Industrial Hygienists to Get Involved in the Event of a Pandemic

pandemic-guideline-cover:Layout 1.qxdThe American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) published guidelines on their website pertaining to industrial hygiene in the event of a pandemic. These recommendations can be used in conjunction with their 2006 Publication, The Role of the Industrial Hygienist in a Pandemic.

Workplace Access and Security

* Restrict and monitor workplace access.
* Establish criteria for refusal of access to unfit workers and criteria for return-to-work.
* Implement telework capabilities where feasible.
* Develop infrastructure to manage meetings by conference call or videoconferencing—when meetings are necessary, keep a separation of at least 6 feet from colleagues and ensure there is adequate ventilation.
* Reduce or eliminate noncritical social interactions.
* Encourage job rotation or staggered shifts to reduce workplace capacity as well as worker exposure risks related to traveling on public transit during peak times.
* Segregate/isolate critical work clusters.
* Reduce or eliminate work in low-ventilated areas.
* Minimize the use of shared facilities for eating and smoking by staggering meals and breaks or designating multiple sites.
* Reduce or eliminate work travel to high-risk regions and encourage workers who are traveling to stay away in the event of a local outbreak.
* Initiate a snow day practice or “reverse quarantine” for nonessential workers.

Labor Relations

* Identify critical production needs and reduce nonessential production.
* Compile priority requirements for key workers with respect to personal protective equipment and training.
* Engage management and workers/union parties in discussions on safe work practices, grievance procedures, and contingencies available for work force, supply chain and production.
* Maintain effective communications between all workplace parties.
* Address dispute resolution regarding health and safety/safe work issues.
* Identify and mitigate unique exposure risks posed by multiple jobs and shifts by part-time or occasional workers.


* Establish call-in hotline.
* Create up-to-the-minute web splash page.
* Launch dedicated “grapevine.”

Germ Control

* Develop a sick leave policy that does not penalize sick employees and encourages them to stay home—recognize that employees with ill family members may need to stay home to care for them.
* Provide resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene—provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectants, and disposable towels (for employees to clean their work surfaces).
* Encourage employees to wash hands frequently and avoid touching nose, mouth, and eyes—germs can live for two hours or more on surfaces.
* Encourage employees to cover their coughs and sneezes.
* Provide employees with up-to-date education and training on flu risk factors, protective behaviors, and instruction on proper behaviors (proper cough etiquette and care of personal protective equipment).
* Keep work surfaces, telephones, computer equipment and other frequently touched surfaces and office equipment clean.
* Discourage employees from using phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment that are not their own.
* Promote healthy lifestyles that include plenty of sleep, physical activity, good nutrition, stress management, drinking plenty of fluids, and smoking cessation.
* Cover mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough either with a tissue or upper sleeves then clean your hands.
* Clean hands often, and when possible, wash with soap and warm water, rub vigorously together and scrub all surfaces for 15 to 20 seconds.
* When soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers, rubbing hands until dry.

NAOSH Week – May 3-9, 2009

Developed by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering, the North American Occupational Safety and Health Week will be celebrated May 3-9, 2009 throughout North America. Created in 2002, NAOSH Week is intended to raise awareness about occupational health, safety and environmental issues.


National Events are planned in addition to events in a large number of states (sponsored by local ASSE chapters) and internationally.
Additionally, corporate and organizational promotion includes companies/organizations such as Ford Motor Company, AIHA, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Sprint-Nextel, and OSHA.

ASSE provides some guidance on how you too can get involved:

At Work

* Sponsor a poster contest for your employees’ children and create a Safety Calendar for your staff and clients
* Host a Family Safety Fair or picnic for your company and their families;
* Launch a recognition program for safety suggestions that are put into use or enhance ongoing health and safety practices.
* Conduct an Open House that focuses on health and safety. Involve suppliers. Invite local dignitaries, clients and colleagues.
* Conduct training sessions for employees
* Do local news releases on being safe at work tips for your local media (info. can be found on
* Set up specific safety demonstrations, focused on safe work habits
* Launch a “New Worker” Orientation Manual
* Promote NAOSH Week through articles in your company newsletter
* Insert NAOSH Week messages in correspondence, memorandums, e-mail messages to staff
* Display the free NAOSH Week poster in offices, on bulletin boards, at work stations
* Distribute buttons, stickers, and pens to your staff
* Use NAOSH Week pens, safety whistles, etc as awards for safety achievements!


NIOSH Powertools Database – Noise & Vibration

nioshlogoNIOSH has developed an online database of sound levels and vibration forces for various power tools typically used in the occupational setting. Developed by NIOSH researchers, the database provides information for over 120 power tools from manufactures such as Black & Decker, Mikita and Dewalt. According to NIOSH, “The database is particularly helpful in determining the ‘real-world’ noise level of power tools as they are used on the job.”


For each tool, the database contains a Summary Sheet of results from both “loaded” and “unloaded” testing phases (click HERE for an example). Additionally, the database provides recordings of the noise levels for each of the power tools.

AIHA Petitions OSHA for Lowering Noise PEL, Again

aihaAIHA, in a letter to Jordan Barab of OSHA, strongly encouraged OSHA to consider reducing the 8-hour TWA for noise from 90 dBA to 85 dBA and a 3 decibel exchange rate. A copy of the letter, dated April 28, 2009, can be found HERE. The letter is very similar to one AIHA submitted to Edwin Foulke of OSHA in March of 2007. A copy of this letter can be found HERE.

Is a reduction in the noise PEL on the horizon?

Workers Memorial Day – April 28, 2009

work_safeWorkers Memorial Day is April 28. Established to remember those who have been injured or killed in the workplace.

According to NIOSH and the CDC:

  • 16 workers die each day from injuries sustained at work
  • 134 workers die each day from work-related diseases
  • In 2007, 5,488 U.S. workers died form work-related injuries
  • In 2007, 4 million people in the private sector had a non-fatal work-related injury/illness
  • In 2004, approximately 3.4 million workers were treated in emergency rooms due to occupational injuries
  • In 2005, worker’s compensation cost employers approximately $89 billion USD

The Acting Director of NIOSH offered the following statement:

Workers Memorial Day serves a somber but necessary purpose: “Never forget.” Remember and honor those who have died on the job. Do not let their memories fade. Find inspiration to redouble our efforts to keep the living both safe and healthy at work.

On Workers Memorial Day 2009, as the nation strives to recover from the present economic crisis, it is also important to note that the human benefits of occupational safety and health are intertwined with benefits for our economy and our social fabric. Proven strategies to help keep working men and women whole and healthy are integral to economic recovery and our national reinvestment in America’s future, as these examples suggest:

* Operating a safe and healthy workplace helps businesses to stay profitable and competitive – a must in today’s economic climate.
* Preventing the death, disability, or impairment of a mother or father averts a loss that can disrupt a working family’s economic security and emotional stability.
* As new technologies and industries emerge with promise for fueling present recovery and future prosperity, good stewardship in safety and health will be key for avoiding potential unintended consequences, and for fostering wise investment and growth.
* Preventing injuries and illnesses that result in costly medical treatment and insurance bills, supporting a robust health-care workforce for today, and helping to train tomorrow’s skilled providers – all are vital needs in health-care reform. All involve substantial occupational safety and health components.

It is as true today as it was in 1971, when the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) opened its doors, that scientific research is crucial for meeting the nation’s safety and health needs. In the 38 years since then, and in the 20 years since the first Workers Memorial Day, our efforts have helped to drive great advancements in worker protection. However, as we are reminded by Workers Memorial Day 2009, much more remains to be done.

NIOSH is proud to strive with our diverse partners to meet this challenge. We remember the victims of workplace death with sorrow, and we look forward to a better future in which no one dies from job-related causes.

AIHce May 30 – June 4, 2009 in Toronto, Canada

aihce-logoAIHce, the “Premier Conference and Exposition for Occupational Health and Safety Professionals will be held May 30 – June 4, 2009 in Toronto Canada. With over 40 “tracks” to choose from, and more than 250 technical sessions, there is something for every OHS professional at this years AIHce. Additionally, more than 300 exhibitors are expected to attend this years AIHce.


Looking to plan the sessions you would like to attend? Use AIHce’s Online Program Planner to create your itinerary of the available presentations and sessions.

Take a look at the

  CranesPPT.ppt (4.0 MiB, 994 hits)

for details on the scheduled presentations.

Registration fees are detailed below (if you register before May 30, 2009; if you register at the Conference, fees increase approximately $110.00 USD)


Swine Flu – A Pandemic in our Midst?


Per information provided today by the WHO:

The Emergency Committee, established in compliance with the International Health Regulations (2005), held its second meeting on 27 April 2009. The Committee considered available data on confirmed outbreaks of A/H1N1 swine influenza in the United States of America, Mexico, and Canada. The Committee also considered reports of possible spread to additional countries. On the advice of the Committee, the WHO Director-General has raised the level of influenza pandemic alert from the current phase 3 to phase 4.

OSHA provides this information on their website regarding pandemic flu outbreaks

swine-fluA pandemic is a global disease outbreak. An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges for which there is little or no immunity in the human population; begins to cause serious illness; and then spreads easily person-to-person worldwide. A worldwide influenza pandemic could have a major effect on the global economy, including travel, trade, tourism, food, consumption and eventually, investment and financial markets. Planning for pandemic influenza by business and industry is essential to minimize a pandemic’s impact.

It is difficult to predict when the next influenza pandemic will occur or how severe it will be. Wherever and whenever a pandemic starts, everyone around the world is at risk. Countries might, through measures such as border closures and travel restrictions, delay arrival of the virus, but cannot stop it.

During a pandemic, transmission can be anticipated in the workplace, not only from patient to workers in health care settings, but also among co-workers in general work settings. A pandemic would cause high levels of illness, death, social disruption, and economic loss. Everyday life would be disrupted because so many people in so many places become seriously ill at the same time. Impacts could range from school and business closings to the interruption of basic services such as public transportation and food delivery.

Education and outreach are critical to preparing for a pandemic. Understanding what a pandemic is, what needs to be done at all levels to prepare for pandemic influenza, and what could happen during a pandemic helps us make informed decisions both as individuals and as a nation. Should a pandemic occur the public must be able to depend on its government to provide scientifically sound public health information quickly, openly and dependably. For additional information on pandemic influenza, see One-stop access to U.S.government avian and pandemic flu information.

A Pandemic Flu FAQ can be found HERE

A Word from the Acting Assistant Secretary


Jordan Barab


I’ve now been on the job for two busy weeks as Acting Assistant Secretary and my greeting to everyone is overdue. I can first tell you that I’m thrilled to be back at OSHA and ready to work with you to raise the profile of worker safety and health in this country.

Earlier this week I met with Secretary of Labor Solis, and I’m very happy to report that she gets it. She understands working people, she understands and strongly supports the mission of this agency and wants to put her energy into ensuring that this agency succeeds in its mission. The first message I conveyed to her is that OSHA is full of some of the finest, most energetic, most dedicated people in the federal government and that I was proud to help her lead this agency.

Now, it’s no secret to any of you that this agency has come under some heavy criticism and scrutiny over the past few years. From my perspective, that criticism was focused not on what you do every day for working people, but on the lack of strong leadership promoting worker protection, strong regulatory activity, and aggressive enforcement.

I had more than one friend who warned me not to take this job because they felt that OSHA is a terminally sick agency. Nothing can be done to help it. The law is weak, resources lacking, the bureaucracy stifling, the regulatory system glacial, and the staff demoralized.

But I reject those arguments. Clearly there are some changes that need to be made in workplace safety in this country that are beyond OSHA’s control. But I have complete faith in OSHA’s mission, the staff of this agency and that OSHA can fulfill that mission – to protect American workers and assure safe workplaces.


Mesothelioma Deaths Expected to Peak in 2010

chest-x-rayThe mortality benefits of restricting the use of asbestos should begin to appear after 2010, when deaths from malignant mesothelioma are expected to peak, according to a report from the CDC.

The number of malignant mesothelioma deaths increased from 2,482 in 1999 to 2,704 in 2005, Ki Moon Bang, Ph.D., of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and colleagues reported in the April 24 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

However, annual mortality remained stable at 14 deaths per 1 million in 2005, compared with 14.1 per 1 million in 1999. The rate for the entire study period was 13.8 per 1 million.

“Because mesothelioma manifests 20 to 40 years after first exposure, the number of mesothelioma deaths will likely peak by 2010,” the authors wrote.

Although the health threat posed by asbestos has decreased, it has not disappeared, they emphasized. Asbestos continues to be imported legally for use in certain construction and transportation products.

Moreover, carbon nanotubes used increasingly in manufacturing may share the same carcinogenic potential attributed to asbestos in mesothelioma.

In 1975 the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of asbestos in most types of residential and commercial insulation materials. In 1989 the EPA attempted to implement a total ban on the use of asbestos. The ban was overturned on appeal in federal court in 1991.

Since then, the EPA has taken the position that only certain types of products have been exempted from the ban.

Nonetheless, “an estimated 1.3 million construction and general industry workers potentially are being exposed to asbestos,” the authors wrote.


BLS Reissues 2007 Occupational Injuries & Illnesses Report

US Bureau of Labor StatisticsThe US Bureau of Labor Statistics has recently reissued the 2007 Report of Occupational Injuries & Illnesses Requiring Days Away from Work.

According to information provided by BLS,

This news release was reissued on March 31, 2009 to correct selected data within
the mining and railroad industries that were misclassified by BLS. Except for these
industries, the corrections resulted in minor changes for the category musculoskeletal
disorders (MSDs) and selected nature, event or exposure, and source

A copy of the corrected report is available HERE:

OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs Continue Rapid Growth

vpp“The Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) promote effective worksite-based safety and health. In the VPP, management, labor, and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system. Approval into VPP is OSHA’s official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health.”

Requirements to participate include:

  • An effective, ongoing safety and health program
  • Cooperation
  • Good performance

VPP participants develop and implement systems to effectively identify, evaluate, prevent, and control occupational hazards to prevent employee injuries and illnesses. As a result, the average VPP worksite has a lost workday incidence rate at least 50 percent below the average of its industry. In return, OSHA removes participants from programmed inspection lists and does not issue citations for standards violations that are promptly corrected.

Growth has been dramatic since it’s creation in 1982, just look at these statistics:

vpp1 vpp1b
vpp2 vpp2b

PEL Adjustments for Extended Work Shifts – Noise

osha-interpretationsThe purpose of this memorandum is to resolve issues concerning adjustments of the PEL during extended work shifts. This applies for exposures to the noise levels of Table G-16 of 29 CFR 1910.95 or substances found in Subpart Z. Current OSHA policy requires only the action level to be reduced for exposures to noise during extended work shifts; the PEL is not required to be adjusted. The only standards which require PEL adjustments are the lead standards in construction and general industry. These standards have a specific provision which requires work shift adjustments. Existing policy for Occupational Exposure to Cotton Dust also has a requirement to adjust extended work shifts when employees are required to wear respirators for a portion of the work shift to reduce their level of exposure, as set forth in the Federal Register, Vol. 45, No. 251, pp. 85736-85739. The contribution that the extended work hours adds to employee exposure must be included in calculating the required time respirators must be worn during the shift.

As stated in a previous memorandum dated November 8, 1996:

Compliance officers can choose one of two approaches for employees who work extended work shifts beyond 8 hours. The choice taken will depend on the nature of the hazardous chemical.

  1. The first approach is to sample what the compliance officer believes to be the worst continuous 8-hour work period of the entire extended work shift.
  2. The second approach is to collect multiple samples over the entire work shift. Sampling is done such that multiple personal samples are collected during the first 8-hour work period and additional samples are collected for the extended work shift. Unless a compliance officer is dealing with lead, the PEL in this approach is calculated based upon the worst 8 hours of exposure during the entire work shift.

We hope you find this clarification helpful. If you have any questions or if we can be of any further assistance, please contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.

A link to the memo can be found HERE