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Health hazard evaluation report: evaluation of cut-resistant sleeves and fiberglass fiber shedding at a steel mill.

Tapp L; Ceballos D; Wiegand D
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 2011-0113-3179, 2013 May; :1-37
The HHE Program evaluated concerns about skin irritation and possible respiratory problems from fiberglass fibers shedding off employees' cut-resistant sleeves at a steel mill. HHE Program investigators talked to employees about their workplace and health concerns and reviewed employee medical records and injury and illness logs. Some employees reported steam burns on their arms or itchy, irritated skin from wearing the sleeves; some also had numbness or pain in their hands or wrists from wearing the sleeves with thick gloves. Most employees reported feeling uncomfortable reporting work-related injuries or illnesses or expressing safety and health concerns to management for fear of disciplinary action. Investigators took bulk samples of new and laundered cut-resistant sleeves and collected tape and vacuum samples from work surfaces, cut-resistant sleeves, and employee's clothing and skin. Skin and surface samples contained fiberglass, Kevlar, and cellulose fibers from the cut-resistant sleeves. The size and shape of the fiberglass and Kevlar fibers shedding from the sleeves make them difficult to inhale into the lungs. The composition and size of the fibers make them unlikely to cause any long-term health effects. However, the fiberglass fibers may cause temporary upper respiratory irritation. HHE Program investigators recommended that the employer review their policy requiring all employees to wear cut-resistant sleeves and provide alternative sleeves to employees who have skin irritation or hand or wrist pain. New and laundered cut-resistant sleeves should be provided in more locations throughout the mill, including employee locker rooms. Additionally, the employer should check laundered sleeves regularly to make sure they are cleaned properly and should monitor the number of times sleeves are laundered so they can be replaced as recommended by the manufacturer. Employees should not take sleeves home and should shower and put on clean clothes before going home. We recommended the employer (1) consider hiring a consultant to aid in improving the safety climate and (2) develop a committee with employee and union representatives to address safety and health issues.
Region-3; Steel-industry; Steelworkers; Steel-foundries; Respiratory-system-disorders; Respiratory-irritants; Fibrous-glass; Personal-protective-equipment; Skin-irritants; Protective-clothing; Ergonomics; Stress; Cellulose-fibers; Sampling; Author Keywords: Iron and Steel Mills; steel production; fiberglass; skin irritation; respiratory irritation; protective sleeves
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
HETA-2011-0113-3179; B20130531
NIOSH Division
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: April 1, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division