Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2005-0215-3099, evaluation of heat and carbon monoxide exposures to border protection officers at ports of entry, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, El Paso, Texas.
On April 22, 2005, NIOSH received a union request asking NIOSH to evaluate heat stress and CO exposures for CBP officers working in the outdoor vehicle inspection areas at the CBP ports of entry in El Paso, Texas. The request indicated that some officers had experienced heat cramps and heat exhaustion. In response, NIOSH investigators monitored heat stress, heat strain, and CO in air and exhaled breath on August 29 - September 2, 2005, at the Bridge of the Americas and Paso del Norte ports of entry in El Paso, Texas. At the time of our evaluation we found that officers working in the outdoor vehicle inspection areas were not exposed to heat stress that exceeded NIOSH and ACGIH recommendations. None of the officers monitored for heat strain showed signs of excessive heat stress exposure. However, environmental temperatures are often warmer in El Paso than they were on the days of our evaluations. Higher temperatures would increase the likelihood that occupational heat stress recommendations could be exceeded and that employees could be at increased risk of heat strain. The NIOSH recommended exposure limit ceiling for CO was exceeded for some of the officers working in the outdoor vehicle inspection areas. This REL was exceeded when the officers inspected the vehicle's undercarriage near the exhaust pipe. None of the officers monitored exceeded the full shift TWA occupational exposure limits for CO or the limits for COHb. Investigators recommended creating a formal heat stress management program that includes information on heat acclimatization and heat stress prevention. Management should monitor environmental heat exposure and develop criteria for heat alerts. Investigators also recommended turning off vehicles in primary inspection lanes, creating a hazard communication program for working around vehicle exhaust, continuing to use officer rotation schedules, and periodically monitoring officers' CO exposures.