Maritime Health Hazard Evaluations (HHE's)

Employees, union officials, or employers can ask the NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program to help learn whether health hazards are present at their place of work. NIOSH may provide assistance and information by phone and in writing, or may visit the workplace to assess exposure and employee health. Based on their findings, NIOSH will recommend ways to reduce hazards and prevent work-related illness. The evaluation is done at no cost to the employees, union official, or employers. You can learn more about the HHE Program, search previous reports, or request an HHE at the program website ( The HHE Program has done a number of workplace evaluations in maritime settings, such as shipyards and marine terminals. The reports and recommendations generated by those evaluations are useful to understanding exposures that may occur in other similar settings.


(2012) Air sampling methods for abrasive blasting – Louisiana. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 367 KB]
NIOSH received a request for an HHE from the management at a Louisiana shipyard to evaluate sampling methods for measuring employee PBZ exposures during abrasive blasting. On July 20, 2001, NIOSH investigators collected side-by-side PBZ air samples using three types of commercially available sampling devices: a closed-face 37-mm cassette, an unshielded BAS, and a shielded BAS. For each type of sampling device we collected an “active” PBZ sample that was connected to an air sampling pump and a “passive” PBZ sample that was not connected to an air sampling pump. These active and passive samples were collected side-by-side for the duration of the abrasive blasting activity (approximately 60 to 80 minutes). Samples were used to evaluate whether inertia-driven abrasive material could enter the sampler during abrasive blasting. All of the air samplers were positioned outside the employees’ abrasive blasting helmet following OSHA sampling guidance. Total dust was measured for the 37-mm filter samples. Inhalable dust was measured for the unshielded and shielded BAS samples. The harsh and dusty abrasive blasting environment caused frequent sampling pump failures. Because of the failures, there was insufficient data for a statistical comparison of the air sampling results for the three sampling methods. All 37-mm cassette samples contained inertia-driven (loose) abrasive grit particles that accounted for up to 99% of the total particle weight. All unshielded and shielded BAS samples contained loose particulate. BAS total weights exceeded the recommended maximum sample loading of 2 mg. Some of the passive samples collected a similar amount of particulate as the active samples. We concluded that none of the sampling methods we used performed reliably in an abrasive blasting environment. All were likely to overestimate air concentrations because of the presence of inertia-driven particulate in the samplers. Improving the design of sampling devices or developing alternative sampling methods is needed to accurately and reliably assess PBZ dust exposure concentrations during abrasive blasting operations.

(1998) Avondale Shipyards, New Orleans, Louisiana. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF 321 KB]

In response to a request for a health hazard evaluation (HHE) received on July 9, 1997, from the Machinist Union, New Orleans Metal Trades Council, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted an initial site visit on August 27, 1997, and a follow-up survey on October 21-23, 1997, at the Avondale Shipyards in Avondale, Louisiana. Dust from sandblasting, welding fumes, contaminants from burning paint, and various solvents associated with fiberglass work were potential exposures listed on the request. Health problems reported in the request included breathing problems and nose bleeds. An interim report describing the actions taken by NIOSH during the initial site visit, and providing preliminary findings and recommendations, was issued on September 23, 1997.

(1996) Bath Iron Works Corporation, Bath, Maine. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 296 KB]

In response to a request from the Bath Iron Workers Corporation (SIC- 3731), Bath, Maine, the accuracy of personal air monitoring during abrasive blasting in confined spaces was evaluated. The facility was a large shipyard on the coast of Maine employing about 9,000 workers. Operations at the site were primarily involved with construction of US Navy destroyers. Blasters wore personal protective equipment including gloves, boots, coveralls, and a continuous flow supplied air blast hood. Personal breathing zone samples were collected using a standard closed face cassette, a closed face cassette with a metal guard, and a nylon cyclone. The NIOSH sampling and analytical methods did not accurately represent worker exposure to lead (7439921) and other elements during abrasion. The methods were inaccurate due to the abrasive blasting grit which entered the cassette inlet due to its high velocity, rather than being collected on the filter as an airborne contaminant in an air sample of known volume. The sampling conducted during this visit indicated that accumulation of steel grit in sampling cassettes produced results which overestimated the concentration of inhalable lead particulate. A need was noted for a sampling analytical method that can provide an accurate estimate of exposure to airborne lead and other elements

(1992) Egg Harbor Yacht Incorporated, Egg Harbor City, New Jersey. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 176 KB]

In response to a request from a group of employees at Egg Harbor Yacht, Inc. (SIC-3732), Egg Harbor, New Jersey, an investigation was made of respiratory complaints. The company manufactured fiberglass reinforced plastic boats, specializing in fishing and sporting yachts. There were approximately 200 hourly workers employed at the site. The hull, deck and some smaller boat parts were fabricated from polyester base resin, gel coat, and split strand glass fiber using hand or spray lay up techniques. The workers complained generally of respiratory symptoms. Over 78% of the measurements taken from the fiberglass molding area showed styrene (100425) concentrations above the NIOSH action level of 25 parts per million (ppm), with the average concentration being 46.8ppm. Of four breathing zone samples for total wood dust taken in the woodworking section, three were above the ACGIH threshold limit value of 1mg/m3. The authors conclude that a health hazard existed from exposures to styrene and wood dust and recommend exposure monitoring, engineering and administrative controls, personal protection, and medical monitoring as aids to correcting this situation

(1990) Electric Boat, Groton, Connecticut. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 930 KB]

In response to a request from the Metal Trades Council of New London County, AFL-CIO, an investigation was made of possible hazardous conditions at Electric Boat shipyard (SIC-3731), Groton, Connecticut. Vibration measurements were conducted to determine worker exposure to vibration while using a needle gun, a sand tamper, a lead caulker, and grinders and burring tools in their work at the shipyard. Most of the 11 tools measured should, according to the results of the tests, be limited to 4 hours use at a time. The lead caulker, sand tamper, and three of the four types of burring tools had vibration levels in excess of the ACGIH threshold limit value of 12 meters per second squared. Over 300 shipyard employees had been seen by a local occupational medical clinic due to tingling and numbness in their hands and/or finger blanching. Since only a small number of tools were tested, the vibration measurements did not necessarily apply to all the tools at the shipyard. However, the large number of workers seen at the clinic for symptoms compatible with the hand/arm vibration syndrome, the need for time restrictions for most tools, and the lack of administrative procedures for tool use restrictions indicated that there was a problem at this facility. The authors conclude that a health hazard existed at the shipyard. Recommendations are offered for reducing vibration exposure.

(1989) Electric Boat Division, General Dynamics Corporation, Groton, Connecticut. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF 151 KB]

In response to a request from the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades of the United States and Canada, an evaluation was made of possible hazardous working conditions at the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation (SIC-3731), Groton, Connecticut. The request concerned the potential for reproductive effects stemming from employee exposure to glycol ethers during submarine construction and refitting operations at this site. About 800 workers were potentially exposed during the application of coatings. The primary solvent in epoxy paints used at this facility was 2-ethoxyethanol (110805) (2-EE). Breathing zone airborne exposures to 2-EE ranged from nondetectable to 84.3mg/m3, with a mean concentration of 9.9mg/m3. Exposures to 2- methoxyethanol (109864) ranged up to 17.2mg/m3. The author concludes that a potential health hazard existed as a result of exposure to 2-EE at the time of the survey. The author recommends that worker exposure to glycol ethers be reduced to the lowest possible extent, that workers possibly exposed to these chemicals be provided with and required to use personal protective equipment, and that a continuous program of biological monitoring and industrial hygiene assessment be instituted for these workers.

(1988) MonArk Boat Company, Monticello, Arkansas. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 231 KB]

In response to a request from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America an investigation was made of health problems at the MonArk Boat Company, (SIC-3732), Monticello, Arkansas. MonArk manufactured aluminum and fiberglass boats. About 200 hourly production workers were employed at the site. Fiberglass reinforced plastic resin hulls were sprayed with a gel coat consisting of vinyl ester or polyester resins containing free styrene (100425) monomer and methyl-ethyl-ketone-peroxide (1338234) catalyst. Average exposures during the work shift to styrene vapor did not exceed recommended limits, but there were short term exposures of 114 to 250 parts per million (ppm). Exposures to 13 micrograms/cubic meter (microg/m3) of chromates and 160ppm of toluene (108883) exceeded recommended limits in the spray painting area of the aluminum fishing boat facility. Exposures to methylene-bisphenyl-isocyanate (101688) (MDI) at 0.21 to 0.57mg/m3 exceeded the OSHA limit of at 0.7 to 3.1mg/m3. An organotin concentration of 0.38mg/m3 was found during a 49 minute period. The author concludes that health hazards exist from exposures to styrene, chromates, toluene, isocyanates, and possibly organotin. The author recommends that efforts be made to improve use of personal protective equipment, educate the employees to the dangers, improve ventilation practices, and institute a medical surveillance program.

(1986) Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 373 KB]

Following a request from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, the source of nose bleeds and upper respiratory tract irritation among employees in the insulation shop at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (SIC-3731) Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was investigated. Air samples were collected and analyzed for total fiber count. Samples were also analyzed by transmission electron microscopy for fiber identification, gravimetrically for respirable dust exposure, and using X-ray diffraction for quartz (14808607) content. Medical questionnaires were completed by 73 of 100 insulators. Respirable dust concentrations ranged from 8.7 to 30 micrograms per cubic meter (microg/m3). Concentrations of total fibers less than 5 microns in length ranged from 0.0017 to 0.005 fibers per cubic centimeter. Asbestos (1332214) concentrations did not differ significantly from zero. Symptoms most frequently reported were sneezing, experienced by 81 percent of respondents, followed by runny nose, frequent colds, and skin irritation. Sixty three percent reported having some nose bleeds, consisting of spotting when blowing the nose, with an average frequency of two per week. The author concludes that employee symptoms are probably caused by the irritating properties of magnesium-silicate, portland cement (65997151), and fibrous glass, as well as poor work practices which resulted in direct contact and transfer of the irritating dusts. Rigorous attention to personal hygiene is recommended.

(1985) Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 297 KB]

Area air samples were analyzed for acrolein (107028), aldehydes, organic solvents, acids, and phthalates at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (SIC-3731), Portsmouth, New Hampshire in December, 1983. The evaluation was requested by a union representative due to employee reports of headache, nausea, and other irritative symptoms during systems testing on a submarine being overhauled at the shipyard. Nine workers involved in the systems testing were interviewed. Acrolein concentrations ranged from 0.057 to 0.085 part per million (ppm). The OSHA standard for acrolein is 0.1ppm. Twelve other organic substances were detected, ranging in concentration up to 14.8 milligrams per cubic meter for naphtha. No hydrochloric-acid or phthalates were detected. Eight workers reported eye irritation. Five reported throat irritation, headache, and other chest symptoms. Four reported nasal irritation. All symptomatic workers reported that their symptoms began within 30 minutes after entering the work areas. The authors conclude that the reported symptoms are due to combined effects of acrolein and other aldehydes. Due to the relatively low concentration involved, the risk of chronic health effects seem slight. Recommendations include properly ventilating the affected work areas and using respiratory personal protective equipment.

(1985) Mystic Seaport, Mystic, Connecticut.

Environmental and breathing zone samples were analyzed for lead (7439921) at Mystic Seaport (SIC-3731), Mystic, Connecticut in January and February, 1985. The evaluation was requested by the facility to assess lead exposures during cutting and rivetting operations aboard a lead painted, iron hulled ship. Blood lead and erythrocyte protoporphyrin (EP) concentrations were determined in 10 shipfitters. Noise exposure measurements were made. Breathing zone lead concentrations averaged 257 micrograms per cubic meter (microg/m3). The OSHA standard for lead is 50microg/m3. Two short term samples taken while the exhaust ventilation was temporarily disconnected contained 375 and 718microg/m3 lead. Blood lead concentrations averaged 37.8microg/deciliter (dl). Smoking shipfitters had higher blood lead concentrations than nonsmokers, 47microg/dl versus 32microg/dl, respectively. Four shipfitters had EP concentrations above the adult normal upper limit of 50microg/dl. No cases of symptomatic lead poisoning were noted. Noise levels adjacent to the riveting averaged 121 A-weighted decibels (dBA). The OSHA standard for noise is 90dBA. The authors conclude that shipfitters working aboard ship are overexposed to lead and noise. Recommendations include substituting lead based paint with less toxic materials if feasible, avoiding the use of lead/based putty, and establishing a hearing conservation program.

Click here to obtain a copy of report HETA-85-132-1598.

(1984) Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 194 KB]

An outbreak of nasal and rectal bleeding among painters at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (SIC-3731) in Bremerton, Washington was investigated on July 18 and August 23, 1983. The evaluation was requested by the National Trades Council of Bremerton, Washington on behalf of seven affected painters. It was thought that the bleeding might be due to exposure to 2-ethoxyethanol (110805), a solvent used in some paints at the shipyard. The shipyard physician was interviewed, medical records of the affected painters were reviewed, and five of the painters were questioned about symptoms. Three painters suffered rectal bleeding, two suffered nasal bleeding, and three reported episodes of both nasal and rectal bleeding. Hemorrhoids were found to be the most probable cause of rectal bleeding in three of the four painters examined. Several painters reported that their gloves and coveralls often became saturated with paint, thus allowing for the possibility of skin absorption. The authors conclude that the bleeding episodes probably were not due to 2-ethoxyethanol exposure since reported symptoms are not among the known toxic effects of the chemical. They suggest that all exposures to 2-ethoxyethanol be controlled because the chemical can cause adverse reproductive effects, and that the painters see a physician if bleeding episodes recur.

(1982) General Dynamics Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts.

Worker complaints of eye irritation, burning throat, nasal and sinus congestion, chest tightness and pain, nausea, extreme fatigue, lightheadedness, and severe headaches possibly associated with welding on epoxy paint at the General Dynamics Shipyard (SIC-3731), Quincy, Massachusetts were investigated. Local 5 of the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America requested the study and a walk through survey was conducted on July 6, 1981. The facility employs about 2400 workers. The practice of hot welding repair work on old epoxy coated ships was of specific concern. No hot work was in operation during the walk through and management claimed that the practice of hot work on epoxy paint was not permitted. Although it is not a normal work practice, hot work on epoxy paint has been reported at the shipyard by workers. Epoxy paint fumes are potentially hazardous to exposed workers and could have caused the reported symptoms. The authors conclude that a complete investigation resulting in a toxicity determination could not be performed since full information concerning the complaint was not forthcoming.

Click here to obtain a copy of report HETA-81-364-1080.

(1977) Kaiser Marine Facility, Vallejo, California. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 776 KB]

Acting on a request from an employee representative concerning the possibility of a health hazard due to welding fumes from arc welding on zinc plated or painted steel in confined areas, a Health Hazard Evaluation survey was conducted by NIOSH on January 5, 1977, at the Kaiser Marine facility, for the construction of seagoing vessels (SIC-3731), in Vallejo, California. The alleged health hazard involved welding fumes generated while welders worked inside the columns of a high oil exploratory drilling rig, where welding on paint coated galvanized steel was supposedly carried out without adequate ventilation and safeguards. Based upon the work practices observed and the conditions at the job site at the time of the NIOSH investigation, it was determined that welding fumes probably do not represent a health hazard to the approximately 11 potentially affected machinists. This determination is based upon the best judgement of the NIOSH investigator since the welding job which precipitated the request was already completed and could not be duplicated. None of the mechanics employed at the time of the survey presented any signs or symptoms of welding fume exposure.


(2006) Joint Pacific Marine Safety Code Committee, San Francisco, California. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 199 KB] 

On April 30, 2003, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a request from the Joint Pacific Marine Safety Code Committee (JPMSCC) in San Francisco, California, to conduct a health hazard evaluation (HHE). The JPMSCC comprises members from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA). They were concerned about worker exposure to equipment-generated diesel exhaust during move/load/unload operations at marine terminals along the Pacific Coast. This report summarizes the evaluations at terminals in Long Beach and Oakland, California and Tacoma, Washington. NIOSH collected full-shift personal breathing zone (PBZ) and ambient area air samples for diesel exhaust (using elemental carbon [Ce] as a surrogate for exposure) and carbon monoxide (CO). Additionally, ambient airborne particulate matter concentrations and meteorological conditions were monitored. Voluntary confidential medical interviews with a physician were also conducted. Results from 168 air samples for Ce collected across 15 job titles ranged from 1.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air (µg/m3) to 42 µg/m3, and only six (4%) exceeded the California Department of Health Services, Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service (HESIS) recommended exposure limit of 20 µg/m3. When the data for PBZ samples were pooled and a mean exposure value calculated for each job title across all terminals, none of the job titles or ambient area air samples collected for Ce exceeded the HESIS exposure limit. However, the mean exposure for the Side Picker job title at Oakland did exceed the HESIS limit. While none of the 60 PBZ time-weighted average CO exposures exceeded occupational exposure criteria, some peak exposures did momentarily exceed the NIOSH ceiling limit of 200 parts per million (ppm).

Results for the airborne particulate matter measurements indicate that some tasks, such as electric arc welding, street cleaning operations, and working near idling diesel engines increase particle concentrations above background levels. Interviewed workers reported symptoms consistent with exposure to diesel exhaust. Tasks such as working near idling diesel engines and installing/testing generator sets are associated with higher levels of diesel exhaust exposure and reported symptoms. NIOSH investigators conclude that a potential health hazard existed at the time of these surveys for workers in certain job titles. CO peak exposures occasionally exceeded the NIOSH REL of 200 ppm (Shop Men, Transtainer Mechanic, Side Picker). These peaks, however, mostly occurred during lunch and/or breaks and could be related to exposure to cigarette smoke. Symptoms reported by workers were consistent with exposure to diesel exhaust and tasks performed by workers in specific job titles (Shop Men working on running diesel engines) put them at risk of overexposure. Most diesel exhaust exposures, however, did not exceed the HESIS recommended exposure limit of 20 µg/m3. The exhaust system on Side Picker equipment should be directed away from the cab to reduce operator exposure to diesel exhaust, and Side Picker operators should keep the cab windows closed. If diesel engines are to be operated in the repair shop, exhaust ventilation should be improved to prevent the buildup of diesel exhaust within the shop. Shop Men should avoid exhaust pipes when working on running diesel engines, and use a flexible hose attached to the engine’s exhaust pipe, routing the hose outdoors

International Marine Terminal, Portland, Maine. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 129 KB]

On February 14, 2005, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a management request for a health hazard evaluation (HHE) at the offices of Scotia Prince Cruises (SPC) in the International Marine Terminal (IMT) in Portland, Maine. Employees of Scotia Prince Cruises were concerned their respiratory and neurologic symptoms might be related to mold exposure in the IMT building. An indoor environmental quality (IEQ) evaluation by a SPC consultant during the summer of 2004 revealed extensive fungal contamination of the SPC portion of the IMT, and employees were relocated in August 2004 to temporary offices. On February 16, 2005, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, which is also housed in the IMT building, submitted a separate HHE request based on their concern about exposure to mold and water intrusion. On March 9-11, 2005, NIOSH investigators made an initial site visit of the IMT. This visit included the collection of air, dust, and bulk samples for fungal analyses, and environmental measurements of humidity, temperature, and carbon dioxide. Information concerning the ventilation systems was collected. Confidential interviews were conducted with the SPC and CBP employees. On March 29-30, 2005, NIOSH returned to the IMT to conduct further environmental testing and to complete the confidential interviews of the CBP employees. Blood was collected from the CBP employees for measurement of Stachylysin, a possible marker of exposure to Stachybotrys chartarum. In addition, NIOSH performed an environmental assessment of the U.S. Customs House, another CBP site in Portland with no known history of fungal (mold) contamination in order to compare findings between employees exposed to mold and those not exposed to mold. Confidential interviews and blood collection for Stachylysin were performed with the employees of the U.S. Customs House. Blood from some SPC employees that had been previously collected and stored by physicians in Maine and Maryland between September and November 2004, was obtained by NIOSH for Stachylysin analysis because it was closer in time to when the employees occupied the building in August 2004. The SPC section of the IMT had signs of ongoing water intrusion, pigeon roosting, and visible mold growth in wall cavities. Active fungal growth was noted in areas of the second floor by surface (tape) sampling. The CBP section of the IMT had similar signs of water intrusion and pigeon roosting. Overall, in both portions of the IMT building, low levels of airborne fungi were noted. Most airborne fungi were of the Basidiospore genus, common in water-damaged buildings. Settled dust samples revealed many types of fungi, including Penicillium chrysogenum. Microscopic analysis of tape samples and culturable air samples showed that Stachybotrys chartarum spores and numerous other fungi were present. The walk-through survey of the U.S. Customs House revealed no evidence of water intrusion.

Fungal ranking at the U.S. Customs House was found to be similar between indoor and outdoor samples and fungal levels overall were lower indoors than outdoors, providing further evidence that there was no fungal contamination problem in the building. Among the SPC employees, the most commonly reported work-related symptoms were memory problems, irritability, and cough. The CBP-IMT workers reported work-related symptoms of sinus problems, fatigue, concentration problems, and irritability most frequently. SPC employees had statistically significantly greater rates of work-related cough, wheeze, irritated eyes, headaches, concentration and memory problems, irritability, chest tightness, shortness of breath, fever/sweats, body aches, sinus problems, fatigue, sore or dry throat, sneezing, dizziness, confusion, depression, and changes in sleep than Customs House employees. The CBP IMT group had higher rates of work-related cough, shortness of breath, body aches, sinus problems, fatigue, irritated/watery eyes, headaches, nosebleeds, sore or dry throat, sneezing, concentration problems, confusion, memory problems, irritability, and depression than Customs House employees but these differences were not statistically significant. Serum Stachylysin concentrations exhibited poor reproducibility, with same sample mean coefficient of variation of 35.8%. Only one blood sample (from an SPC employee) was considered positive (greater than or equal to 41.4 nanogram per milliliter [ng/ml]) for Stachylysin. Overall, neither the presence of Stachylysin nor its concentrations correlated with our assessment of fungal exposure. NIOSH investigators documented ongoing water incursion and subsequent fungal contamination in the IMT building. Employees in the IMT had symptoms consistent with fungal exposure. Therefore, a health hazard did exist at the IMT building. The serum Stachylysin test showed poor reproducibility when used in the field. Recommendations concerning remediation and the establishment of an IEQ management program are included in this report.

(1987) Bunge Corporation, Decatur, Alabama. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 761 KB]

In response to a request from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union Local 3-906, an evaluation was made of symptoms of respiratory irritation and skin rashes in employees at the Bunge Corporation (SIC-0723) located in Decatur, Alabama. These employees were exposed to soybean dusts as raw dust, cleaner dust, extracted dust, or mixed dust. For 34 workers, the range of total raw dust exposure was 0.16 to 22.6mg/m3. One employee performing a cleanup operation in the head house was exposed to nuisance dust at 14.7mg/m3, near the Occupational Safety and Health Administration permissible exposure limit of 15mg/m3. Another worker was exposed to 22.6mg/m3 during a similar operation. At the time of study, use of personal respiratory protective equipment was by worker discretion. For workers exposed to raw dust, respirable dust ranged from 0.02 to 1.02mg/m3, with employees in the bean barge cleanup area and head house utility workers having the highest exposures. Exposures to cleaner soybean dust ranged from 0.18 to 0.72mg/m3. A high prevalence of lower respiratory symptoms was found, correlating with dust exposure, particularly raw soybean dust. Occupational asthma could not be confirmed or ruled out. It is recommended that engineering controls be installed in soybean receiving and shipping areas. Local exhaust ventilation and enclosing of specific areas are also highlighted. The authors recommend that use of respiratory protective gear be more actively pursued.

(1985) Grain Elevators, Superior, Wisconsin, Duluth, Minnesota. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 354 KB]

Personal air samples were analyzed for carbon-disulfide (75150), ethylene-dibromide (106934), carbon-tetrachloride (56235), and grain dust at grain elevators (SIC-5153) located at Superior, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota in May, 1984. The survey was requested by a representative of Local 118 of the American Federation of Grain Millers to evaluate exposures to grain fumigants and dust among workers at the two sites. All concentrations of carbon-disulfide, carbon-tetrachloride, and ethylene-dibromide were below the detection limit. Grain dust concentrations ranged from 0.34 to 38 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3). The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists threshold limit value for airborne grain dust is 4mg/m3. Short term sampling for the fumigants was performed; however, the results were inconclusive. The author concludes that a health hazard due to overexposure to grain dust exists at the grain elevators. Recommendations include providing workers with respirators equipped with dust cartridges, implementing local exhaust ventilation at rail car dumping and loading points, and instituting a method of tracking fumigated grain shipments through the grain handling system.

(1985) Federal Grain Inspection Service, USDA, New Orleans, Louisiana. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 161 KB]

Environmental and breathing zone samples were analyzed for phosphine (12768820), malathion (121755), carbon-disulfide (75150), carbon- tetrachloride (56235), and grain dust at field offices of the Federal Grain Inspection Service (SIC-4782), United States Department of Agriculture, New Orleans, Louisiana in October and November, 1984. The evaluation was requested by the inspection service to investigate fumigant exposures at grain sampling and inspection stations in the New Orleans area. Noise monitoring was also performed. Carbon-tetrachloride was the only fumigant detected, concentrations ranging from 1.0 to 1.7 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3). The OSHA standard for carbon-tetrachloride is 10mg/m3. Grain dust concentrations ranged from 0.1 to 2.7mg/m3. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists threshold limit value for grain dust is 4mg/m3. All measured noise levels were below 82 A-weighted decibels (dBA). The OSHA standard for noise is 90dBA. The author concludes that a health hazard due to fumigants, grain dust, or noise does not exist at the stations. Recommendations include developing a registry of grain handlers and inspectors and establishing procedures for obtaining information on incoming grain shipments that have been fumigated.

(1984) Federal Grain Inspection Service, USDA, Portland, Oregon. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 991 KB]

Area and breathing zone samples were analyzed for carbon-disulfide (75150), carbon-monoxide (630080), carbon-tetrachloride (56235), chloroform (67663), 1,2-dichloroethylene (540590), ethylene- dibromide (106934), ethylene-dichloride (107062), methyl-bromide (74839), and grain dust at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Federal Grain Inspection Service (SIC-4782) field office, Portland, Oregon, in November, 1983 and April, 1984. The survey was requested by the USDA to evaluate exposures to fumigants at grain sampling and inspection stations. Maximum area exposures of ethylene-dibromide, carbon-disulfide, and carbon-tetrachloride averaged 21, 738, and 1960 parts per billion (ppb), respectively. The corresponding OSHA standards are 100, 20,000, and 10,000ppb. Personal exposures were: ethylene-dibromide, 0.49ppb; and carbon- tetrachloride, 391ppb. Concentrations of other fumigants, carbon- monoxide, and grain dust were negligible. Maximum short term concentrations of carbon-disulfide and carbon-tetrachloride were 327,000 plus and 1,136,000 plus ppb, respectively. Corresponding OSHA ceiling limits are 30,000 and 25,000ppb. The author concludes that there is a serious potential health hazard due to high fumigant concentrations in treated grain in incoming rail cars. Recommendations include wearing respiratory protective equipment when opening fumigated rail cars, aerating fumigated grain before inspection, and eliminating the sniff test as a routine procedure. Research on methods of removing fumigants from treated grain is needed.

(1984) Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Elizabeth Industrial Park Site, Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Worker exposures to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), organic vapors, and heavy metals during proposed construction activities were examined at the Elizabeth Industrial Park Site (SIC-1623) in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The area was previously used as a PCB contaminated landfill. The survey was conducted between September, 13 and October 6, 1983. The evaluation was requested by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on behalf of an unspecified number of construction workers. Personal and area air samples, along with wipe samples from work boots, were collected during excavation and piping of a test trench in the most contaminated part of the site. No PCBs were detected in any of the samples, using a detection limit of 0.05 micrograms per sample. Exposures to benzene (71432), toluene (108883), and xylene (1330207) were well below the appropriate OSHA standards, and no heavy metals were found in the air samples. More than 55 percent of the airborne dust particles were of respirable size, between 1 and 10 microns. The authors conclude that construction workers at this site would not be exposed to PCBs or other hazardous chemicals under conditions similar to those used in this test. They recommend the use of protective boots and gloves, and personal air sampling for PCBs and volatile organics for workers employed in relatively non ventilated areas. Respiratory protection is not necessary for workers employed in an open, well ventilated areas.

Contact us to obtain a copy of report HETA-82-284-1456.

(1982) Mid-South Terminals Corporation, Memphis, Tennessee. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 522 KB]

Effects of exposures from the coal-tar pitch and petroleum-pitch transfer operations at Mid South Terminals Corporation (SIC-4463), Memphis, Tennessee were evaluated. Survey was requested by Local 1671 of International Longshoremen’s Association and was performed in August and October, 1981. Sixty workers were employed at the terminal. Personal and area breathing samples were measured and work practices and equipment were evaluated. All coal-tar-pitch benzene (65996932) soluble exposures approximated or exceeded the NIOSH 0.1 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3) criteria. The pitch operations generated respirable particles with a benzene soluble fraction ranging from 0.09 to 0.18mg/m3. Six polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons ranging from 0.02 to 0.07mg/m3 were identified in two respirable benzene soluble samples. Protective equipment was considered adequate; however, work practices were deficient. Skin and eye irritations were reported almost universally by workers. The authors conclude that working with the pitch without appropriate personal protective equipment is associated with a health hazard. Handling the pitch at night and using personal protective equipment has decreased the health risks, but acute health effects are still occurring. Recommendations are for dust control, minimum contact with pitch dust, protection against ultraviolet light, and medical monitoring.


(1999) UniSea, Inc. , Dutch Harbor, Alaska. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 254 KB]

On December 19, 1997, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a request for a health hazard evaluation (HHE) from the management of the UniSea shore-based crab processing facility in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. They were concerned about respiratory illness among workers including bronchitis and asthma. The NIOSH study consisted of early-season and late-season medical and environmental surveys during the 1998 opilio snow crab season. The objectives of this investigation were to understand the nature of respiratory illness observed in crab processing workers, to identify areas and sources of exposure, to identify any relationships between crab processing exposures and respiratory health outcomes, and to develop strategies to prevent illness in crab-processing workers. The two surveys included a symptoms questionnaire, lung function testing, and blood collection. The environmental evaluation consisted of air sampling for aerosolized protein, crab allergens, endotoxin and microscopic analysis of materials splashed on workers and breathed by workers. An over-all participation rate of 76% of workers was attained for completion of both the early and late-season questionnaires.

At the early-season survey, five individuals noted a previous doctor-diagnosis of asthma. Over the course of the season, one of the participants with a previous doctor-diagnosis of asthma experienced significant work-related worsening of asthma. In addition, one individual working in crab processing and one individual engaged in related activities acquired a new doctor-diagnosis of asthma during the season. In this investigation, combination of symptoms were used to define specific health outcomes. The percent incidence of new cases of the upper respiratory outcome was 56%; of the asthma-like outcome 26%; and of the bronchitic outcome 19%. Workers with a positive family history of allergies or working in the butchering area had significantly increased risk for development of the upper respiratory outcome. For the asthma-like outcome, male gender, family history of allergies, elevated ECP (a protein in the blood indicating eosinophilic inflammation), butchering activities and degilling activities were risk factors significantly related with the outcome. For the bronchitic outcome, significant association was found among workers with age less than 35 years, male gender, elevated antibodies to crab (serum anti-kanimiso IgE and anti-Pagurus crab IgE,) elevated serum ECP and the task of degilling. Although this investigation was limited due to the relatively small size of this population, data showed development of new respiratory symptoms and asthma among crab processing workers over the six weeks of crab processing. These problems appeared to be occupationally related. Higher prevalence of IgE-sensitization to crab among new or “naive” workers suggests that workers susceptible to respiratory illness related to crab processing may be more likely to leave their job (“healthy worker effect”). In part because the precise etiological agent causing respiratory symptoms was not fully characterized, exposure assessment did not allow evaluation of dose-response relationships.

(1986) Point Adams Packing Company, Hammond, Oregon. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 230 KB]

Management of Point Adams Packing Company (PAPCO) (SIC-0912), Hammond, Oregon initiated a request for an evaluation concerning the excessive number of cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and other musculoskeletal disorders suffered by filleters, trimmers, and slimers at the fish filleting facility. An ergonomic evaluation was conducted on June 6 and 7, 1983; 145 production workers were employed at that time. Based on observations and a review of videotapes and still photographs, the authors conclude that a combination of factors seems to be associated with the musculoskeletal injuries afflicting these workers. These included: workrate, awkward hand and wrist deviations, use of gloves that compromise grip strength, cold temperature, use of high muscular forces for prolonged periods, excessive workplace reaches and heights that stress shoulder muscles, and improper tool handle design. Recommendations are offered for workplace modification, tool redesign, and training with the ultimate goal of reducing or eliminating biomechanical hazards associated with the development of cumulative trauma disorders.

(1978) Bluewater Seafood Products, Cleveland, Ohio. 

In response to a request from OSHA to investigate illness among 40 of 168 employees on the first shift at the Bluewater Seafood Products facility, Cleveland, Ohio, an evaluation was made consisting of environmental sampling, work area studies, interviews with employees and hospital personnel, and investigation of behavioral characteristics. No exposures to toxic materials were uncovered during the environmental sampling task. Two incidents of carbon-monoxide (630080) exposure resulting from a faulty frying unit had been experienced by many of the employees. A transitory problem was found in the exhaust system for a carbon-dioxide (124389) refrigeration hood which may have been a contributing factor to the illnesses. Two workers who had lost consciousness worked in this area of the facility. Twice as many workers from this area of the building were ill and workers from this area also had the highest mean number of symptoms per worker. Behavioral studies indicated that psychological processes may have also been responsible for some of the symptoms. Conditions brought on by work stress may have caused the employees to suspect a toxic exposure, as they were aware of the exposures to carbon-monoxide in the past. Recommendations were made to upgrade the ventilation system and avoid any further carbon-dioxide buildups.

Contact us to obtain a copy of report TA-77-35.


(1998) Torch Operating Company, Santa Maria, California. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 224 KB]

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a request for technical assistance from the Department of the Interior, Mineral Management Services (MMS), located in Santa Maria, California. According to the request, inspectors of Offshore Operations and Safety were concerned about respiratory protection against hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Specific concerns were with the Robertshaw (air capsule) 5-minute, hooded, continuous-flow, escape self-contained breathing apparatus (ESCBA) and the general use of hooded ESCBAs. On August 11 and 12, 1996, NIOSH investigators conducted a site visit on platform ‘Irene’, an offshore drilling rig owned and operated by Torch Operating Company (TOC). Platform Irene is located on the Outer Continental Shelf of the Pacific Ocean, 5-7 miles off the coast of Santa Maria, California. It is designed to support both drilling and production operations. At the time of the NIOSH site visit, platform Irene was in the production phase and accommodated 15 workers.


(2005) U.S. Department of Transportation, St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, Massena, New York. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 215 KB]

In October 2001, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a joint labor/management request to conduct a health hazard evaluation (HHE) at the Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bertrand H. Snell Locks on the St. Lawrence Seaway, near Massena, New York. The request described “flu-like symptoms” and “general ill health” as concerns among workers exposed to stagnant water and decaying marine life during the annual winter inspection, cleaning, and repairs of the locks. Another impetus for the request was the collapse of one worker at the bottom of a lock during the previous winter. During site visits in 2002 and 2003, NIOSH investigators collected personal breathing zone (PBZ) and area air samples for endotoxins, hydrogen sulfide (H2S), carbon monoxide (CO), crystalline silica, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Endotoxin concentrations above relative limit values were measured on two workers. However, because these employees (both painters) left the worksite while wearing the monitoring equipment during part of their work shift, the exposures cannot be said to be work related. Peak PBZ H2S concentrations up to 87 parts per million (ppm) were measured while workers used pneumatic drills and jack hammers to remove deteriorating concrete from lock walls; the NIOSH recommended ceiling value is 10 ppm. Concentrations of CO, crystalline silica, and VOCs were below applicable NIOSH and OSHA occupational exposure limits. NIOSH investigators also concluded that the locks are confined spaces.

NIOSH investigators identified 71 employees as having regular or intermittent exposure to the locks during winter work; 27 were interviewed or had information in their medical records that could be abstracted to identify disease trends or patterns. Most of the 27 workers reported a history of respiratory illness including bronchitis, pneumonia, or an aggravation of their asthma while working on the locks. Although several workers provided a history of seeing their health care provider for a winter illness, only two provided a history of having been hospitalized. Given the small percentage of workers who participated in this study, we cannot draw conclusions about the relationship between winter work activities and the risk of developing acute respiratory illnesses. NIOSH investigators conclude that some employees conducting winter work at the Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bertrand H. Snell Locks on the St. Lawrence Seaway are exposed to endotoxins, H2S, and VOCs. Acute respiratory illness due to H2S or VOC exposures at the levels measured during the NIOSH evaluation is unlikely. Recommendations are provided to consider the locks as confined spaces and to increase the ventilation inside the locks while winter work activities are conducted.

(1992) U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, North Central Division, Chicago, Illinois. (Click “more” to view report.) [PDF – 497 KB]

In response to a request from the Deputy Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (SIC-4441), North Central Division, a study was made of possible hazards to maintenance and construction workers. The work force in question was involved in maintaining 18 dams and 22 lock chambers on the Mississippi River from Saverton, Missouri, to Guttenberg, Iowa and also on the Illinois Waterway from La Grange Lock and Dam to Chicago, Illinois. Data gathered through on site studies indicated that potential musculoskeletal disorders could result at the elbow, shoulder, back and hip during the manual material handling in the maintenance shop in Peoria, Illinois, at the Lock and Dam Facility among the lock persons and during lock maintenance and repair. Job tasks that involved ergonomic risk factors included manual handling and transport during a roller repair operation, tying off of barge ropes while barge are locking through, and grinding during repair of lock gates. Hand and wrist disorders may also result from exposure to vibration from a hand held power sander. The author concludes that musculoskeletal hazards existed for the upper limbs and back. The author recommends measures to lower the ergonomic risks to the workers.


Page last reviewed: September 29, 2017