Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2003-0175-3033, COL-FIN Specialty Steel, Fallston, Pennsylvania.
On February 27, 2003, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a request from the United Steelworkers of America Local 9305 for a health hazard evaluation (HHE) at COL-FIN Specialty Steel (COL-FIN) in Fallston, Pennsylvania. The union was concerned about inadequate ventilation in the pickling and annealing areas and other potential health hazards throughout the whole plant. On November 11, 2003, NIOSH investigators made an initial visit to the facility to meet with union and management representatives, tour the facility to understand the manufacturing process, and observe work practices. Between March 8 and March 12, 2004, NIOSH investigators returned to COL-FIN to conduct environmental sampling and medical interviews with employees. Area and personal breathing zone (PBZ) air samples for respirable particulates and acids (sulfuric and hydrochloric) were collected during the annealing, pickling, and hot etching of steel coils. Area and PBZ air samples for respirable particulates from soap powder and metal working fluids (MWFs) were collected when employees were drawing, straightening, and grinding the steel coils. Respirable particulate samples were also analyzed for crystalline silica. Spot measurements for carbon monoxide (CO) were taken in the annealing area. In addition, personal noise measurements were made on employees during the annealing, drawing, straightening, and grinding processes. Material handlers, who transport steel coils on gas-powered forklifts throughout the production area were assessed for exposure to noise, respirable particulates, silica, CO, and acids. A short-term sample for hydrochloric acid collected during the etching process exceeded the NIOSH and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ceiling limits; sulfuric acid levels were below all occupational exposure limits (OELs). Respirable particulate and silica levels were also below all OELs. Spot measurements for CO ranged up to 18 parts per million. Area and PBZ air samples collected in the grinding and shaving areas were above the NIOSH recommended exposure limit (REL) for MWFs; the local exhaust ventilation units for the grinding and shaving equipment were not functioning as intended. The personal noise dosimetry data showed that noise levels for two material handlers exceeded the OSHA action level of 85 decibels on an A-weighted scale. Many employees' noise levels also exceeded the more protective NIOSH REL. Thirty-five workers were interviewed. Many workers reported respiratory (66%) and skin problems (31%) consistent with exposure to MWFs and other occupational exposures. Over half of interviewed workers were current smokers. Smoking occurred throughout the plant, exposing non-smokers to secondhand smoke. Exposures to excessive levels of noise and MWFs, as well as exposure to secondhand smoke, constitute a health hazard at COL-FIN. Employees reported respiratory and dermal problems consistent with their occupational exposures. NIOSH investigators recommend enrolling COL-FIN employees in a hearing conservation program and banning smoking inside the facility. NIOSH investigators also recommend servicing the local exhaust ventilation units in the grinding and shaving areas to reduce exposure to MWFs and establishing a medical monitoring program for workers exposed to MWFs.
Region-3; Hazards-Confirmed; Aerosol-particles; Aerosols; Acid-mists; Acids; Respirable-dust; Particulate-dust; Silica-dusts; Noise; Metal-industry-workers; Metal-workers; Metalworking-fluids; Metalworking-industry; Respiratory-system-disorders; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Skin-disorders; Skin-exposure; Skin-irritants; Cigarette-smoking; Synergism; Dermatitis