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Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2008-0091-3118, evaluation of metal and carbon monoxide exposures during steel slab cutting and slitting - Indiana.

Burr G; Eisenberg J; Jang SH
Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, HETA 2008-0091-3118, 2010 Dec; :1-15
In January 2008, NIOSH received an HHE request from the United Steelworkers concerning metal dust and fume exposure from the semi-automated No. 1 caster/slitter operation at an Indiana steel mill. Health concerns listed on the request included bloody nose and dirty nasal passages. We met with employer and employee representatives and observed work processes, practices, and workplace conditions on April 2-4, 2008. We reviewed the results of previous environmental sampling conducted by the steel mill and held confidential interviews with employees to discuss health and workplace concerns. We collected PBZ and GA air samples for minerals, metals, and CO and evaluated the ventilation systems in the cut-off and slitter pulpits, the shipping shanty, and two break rooms. The PBZ and GA air samples were analyzed for 31 minerals and metals. Airborne particulate in the No. 1 caster/slitter and shipping areas was primarily iron oxide, but other metals such as copper, manganese, molybdenum, and nickel were also present in measurable amounts. Employees' exposures were below applicable OELs, although the iron oxide TWA exposures for the crane operators (range: 1900 to 2800 microg/m3) approached or exceeded one half of the OSHA PEL and NIOSH REL of 5000 microg/m3. All CO concentrations were below the OSHA PEL and NIOSH REL. The cut-off and slitter pulpits, the shipping shanty, and the iron worker break room were under positive pressure in relation to the surrounding production areas. The pulpits, shanty, and break rooms were provided with air ducted from outside the building. Twenty-two of 28 employees scheduled to work on the days of our evaluation participated in the confidential medical interviews. All but two were male, and the average age was 45 years. Of 22 employees interviewed, 17 (77%) were either current or former smokers. Of the 22 employees interviewed, 16 reported no work-related symptoms, but many noted having black nasal secretions and phlegm. The remaining six employees reported work-related symptoms including eye irritation (1), cough (1), sore throat (2), nosebleeds (2), anxiety (1), and headache (2). Cough, sore throat, and nosebleeds are consistent with upper respiratory irritation due to dust exposure. These symptoms are also common in the general population and cannot be directly linked to work exposure. These six employees had also reported workplace dustiness to their supervisors but had not reported their health symptoms to either the employer or to the on-site occupational health clinic. However, no interviewed employees reported feeling pressured by the employer not to report symptoms. Interviewed employees reported that there was less dust in the slitter pulpit after the ventilation system was improved and that ventilation changes to the crane cabs and shipping shanty were less effective than the changes to the slitter pulpit in reducing dust. Dust was reported as worse in the winter when the doors were closed. On the basis of this evaluation we recommended sealing gaps in the crane cab enclosures and evaluating the fit and effectiveness of the air filters installed in the crane cab enclosures. We recommended that the cut-off and slitter operators and shippers perform as much of their work as possible within their ventilated pulpits or shanty. Employees should wear the voluntary use respirators properly and replace them at least daily or more often if the respirator becomes difficult to breathe through. We also recommended that employees report any work-related health problems to the on-site occupational health clinic. Additionally, because employees were allowed to smoke in the work place, the steel mill should implement a smoking cessation program because smoking can have many adverse health effects.
Steel-industry; Steel-foundries; Metallic-dusts; Metal-industry; Metal-industry-workers; Metal-fumes; Metal-dusts; Metal-refining; Work-practices; Workplace-studies; Dusts; Dust-particles; Particulate-dust; Particulates; Iron-oxides; Respiratory-irritants; Eye-irritants; Ventilation; Ventilation-systems; Author Keywords: Fabricated Structural Metal Manufacturing; steel mill; dust; fume; metal; iron oxide; carbon monoxide; ventilation; bloody nose
1345-25-1; 7440-50-8; 7439-96-5; 7439-98-7; 7440-02-0; 630-08-0
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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: May 11, 2023
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division