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NIOSH eNews

Volume 13 Number 11 (March 2016)

From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH

Effective Approaches for Hearing Loss Prevention

Hearing loss can’t be prevented using only tools and approaches from the 1980s. New approaches pay off.

Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common work-related conditions. Many workplaces comply with requirements and do recommended interventions to prevent work-related hearing loss. Finding documentation that shows how effective these actions are can be hard, though. In recent years, NIOSH used both research and awards to assess effective interventions are and promote efforts to prevent workers from suffering noise-induced hearing loss. NIOSH has used the Safe-In-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award™ to identify and honor excellent real-world examples of noise control and other hearing loss prevention practices and innovations.

On February 19, I had the pleasure to present the eighth round of Safe-in-Sound Awards at the 40th Annual National Hearing Conservation Association Conference in San Diego, CA. I was happy to hear from the award recipients (as I had heard from some of the previous ones) that controlling workplace noise exposure makes good business sense. They also confirmed the benefits of noise control go beyond preventing hearing loss.

What makes these recipients exceptional? For instance, why aren’t noise exposures controlled more often in the workplace? We often hear that noise control is costly. But these real-world cases made me ask, “is it?” First, spending money to reduce risks is reasonable—but only if it works. Some of today’s practices to prevent hearing loss (other than noise control) cost a lot, too, and can yield rather little.

3M in Alexandria, MN, tried a different approach. Starting in 2011, this facility received corporate support to reduce noise. The environmental health and safety staff and workers at 3M Alexandria received the 2016 Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award™ for their exceptional commitment to noise control and for the results they documented. Noise levels were so successfully reduced (12–14 dBA across 24 different areas and departments) that 199 of 203 employees are no longer required to be in their Hearing Conservation Program. These projects were also completed under budget, through actively involving their workforce. Given the breadth of the positive results obtained, 3M Alexandria plans to keep working on it until they eliminate excessive noise exposure at the facility. They also developed a long-term maintenance plan to prevent noise from creeping back in, including the use of Buy Quiet principles. 3M Alexandria’s success story shows that noise control is desirable and within reach.

Earlier I mentioned there are more benefits from controlling noise exposure at work than just preventing hearing loss. The second Safe-in-Sound award presented in 2016 was for innovation, and it went to John Casali and the Auditory Systems Laboratory at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, VA. They earned the award for their pioneering, extensive, and innovative efforts in researching ways to protect hearing and detect auditory signals. The impact of their work is unique because it extends beyond preventing hearing loss, moving into the realm of safety. Their work has been to study the ability to hear, perceive, and respond to important auditory stimuli in environments—that is, the ability to maintain “auditory situation awareness.” Their initiatives are recognized as innovative and broad reaching, and they are critical for improving devices that protect both the hearing and the safety of wearers.

The practical range of strategies covered by the recent and previous Safe-in-Sound award recipients give needed guidance on how worksites can effectively prevent hearing loss. These remarkable experiences (as well as those of past award winners) can be viewed on the Safe-In-Sound web page. You will also find testimonials from past award recipients describing the impact the award has had on their hearing loss prevention efforts. I hope the return on investment illustrated by our Safe-In-Sound award winners will inspire action to reduce noise exposures in the workplace, so that it becomes commonplace.

NIOSH has many resources available on this topic. Go to the NIOSH Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention website to find research and tools for preventing hearing loss, controlling noise, and learning more about the Buy Quiet program.

NIOSH Announces New Associate Director for Mining

NIOSH announces that Jessica Kogel, Ph.D., has been appointed as the new associate director for mining in the Office of the Director, effective February 8. In this role, Dr. Kogel leads the program to develop and carry out dynamic research to ensure the health and safety of mine workers. She also works to ensure the program continues to have the resources needed for conducting a multi-faceted and impactful research agenda.

NIOSH Releases New Heat Stress Information

NIOSH is pleased to announce the release of the updated Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Heat and Hot Environments. Occupational exposure to heat can result in injuries, illnesses, reduced productivity, and death. To address this hazard, NIOSH has evaluated the scientific literature on heat and hot environments, and the Institute has updated the criteria document, which was last revised in 1986.

New NIOSH/OSHA Hazard Alert for Oil and Gas Workers

A new joint NIOSH and OSHA hazard alert identifies health and safety risks to oil and gas industry workers who manually gauge or sample fluids on production and flowback tanks. “Health and Safety Risks for Workers Involved in Manual Tank Gauging and Sampling at Oil and Gas Extraction Sites,” specifically recommends how employers can protect workers from hazards that occur when tank hatches are opened to manually gauge or sample hydrocarbon levels.

New NIOSH Web Page Addresses Aerial Lift Injuries

Aerial lifts—powered and mobile platforms used for raising workers to various heights—are popular at construction, warehousing, and many other job sites. Learn about the fall-related risks and recommended safe work practices associated with this equipment by visiting the new NIOSH Aerial Lifts web page. While you’re there, test our Hazard Recognition Simulator, which is designed to help you acclimate to an aerial lift operation.

NIOSH Announces Mining and Mechanical Engineer Vacancies

Announcements for NIOSH mining engineer and mechanical engineer jobs have been posted to USAJOBS. The positions will recruit current federal employees and non-federal employees at the GS-7/9/11 levels with a full promotion potential to a GS-12. These open continuous job announcements will be posted on USAJOBS for at least 1 year. Eligible applicants may apply for the mining engineer position through a vacancy announcement, HHS-CDC-D2-16-1552502. Eligible applicants may apply for the mechanical engineering position through a vacancy announcement, HHS-CDC-D2-16-1550885.

NIOSH Lead Contamination Research Cited In Recent Headlines

A February Huffington Post article, “How Lead In Recycled Electronics Can Poison Workers’ Families” refers to a July 2015 MMWR article by NIOSH investigators and outside colleagues on take-home lead contamination.

NIOSH Researcher Talks Black Lung with NPR

NIOSH epidemiologist, David Blackley, sits down with NPR’s Here & Now (hour 2, at time 10:57) to speak about coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, or “black lung,” the possible reasons for its prevalence and resurgence among coal miners in Appalachia, and what research NIOSH has done. He is joined by a third-generation coal miner who was recently diagnosed with advanced black lung disease.

NIOSH Requests Comments on B Reader Review Protocol

A draft protocol to review chest x-ray classifications submitted into Black Lung Benefits proceedings has been posted for public comment. It helps to implement a previous Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between NIOSH and the Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. Comments will be accepted through April 18. The draft protocol is available on the NIOSH web site.

NIOSH Requests Comments on NanoSilver and 1-bromopropane Documents

NIOSH recently released two documents for public review, one on 1-bromopropane (comments can be submitted through April 29) and the other on nanosilver (comments can be submitted through April 22). NIOSH will also conduct public meetings on these documents:

  • A public meeting concerning public review and discussion of the draft document entitled Draft Current Intelligence Bulletin: Health Effects of Occupational Exposure to Silver Nanomaterials published in the Federal Register will be held at the NIOSH/CDC Robert A. Taft Laboratories, Auditorium, 1150 Tusculum Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226 on March 23, 2016, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Eastern Time:
  • A public meeting concerning public review and discussion of the draft document entitled “Criteria Document for a Recommended Standard:  Occupational Exposure to 1-Bromopropane (1-BP)” published in the Federal Register will be held at the NIOSH/CDC Robert A. Taft Laboratories, Auditorium, 1150 Tusculum Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226 on March 30, 2016, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., Eastern Time:

Monthly Features

NIOSH Congratulates

Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers
Congratulations to NIOSH researcher Jacob Carr, who was recently awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. President Obama announced the recipients of the award, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Government to science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. The winners will receive their awards at a Washington, DC ceremony this spring.

Researcher Recognized by Society of Automotive Engineers

Jim Green (center) with Bob Pheifer (left) and Rebecca Rubio (right) representing InterRegs Ltd., the sponsor, and SAE.

Researcher Recognized by Society of Automotive Engineers
Congratulations to NIOSH researcher James (Jim) Green for being recognized by the Society of Automotive Engineers International with the 2016 SAE/InterRegs Standards & Regulations Award for his work in developing safety standards. He was recognized as a practicing engineer who has contributed much to standards that will improve the crash worthiness of ambulances.

Public Health Service Advisory Committee Appointment
Congratulations to CAPT John Gibbins of NIOSH, who was recently selected by the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General as the new chief veterinary officer for the Health Services Professional Advisory Committee. The committee advises and serves the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service on issues relating to professional practice and personnel activities. As chief veterinary officer, CAPT Gibbins leads and coordinates U.S. Public Health Service veterinary professional affairs for the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He also gives guidance and advice to the U.S. Surgeon General and the Veterinary Professional Advisory Committee on matters such as recruitment, retention, career development, and readiness of PHS veterinarians.

News from Our Partners

OSHA Seeks Nominations for National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health Membership
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is accepting nominations for six positions on the 12-member National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health. OSHA is seeking nominations for two public representatives and one representative from each of the following categories: management, labor, occupational safety, and occupational health. Members serve a 2-year term and may be appointed to successive terms. Nominations may be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Nominations may also be sent by mail or facsimile; see the Federal Register notice for submission details. The deadline for nominations is March 22.

OSHA Seeks Public Comment on Guidance for Determining Potential Health Hazards of Chemicals
In efforts to protect workers from chemical hazards, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to issue new guidance on how to apply the Weight of Evidence approach when dealing with complex scientific studies. For more information and to review the draft guidelines and provide comment, visit OSHA’s Guidance on Data Evaluation for Weight of Evidence Determination webpage. Comments will be accepted until March 31, 2016, and may also be posted directly.

Delivering Workplace Safety Messaging to English Language Learners in Connecticut
The Connecticut Departments of Public Health, Education, and Labor, as well as the Connecticut Regional Education Council (CREC) and Move Up! formed a partnership to integrate the Workplace Health and Safety ESOL Curriculum (developed by the University of Massachusetts Labor Extension Program) in Connecticut’s ESOL classrooms. The curriculum uses learner-centered activities to engage ESOL students in discussions and build on their personal experiences. This helps to increase their knowledge about their rights as workers and the disproportionate health and safety risks they face in the workplace. For more information about this partnership, visit the Connecticut Department of Public Health, Occupational Health Program website.

NIOSH-Funded Study on 3D Printers
Researchers report that five desktop 3D printers tested in a NIOSH-funded study emitted large numbers of ultrafine particles and some volatile organic compounds, depending on the type of filament used. Results from a screening analysis of potential exposure to these products in a typical small office environment suggest caution should be used when operating many of the printer and filament combinations in poorly ventilated spaces or without the aid of combined gas and particle filtration systems, the researchers said.

Comparing Worksite Safety Practices Among Industries
The 2013 Nebraska Worksite Wellness Survey gives information on worksite wellness, health, and safety policies and practices that businesses are carrying out across the state. The Nebraska Occupational Safety and Health Surveillance Program analyzed the worksite survey data to compare industry sector differences in adopting safety practices at worksites. Results appear in an Occupational Health Data Snapshot Report. The report shows that although education on preventing injuries was offered in nearly two of three (65%) of manufacturing worksites, safety education was offered in a little more than one in three (39%) of health care and social assistance worksites.

Informational Videos on Work-related Asthma
The Florida Department of Health, the Florida Occupational Health and Safety Program, and the Florida Environmental Public Health Tracking Program have partnered to develop informational videos on work-related asthma. Two videos—one for employers and one for employees—highlight the causes, symptoms, and prevention of work-related asthma. Both videos are available in English and Spanish.

R2P Corner

Nail Gun Trigger Safety Simplified
NIOSH has posted two new nail gun safety videos. The 90 second and 30 second videos condense previously published recommendations into a single message, “switch to a safer trigger.” In incidents involving nail guns from 1985 through 2012, most serious work-related injuries—and all work-related deaths—occurred in the Construction Industry. Employees of small businesses suffered a disproportionate number of these injuries. These videos were created for small businesses that may not have the time or resources to adopt more comprehensive safety programs.

FACE Reports

Heavy-Equipment Mechanic Dies When an Elevated Dump Truck Tag Axle Pins Him to the Concrete Floor—Kentucky
A heavy-equipment mechanic was replacing an air bag on a tri-axle dump truck. While the mechanic was under the axle, he inadvertently placed his hand on the hydraulic floor jack, causing it to lower and pin him between the axle and the concrete floor. The mechanic was taken to the hospital and died of his injuries, from compression asphyxia.

Lake Maintenance Worker Drowns While Removing Weeds From a Golf Course Lake— California

A lake maintenance worker drowned after falling from a row boat while clearing aquatic weeds from a golf course lake. The worker was dragging a rope out into the lake and circling the weeds while standing up in the boat. The boat capsized, throwing him into the water. He was recovered from the lake by a dive team.

Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program Update

Evaluation of Erionite Exposure During Forestry Activities
HHE Program investigators found erionite mineral fibers on air samples collected on employees doing forest management work. Investigators recommended against repairing roads with aggregate that contained erionite. Investigators also recommended controlling dust exposures with ventilated vehicle cabs, wet methods, and other work practices. For more information click here.

Ventilation Recommendations for a Facility with Aircraft Restoration Hangers
HHE Program investigators found poor airflow in hangers used to maintain, repair, and restore active and historic aircraft. They recommended adjusting the ventilation systems to meet design specifications, repairing inoperable fans, and evaluating employee exposures after ventilation changes have been made. 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, 2016.

Request for Information on Development of a Performance Test Protocol for Closed System Transfer Devices that Incorporate Air-Cleaning Technology to Provide Worker Protection During Pharmacy Compounding and Administration of Hazardous Drugs
The notice was posted on January 19. Electronic or written comments should be received on or before March 8.

Request for Information on NIOSH Center for Direct Reading and Sensor Technologies: Sensors for Emergency Response Activities
The notice was posted on January 19. Electronic or written comments should be received on or before March 21.

Measuring Perceived Self-Escape Competencies among Underground Mineworkers—New
The notice was posted on January 21. Written comments must be received on or before March 21.

Monitoring and Coordinating Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in Healthcare to Enhance Domestic Preparedness for Ebola Response—New
The notice was posted on January 21. Written comments must be received on or before March 21.

Draft Current Intelligence Bulletin: Health Effects of Occupational Exposure to Silver Nanomaterials; Notice of Public Meeting and Extension of Comment
The notice was posted on February 10. Comments must be received by April 22.

Draft Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to 1-Bromopropane (1-BP); Notice of Public Meeting and Comments
The notice was posted on February 10. Comments must be received by April 29.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Quality Assurance Review of B Readers’ Classifications Submitted in the Department of Labor (DOL) Black Lung Benefits Program
The notice was posted on February 17. Comments must be received by April 18.

Call for Abstracts

National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media Call for abstracts. Abstracts must be submitted by March 18.

Upcoming Conferences and Workshops

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

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

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

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

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

2016 National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media
August 23–25, Atlanta, GA

Alliance for Hazardous Materials Professionals
August 28–31, Washington, DC

Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare (AOHP) September 7–10, Myrtle Beach, SC

American Public Health Association October 29–November 2, Denver, CO

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

“This Month in History”

In 1976, NIOSH alerted the occupational safety and health community that wok-related chloroform exposure increased cancer risk. NIOSH based the alert on laboratory findings from the National Cancer Institute and estimated that 40,000 workers encountered chloroform in various industries that used the chemical, often in small amounts, in production and other activities. To measure the relationship between chloroform exposure and worker illness, NIOSH began to identify industries with the greatest risk of exposure. For more information, see the NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards and Current Intelligence Bulletin 9: Chloroform (DDM).

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