PPE: How Clean Is Clean?

February 11, 2019
NIOSH recently set a goal to improve the safety and health of fire fighters by reducing their exposure to harmful contaminants due to unclean or inadequately cleaned PPE. Fire fighter exposure to soiled or contaminated PPE is an increasing concern for long-term fire fighter health. The second leading cause of death across the U.S. is cancer and other diseases that result from chronic exposures; and fire fighters face a greater risk than most. One risk can be associated with fire ground exposures relating to protection and hygiene practices and persistent harmful contamination found in fire fighter PPE. Typically, fire fighter gear is washed by independent service providers. But how do you know that the gear is truly clean?
In order to establish the scientific background necessary to answer this question, NIOSH partnered with the Fire Protection Research Foundation to establish clear and definitive guidance for applying cleaning and decontamination procedures that effectively remove both chemical and biological contaminants from fire fighter PPE. This study, which is part of what we call the How Clean is Clean project, will help determine if PPE is truly free of harmful contaminants after using typical cleaning methods.
Already the project is making an impact. NIOSH researchers developed laboratory contamination, extraction, and analysis methods for heavy metals and semivolatile organic compounds. They then established a standardized method that can be used to determine the effectiveness of the cleaning techniques to decontaminate the PPE. Based on the results, NIOSH made recommendations to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards committees and established fire service guidance for maintaining contaminant-free PPE. This has translated into changes to the NFPA 1851 Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting.
Looking to the future, the How Clean is Clean team researchers have determined the same sort of lack of scientific evidence for another important fire fighter PPE question—How long does the gear remain reliable if well maintained or not often used? Answering this question will allow us to know how long turnout gear should stay in use when it is used often or in particularly hazardous scenarios. Thus, this next project is going to verify the testing performance requirements through the different stages of the gear’s life to verify that it’s still working properly.
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual hazardous waste training is required for anyone who generates, accumulates, stores, transports, or treats hazardous waste. Learn how to manage your hazardous waste in accordance with the latest state and federal regulations.  Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s new Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule.  Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training is available at nationwide locations, and via live webcasts.  If you plan to also attend DOT hazardous materials training, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on a new Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
Do Microplastics Harm Humans?
About 8 million metric tons of plastic waste winds up in the oceans every year — bottles, bags and doo-dads that eventually break down into tiny pieces, called microplastics. These inedible bits have now been found in human fecal samples, but do microplastics cause harm to people? That’s the question many researchers are pondering, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.
Senior Editor Alex Scott explains that seabirds and marine animals — including some fish that humans eat — often take up microplastics from the ocean. Humans also might ingest these small bits as they are shed from plastic packaging or from using products that contain them. A recent small-scale study recently identified microplastics in human feces, so people can have them in their bodies. But do they just get eliminated in the stool, or do they get into organs and cause damage?
That’s not such an easy question to answer. Not all microplastics are equal — they can be made of different compounds and additives that could have different effects. In addition, contaminant compounds and bacteria can hitch a ride on microplastics, potentially complicating analyses. Despite these challenges, many organizations around the world are now trying to get a handle on this issue. Some are funding studies, and others are setting up task forces and holding symposia to figure out best practices and standards. Although much remains to be determined, one thing scientists all seem to agree on is that consumers should continue enjoying shellfish and other seafood until the evidence is in and the analyses are completed.
New Safety Info. for Using Wearable Lithium Battery Powered Devices
In January, OSHA released a safety and health bulletin on preventing fire and/or explosion injury from small and wearable lithium battery powered devices. While lithium batteries are normally safe, they may cause injury if they are designed with defects, made of low quality materials, assembled incorrectly, used or recharged improperly, or damaged.
The bulletin identifies specific hazards and provides prevention, training, and resource information.
Attend CONN-OSHA Roundtable on Tips on Reporting Workplace Injuries, Illnesses
The Connecticut Department of Labor’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CONN-OSHA) is offering a February 19 Breakfast Roundtable Discussion group that will outline and review federal OSHA’s process for recording injury and illnesses in the workplace. The morning roundtable will be held 8:15 to 9:45 a.m. at the agency’s Wethersfield office, located at 200 Folly Brook Boulevard.
Leona May, U.S. Department of Labor Compliance Assistance Specialist with OSHA’s Bridgeport Area Office, will be the presenter.  “If you are responsible for filling out the OSHA recordkeeping forms in your company, if you supervise the person completing the required forms or if you are a safety committee member, this session is a must for you,” notes John Able, CONN-OSHA Occupational Safety Training Specialist and roundtable project coordinator.
Admission to the breakfast roundtable is free, but pre-registration is required. Please contact Able at john.able@ct.gov to register or for additional information.
Cal/OSHA Advisory Committee Meeting to Evaluate Electronic Submission of Workplace Injury and Illness Records
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, is the division within the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) that helps protect California’s workers from health and safety hazards on the job in almost every workplace.
Cal/OSHA has scheduled an advisory committee meeting on the electronic submission of injury and illness records. The public meeting will be held on Thursday, May 9 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Elihu Harris Building, 1515 Clay Street Suite 1304, Oakland.
On January 25, federal OSHA published a final rule to amend its recordkeeping regulation by rescinding the requirement for establishments with 250 or more employees to electronically submit information from OSHA Forms 300 and 301. Cal/OSHA has determined that by rescinding the requirement to electronically submit Forms 300 and 301 data, OSHA has substantially diminished the requirements that were originally set forth in OSHA’s May 12, 2016, "Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses" rule.
Pursuant to California Labor Code section 6410.2(b), Cal/OSHA has scheduled this advisory committee meeting to evaluate how to implement the changes necessary to protect the goals of the Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule.
Information on the advisory committee meeting has been posted online. Members of the public are invited to email their written comments ElectronicReporting@dir.ca.gov. The comment period is open until 5 p.m. on Friday, May 24.
Indoor Environmental Quality Concerns Among Hospital Employees Working in a Radiology Department
NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation program investigators found exhaust particles entering the workspace, air bypassing the filtration systems, and outdoor air intakes at or below ground level. They recommended improving preventative maintenance on the ventilation systems and working with a mechanical engineer to ensure air supplied to the workspace meets current Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) guidelines for health care facilities.
Indoor Gun Range Cited for Exposing Employees to Unsafe Lead Levels
OSHA has cited Tap Rack Bang Indoor Shooting Range LLC - operating as The Gun Range - for exposing employees to unsafe levels of lead at its facility in Killeen, Texas. The employer faces penalties totaling $214,387.
OSHA investigated the shooting range in August 2018 after receiving a complaint of worker exposure to lead during firing range activities. Inspectors found airborne lead exceeding the permissible exposure limit, and lead contamination on surfaces throughout the facility. OSHA cited the company for failing to replace damaged personal protective equipment, and medically monitor employees for lead-related illnesses; and for sweeping up lead debris rather than using vacuum methods with high-efficiency particulate air filters.
OSHA's National Emphasis Program on Lead addresses lead hazards in the workplace. Inspections focus on hygiene facilities, engineering controls, respiratory protection, exposure monitoring, and medical surveillance. Employers are required to monitor their facilities to ensure workplace health and safety hazards are controlled.  OSHA also has a QuickCard® to educate employers and workers on how to prevent lead exposure.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Recurring Violations Lead to Dangerous Waste Fine for Aircraft Parts Manufacturer
After repeatedly finding improper management of dangerous wastes at an aircraft parts manufacturer, the Washington Department of Ecology has fined the company $17,000.
Fatigue Technology (FTI), located at 401 Andover Park East in Tukwila, supplies components and services for aircraft and other industries. Its wastes include corrosive acids, ignitable solvents that can release harmful vapors or cause fires if not properly managed, and paint-related material containing heavy metals that would be toxic to people and animals if released.
Ecology issued the fine after observing ongoing violations during seven inspections since 2003. The company has addressed these violations after each inspection, yet inspectors continue to observe repeat violations.
“We shouldn’t see this kind of pattern,” said Raman Iyer, regional manager of Ecology’s Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program. “Usually, companies with dangerous waste violations correct and don’t repeat them. Fatigue Technology must make sure that it stays in compliance, too.”
During the most recent inspection in October 2017, Ecology found FTI failed to:
  • Provide records documenting that it had conducted waste designation, a process to determine whether wastes require management under the dangerous waste regulations.
  • Produce a written training plan and training records demonstrating employees are prepared to safely and correctly handle dangerous wastes as well as respond effectively to emergencies.
  • Label and date dangerous wastes so employees and contractors know which containers need special handling and storage, to help ensure that the wastes are shipped within required time limits for proper management, and to provide safety information needed by first responders.
Washington’s dangerous waste regulations set standards to protect the public, workers and the environment from releases of harmful waste materials at commercial and industrial facilities. Ecology inspects workplaces that generate dangerous wastes to ensure compliance with requirements such as safe handling and storage to prevent leaks, spills and fires.
Ecology penalties may be appealed within 30 days to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.
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