Volume 16, Number 6 (October 2018)
John Howard, M.D.
Protecting the Health of our Nation’s Coal Miners
Coal mining is an important part of the U.S. economy. In 2017, about 30% of our electricity was generated by coal-fired power plants. Coal is also used to make steel and in manufacturing many types of products. And anyone who watches the news knows how important the jobs and income provided by coal mining are to our country’s coal mining regions.
The mining of coal involves a lot of hard work in inherently risky settings. Those who operate and work in coal mines must constantly be on guard against a range of hazards, including respirable coal mine dust. The NIOSH Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program (CWHSP), which provides respiratory health screenings to coal miners, reminded us of this in a September reportexternal icon. It found that the most recent national prevalence of pneumoconiosis (black lung) in coal miners with 25 years or more tenure who participate in CWHSP screenings is 10%. The prevalence of black lung for these long-tenured miners in central Appalachia (Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia) is 20%.
In addition to pneumoconiosis overall, another recent report indicates increasing numbers of coal miners with progressive massive fibrosis (PMF), an advanced, serious form of pneumoconiosis. In an August reportexternal icon, NIOSH investigators and their academic partners found that the percentage of claimants to the Department of Labor’s Black Lung Benefits Program with initial determinations of PMF increased from 0.6% in 1988 to 8.3% in 2014. Eighty-four percent of the miners with PMF determinations last mined in West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, or Virginia. Another recent indication of an increasing burden of severe pneumoconiosis is provided in a July reportexternal icon documenting the growing frequency of lung transplants due to the disease. These follow reports in Februaryexternal icon and also from 2016external icon that describe large groups of mostly former coal miners seen in Appalachian clinics for PMF.
We can improve and protect the health of our nation’s coal miners and eliminate black lung by measuring and controlling respirable coal mine dust exposures. Furthermore, we can prevent severe disease by detecting black lung early, when actions can still be taken to stop the progression to advanced disease.
A recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicineexternal icon speaks to the importance of monitoring representative respirable coal mine dust and silica exposure, controlling these exposures, and addressing barriers to miners’ participation in medical surveillance. NIOSH is using the valuable guidance provided by this report in its ongoing efforts to address these issues. Our job is not done until every miner can work a full career and enjoy a healthy retirement free from respiratory disease.
EPA has released its premier risk assessment software, BMDS 3.0external icon. This major upgrade of the Benchmark Dose Software (BMDS) is cobranded with NIOSH and incorporates Bayesian Model Averaging, a technique adapted by NIOSH researcher, Matt Wheeler, for quantitative risk assessment. Bayesian Model Averaging allows the statistical modeling to account for the uncertainty inherent in selecting a “best” model to describe exposure-response data. Quantitative risk assessment is used by NIOSH to characterize risks of workplace chemical exposures and set recommended exposure limits (RELs), and by EPA to assess environmental risks. BMDS is freely available and widely used in the risk assessment community.
New videos, entitled State of the Science Research Highlights, are now available online. These short vignettes feature NIOSH scientists and extramural researchers discussing the relevance and outcomes of their studies. Look at these exciting highlights, and please share with others in your professional networks.
The last day to preregister for the 7th National Occupational Injury Research Symposium (NOIRS) is October 5. Registration is free. If you miss the preregistration deadline, you can register onsite. The symposium will be in Morgantown, West Virginia, at the Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place on October 16–18.
- EPA Releases Major BMDS Software Upgrade with NIOSH Contributions
- NIOSH Scientists and Grantees Discuss Their Work on Camera!
- National Occupational Injury Research Symposium (NOIRS) Preregistration Deadline
- New Motor Vehicle Safety Resources Available
- Upcoming NIOSH Webinars
- WTC Health Program Seeks Nominations for the Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee
- New Resources for Hurricane Response Workers
- In Memoriam: Dr. Marvin Mills
The NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety recently published three new motor vehicle resources:
- NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety Fact Sheet – Did you know that the NIOSH is the only part of the U.S. federal government whose mission includes preventing crashes and the resulting injuries for all workers, not just a specific worker group? Get a snapshot of our program’s impact and who we work with in a new fact sheet for employers, safety professionals, and workers.
- Vehicle Safety Program GIF – Learn four steps to build a workplace motor vehicle safety program. This animated image (GIF) from NIOSH will play in PowerPoint, on Twitter, and on electronic message boards.
- Driver GIF – Who’s at risk of a work-related crash? This animated GIF from NIOSH will play in PowerPoint, on Twitter, and on electronic message boards.
- Overlapping Vulnerabilities in the Aging Workforce
On October 30 from 12–1:30pm ET, the NIOSH Total Worker Health® Webinar Series, in conjunction with the National Center for Productive Aging and Work, presents the next installment in the Productive Aging and Work annual webinar series: Overlapping Vulnerabilities in the Aging Workforce. Aging does not happen in a vacuum. Social and economic dynamics and structures can shape the experience of aging. Join us for a discussion on a comprehensive perspective of productive aging—the support of safe and healthy work environments through integrated strategies that allow workers to be safe, healthy, and productive at all ages. Free continuing education for this activity is available. Register now to attend via Adobe Connectexternal icon.
- New Insights into the Opioid Crisis and Work: Important Information for Workers and Employers
On November 6 from 1–2:30pm ET, the NIOSH Total Worker Health® Webinar Series presents a webinar focused on new research at the important intersection of work and the nation’s opioid crisis. Speakers will explore critical insights into potential work-related risk factors for opioid misuse, the latest data on opioid overdose by industry and occupation, and primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention methods and interventions. The presentation will also introduce the NIOSH response to the opioid crisis, helping to address the challenges facing our nation’s workers and workplaces related to opioids. Register now to attend via Adobe Connectexternal icon.
The World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program is requesting nominations for candidates to serve on the Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee (STAC). Appointments to the STAC are for up to 3 years. The Administrator of the WTC Health Program, based on program needs, determines the frequency of committee meetings. Nominations are due by November 16, 2018. Further information on nomination categories or how to submit nominations is available in the Federal Register announcementexternal icon.
- The NIOSH key message document for emergency response and recovery workers, employers, and volunteers has been updated. This document has information on how to work safely and avoid hazards such as carbon monoxide, mold, and heat stress that they may face in the aftermath of a hurricane. Share these important safety messages with your readers, workers, and volunteers. Feel free to copy and paste the information, links, and images into your newsletters, emails, and social media posts. The key messages are available in multiple languages on the NIOSH Storm Flood and Hurricane Response webpage.
- NIOSH recently added important information, Interim Guidance for Protecting Workers from Livestock and Poultry Wastewater and Sludge During and After Floods, to its emergency preparedness and response resources webpage. This guidance, cobranded with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is for workers on farms, animal production sites, and processing plants that store animal waste. Waste or manure is found in animal housing, open lots, pastures, manure-treated fields, sediment basins, above ground storage structures, underground storage tanks, lagoons, storage ponds, and manure drying or composting sites. Workers may be at risk of exposure to diseases that could be passed from animals through contact with workers’ broken skin, eyes, nose, mouth, or mucous membranes.
NIOSH was saddened to learn of the death of former friend and colleague Dr. Marvin DeMond Mills Sr. who passed away on September 3. Marvin came to NIOSH in 1989 as an Education Specialist. By that summer, he started the first internship class at NIOSH for minority college students. Throughout his career, Marvin established programs that nurtured and mentored young professionals and minority students in occupational health. Over the years, more than 100 students came to NIOSH under this intern program. Some of his other many accomplishments include being a faculty member of six colleges and universities, a member of two Presidential Commissions (one established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the other established the Highway Safety Commission), President of the American Academy of Safety, and a member of the Board of Directors for the National Safety Council.
2018 NIOSH Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Award Winners
The NIOSH Mining Program and partners recognized the efforts of Consol Energy, Anglo American, Imerys, Wisconsin Proppants Operations, in their respective industry sectors for developing new tools and systems, or for using existing technology in new ways. The awards were given during the NIOSH Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Awards during several ceremonies Sept. 25–27. Learn more.
Updated NORA Website
Check out the revamped NORA website, now with a fresh look and new content.
Hazardous Energy Control Resource Guide
The NORA Manufacturing Sector Council has a new website on hazardous energy control. It features a resource guide with customizable materials and templates to help with applying effective strategies for the administrative control of the unsafe release of hazardous energy. Members of the council compiled, reviewed, and adapted resources to help companies and businesses start or improve and maintain their existing Lockout Program.
Impact of Washington’s Logger Safety Initiative
Logging is one of the most hazardous industries in the United States. In Washington State, injury rates in manual logging exceed 40 per 100 full-time equivalent employees. In 2013, landowners, logging companies, and state agencies partnered to create the Washington State Logger Safety Initiative (LSI)external icon. Their goal was to improve the safety culture in the manual logging industry. Two new Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) reports look into initial LSI safety consultationspdf iconexternal icon and the impact of the LSI on workers’ compensation claimspdf iconexternal icon.
Tell a Story, Safe a Life
A new website for the Telling the Story Projectexternal icon brings together farm stories of safety and survival. Farmers, agricultural workers, their families, and community members who have been impacted by injuries, fatalities, or close calls are encouraged to tell their stories. Told in their own words, their experiences provide valuable information to learn what went wrong and how to prevent similar incidents. The stories will be used to create injury prevention messages that highlight personal stories and firsthand experiences. The common thread is “We don’t want this to happen to anyone else.” This is a new collaboration among three of the NIOSH Centers for Agricultural Safety and Health that includes the Great Plains Center (University of Iowa), the Central States Center (University of Nebraska), and the Upper Midwest Center (University of Minnesota). The project was funded by a grant from NIOSH.
Paramedic Is Struck and Killed while Responding to a Call—Kentucky
A paramedic was responding to a call when his ambulance struck another vehicle. After pulling onto a side street, he exited the ambulance and crossed the street to assess the damage to the other vehicle. Returning to the ambulance, the paramedic stepped out into the street from between two parallel-parked cars and was stuck by an oncoming vehicle.
Supervisor Dies when Decapitated by a Rope Pulled into a Wood Chipper—California
A supervisor for a land clearing company died when he was decapitated by a rope that was pulled into a wood chipper. A rope used to cinch brush into a bundle was not removed before feeding the brush into a wood chipper. One end of the rope caught in the drum of the chipper and tangled around the supervisor, pulling him onto the wood chipper feed table where he was decapitated by the rope.
Custodian Dies when He Falls off a Step Ladder—California
A custodian died from head injuries when he fell off a seven-foot step ladder while washing windows at a school gymnasium. The fall was unwitnessed. A coworker found the custodian at the base of the ladder and called 911.
Landscaper Dies from Asphyxia when Compressed by Palm Fronds—California
A landscaper died while trimming a palm tree in the backyard of a homeowner. The landscaper was halfway up the tree when the skirt of dead palm fronds directly above him broke loose and slid down, compressing him against the tree trunk and suffocating him.
Evaluation of Chemical Exposures at Two Vape Shops
After HHE Program investigators found low levels of flavoring chemicals in the air and residual nicotine on commonly touched surfaces, they recommended the employer not allow vaping in the workplace with e-liquids containing diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione. Investigators also suggested improving PPE (personal protective equipment) use during work tasks involving nicotine or customers’ e-cigarettes. Read the HHE report to learn more.
Evaluation of a Thermal Drying Process at a Wastewater Treatment Plant
Although exposures to endotoxins and silica were low, HHE Program investigators found safety concerns in the plant and issues with PPE (personal protective equipment) use and care. Investigators provided PPE recommendations and suggested that the employer work with the thermal dryer manufacturer to ensure that equipment is working according to design and safely. Read the HHE report to learn more.
- Labor Day Message from NIOSH Director, John Howard, MD
- N95 Day 2018: Getting Down to the Particulars about Filter Class
- Job Strain, Long Work Hours, and Suicidal Thoughts
- A Guide to Air-Purifying Respirators
- NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety
- NIOSH Pittsburgh Mining Research Division
- NIOSH Spokane Mining Research Division
Program Performance One Pagers (PPOP)
Other NIOSH Newsletters
- NIOSH Research Rounds Volume 4, Number 3, September 2018
- NIOSH TWH in Action! Volume 7, Number 3, September 2018
Request for Information about Inorganic Lead
The noticeexternal icon was posted on August 21. Electronic or written comments must be received by October 22.
World Trade Center Health Program Enrollment, Treatment, Appeals & Reimbursement—Revision
The noticeexternal icon was posted on September 25. Written comments must be received within 30 days.
Revised Draft NIOSH Current Intelligence Bulletin: Health Effects of Occupational Exposure to Silver Nanomaterials
The noticeexternal icon was posted on September 18. The public online meeting will be held on October 30, 1pm to 4:30pm EST.
Solicitation of Nominations for Appointment to the World Trade Center Health Program Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee (STAC)
The noticeexternal icon was posted on September 9. Nominations for membership on the STAC must be received no later than November 16.
World Trade Center Health Program; Request for Nominations of Scientific Peer Reviewers of Proposed Additions to the List of WTC-Related Health Conditions
The noticeexternal icon was posted on March 22, 2017. Nominations must be postmarked or submitted electronically by February 1, 2019.
Work, Stress and Health Conferenceexternal icon
Deadline for paper and presentation proposals is January 28, 2019.
National Occupational Injury Research Symposium 2018
October 16–18, Morgantown, WV
2019 National HIV Prevention Conference
March 18–21, 2019, Atlanta, GA
29th Annual Art & Science of Health Promotion Conferenceexternal icon
April 1–5, 2019, Hilton Head, SC
Twenty-Fourth International Symposium on Shiftwork & Working Timeexternal icon
September 9–13, 2019, Coeur d’Alene, ID
Working Hours, Sleep & Fatigue Forum: Meeting the Needs of American Workers and Employers
September 13–14, 2019, Coeur d’Alene, ID
Work, Stress and Health Conference 2019external icon
November 6–9, 2019, Philadelphia, PA
A comprehensive list of upcoming conferences is available on the NIOSH conferences and events web page.
In October 2005, NIOSH joined forces with the National Fire Protection Associationexternal icon to improve safety for emergency responders. With this partnership, the organizations focused on developing better protective clothing and equipment for emergency responders.