Health hazard evaluation summary report: HETA-2004-0334-3017, Transportation Security Administration: Palm Beach International Airport, West Palm Beach, Florida.
On July 22, 2004, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a health hazard evaluation (HHE) request from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at the Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Florida. The HHE request asked NIOSH to determine the potential for exposure to heat stress conditions for screeners working in the checked baggage screening area. The request indicated that some employees had experienced health problems possibly related to heat stress, including heat cramps and heat exhaustion. In response to the request, NIOSH investigators conducted heat stress and heat strain monitoring on August 28-31, 2004. Wet bulb globe temperatures (WBGT) were measured to evaluate the heat stress conditions. Individual heat strain was assessed using core body temperature (CBT), heart rate (HR), and pre- and post-shift body weight measurements. WBGT readings ranged from 77.5 degrees F to 83.9 degrees F in the checked baggage screening area. When compared to the NIOSH and American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) screening criteria, the results indicate that the screeners were exposed to excessive heat stress conditions during the evaluation. Twenty-three participants were monitored for physiological signs of heat stress during their work shifts. All employees were considered acclimatized to their work environment during the evaluation. Eight participants (35%) showed signs of heat strain. One of the screener's CBT exceeded the ACGIH criterion of 101.3 degrees F for acclimatized workers. There were 10 instances of screeners' HRs exceeding the ACGIH criterion of 180 minus their age. In addition, three of the screeners had average HRs that approached or exceeded 115 beats per minute (bpm) during the shifts they were monitored. None of the screeners had a body weight loss of more than the ACGIH criterion of 1.5%. TSA screeners working in the checked baggage screening area were exposed to heat stress in excess of the occupational screening criteria. Some employees developed signs of heat strain as measured by CBT or sustained HR. In addition, some complained of symptoms of heat strain. Recommendations for identifying and reducing heat stress and strain are provided in this report.