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Health hazard evaluation report: evaluation of metals, solvents, formaldehyde, ventilation, and ergonomic risks during the manufacture of electrical cable accessories.

Methner MM; Tapp L; Ramsey J
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 2012-0025-3207, 2014 May; :1-31
The Health Hazard Evaluation Program received a request from employees at a manufacturer of premolded cable accessories for underground power distribution systems. Employees were concerned about poor ventilation, ergonomic risks, and developing respiratory disease or cancer from exposures during rubber molding, plastic extrusion, soldering, and painting. The plant operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with approximately 300 nonunion production employees working 8-hour shifts. Paint department employees normally worked 12-hour shifts. During our evaluation, we (1) talked to employees about their health and work, (2) reviewed safety data sheets and injury and illness logs, (3) looked at work practices and plant processes, (4) inspected ventilation systems, (5) collected air samples for solvents and air and surface wipes for metals, and (6) evaluated workstations for ergonomic risk factors. We found deficiencies in the plant's ventilation system that included holes in the ductwork, disconnected ducts, and broken dampers. Air levels of chemicals were low except for one toluene air sample on a spray painter that exceeded the ACGIH TLV limit, which was adjusted for the 12-hour workshift. This overexposure may have resulted from inadequate exhaust ventilation or improper work practices. Some employees working with irritants and solvents reported eye and upper respiratory symptoms, headaches, and lightheadedness. The air levels of chemicals we measured were below those that have resulted in long-term respiratory problems in other scientific studies; however, these current levels may not reflect those that existed in the plant in years past. We noted that many employees had a combination of forceful exertion, repetitive movements, and twisting and bending during paint spraying, rubber molding, and deflashing operations; these factors put them at risk for musculoskeletal disorders. We recommended the company further reduce chemical exposures by (1) repairing the ventilation system, (2) moving parts further back into the spray booth for painting, (3) providing exhaust ventilation to the drying racks used for painted parts, and (4) ensuring employees keep the spray nozzle inside the spray booth. We also recommended the company improve communication with employees regarding how chemicals can affect their health and how to prevent exposures at work. To reduce the risk for musculoskeletal disorders, we recommended the company (1) move the paint booths so that the elbow of the spray painter is at a 90 angle to the part being sprayed, (2) install a conveyor to help load parts, and use a tool to move parts into the collection bin, and (3) rotate employees between job tasks that use different muscle groups.
Ventilation; Ventilation-systems; Ergonomics; Respiratory-protective-equipment; Respiratory-system-disorders; Respirators; Respiratory-protection; Personal-protective-equipment; Personal-protection; Cables; Cancer; Soldering; Soldering-alloys; Paint-shops; Paint-spraying; Painters; Work-practices; Metals; Metal-dusts; Metal-compounds; Solvents; Solvent-vapors; Eye-irritants; Eye-protection; Eye-protective-equipment; Eye-shields; Respiratory-irritants; Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Exhaust-ventilation; Control-technology; Engineering-controls; Plastics; Plastics-industry; Author Keywords: Current-carrying Wiring Device Manufacturing; ventilation; tin; VOCs; toluene; ergonomics; formaldehyde; plastics; extrusion; spray painting; eye irritation; upper respiratory irritation; cancer
7440-31-5; 108-88-3; 50-00-0
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
HETA-2012-0025-3207; M052014
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
SIC Code
Source Name
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