Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content


Volume 13 Number 9 (January 2016)

From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH

Preparing for Working In Cold

Don’t assume there is no need to prepare for working safely in the cold this year, because of the moderate temperatures in much of the country so far. According to the National Weather Service, the long-range weather forecast predicts chillier temperatures than average in January and February in the Southern Plains and the Southeast. Cold weather can bring on health emergencies for people who may be susceptible as a result of their working environment, such as those who work outdoors or in an area that is poorly insulated or without heat.

Workers who are exposed to extreme cold or cold environments may be at risk of cold stress. What constitutes cold stress and its effects can vary across different areas of the country. In regions relatively unaccustomed to winter weather, near-freezing temperatures are considered factors for cold stress. Whenever temperatures drop decidedly below normal and as wind speed increases, heat can more rapidly leave your body, leading to cold-related injuries and illnesses.

These conditions include hypothermia, cold water immersion, frostbite, trench foot, and chilblains. NIOSH provides information about cold stress on its topic page and on a Fast Facts card, which describes symptoms, first aid, and recommendations for prevention. The following tips from the NIOSH website can help employers and workers avoid the dangers of cold stress.

Tips for Employers

  • Schedule maintenance and repair jobs in cold areas for warmer months.
  • Schedule cold jobs for the warmest part of the day.
  • Reduce the physical demands of workers.
  • Use relief workers or assign extra workers for long, demanding jobs.
  • Provide warm liquids to workers.
  • Provide warm areas for use during break periods.
  • Monitor workers who are at risk of cold stress.
  • Provide cold stress training.

Tips for Workers

Workers should avoid exposure to extremely cold temperatures whenever possible and can follow these recommendations to protect themselves from cold stress.

  • Wear appropriate clothing.
    • Wear several layers of loose clothing. Layering provides better insulation.
    • Tight clothing reduces blood circulation. Warm blood needs to be circulated to the extremities.
    • Choose clothing that won’t restrict movement, which could lead to a hazardous situation.
  • Make sure to protect the ears, face, hands, and feet in extremely cold weather.
    • Boots should be waterproof and insulated.
    • Wear a hat; it will keep your whole body warmer.
  • Move into warm locations during work breaks; limit the amount of time outside on extremely cold days.
  • Carry cold weather gear, such as extra socks, gloves, hats, jacket, and blankets; a change of clothes; and a thermos of hot liquid.
  • Include a thermometer and chemical hot packs in your first aid kit.
  • Avoid touching cold metal surfaces with bare skin.
  • Monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers.

You can also get cold weather safety tips on Twitter this winter at #WorkingInCold, or follow us on Twitter @NIOSH.

NIOSH TWH™Director Talks With Working Capital Review

Working Capital Review, covering ideas that drive global business, sat down with Dr. Casey Chosewood, Director of NIOSH’s Office for Total Worker Health,™ during “Working Capital Conversations” in December. Dr. Chosewood spoke about the importance of making worker health and safety part of an ongoing business strategy.

NIOSH Division Associate Director Position Open

The NIOSH Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies has posted the open position of Associate Director for Science. Those who are interested can apply for the position as a GS-601/690-15 or Commissioned Officer, or physicians can apply as a medical officer (GS-602-15). The vacancy announcement will be open initially through January 4, but the application deadline will then be extended.

NIOSH Occupational Research Noted in Harvard Study of Diacetyl, Other Flavorings in e-Cigarettes

Pioneering NIOSH studies on the risk of the severe lung disease obliterative bronchiolitis associated with occupational exposures to flavorings were noted in a recent report by scientists at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The scientists analyzed 51 types of flavored e-cigarettes for the flavorings diacetyl, 2’3-pentanedione, and acetoin.Their study, posted on December 8, 2015, by Environmental Health Perspectives ahead of publication, showed that 47 of the 51 products contained at least one of the three chemicals.“Due to the associations between diacetyl, bronchiolitis obliterans, and other severe respiratory diseases observed in workers, urgent action is recommended to further evaluate this potentially widespread exposure via flavored e-cigarettes,” the Harvard scientists recommended.NIOSH’s findings and recommendations on reducing the risk of obliterative bronchiolitis associated with occupational exposures to flavorings are available on its flavorings topic page.

NIOSH Updates Software for Estimating Respirator Service Life

The NIOSH MultiVapor™ tool has been updated and posted to the web. MultiVapor™ is a computer tool for estimating breakthrough times and service lives of air-purifying respirator cartridges for removing toxic organic vapors from breathed air. It can also be used for larger filters and for carbon beds of any size prepared for laboratory studies. MultiVapor™ 2.2.3 replaces the 2.1.3 version.

Predictors of Adherence to Safe Handling Practices for Antineoplastic Drugs: A Survey of Hospital Nurses

A new article by NIOSH researchers looks at predictors of adherence to recommended safe-handling practices for administration of antineoplastic drugs (ADs). The study analyzed survey responses from nurses at hospitals and found that training, familiarity with safe-handling guidelines, and availability of engineering controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) were associated with better adherence to safe-handling practices and with fewer reported spills of ADs. The study report will be published in the March issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene and is now available online.

NIOSH Study Reveals Safety Issues in Long-haul Trucking Industry

New data from NIOSH highlights a number of important safety issues facing long-haul truck drivers (LHTDs) and their employers. The study, published in the December 2015 issue of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, is the first to describe truck crashes, work-related injuries, work environments, and driver training, attitudes, and behaviors. See “NIOSH national survey of long-haul truck drivers: Injury and safety”.

Health Hazard Evaluations (HHE) at Coffee Processing Facilities

A severe lung disease called obliterative bronchiolitis occurred in five workers at a coffee processing facility that roasted, ground, and flavored coffee. Two of the cases were summarized in a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (MMWR 62(16):304-307). NIOSH investigators recently published an article in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine about a health hazard evaluation at this facility (AJIM 2015;58(12):1235-1245). NIOSH is working with a number of coffee processing facilities through the HHE Program. NIOSH HHE investigators have developed a coffee processing webpage with interim recommendations; these recommendations may change as we learn more over the coming year.

Monthly Features

NIOSH Congratulates

National Excellence in Research Award

Capt. Thomas Hales, MD, received the inaugural National Excellence in Research Award from the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Capt. Hales is the Medical Team Lead for the NIOSH Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program. The award recognizes Capt. Hales’ years of dedicated service and commitment to firefighter health and safety. The Foundation noted that Capt. Hales’ work has “impacted the lives of countless firefighters and will continue to do so in the future.”

Supervisor of the Year

Congratulations to Gayle DeBord for being selected in 2015 as the 2014 Supervisor of the Year by the American Federation of Government Employees local 3840 at the NIOSH Cincinnati location. This award promotes a sense of caring and respect within NIOSH that is crucial to teamwork in the workplace. Gayle was selected from among several outstanding supervisors, for continually striving for fair and equitable compensation for her employees; ensuring the individual dignity of each employee; providing an atmosphere of free expression; guaranteeing "fair play" to all; sparing no effort to provide safe working conditions; and helping make employees feel involved, important, and appreciated.


Preventing Hazardous Noise during Project Design and Operation

As a result of collaborative work within the NORA Manufacturing Sector Council and NIOSH’s Prevention through Design program (PtD), NIOSH recently launched a video that encourages manufacturers to Buy Quiet for their workforces. Buy Quiet is a PtD strategy that aims to prevent hazardous noise and hearing loss during project design and operation. For more information and case studies, see this practical design solutions document on noise control.

News from Our Partners

Minnesota: Reporting of Occupational Diseases

A Minnesota statute for physicians to report occupational diseases, established in 1939, has never been implemented because of the challenges involved. Recently, however, the Minnesota Department of Health’s Occupational Health and Safety Surveillance Program evaluated the feasibility of implementing and maintaining such a reporting system. After an extensive literature review and interviews with states that have active systems for reporting occupational disease, the department issued a report detailing its findings and recommendations.

Michigan: Causes of Occupational Asthma

Michigan works collaboratively with the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (AOEC) to identify and review substances that cause asthma; the substances are then included in an up-to-date database of occupational causes of asthma. To date, 327 substances have been classified as work-related asthmagens. A description of the process and criteria used to review asthma-causing substances was recently published.

r2p Corner

OSHA and NIOSH renew alliance to protect roadway construction workers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration renewed its alliance with NIOSH and Roadway Work Zone Safety and Health Partners to protect workers in roadway construction work zones from injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. The renewed alliance will continue for five years.

Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program Update

IEQ Evaluation at a Medical Examiner's Office

Finding airflow and temperatures above and below the recommended range for employee comfort, HHE Program investigators recommended testing and balancing the ventilation system, starting an indoor environmental quality (IEQ) management system, and improving housekeeping. For more information click here.

Recommendations Provided to a Fire Department Conducting Structural Fire Fighter Training

HHE Program investigators evaluated cadets and instructors for heat stress, heat strain, and rhabdomyolysis. Because the NIOSH investigators found one individual with rhabdomyolysis and most participants with excessive heat strain at some point during the training, they recommended scheduling strenuous training during cooler parts of the day/year and educating fire fighters on heat-related illnesses. For more information click here.

What’s New on the NIOSH Science Blog? Join the Discussion Today!

Federal Register Notices of Public Meetings and Public Comment

A Vapor Containment Performance Protocol for Closed System Transfer Devices Used during Pharmacy Compounding and Administration of Hazardous Drugs— Extension of Comment Period

The notice was posted on November 9. Electronic and written comments must be received by March 8.

Occupational Health Safety Network (OHSN)—Existing Information Collection in Use without an OMB Control Number

The notice was posted on November 10. Written comments must be received by January 11.

Ingress/Egress and Work Boot Outsole Wear Investigation at Surface Mines—New

The notice was posted on December 14. Written comments must be received by February 12.

Mining Industry Surveillance System—New

The notice was posted on December 17. Written comments must be received by February 16.

Call for Abstracts

2016 National Safety Council Congress & Expo – Building Safer Workplaces
Call for papers. Deadline for submissions is January 29.

Upcoming Conferences and Workshops

Tenth Symposium on Performance of Protective Clothing and Equipment: Risk Reduction through Research and Testing
January 28–29, 2016, San Antonio, TX

International Conference on Occupational Health and Safety 2016
March 1–2, 2016, Miami, FL

2016 National Safety Council Texas Safety Conference & Expo
March 20–22, 2016, San Antonio, TX

American Association of Occupational Health Nurses
April 11–16, 2016, Jacksonville, FL

American Industrial Hygiene Conference
May 21–26, 2016, Baltimore, MD

2016 International Hazardous Materials Response Teams Conference
June 16–19, 2016, Baltimore, MD

ASSE Professional Development Conference & Exposition Safety 2016
June 26–29, 2016, Atlanta, GA

The NIOSH web page, Conferences and Events, offers a list of upcoming conferences.

“This Month in History”

This month, 45 years ago . . .
The then-U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, now the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, prepared to assume duties assigned to it by the newly enacted Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. President Richard M. Nixon signed the Act into law on December 29, 1970. “To assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women.” The Act created both NIOSH and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with different but complementary responsibilities for preventing job-related injury, illness, and death. The Act delegated to NIOSH the duties assigned to the then-Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. To read the full Occupational Safety and Health Act, see Public Law 91-596.