerial, and economic science. By employing principles and technologies that can reduce avoidable delays and cost in product approvals, by overhauling and updating the way medical products are manufactured, by implementing more effective strategies for food imports and food safety, and by implementing an enforcement strategy that combines clear communications to industry backed up by effective civil and criminal enforcement, FDA plans to achieve quicker access to safe and effective new products, and reduced public health risks without unnecessary costs.
  2. Patient and Consumer Safety. By supplementing the current passive reporting systems and partnering with healthcare providers and other government agencies, FDA plans to develop more innovative and effective information on the risks associated with FDA-regulated products. Through steps such as bar coding medications and implementing new, 21st-century methods for communicating with health professionals to reduce adverse events, FDA hopes to speed the implementation of safer systems for medical care and foods.
  3. Better Informed Consumers. FDA is undertaking new efforts to ensure consumers have the most up-to-date, truthful information on the benefits and risks of FDA regulated products. FDA’s strategic plan calls for the agency to learn more about how to communicate with consumers more effectively about risks and benefits. The goal is a well-informed public, empowered to make better choices to improve their health.
  4. Counterterrorism. FDA is improving its capability to assess and respond effectively to risks associated with threats to harm Americans through the food they eat. The Agency is working with other government agencies and the private sector to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to protect the food supply from attack. These include additional staff for food safety field activities, greater import presence at our nation’s borders, threat assessments, and additional money for food security research. FDA’s medical product centers are also working harder and more creatively than ever to speed the availability of the next generation of safer, more effective countermeasures to protect Americans against biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological agents of terrorism.
  5. A Strong FDA. FDA is taking additional steps to improve retention and training, and is implementing new activities to augment the agency’s capabilities through use of outside experts and collaborations. FDA is also implementing steps toward completing the consolidation of much of its work force in a new campus in White Oak, Maryland.

Additional information about FDA’s strategic plan, including a list of key action items and objectives, is available online at

Mine Safety Information Now E-Mailed to Computer Users

Computer users who need mine safety and health information from MSHA can now have certain documents sent directly to their e-mail address through the use of a newly established service on the agency's Web site at

MSHA's new electronic mailing list will provide interested users a notification sent by e-mail from the agency to their specified e-mail address. Items sent will include newly available fatalgrams and safety alerts, press releases and other mine safety and health information along with a link to the newly posted material. The user may then access the e-mail and click the link to review or download the information.

Interested users should access the subscription page on the agency's Web site at Users will see separate categories of information for which they may select "subscribe" if they wish to receive that type of document from the agency. An e-mail address must be provided. Upon completing the process, users will receive a single e-mail notifying them of their subscriptions.

Beginning Oct. 3, 2003, mining companies under MSHA's regulatory authority will be able to file nine of the more commonly used and required forms through the agency's Web site. Forms such as those requiring injury information, employee work hours, and for requesting a new mine identification number, among others, may soon be filed with the agency electronically. Details on use of this service will be provided prior to the launch date.