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.

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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 2009 AIHce Technical Presentations Abstracts 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)

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Swine Flu – A Pandemic in our Midst?

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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

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A Word from the Acting Assistant Secretary

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Jordan Barab

Greetings.

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.

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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.

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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
categories.

A copy of the corrected report is available HERE: BLS Statistics


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:

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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

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Vibration Frequencies and Physiological Responses – NIOSH

jack-hammer“Speaking on April 19 at the Experimental Biology 2009 meeting in New Orleans, Dr. Kristine Krajnak, a team leader in the Engineering and Control Technologies Branch of the Health Effects Laboratory Division of NIOSH in Morgantown, West Virginia, describes results from the first study to directly link the different physical responses of tissue that occur with exposure to different vibration frequencies with biological mechanisms underlying the development of vascular dysfunction. Her presentation is part of the scientific program of The American Physiological Society.

The study, along with results of other studies conducted by NIOSH, supports the importance of reducing job-related exposure to vibration. Ongoing research is evaluating the effectiveness of anti-vibration devices, such as anti-vibration gloves and tools.

Higher frequency vibrations produced by an electric sander (greater than 100 Hz) are smoother than the slower vibrations of an electric hand drill (approximately 63 Hz) and therefore are less likely to cause users discomfort.

Don’t let that fool you into not using protective devices that can reduce your exposure to vibration, she says. The new research study conducted at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) suggests that exposure to high and low frequencies cause different physiological responses, but both may affect the risk of developing vibration-induced peripheral vascular dysfunction.

Of the 1.1 to 1.5 million U.S. workers exposed to hand transmitted vibration on a fairly regular basis, approximately half eventually develop some disorder such as Vibration White Finger, in which a single finger or sometimes the entire hand turns white and numb when exposed to the cold, due to restricted blood flow.

Workers also may experience reductions in tactile sensitivity, grip strength, and/or manual dexterity. Earlier studies have shown that risk goes up with frequency and duration of exposure, although NIOSH studies are underway to determine why certain people appear more susceptible to shorter exposure durations.

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OSHA Notifies Over 13,500 Employers Regarding High Injury Rates

osha-logoOSHA notified over 13,500 employers in April 2009 regarding their higher than average injury and illness rates. OSHA stated that the letter was an attempt to make the employers aware of their rates and to encourage them to work to lower the rates and improve their overall health and safety via:

  • hiring an outside safety and health consultant
  • talking with their insurance carrier, or
  • contacting the workers’ compensation agency in their state for advice
  • A copy of the letter can be found HERE.

    The employers are those whose establishments are covered by Federal OSHA and reported the highest “Days Away from work, Restricted work or job Transfer injury and illness” (DART) rate to OSHA in a survey of 2007 injury and illness data. For every 100 full-time workers, the 13,500 employers had 5.0 or more injuries or illnesses which resulted in days away from work, restricted work or job transfer versus the national average is 2.1.

    “Employers whose businesses have injury and illness rates this high need to take immediate steps to protect their workers,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab. “Our goal is to make employers aware of their high injury and illness rates and to get them to eliminate hazards in their workplace. To help them in this regard, OSHA offers free assistance programs to help employers better protect the safety and health of their workers.”

    Click HERE to download a copy of the list of employers receiving the letter.

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    Scientific American – Are Some Chemicals More Dangerous at Low Doses?

    Original article appeared in the Scientific American Blog “60-Second Science“, by David Biello

    chemicalsThere are some 82,000 chemicals used commercially in the U.S., but only a fraction have been tested to make sure they’re safe and just five are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to congressional investigators. But a government scientist says there’s no guarantee testing actually rules out health risks anyway.

    The basic premise of safety testing for chemicals is that anything can kill you in high enough doses (even too much water too fast can be lethal). The goal is to find safe levels that cause no harm. But new research suggests that some chemicals may be more dangerous than previously believed at low levels when acting in concert with other chemicals.

    “Some chemicals may act in an additive fashion,” Linda Birnbaum said this week at a conference held at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at Columbia University. “When we look one compound at a time, we may miss the boat.”

    Birnbaum, director of both the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Toxicology Program in Washington, D.C., noted that some chemicals, such as those that mimic human hormones, may combine with other hormonelike chemicals at low doses to produce big effects.

    For example, bisphenol A (BPA), a primary component of some plastics, reacts with cells in the same way as the female hormone estrogen and could be acting synergistically with other pseudoestrogens in the bloodstream to produce heart disease, diabetes or liver failure. Such effects have been observed in animal studies in the lab as well as in frogs in the field for chemicals ranging from the phthalates (used to help perfumes scent linger and make plastics soft) to ubiquitous herbicides like atrazine, linked to malformation in frogs.

    In fact, Birnbaum says, there may be no safe dose of certain compounds. For example, lead, a potent neurotoxicant, has been disappearing from the bloodstreams of American children since the 1970s when it was phased out of gasoline and paint. But some children are still exposed to low levels from old, peeling paint and its effects on intelligence and behavior can still be seen. “There is no safe level of lead,” Birnbaum noted.

    (more…)

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    Combustible Dust Bill Introduced

    A summary of H.R. 849

    osha-logoWorker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires Act of 2009 – Requires the Secretary of Labor to promulgate an interim final standard regulating combustible dusts, which shall apply to manufacturing, processing, blending, conveying, repackaging, and handling of combustible particulate solids and their dusts (including organic dusts, plastics, sulfur, wood, rubber, furniture, textiles, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, fibers, dyes, coal, metals, and fossil fuels), but shall not apply to processes already covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) standard on grain facilities.

    Requires such standard to provide requirements for:
    (1) a hazard assessment to identify, evaluate, and control combustible dust hazards;
    (2) a written program that includes provisions for hazardous dust inspection, testing, hot work, ignition control, and housekeeping;
    (3) engineering controls, administrative controls, and operating procedures;
    (4) housekeeping to prevent accumulation of combustible dust in places of employment in depths that can present explosion, deflagration, or other fire hazards, including safe methods of dust removal;
    (5) employee participation in hazard assessment, development of and compliance with the written program, and other elements of hazard management; and
    (6) providing safety and health information and annual training to employees.
    Provides an exemption from otherwise applicable rulemaking requirements for the interim standard but not for the final standard.
    Provides that such interim standard shall have the legal effect of an occupational safety and health standard and shall apply until a final standard becomes effective.

    Requires the Secretary of Labor to promulgate a final occupational safety and health standard regulating combustible dust explosions that has the same scope and worker protection provisions as the interim rule and provides requirements for:
    (1) managing change of dust producing materials, technology, equipment, staffing, and procedures;
    (2) building design, such as explosion venting, ducting, and sprinklers; and
    (3) explosion protection, including separation and segregation of the hazard.

    Requires the final rule to include relevant and appropriate provisions of the National Fire Protection Association combustible dust standards.

    Requires the Secretary to revise the hazard communications standard to amend the definition of “physical hazard” to include “a combustible dust” as an additional example of such a hazard.

    aihaAIHA offered the following recommendations: 1) “for the periodic inspection and maintenance of engineering controls and equipment, recordkeeping of the results of the inspections, and correction of any problems found during the inspections within a reasonable time.” 2) “determine whether or not it is possible for OSHA to promulgate a final standard within 18 months of enactment of the legislation.”

    The letter stressed that while AIHA does not wish to delay a final standard, the association recognizes it could be difficult for OSHA to promulgate a final standard within the 18-month time frame.

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    Call for Abstracts – National Environmental Public Health Conference

    nephc

    The National Environmental Public Health Conference is being held in Atlanta this year, October 26-28, 2009.  Being organized by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, in conjunction with the National Environmental Health Association promises to be a very informative three days from the field of public health.

    The conference will focus on the following topics:

    • Healthy Places
    • Public Health & Environmental Exposures
    • Sustainability & Public Health
    • Environmental Systems & Public Health
    • Environmental Health Emergencies
    • Environmental Health Science and Practice

    The organizers of the conference are calling for abstract submissions for original, previously unpublished findings by May 8, 2009.  Additional information can be found HERE including a link for abstract submission.

    From the website:
    “The 2009 National Environmental Public Health Conference-Healthy People in a Healthy Environment seeks to promote the nation’s environmental health capacity by enhancing the expertise of environmental health professionals-including public health and healthcare professionals, academic researchers, representatives from communities and organizations, as well as advocacy and business groups with a primary interest in environmental public health.

    The conference aims to develop and encourage innovative strategies for addressing existing and emerging issues in addition to being a forum for CDC/ATSDR and its many partners to share research, scientific, and program information focusing on environmental public health priorities.”

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