Should Santa Wear a Flame-Retardant Suit?

December 17, 2018
Saint Nick faces a host of hazards during the holiday season, from the calories in cookies to the dying embers in your fireplace. A flame-retardant suit could save Santa from a seriously un-jolly circumstance. But many believe these molecules belong on the naughty list due to the potential risks they pose to human health. In this video, an episode from the American Chemical Society’s Reactions Series explains the chemistry of flame retardants and asks whether Father Christmas should bother swapping out his suit.
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New NIOSH Tools Can Help Identify Dampness and Mold in Buildings
NIOSH developed the Dampness and Mold Assessment Tool for both general buildings and schools to help employers identify and assess areas of dampness in buildings.
“Implementing regular visual inspections for dampness can help to identify trouble areas before they become major problems and help to prioritize maintenance and repair,” said David Weissman, M.D., director of NIOSH’s Respiratory Health Division. “The Dampness and Mold Assessment Tools provide an inexpensive mechanism to investigate, record, and compare conditions over time.”
Office buildings, schools, and other nonindustrial build­ings may develop moisture and dampness problems from roof and window leaks, high indoor humidity, and flooding events, among other things. Damp building conditions promote the growth of mold, bacteria, fungi, and insects. Occupants in damp buildings can be exposed to pollutants in the air from biological contaminants and the breakdown of building materials.
Research has shown that a number of health problems are associated with exposure to building dampness and mold including:
  • Respiratory symptoms (such as in the nose, throat, or lungs)
  • Development or worsening of asthma
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis (a rare lung disease in which lungs become inflamed as an allergic reaction to inhaled bacteria, fungi, organic dusts, and chemicals)
  • Respiratory infections
  • Allergic rhinitis (often called hay fever)
  • Bronchitis
  • Eczema
The Dampness and Mold Assessment Tools guide users through assessing all rooms, whether in a school or a general building, for areas of dampness and mold and identifying the source(s) of the dampness and mold. The tools provide an easy-to-use checklist and instructions for assessing and recording any damage that is found and for tracking conditions through time
NIOSH previously published an Alert, Preventing Occupational Respiratory Disease from Exposures Caused by Dampness in Office Buildings, Schools, and Other Nonindustrial Buildings that provides further information on respiratory disease related to indoor dampness and recommendations for preventing and remediating damp buildings.
When workers suspect their health problems are caused by exposure to building-related dampness or mold, workers should report new, persistent, or worsening symptoms, particularly those with a work-related pattern, to their personal physician and, as instructed by their employer, to a designated individual at their workplace.
You can find more information about dampness and mold in buildings, including action steps for management and building owners and workers, on the NIOSH website.
Contractor Cited for Fatal Trench Collapse at Construction Site
Cal/OSHA has cited a Riverside construction company $66,000 for serious workplace safety violations that resulted in the death of a worker when a 17-foot-deep trench he was in collapsed. Cal/OSHA determined that Empire Equipment Services, Inc. did not properly classify the soil and failed to correctly slope the excavation.
On May 9, two Empire Equipment Services workers were installing sewer pipes at a Lake Forest residential construction site when a 30-foot-wide section of the trench’s sidewall sloughed and collapsed. Only one of the workers was able to escape.
Cal/OSHA’s investigation found that the company failed to ensure the site was inspected by someone who was deemed competent by the employer and familiar with trench hazards, soil classification and the appropriate safety requirements. The soil at the worksite was unstable, requiring an adequate protective system.
“Because working in excavations is so dangerous, a competent person must conduct thorough visual and manual tests to properly classify the soil and adequately protect employees from cave-ins,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “Failing to carry out these requirements can be fatal.”
Cal/OSHA issued citations to Empire Equipment Services Inc. for two serious accident- related violations and one general violation with $66,000 in proposed penalties. One of the serious violations is classified as repeat. In August 2017, Cal/OSHA had cited the employer $24,670 for serious safety violations after conducting an inspection at another site in Lake Forest. During that inspection, Cal/OSHA found that the employer had exposed its workers to serious hazards while working in a trench deeper than five feet without properly sloping or installing any adequate protective systems.
Cal/OSHA offers information and resources on working safely in the construction industry, including how to safely perform trench and excavation operations. Before starting excavation work, the approximate locations of all underground installations that may be encountered during excavation operations must be determined and the proper notification must be made to the appropriate regional notification center in either Northern or Southern California. A permit from the local Cal/OSHA district office must be obtained before the construction of excavations five feet or deeper into which any person is required to descend.
A citation is classified as serious when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious harm could result from the actual hazard created by the violation. Citations classified as accident-related indicate the injury, illness or fatality was caused by the violation. A repeat citation is issued when the employer has abated an earlier violation for which Cal/OSHA issued a citation and a substantially similar violation is found during a later inspection.
Cal/OSHA offers a guide to developing an Injury and Illness Prevention Program and model programs for employers in both high hazard and non-high hazard industries. Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch provides free and voluntary assistance to employers to improve their safety and health programs. Employers mY call 800-963-9424 for assistance from Cal/OSHA Consultation Services.
Demolition Cited After Two Employees Suffer Fatal Injuries
OSHA has cited World Wrecking and Scrap Salvage Services Inc. for failing to provide fall protection after two employees suffered fatal injuries at a demolition site in St. Louis, Missouri.
The employees were cutting pipes while working from a suspended scaffold when the scaffold collapsed. OSHA inspectors determined that the company – owned by Keith Hanford – failed to ensure that employees used a vertical life line and other fall protection; conduct regular inspections of the scaffold equipment; adequately train workers to recognize and avoid fall hazards; and properly ground an electric motor used on the scaffold. The company faces penalties of $23,280.
“Providing fall protection for employees working at heights is not optional and can prevent tragedies,” said St. Louis Area Office Director Bill McDonald.
Florida Roofing Contractor Fined for Repeatedly Exposing Employees to Fall Hazards
OSHA has cited Turnkey Construction Planners Inc. – a roofing contractor based in Melbourne, Florida – for exposing employees to fall hazards. The company faces $199,184 in penalties.
OSHA initiated an inspection as part of its Regional Emphasis Program on Falls in Construction. Inspectors observed employees working without the use of conventional fall protection at two separate worksites in Port St. Lucie, Florida. OSHA has cited the company four times in the past five years for similar violations.
“Repeatedly exposing employees to fall hazards that can lead to serious injuries or fatalities is inexcusable,” said OSHA Fort Lauderdale Office Director Condell Eastmond. “Employers have an obligation to identify and eliminate known hazards that place their employees in harm’s way.”
Turnkey Construction has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed 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.
Auto Parts Distributor Cited for Fire, Electric Shock, and Struck-by Hazards
OSHA has cited Parts Authority LLC - a wholesale auto and truck parts distributor based in Norcross, Georgia - for exposing employees to fire, electrical shock, and struck-by hazards. The company faces $133,406 in penalties.
OSHA cited Parts Authority LLC - doing business as Parts Authority Georgia LLC – for exposing employees to smoke and fire hazards by allowing obstructed and unlit exit signs; struck-by hazards from damaged storage rack supports and shelves; and failing to train employees to recognize chemical hazards and maintain safety data sheets on chemical hazards.
“The inspection found multiple safety deficiencies that put employees at risk of serious and fatal injuries,” said OSHA Atlanta Area Office Director William Fulcher. “Potential workplace hazards must be assessed and eliminated to ensure employees are afforded a safe work environment.”
South Florida Commercial Printer Cited for Exposing Employees to Amputation, Electrical, and Fall Hazards
OSHA has cited Nupress of Miami Inc. for exposing employees to amputation, electrical, and fall hazards. The Doral, Florida, commercial printer faces $71,139 in penalties.
OSHA cited the company for a lack of machine guarding on several pieces of equipment; failing to establish a lockout/tagout program when performing equipment maintenance and servicing; exposing workers to fall and electrical shock hazards; not implementing a written hazard communication program; and improper storage of flammable liquids.
“Implementing safety and health programs that identify and correct workplace hazards are required to minimize employees’ risk of serious or fatal injuries,” said OSHA Fort Lauderdale Area Office Director Condell Eastmond.