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Health hazard evaluation report: evaluation of exposures and a potential hydrogen sulfide release event at an aircraft engine services facility, West Virginia.

Armstrong-JL; Cummings-KJ; Boylstein-R; Ham-J; Blackley-D
Morgantown, WV: 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 2014-0042-3216, 2014 Jul; :1-21
In December 2013, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health received a confidential health hazard evaluation request from employees of an aircraft engine services facility in West Virginia. The requestors were concerned about potential air quality issues, proper ventilation on chemical electroplating tanks, cleanliness in the blast room, and breathing problems. Five NIOSH investigators (two industrial hygienists, one chemist, one physician, and one epidemiologist) visited the facility on February 5 and 12, 2014. During these two visits, we met with workers, medical staff, and facility management. In addition, we toured the facility and performed real-time and short-term industrial hygiene monitoring. The monitoring was performed for screening rather than compliance purposes so that our industrial hygienists could better understand typical levels throughout the facility. We also reviewed documents provided by the company, including the company's environmental health and safety program manual, results of recent industrial hygiene sampling, injury and illness logs, and information about how unsafe conditions are reported. We learned about an incident that occurred in July 2013 that involved potential exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas, and about the four workers that sought medical attention for respiratory illnesses afterward. The incident occurred when overgrowth of sulfate-reducing bacteria led to the release of hydrogen sulfide gas in the waste water treatment plant. The four workers were diagnosed with Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RADs), a form of irritant-induced asthma that is associated with one or more exposures to high levels of chemical irritant(s). We requested and reviewed the pulmonologist diagnoses records for these workers. We reviewed the facility's incident response and actions with the facility management, industrial hygiene consultants, and waste water treatment plant manager. We also confirmed the effectiveness of ventilation over the electroplating tanks by sampling the air above the tanks. In conversations with workers, we found that most reported they were comfortable speaking to management about health and safety concerns. Several workers were concerned about the potential for heat stress during the summer months in the electroplating and clean line areas. After the incident occurred in July 2013, the facility management took multiple steps to prevent similar incidents from happening. These steps included elimination of a primary acidic descaler from the waste water treatment system, addition of an agitator to the main media filtration system, scheduling of periodic tests for sulfate-reducing bacteria in the waste water treatment plant, installation of additional hydrogen sulfide monitors, and changes to the ventilation system. We agreed with these steps and recommended additional worker training on hydrogen sulfide gas and incident reporting, as well as inclusion of affected workers in future incident investigations.
Region-3; Industrial-factory-workers; Aircraft; Aircraft-engines; Aircraft-parts-and-auxiliary-equipment; Sulfides; Gases; Employee-exposure; Exposure-assessment; Air-quality-monitoring; Sampling; Industrial-exposures; Industrial-processes; Industrial-ventilation; Ventilation; Electroplating; Chemical-cleaning; Waste-treatment; Water-purification; Respiratory-system-disorders; Airway-resistance; Protective-measures; Safety-education; Training; Author Keywords: Aircraft Engine and Engine Parts Manufacturing; Hydrogen Sulfide; Gas; Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS); Wastewater; Electroplating
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
HETA-2014-0042-3216; M072014
NIOSH Division
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division