Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-97-0276-2724, Owens Corning, Amarillo, Texas.
On October 21-23, 1997, representatives from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a site visit at the Owens Corning fiberglass manufacturing plant in Amarillo, Texas, in response to a confidential request for a health hazard evaluation (HHE) from three employees. The request was prompted by concerns regarding the causes for injuries and symptoms in the back, shoulders, elbows, and wrists among employees in the Roving area of the plant. The requesters were also concerned about repetitive work, shift work, production standards, and the working environment at the plant. The jobs of interest included operators in the M74 and M75 Roving areas. During the visit, the NIOSH team obtained information to assess the following: (1) the nature and extent of the employee-reported health hazards, (2) the physical characteristics of potentially hazardous jobs, and (3) the workers' perception of the health risks associated with selected jobs. During the visit, the team reviewed the Occupational Safety and Health Log and Summary of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA 200 Logs) to determine the extent of the recorded injuries and lost time, observed work practices of evaluated jobs to determine the physical demands on the upper extremities and the manual materials handling activities, and interviewed 59 workers in the Roving area on two shifts who perform the selected jobs to determine the workers' perception of physical workload and symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Roving area employees reported high prevalences of back, shoulder, hand, and wrist symptoms. Moreover, the majority of workers indicated that they had a poor relationship with the local management, and they reported low levels of control over their work and low job satisfaction. During the 2 ¾- year period from 1995 to 1997, in the entire facility there were 262 reported work-related MSDs, which resulted in 2,772 lost workdays (an average of 4.2 per worker per year) and 3,850 restricted workdays (based on a total of 800 employees). One hundred and seventy (38%) of the entries involved the upper extremities and 92 (21%) involved the back. The incidence rates of MSDs in the Roving area jobs were much higher (up to 24.5 incidents per 200,000 person hours) compared to the overall illness rate which include MSDs in the Pressed and Blown Glass Industry (8.9 per 200,000 person hours.) The ergonomic assessment consisted of observation and assessment of musculoskeletal hazards associated with the Roving area jobs, discussions with Roving Employees regarding musculoskeletal hazards associated with their jobs, and review of previous evaluations of the area by a university ergonomics program. Workers in the Roving Department were found to be exposed to increased risks of injury to the musculoskeletal system due to repetitive movements, awkward postures, and unnecessary bending and lifting that could be reduced by engineering and administrative controls. On the basis of our interviews, analysis of records, and review of previous ergonomics analysis of selected Roving jobs, NIOSH investigators determined that work in the Roving area at Owens Corning in Amarillo, Texas, was associated with high incidence and prevalence of MSDs including the shoulder, hand/wrist, and back. Recommendations for modifying or eliminating these problems are presented in the Recommendations Section of this report.