Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2003-0383-2942, Alstom Power, Inc., Chattanooga, Tennessee.
On September 12, 2003, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a request for a Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) from the Director of Human Services of Alstom Power, Inc., and the President of Local 656, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers. The HHE request was prompted by the realization that recordable injuries classified as strains and sprains had increased over the prior 12 months. The cause of these injuries was not readily known to the company, and they felt they did not have the in-house expertise to effectively evaluate the situation. During November 10-12, 2003, NIOSH investigators visited Alstom Power, Inc. The NIOSH team included an ergonomics specialist and an industrial hygienist/safety professional. The site visit consisted of an opening conference with representatives of management and Boilermakers Local 656, a general plant walkthrough assessment, a review of accident and injury logs, and detailed analysis of several jobs where recent injuries had occurred. The closing conference took place on November 12, 2003. The management and union were represented. The ergonomics evaluation indicated that the main hazard was static and sustained trunk flexion postures, mainly among workers who performed welding jobs on large panels. The plant walkthrough assessment indicated that there were safety and health concerns in the plant not related to the musculoskeletal disorders specified in the HHE request. Recommendations pertaining to these issues were sent to Alstom Power, Inc., in December 2003, and are repeated in this report. Review of the injury logs indicated that many of the lost time entries involving the back and upper and lower extremity musculoskeletal system were the result of acute events that did not involve the routine content of job tasks. Many injuries were the result of poor housekeeping and organization of materials, and unsafe work practices. Based on observations and review of injury records and accident investigations, NIOSH investigators conclude that job tasks at Alstom Power, Inc., are associated with a large number of injuries to the back and upper and lower extremities. Many of these injuries were acute and not directly related to production tasks, but to poor housekeeping and unsafe work practices. Recommendations to reduce the risk of injury to workers are contained in this report.