thesynergist | NEWSWATCH
OSHA Targets May 2023 for Proposed Rule on Infectious Diseases
OSHA intends to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on infectious diseases in May 2023, according to the Department of Labor’s spring 2022 regulatory agenda, which was published on June 21. The regulatory agenda states that OSHA is “examining regulatory alternatives for control measures to protect employees from infectious disease exposures to pathogens that can cause significant disease.” The agency is considering long-standing infectious disease hazards like tuberculosis and measles as well as new and emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and pandemic influenza. According to OSHA, control measures for infectious diseases might be necessary in workplaces such as healthcare, emergency response, and “other occupational settings where employees can be at increased risk of exposure to potentially infectious people.” The standard could also apply to settings such as laboratories, coroners’ offices, medical examiners’ offices, and mortuaries. Other rulemaking activities in the proposed rule stage include rules covering communication tower safety, emergency response, tree care, welding in construction confined spaces, and personal protective equipment in construction. Issues that are earlier in the rulemaking process include workplace violence, heat illness prevention, and blood lead levels for medical removal. According to the regulatory agenda, OSHA planned to initiate a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act panel on the topic of workplace violence in healthcare and social assistance in September 2022. The agency first published a request for information in 2016 to gather information on workplace violence and prevention strategies from healthcare employers, workers, and other subject matter experts. The comment period for OSHA’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) to protect workers from heat hazards in indoor and outdoor work settings closed in January, and the agency is analyzing the feedback it received. And in June, OSHA published an ANPRM that began the rulemaking process for the agency to consider revising its standards for occupational exposure to lead. The ANPRM stems from recent medical research findings that adverse health effects in adults can occur at lower blood lead levels than those required by the agency’s current standards. OSHA accepted comments related to its ANPRM on lead until Aug. 29. Rules related to COVID-19 in healthcare workplaces and updates to OSHA’s hazard communication standard have entered their final stages. The June regulatory agenda update projected that a final standard to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19 hazards would be issued in September. But as of early September, when this issue of The Synergist went to press, the final rule had not yet been issued. OSHA plans to issue a final rule in December to harmonize its hazard communication standard to the seventh edition of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), according to the timetable in the regulatory agenda. The update is intended to improve alignment with international trading partners like Canada and to address enforcement policies that have been issued since OSHA first incorporated the third edition of the GHS into its hazard communication standard in 2012. GHS, an international approach to hazard communication, is intended to address criteria for the classification of chemical hazards and provide a coordinated approach to documents such as labels and safety data sheets. For more information on these and other rules, view the agency rule list for the Department of Labor.
CSB Launches Training Application on Process Safety Management
A new training application published by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) focuses on OSHA’s process safety management (PSM) standard, which covers requirements for the management of hazards associated with processes that use highly hazardous chemicals. The application incorporates CSB findings from the 2005 explosion and fire at the BP America Refinery in Texas City, Texas, and shows how the agency’s findings relate to the PSM standard. According to CSB, the application includes interactive training modules on the 14 elements of PSM using the 2005 incident as a model. The training application is freely available for download from CSB’s website and is compatible with Windows or macOS. The 2005 massive hydrocarbon release and resulting explosion at BP Texas City, which killed 15 people and injured 180 others, is the most serious refinery accident investigated by CSB. For more information, see CSB’s news update.
NIOSH Advises Firefighters on Safe Use of Gas Detection Equipment
NIOSH has published a safety advisory targeted to firefighters responding to natural gas and propane incidents. The new document, titled “Understanding Multi-Gas Monitor Readings – The Importance of Knowing Your Equipment,” includes recommendations for properly using multi-gas monitors and interpreting data collected by these devices.
When responding to gas leaks and related incidents, firefighters can be exposed to low oxygen levels or dangerous concentrations of carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and other explosive gases and vapors. Multi-gas monitors assist firefighters in measuring gas levels and determining if concentrations exceed the lower explosive limit, or the minimum level at which explosions can occur. NIOSH’s document cautions that these devices may be less accurate on the scene of an incident because monitors may respond differently to gases encountered there compared to gases used for calibration. Damage from being dropped, dust blocking sensor inlets, and exposure to extreme environmental conditions may also cause monitors to become less accurate over time.
NIOSH recommends that users perform “bump” testing at the beginning of each shift to determine if monitors are functioning. Firefighters should also calibrate monitors at least monthly and replace them as needed, while following all manufacturer recommendations, as well as conduct regular hands-on training to ensure their proficiency in using multi-gas monitors. NIOSH encourages fire departments to partner with utility companies to better understand each other’s roles during a response to a natural gas or propane emergency.
A PDF of the new document may be downloaded from NIOSH’s website.
New Respirator User Notices Issued by Advoque Safeguard, 3M
Following a request from Advoque Safeguard, NIOSH has rescinded its approval of the company’s N95 particulate filtering facepiece respirator with model number ASG100. The voluntary rescission affects respirators marked with the approval number TC-84A-9284. As of Aug. 5, respirators bearing this number are no longer NIOSH approved and may no longer be manufactured, assembled, sold, or distributed as NIOSH-approved products, according to a notice (PDF) on the company’s website. The notice cites the results of third-party testing on one of Advoque Safeguard’s lots that “recorded some of the units with inconsistent filtration performance to the 95% filtration standard” as the reasoning for its action.
A separate notice issued by 3M (PDF) has to do with certain Versaflo TR-6590N Multi-Gas/HE Cartridges used with NIOSH-approved 3M TR-600 and TR-800 powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs). The notice states that recent testing identified the potential for some Versaflo TR-6590N cartridges not to meet the requirements of 42 CFR Part 84.179, Silica Dust Loading Test - PAPR Series HE Filtration. “The results from recent tests showed lower TR-6590N cartridge particulate loading performance than in the past,” 3M’s notice explains, meaning that users “may potentially see a reduced particulate filter service life when using an affected cartridge in a high particulate loading environment.”
All NIOSH-approved respirators appear on the agency’s certified equipment list. Further information about the recent notices can be found on the website of NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Equipment Laboratory.
NIOSH to Host Workshop on Equitable PPE Protections
An upcoming virtual workshop hosted by the NIOSH Personal Protective Technology Program will focus on issues regarding equitable personal protective equipment protections for workers in the United States. The workshop will take place over two days in November and feature sessions on equitable PPE use, availability, accessibility, acceptability, and knowledge among underserved PPE user groups. According to NIOSH, underserved PPE user groups may include workers who are of an atypical size; members of a gender, racial, ethnic, or linguistic minority group; or those who perform nontraditional worker activities. These user populations may also include members of subdisciplines that may not be the primary focus of current PPE activities within a larger field. NIOSH’s workshop will be held via Zoom on Nov. 8 and 9, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET. Potential attendees can pre-register for each workshop day using the registration links on the workshop webpage.
Report Outlines Occupational Sampling for Nanomaterials
Practical approaches for sampling engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) in the workplace are outlined in a new NIOSH technical report. ENMs, the report explains, are “a diverse group of materials that have at least one dimension in the size range of 100 nanometer (nm) or less.” ENMs are potentially hazardous because some substances have been found to be more toxic in microscale forms than at larger scales. As ENM production is increasing and these materials are being incorporated into more products, NIOSH has identified “a clear need to develop, implement, and apply a suitable strategy for occupational risk assessment and management” of ENMs.
The report outlines steps for conducting workplace sampling of three types of ENMs that have NIOSH recommended exposure limits: airborne carbon nanotubes and nanofibers (CNTs and CNFs), silver, and titanium dioxide (TiO2). Another section of the report discusses recommendations for exposure sampling of ENMs lacking NIOSH RELs. Since no single instrument or analytical technique can assess occupational exposure for all ENMs, NIOSH recommends combinations of instruments and measurement techniques to collect data to characterize ENM exposures.
Studies in rats and mice have shown that inhalation of CNTs and CNFs, silver nanoparticles, and TiO2 nanomaterials causes a range of health effects that particularly impact lung function. Occupational exposures to CNTs and CNFs in workers are also “associated with biomarkers of early effect for fibrosis, inflammation, oxidative stress, and cardiovascular responses,” the report states.
The report can be downloaded for free from NIOSH’s website.
Chemicals from Deepwater Horizon Spill Linked with Asthma Symptoms, NIH Finds
Exposure to oil spill chemicals is associated with asthma and asthma symptoms among cleanup workers, according to an article by researchers with the ongoing Gulf Long-term Follow-up (GuLF) Study. The article states that workers involved in cleaning up the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill were 60 percent more likely to have been diagnosed with asthma or have experienced asthma symptoms between one and three years after the spill, compared to people who completed cleanup work safety training but did not participate in the operation.
Researchers first estimated cleanup workers’ exposures to chemicals found in oil spills, then analyzed the relationship between their jobs, resulting hydrocarbon exposures, and whether they had received doctors’ diagnoses for asthma or self-reported asthma symptoms. The study also examined health outcomes associated with exposures to the BTEX-H subgroup of crude oil chemicals, which are classified as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.
Workers’ relative risk for asthma symptoms was found to increase with their exposures to individual BTEX-H chemicals and BTEX-H chemical mixtures. Researchers noted that exposures to hydrocarbons and BTEX-H chemicals varied based on workers’ specific cleanup jobs and how long they worked. Workers involved in operating, maintaining, or refueling heavy cleanup equipment had the highest incidence of asthma.
The GuLF Study is led by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health. According to Dale Sandler, PhD, chief of NIEHS’ Epidemiology Branch and lead researcher for the GuLF STUDY, this is the first time that specific oil spill chemicals have been linked to respiratory disease. More information can be found in NIH’s Aug. 17 news release.
FDA: Some UV Wands Emit Unsafe Levels of Radiation
Certain brands of ultraviolet (UV) wands may expose people to unsafe levels of ultraviolet-C (UV-C) radiation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns in a safety communication published in July. FDA describes UV wands as handheld products intended to emit UV-C radiation to disinfect surfaces, generally outside of healthcare settings. The results of FDA testing show that, at a distance of approximately two inches, some UV wands give off as much as 3,000 times more UV-C radiation than the exposure limits recommended by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (PDF), a nonprofit organization that works to develop science-based advice on limiting exposure to non-ionizing radiation. FDA states that the affected products may cause injury to users’ or nearby individuals’ skin, eyes, or both after a few seconds of use.
FDA urges consumers to not use these UV wands and to consider alternative disinfection methods. The agency has issued “notification of defect” letters to the affected manufacturers and plans to work with them to ensure that the problems with the products are adequately corrected.
View FDA’s safety communication for further details, including a list of affected products and manufacturers.
EU-OSHA Summarizes Challenges of Long COVID
Long COVID, one name for the range of long-term health effects that some people experience after being infected with the virus SARS-CoV-2, “presents a considerable challenge for employers,” according to a publication released in May by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA). Symptoms of long COVID can include fatigue, shortness of breath, difficulty thinking or concentrating, dizziness, and depression and anxiety, among many other symptoms affecting the heart as well as the respiratory, neurological, and digestive systems, according to CDC. Post-COVID conditions like these can last for weeks, months, or years.
The authors of the EU-OSHA paper stress that workers with long COVID may require a phased return to work over a period of months, which may require companies to reconsider or modify their policies regarding workers’ absences due to illness. Another concern relates to workers in safety-critical roles; the authors urge employers to ensure that workers’ long COVID symptoms do not put themselves, their coworkers, or customers at risk.
Research on post-COVID conditions is ongoing. Estimates published by CDC state that the proportion of people who experience post-COVID symptoms can vary. A report published in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in May found that approximately one in five adults aged 18–64 years has a health condition that might be attributable to their previous COVID-19 illness.
Additional information about long COVID and post-COVID conditions can be found on CDC's website.
Report Offers Broad View of Workplace Violence
A study conducted by NIOSH, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a broad view of workplace violence in the United States between 1992 and 2019. During this period, workplace violence—including incidents that occurred outside the workplace but stemmed from work-related issues—killed nearly 18,000 people. The report provides data structured around 13 key “indicators” such as the characteristics of victims of workplace violence, characteristics of offenders, the use of weapons, the treatment of nonfatal injuries in emergency departments, and socio-economic problems that result from workplace violence. The report also offers insights about workplace violence by occupation type during the period 2015–2019.
The total of 454 homicides in 2019 represents a 58 percent decrease from the high of 1,080 in 1994 but also an 11 percent increase since 2014. Homicides as a percentage of total fatal occupational injuries fell from 17 percent in 1993 to 8.5 percent in 2019. During 2015–2019, the occupations with the highest incidence of workplace homicides were sales, protective service (police and firefighters), and transportation.
The study “Indicators of Workplace Violence, 2019” is available on the website of the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
CSB: Process Safety Failures Led to Fatal 2017 Explosion
A final report released by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) faults a St. Louis employer’s deficient process safety management for a deadly explosion. According to CSB, failures in the Loy-Lange box company’s policies, procedures, and operations, as well as an inadequate repair, led to the explosion of a pressure vessel on April 3, 2017. A worker died in the explosion, and the 2,000-pound pressure vessel was launched into the air and through the roof of a laundromat 500 feet away, killing three members of the public.
CSB found that corrosion had thinned the metal of the pressure vessel and that Loy-Lange’s startup practices likely contributed to the corrosion by introducing oxygenated water into the equipment. The report states that Loy-Lange was aware of the corrosion as early as 2004 but did not institute regular inspections as called for by industry guidance documents.
In addition, the city of St. Louis, Missouri, failed to inspect the equipment at Loy-Lange due to limited staffing and resources, according to the report.
Loy-Lange attempted to fix the pressure vessel in 2012, but the repair removed only a portion of the corroded metal, and a subsequent inspection did not detect the problem. CSB says that the original steel left in place at the time is what ultimately failed five years later, causing the fatal explosion. A few days before the explosion, employees discovered that the pressure vessel was leaking, but a local welder contacted by Loy-Lange was unable to visit the facility at that time, and the company continued to operate the equipment as normal. More information is available from CSB's website.
As Fatalities Rise, OSHA Targets Trenching Work
A sharp increase in worker deaths has prompted OSHA to announce “enhanced” enforcement measures and additional oversight of employers engaged in trenching and excavation work. According to OSHA, 22 workers lost their lives while engaged in trenching work during the first six months of 2022, surpassing the total of 15 deaths in all of 2021. An agency press release indicates that OSHA officials may consider criminal referrals in cases where a trenching incident results in a fatality.
OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation, which became effective in October 2018, established a national reporting system for the agency’s trenching and excavation inspections and required agency offices to develop outreach programs (PDF). OSHA standards also require protective systems on trenches that are more than five feet deep; these must be designed by a registered professional engineer in trenches greater than 20 feet deep (PDF). Trenches must be kept free of standing water and atmospheric hazards, as well as inspected daily by a competent person before work begins and when conditions change.
In July, when OSHA announced the enhanced enforcement measures, trenching fatalities in 2022 were on pace to equal the 44 deaths in 2005, the second highest number this century, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only in 2003, when 48 workers lost their lives, were trenching fatalities higher during the period 2000 through 2022.
More information about health and safety issues related to trenching and excavation is available on the OSHA website.
NIOSH Registers R95 Certification Mark
NIOSH has registered the certification mark R95 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the agency announced this month. R95 particulate filtering facepiece respirators filter at least 95 percent of airborne particles and are somewhat resistant to oil. The R95 certification mark is the latest mark that NIOSH has registered with the USPTO. Earlier this year, NIOSH said that it had registered with the USPTO the agency’s stylized logo with and without text; the certification marks N95, N99, N100, P95, and P100; and the term “NIOSH-approved.”
Now that these marks are registered with the USPTO as federal registrations as well as in several other countries, they are subject to trademark laws in the United States and elsewhere they are registered. As the owner of the certification marks, NIOSH controls who can use them. The agency says it will allow manufacturers to use the certification marks only if they become NIOSH approval holders because their products satisfy the regulatory standards outlined in 42 CFR Part 84, which addresses certification requirements for respiratory protective devices.
Further details can be found in a recent NIOSH conformity assessment letter to manufacturers.