Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2006-0155-3072, evaluation of contact dermatitis among machinists at an automotive parts manufacturer, Dana Corporation, Bristol, Virginia.
NIOSH received a request for an HHE at Dana Corporation in Bristol, Virginia from the United Auto Workers, Local 9023. Employees were concerned that poor indoor environmental quality and exposures to chemicals, nylon powder, and dust from grinding machines were causing rashes, nose bleeds, and respiratory problems, and that SRMF levels from induction heaters were causing cancer. Discussions held with union and management representatives determined that dermatitis was the major concern among employees. On June 13-15, 2006, NIOSH investigators held an opening meeting with management and union representatives and toured the plant to observe work practices. We measured sub-radiofrequency magnetic field (SRMF) levels near the induction heaters, collected bulk metalworking fluid (MWF) samples, evaluated potential acid gas exposures, assessed Local exhaust ventilation (LEV) at the nylon coating operation and the acid dip tank, interviewed employees privately, and performed medical evaluations of the skin. We found machines using MWFs that were not being cleaned between fluid change-out and machines leaking hydraulic oil into MWF reservoirs. Analysis of bulk MWF samples revealed irritant and sensitizing chemical components. Employees had direct skin contact with MWFs, and their training in the safe use and handling of MWFs was inadequate. Of the 72 employees interviewed, 37 reported a prior or current skin problem that they related to work; 11 employees had a rash that was likely work-related at the time of the evaluation. Exposures to SRMFs and acid gases were below OELs. Aerosol cans of antirust spray were used in areas without LEV, and powder had accumulated on horizontal surfaces near the nylon powder coating operation. We recommend developing a comprehensive MWF maintenance program, repairing machines to avoid oil leakage into MWFs, and avoiding the use of MWFs and biocides with irritating and sensitizing components such as formaldehyde-releasing agents. We recommend that employees report potential work-related health problems to their supervisors. The company should educate employees in the safe use and handling of MWFs, methods to prevent work-related skin disease, and appropriate use of PPE. Ventilation should be improved where antirust spray is used and in the nylon powder coating area when drums are charged.