thesynergist | NEWSWATCH
National Academies Proposes Expansion of Respiratory Protection to the Public
A report released on February 10 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) calls for extending respiratory protection to the public and to workers not currently covered by relevant OSHA requirements. While the NAS committee that developed the report was formed in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee also addressed concerns related to other inhalation hazards. During a virtual presentation accompanying the report’s release, committee chair Dr. Jonathan Samet said that its recommendations “will require action at the highest levels of government” to provide respiratory protection to the entire United States population. The NAS report suggests a framework for guiding the development, approval, and use of respiratory protection for the public and unprotected workers. Issues with current respiratory protection standards, identified within the report, include a lack of recognition that workers exposed to respiratory hazards are also members of the public with other exposures. Respiratory protection efforts must also meet the needs of people living in underresourced communities, low-paid workers, disabled people, people with limited English skills, workers unable to work remotely, gig workers, migrant workers, day laborers, and “other workers for whom there is little paperwork to track their movements,” the report states. Furthermore, the NAS committee recommends that two “coordinating entities,” one for workers and one for the public, be given responsibility for assessing inhalation hazards, determining necessary respiratory protective devices, ensuring the devices’ availability, and incorporating new information as it arises. According to the report, OSHA should be the coordinating entity for workers, and Congress should revise the Occupational Safety and Health Act to extend the agency’s authority to workplaces not currently covered by the Act. Other recommendations include improving the NIOSH respirator conformity assessment processes, developing guidance for a broader range of workers, and expanding research and surveillance of inhalation hazards in workplaces. The coordinating entity for the public should be established within the Department of Health and Human Services, the report states. This entity would have the capability to oversee the development of standards for respiratory protection for the public and the approval of respiratory protective devices. The report acknowledges that a laboratory will be needed to serve the same role for the development of devices suitable for the public that the NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory plays for respiratory protection in the workplace. Other priorities for the public entity would be to create a process for identifying the correct devices for different hazards of concern and ensure the availability of devices as well as guidance and training that meets the needs of the whole population. A key feature of the committee’s proposal is the need for the coordinating entities to actively monitor and evaluate activities related to respiratory protection. “This is not a static system,” Dr. Samet said. “We’ll learn as it’s implemented.” The report broadly defines respiratory protective devices as those that protect against inhalation hazards. Both devices that protect the user and those that protect others through source control, including masks and face coverings, are addressed in the report. The report was commissioned by NIOSH, EPA, CDC, and the Department of State. A free PDF of the report is available for download by registered users of the National Academies Press website. More information can be found on the NIOSH Science Blog.
New Data Visuals from NIOSH Examine Workplace Lead Exposure Trends
A new set of interactive data visualizations are now available on NIOSH’s workplace safety and health topic page for lead. According to NIOSH, individuals can use the new visuals to explore trends in workplace lead exposures by year, state, and industry. The data used to support these visuals come from the NIOSH Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance (ABLES) data set. The ABLES program collects blood lead level data from state programs to examine trends in adult workplace lead exposure in the U.S. and guide interventions to prevent these exposures. ABLES uses 5 milligrams per deciliter (µg/dL) as the case classification to indicate an elevated blood lead level, but NIOSH stresses that there is no safe level of lead exposure. More information on understanding blood lead levels, including a reference guide containing recommendations related to blood lead levels among workers, is available from NIOSH.
OSHA Withdraws Its COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard
OSHA has withdrawn its COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), effective January 26, based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to stay the ETS on January 13. Issued Nov. 5, the vaccination and testing ETS required employers with 100 or more employees to develop, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy. Under the ETS, employees who chose to remain unvaccinated were required to undergo regular testing for COVID-19 and wear a face covering at work. The ETS also required employers to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated and paid leave for workers suffering from side effects of the vaccines, and to maintain records of each test result. Employers were not required to pay for the tests.
Though the vaccination and testing ETS has been withdrawn as an enforceable ETS, OSHA is not withdrawing it as a proposed rule, the agency explains in a statement dated January 25. OSHA says it intends to prioritize finalizing a permanent COVID-19 standard for healthcare workplaces.
“Notwithstanding the withdrawal of the Vaccination and Testing ETS, OSHA continues to strongly encourage the vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by COVID-19 in the workplace,” the agency states in the Federal Register notice announcing the withdrawal.
“The controls in the ETS remain vital for protecting workers,” said James Frederick, the deputy assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, at a virtual seminar held in late January and cohosted by AIHA and the Integrated Bioscience and Built Environment Consortium.
EPA Adds 1-Bromopropane to List of Hazardous Air Pollutants
A final rule issued by EPA adds the chemical 1-bromopropane (1-BP), or n-propyl bromide, to the Clean Air Act list of hazardous air pollutants. EPA’s final rule, which was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 5, is the final step in the process of modifying the list. The agency’s action marks the first time a substance has been added to the list since it was created in 1990. EPA previously amended the list four times to remove or delist a hazardous air pollutant.
According to EPA, hazardous air pollutants are substances “known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects, such as reproductive effects or birth defects, or adverse environmental effects.” 1-BP, a solvent used in electronics and metal cleaning, surface coatings, and dry cleaning, is also used as an intermediate chemical in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and agricultural products. A risk evaluation published by EPA in August 2020 identifies “unreasonable” risks to workers associated with 1-BP under certain conditions of use.
The effective date for the listing of 1-BP as a hazardous air pollutant is Feb. 4, 2022. According to a Q&A document (PDF) published in January, EPA plans to develop a rule to address the “impacts, implications, and requirements” associated with the addition of a new chemical to the hazardous air pollutant list. The agency anticipates that the proposed regulatory infrastructure will be published this year and finalized in early 2023.
Resource Highlights Strategies, Tools to Address Healthcare Worker Burnout
A new resource launched by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) is intended to highlight strategies and tools that can be used to help decrease healthcare worker burnout and improve clinicians’ well-being. The “Resource Compendium for Healthcare Worker Well-Being” features six areas of focus: advancing organizational commitment, strengthening leadership behaviors, conducting workplace assessments, examining policies and practices, enhancing workplace efficiency, and cultivating a culture of connection and support. These areas stem from domains of promising practices identified in a paper published in NAM Perspectives in November 2020. The paper describes how the six domains support organizational resilience and help improve the well-being of the frontline clinician workforce, including physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, and others. NAM’s resource compendium includes research, toolkits, educational materials, instruments, and other resources. For more information, visit the webpage of the NAM Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience.
EPA Drafts Approach to Assess Ambient Air, Water Exposures to Fenceline Communities
In January, EPA published a proposed screening-level approach for assessing ambient air and water exposures for communities near industrial facilities. The draft approach is intended to be used to evaluate potential chemical exposures and associated risks to “fenceline communities” in risk evaluations conducted and published under amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) legislation.
In its press release about the new draft methodology, EPA explains that the previous administration narrowed the scope of the first 10 TSCA risk evaluations so that they “generally did not assess air, water, or disposal exposures to the general population.” EPA announced the reversal of this policy in June 2021, declaring its intent to expand its consideration of exposure pathways for the first 10 TSCA risk evaluations.
“The proposed screening-level methodology uses reasonably available data, information, and models to quantify environmental releases, evaluate exposures to fenceline communities, and characterize risks associated with such releases and exposures for certain air and water pathways previously not evaluated in published risk evaluations,” EPA explains.
EPA previously said it will reopen and update the risk evaluation for 1,4-dioxane to consider whether to include additional exposure pathways that were excluded from the supplemental and final risk evaluations. The agency intends to use the newly proposed screening-level approach to determine if six other chemicals that were among the first 10 evaluated under TSCA—methylene chloride, trichloroethylene, carbon tetrachloride, perchloroethylene, NMP, and 1-bromopropane—present unreasonable risk to fenceline communities.
Toxicological Profile Published for Chemical Found in Many Plastic Products
A new final toxicological profile for the chemical di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) is available from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. ATSDR describes DEHP as a colorless liquid with a slight odor that is not found naturally in the environment but was at one time widely used in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products and in cosmetics, lubrication oil, and paint. Many manufacturers have discontinued the use of DEHP in their products due to potential health effects from exposure to the chemical.
DEHP enters the environment primarily through landfill waste. It can be found in sediments and soil and can stick to dust particles. The primary route of human exposure to DEHP is through the consumption of contaminated food, but children particularly may be exposed by swallowing DEHP-contaminated dust particles.
Laboratory animals exposed to DEHP displayed health effects such as liver and kidney toxicity, altered hormones, and impaired development or function of the reproductive, renal, hepatic, and nervous systems. Rats and mice that eat DEHP for an extended time period develop liver cancer, while other animals develop pancreatic and testicular cancer. Although ATSDR says it is unknown whether DEHP can cause cancer in people, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program classifies DEHP as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” (PDF) and EPA characterizes it as a “probable human carcinogen.”
A full list of peer-reviewed toxicological profiles is available on ATSDR’s website.
Outreach Program Encourages COVID-19 Vaccinations for Miners
A new pilot program launched by MSHA is intended to encourage and facilitate coronavirus vaccinations for miners and their communities. The Miner Vaccination Outreach Program will deliver free COVID-19 vaccinations and provide educational outreach on the safety and efficacy of the vaccines to mining communities in Kentucky and Arizona, where several mining operations are located and vaccination rates are low. According to MSHA, participation in the program is voluntary and free for mine operators in these states.
“Miners often work in close proximity with coworkers, resulting in quicker spread of the virus in the mining community,” MSHA’s coronavirus webpage stresses.
To start off the program, MSHA hosted three COVID-19 vaccination clinics in late January: one in Kentucky that was open to the public and two in Arizona for mine employees only. More information can be found on MSHA’s website and in the agency’s press release.
Safe-in-Sound Awards Recognize Manufacturing Facility, Company in Professional Sound Industry
On Feb. 9, NIOSH announced the winners of the 2022 Safe-in-Sound Awards, which honor successful hearing loss prevention initiatives in fields where workers are at risk for overexposure to noise. The Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award winner is the Northrop Grumman St. Augustine Site, a manufacturing center located in Florida. The recipients of the Innovation in Hearing Loss Prevention Award are audio software development company Rational Acoustics LLC, Michael Lawrence, and Jamie Anderson. Lawrence is a senior instructor and project manager at Rational Acoustics, while Anderson is the company’s president, owner, and director of training.
The Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award, which is given to companies that exceed expectations in protecting workers’ hearing, recognizes the strong safety culture at the Northrop Grumman St. Augustine Site, a facility that produces, modifies, repairs, and overhauls military aircraft. According to the awards announcement, the facility demonstrates commitment to hearing loss protection through its implementation of noise controls, noise monitoring, and “buy-quiet” strategies that prioritize the purchase of equipment and tools that generate less noise. The Northrop Grumman St. Augustine Site also provides employees with several alternatives for hearing protection devices and hearing protection fit testing, including communication-enhanced electronic hearing protection devices as needed. The facility’s hearing protection program includes review and analysis of pure tone audiometry results to identify early changes in employee hearing, and it works to continuously improve training to ensure relevance.
Rational Acoustics is a small company based in Connecticut that develops, distributes, and supports audio measurement software for the professional sound industry, focusing on audio output at music events. In addition to product development, the company works to address issues related to noise exposures experienced by live sound mixers, event crew members, and concert attendees. The Safe-in-Sound Awards website explains that people in these groups face issues such as working and congregating in unregulated environments and a lack of tools to accurately measure sound pressure and obtain actionable data. Lack of knowledge about risk and resistance to implementing best practices guidelines are additional challenges. To address these issues, Rational Acoustics developed software that provides sound engineers with sound pressure data, remote monitoring, and alerts during music performances. The company’s approach also included outreach, education, and cooperation with professional organizations in guidance development. The Innovation in Hearing Loss Prevention Award recognizes the company, Lawrence, and Anderson as leaders in hearing health promotion that have raised awareness of noise management among music industry professionals, standard-setting organizations, and the public.
More information can be found in NIOSH’s announcement and the Safe-in-Sound website’s profiles of the Northrop Grumman St. Augustine Site and Rational Acoustics.
NIOSH Registers Respirator Certification Marks with Patent and Trademark Office
NIOSH has registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) the agency’s stylized logo, with and without text; the certification marks N95, N99, N100, P95, and P100; and the term “NIOSH-approved,” according to the NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL). Now that these marks are registered with the USPTO as well as in several other countries, they are subject to trademark laws in the United States and elsewhere they are registered. (NIOSH’s respirator certification marks were historically protected under common law rather than trademark registration.) NIOSH stresses that it controls who can use these marks and will allow manufacturers to use them only if they receive the agency’s approval for products satisfying the regulatory standards outlined in 42 CFR Part 84.
“Any misuse of these marks, including on respirators that have failed to satisfy NIOSH’s regulatory requirements or have not received a NIOSH approval, is a direct violation of applicable trademark laws and NIOSH may pursue action as necessary,” the agency explains. “This also applies to approval holders that misuse or misplace the marks or terms against the regulations.”
The full announcement can be found on NPPTL’s website.
Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board Welcomes New Members
The terms of two new members of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board have begun, according to a statement issued by CSB Chairperson Katherine Lemos. In December, the U.S. Senate confirmed Sylvia E. Johnson and Stephen A. Owens, who were nominated by President Joe Biden in April 2021, as new members of CSB, bringing the board’s membership to three people. CSB is supposed to comprise five members who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Board members serve fixed terms of five years. Lemos began her term in April 2020 and served as the sole member of CSB from May 2020 until the beginning of Johnson’s and Owens’ terms.
“Board members play an important role in reviewing and voting on investigative reports and safety studies, as well as advocating for CSB’s recommendations across the stakeholder community,” Lemos said. “Together, we will build a strong and diverse board, adding to the skilled technical resources and community advocacy voices as we perform our valuable work to make chemical facilities safer for workers, communities, and the environment.”
To learn about CSB’s advocacy priorities, visit the agency’s website.
OSHA Proposes Updates to Powered Industrial Trucks Standards
A proposed rule published by OSHA in February would update design and construction requirements for the agency’s powered industrial trucks standards for general industry and construction. OSHA proposes that the standards incorporate by reference the applicable provisions of national consensus standards from the American National Standards Institute and the Industrial Truck Standards Development Foundation. The agency’s first standard for powered industrial trucks went into effect in 1971 and was based on industry consensus standards from 1969. National consensus standards have been updated several times since then, including “substantial revisions” to ANSI standards, according to the Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda.
OSHA’s proposed rule would also address powered industrial trucks manufactured before the effective date of the final rule. For example, OSHA proposes allowing the use of equipment not constructed in accordance with consensus standards if employers can prove that the truck they use provides equivalent employee protection as the national consensus standards.
According to OSHA, powered industrial trucks include forklifts, fork trucks, tractors, platform lift trucks, motorized hand trucks, and other specialized industrial trucks powered by an electric motor or internal combustion engine. The agency’s press release explains that its new proposed rule is part of a series of regulatory projects to update standards to reflect the current versions of both consensus and national industry standards. The agency is accepting comments on its notice of proposed rulemaking until May 17.
DOL Announces Annual Adjustments to OSHA’s Civil Penalties
A final rule published by the Department of Labor adjusts for inflation the civil monetary penalties assessed or enforced in its regulations, effective Jan. 15. The adjustments for 2022 apply to OSHA as well as MSHA, the Employee Benefits Security Administration, the Employment and Training Administration, the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, the Office of the Secretary, and the Wage and Hour Division.
OSHA’s maximum penalty for serious violations is now $14,502, and the maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations is $145,027 per violation. The agency’s maximum penalty for failure to abate violations increased to $14,502 per day beyond the abatement date. A table detailing the updated penalty amounts is available on the agency’s website.
More information about the inflation adjustments for 2022 is available in the Federal Register.

In the February issue, Joanna Greig’s name was misspelled on page 21. Greig is coauthor of the article “Finding Good Science: How to Critically Appraise Scientific Literature.” The digital version of the article has been corrected.
On page 35 of the February issue, the titles of two coauthors of the article “The Challenge for Industrial Hygiene 4.0” were misprinted. Andrea Cattaneo is an associate professor, not assistant professor, at the University of Insubria, and a member of the national board of directors of the Italian Association of Industrial Hygienists (AIDII). Domenico Cavallo is director, not president, of the Institute for the Certification of Prevention Professionals, as well as a professor at the University of Insubria. The digital version of the article has been corrected.