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Use of focus groups to assess chemical hazards in coal preparation plants.

McConnell-G; Viet-S; Marker-D
American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 10-15, 2003, Dallas, Texas. Fairfax, VA: American Industrial Hygiene Association, 2003 May; :2
Hazard surveillance surveys are both time consuming and expensive. As an alternative, we used a focus group approach to determine exposure to chemicals found in coal preparation plants. Union and nonunion operators and employees were asked to describe process(es), unusual uses, use of personal protective equipment and controls, storage methods, changes in chemical use over time, and health effects related to exposures. The focus groups succeeded in identifying major chemicals used and trends in chemical use. In general, prep plants are moving toward less toxic chemicals, fewer chemicals, and more automation in their processes. Differences in reporting by operators and employees, and union and nonunion workers, were noted. Both operators and employees reported acute health effects, but there was variable reporting of long-term effects. In addition, hazard communication training issues were documented, e.g., use of personal protective equipment. While there are some limitations to the data generated, such as inability to produce national estimates, the focus group approach provided information about attitudes and concerns and anecdotal type information that would not be obtained by traditional survey methods. By carefully selecting knowledgeable participants and by enhancing data with MSDSs or limited walkthrough surveys, the approach offers a cost effective means to summarize chemicals used and issues of concern within a given industry.
Hazards; Health-hazards; Occupational-hazards; Coal-mining; Chemical-properties; Personal-protective-equipment; Occupational-exposure; Coal-processing
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American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 10-15, 2003, Dallas, Texas
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division