Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2003-0268-3065, assessment of physical hazards at an automobile parts manufacturing facility, Tower Automotive, Bluffton, Ohio.
On May 19, 2003, NIOSH received a union request to conduct an HHE at Tower Automotive in Bluffton, Ohio. The request stated that employees were subjected to highly repetitive work, loud metal stamping noise, and excessive heat in the painting department. The management referred to their employees as colleagues, so this term is used in this report. During an initial site visit (August 21, 2003), NIOSH investigators reviewed documentation of past industrial hygiene and noise sampling and summaries of audiometric testing conducted at the facility, conducted noise sampling, performed an ergonomic evaluation of jobs that were in operation during our visit, and conducted confidential colleague interviews. During a follow-up site visit (September 13-16, 2004), personal exposure to heat stress and heat strain was assessed in the paint department. Area monitors indicated that the temperature in the paint area was significantly higher than in a comparison area (cafeteria). Six colleagues provided 13 heat strain measures. Of the personal heat strain measures (core body temperature, heart rate, and skin temperature) collected in the paint department (fork lift operators, loaders and unloaders), six measures exceeded the ACGIH core body temperature lower limit (100.4 degrees F), and one exceeded its upper limit (101.3 degrees F). The average heart rate measures were 55-115 beats per minute, and the average skin temperatures ranged from 86 degrees F to 98 degrees F. Nine measures showed signs of dehydration, of which three reached or exceeded the 1.5% guideline for adequate hydration. The ergonomic evaluation found that the 70247 press job presented an occupational hazard; relocation of the bin or other measures to reduce the amount of shoulder abduction and wrist flexion to retrieve parts should be a high priority for the company. Noise levels in the facility were between 85 and 100 dBA. Colleagues were observed wearing hearing protectors consistently and properly. Normal hearing declined from 2002 to 2003. On one of the cut-saw machines, the built-in LEV was not working. Metal shavings were observed all over the work area. During the confidential interviews, colleagues cited musculoskeletal injuries, heat stress from working in the paint department, and dust exposures as main concerns. NIOSH investigators recommend that colleagues working in the paint department rest during the rest portion of the work/rest regiment, and not be assigned any duties during this time. Also, for colleagues performing the 70247 job, the amount of shoulder abduction and wrist flexion to retrieve parts should be reduced. One way to achieve this is by relocating the bin holding parts associated with this job. In the cut-saw area, make sure that the LEV systems function properly, and keep work areas clean.
Region-5; Repetitive-work; Ergonomics; Heat-exposure; Noise; Automotive-industry; Impact-noise; Heat-stress; Hearing-protection; Hearing-conservation; Personal-protective-equipment; Protective-equipment; Personal-protection; Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Particulates; Cumulative-trauma; Cumulative-trauma-disorders