Welding Fumes Listed as Carcinogenic to Humans

April 24, 2017

A Working Group of scientists from 10 countries met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) on 21–28 March 2017 to evaluate the carcinogenicity of welding, molybdenum trioxide, and indium tin oxide. A summary of the evaluations has now been published in The Lancet Oncology. The detailed assessments will be published as Volume 118 of the IARC Monographs.

Based on the working group’s report, IARC has classified welding fumes and UV radiation from welding as Group 1 carcinogens. The agency defines Group 1 as, “carcinogenic to humans.” This category is used when there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans. However, an agent may be placed in this category when evidence of carcinogenicity in humans is less than sufficient but there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals and strong evidence in exposed humans that the agent acts through a relevant mechanism of carcinogenicity.

The new classification for welding fumes was based on what IARC called “substantial new evidence” from observational and experimental studies. In 2012, IARC classified UV radiation from welding had as a Group 1 carcinogen.

Charlotte RCRA and DOT Update and SARA Training

Register for RCRA Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Update and Refresher Training in Charlotte, NC, on May 3 and get your RCRA and DOT refresher training in one day. Ensure that your reporting requirements are met at the SARA Title III (EPCRA) Workshop on May 4. To register for these courses, click here or call 800-537-2372.

St. Louis RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in St. Louis, MO, on May 9–11 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Hilton Head RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Hilton Head, SC, on May 23–25 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

OSHA Recordkeeping Email Reminders

OSHA has established an email notification system to provide recordkeeping reminders for employers. The system includes updates on a new requirement that employers electronically submit their injury and illness logs to the agency.

This year's deadline is July 1, 2017. OSHA is not accepting electronic submissions at this time but will notify interested parties when and how to provide electronic submissions.

You can sign up online to receive recordkeeping email notifications.

Building Supply Company Cited for Fatal Forklift Accident

Cal/OSHA recently cited Good View Roofing & Building Supply Corporation $62,320 for multiple serious accident-related safety violations following an investigation of a fatal forklift accident in San Francisco.

On November 21, 2016, a 60-year-old forklift operator was transferring building supplies from the company’s warehouse to a customer’s vehicle. When the forklift descended a sloped ramp, a bag of mortar mix fell off of the load and blocked the front right wheel. The operator reversed the forklift to free the bag of mortar and while doing so, turned the steering wheel so that the back wheel went over the edge of the ramp, tipping the five-ton forklift over. The worker attempted to jump out of the cab and was fatally crushed by the forklift.

“This incident could have been prevented had the employer effectively evaluated the workplace for hazards, which would have identified the unguarded edge of the ramp that exposed the forklift to tipping,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “The worker should have been properly trained to stay seated with the seatbelt fastened in the event of a tip over.”

The six violations cited in Cal/OSHA’s investigation included three classified as serious accident-related, one serious, one regulatory and one general. The serious accident- related violations were cited for the company’s failure to ensure:

  • The proper use of a forklift seatbelt
  • The forklift operator is certified to operate the vehicle safely
  • That industrial ramps have at least an 8-inch curb or equivalent installed along the open edges to prevent the wheels of industrial trucks from running off the ramp

The serious violation was cited for the employer’s failure to inspect and identify hazards in the workplace, provide written safety instruction on industrial trucks in a language readily understandable by all of the workers, and for failure to ensure that all affected workers comply with the forklift safety requirements at the worksite. A serious violation is cited when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious harm could result from the actual hazardous condition.

Forklift safety requirements are summarized on page 65 of Cal/OSHA’s Pocket Guide for the Construction Industry.

CSB Releases Final Report on 2016 Nitrous Oxide Explosion at Airgas Facility

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) recently released its final report into the August 28, 2016, nitrous oxide explosion at the Airgas manufacturing facility in Cantonment, Florida. The blast killed the only Airgas employee working at the facility that day and heavily damaged the plant, halting its manufacturing of nitrous oxide indefinitely.

The CSB investigation found that federal regulations require some chemical facilities that manufacture hazardous substances to have process safety management systems in place to protect their workforce and the public. The CSB discovered, however, that a majority of these specialized rules are not required for nitrous oxide facilities.

Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, “Nitrous oxide is a hazardous substance—facilities should have good safety management systems to mitigate the risks that exist. Safety management systems standards are critical to identify, evaluate, and control process safety hazards. This tragedy in Cantonment should not be repeated.”

In its final report, the CSB notes that the contributing causes of the explosion all stemmed from the lack of an effective process safety management system. For example:

  • Even though heat from the pump was a known hazard, Airgas did not evaluate safer design options that could have eliminated the need for the pump altogether.
  • The company did not perform a management of change review or hazard analysis before installing the pump to identify and control hazards.
  • Safeguards installed by the company, including the safety interlock to automatically shut down the pump, and flame arrestors were likely ineffective, and failed to prevent the incident.

The Airgas Cantonment facility is one of four manufacturing plants in the United States producing nitrous oxide for industrial facilities, hospitals, and universities. The Airgas process includes pumping liquid nitrous oxide from storage tanks into trailer trucks or shipping containers, which deliver the product nationwide.

On the day of the explosion, the Airgas operator likely began the transfer process. Under normal operating conditions, nitrous oxide is stable and can be safely handled; however, under certain conditions it can decompose explosively. CSB investigators found that a pump used to transfer nitrous oxide into a trailer heated the gas above its safe operating limit and triggered a violent decomposition reaction. The reaction migrated from the pump into the trailer causing the explosion. The explosion scattered large metal fragments for hundreds of feet, damaged the facility, and killed the Airgas operator.

Lead Investigator Dan Tillema said, “We looked at other possible causes such as static electricity, but the available evidence, it appears that the bypass of the safety interlock on the pump during startup likely allowed the pump to overheat and trigger a decomposition reaction.”

As a result of its investigation, the CSB issued safety recommendations to Airgas, the Compressed Gas Association, and to two nitrous oxide pump manufacturers. The recommendations include the development and implementation of a safety management system standard for nitrous oxide manufacturing as well as the distribution of increased warnings about nitrous oxide decomposition hazards.

Chairperson Sutherland said, “Our recommendations reiterate the importance of safety management systems as critical to control hazards during the manufacturing, transferring, and shipping of nitrous oxide. Strong safety management systems are good business practices, which also save lives.”

The CSB is an independent, non-regulatory federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical incidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.

The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA.

IUPUI Scientists Find Risk of Lead Exposure Comes from Both Ends of Firearms

Risks from firearms actually come from both ends of the barrel, according to an Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis study.

Individuals at firing ranges are exposed to very high amounts of lead from shooting firearms, and exposure is as high at outdoor firing ranges as it is at indoor ranges. These findings are based on a comprehensive literature review led by Gabriel Filippelli, professor of earth sciences in the School of Science at IUPUI, and his team.

"I am particularly concerned about children, who can be exposed by using the firing ranges themselves or through the fine lead-laden dust adhering to clothes and skin that Mom or Dad brings home," Filippelli said. "It is important to have a frank reassessment of the overall protections for individuals who utilize firing ranges, be that for occupational or recreational purposes."

Recreational users of firing ranges typically do not use protection against lead and exhibit dangerously high levels in their blood. Protections employed by law enforcement, the military and others who work at firing ranges are outdated, according to Filippelli.

"The main exposure culprit appears to be the lead used in the primer of bullets," Filippelli said. "The fine dust generated from this primer blows back onto the shooter, where it is inhaled or adheres to clothing and skin. A secondary exposure source is likely the fragmentation of bullets as they leave the end of the barrel."

One of the health impacts of lead exposure is poor judgment and lower impulsivity control, Filippelli said. "These are not desirable characteristics in people whose job it is to 'serve and protect,' and therefore we should be doing a better job of protecting the health of our law enforcement and military than current occupational guidelines provide."

The authors provided safety recommendations including conducting a careful reexamination of the allowable lead levels in individuals who frequent firing ranges for occupational reasons, developing better education around lead-exposure risks for recreational users, and continuing the push to find lead-free substitutes for bullets and primer.

New Study Ranks Hazardous Asteroid Effects from Least to Most Destructive

If an asteroid struck Earth, which of its effects—scorching heat, flying debris, towering tsunamis—would claim the most lives? A new study has the answer: violent winds and shock waves are the most dangerous effects produced by Earth-impacting asteroids.

The study explored seven effects associated with asteroid impacts—heat, pressure shock waves, flying debris, tsunamis, wind blasts, seismic shaking and cratering—and estimated their lethality for varying sizes. The researchers then ranked the effects from most to least deadly, or how many lives were lost to each effect.

Overall, wind blasts and shock waves were likely to claim the most casualties, according to the study. In experimental scenarios, these two effects accounted for more than 60% of lives lost. Shock waves arise from a spike in atmospheric pressure and can rupture internal organs, while wind blasts carry enough power to hurl human bodies and flatten forests.

“This is the first study that looks at all seven impact effects generated by hazardous asteroids and estimates which are, in terms of human loss, most severe,” said Clemens Rumpf, a senior research assistant at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, and lead author of the new study published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

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