According to an article published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine this month long-haul truck drivers are twice the health risk as the rest of the population.
Because long-haul truck drivers typically smoke (69%), sit all day with no exercise and smoke (51%), presumably because they are bored, they end up having several of the high risk factors like hypertension, smoking, elevated cholesterol, obesity, lack of physical activity and less than 6 hours of sleep a night.
Although the online abstract didn’t mention it, I would assume that the obesity and high cholesterol has a lot to do with the bad eating habits and poor quality of the food available at the truck stops and fast food places that dot the highways these truckers rarely wander far from.
The article concludes that “targeted interventions and continued surveillance” is needed. Considering the fact that these drivers are hauling tons of materials at speeds upwards of 80 mph, I would agree. I, for one, don’t want to be in the way when one of them has a heart attack behind the wheel.
One of the top safety issues this past year has been the issue of combustible dust. We’ve talked about it often in this blog including the explosion at Imperial Sugar as well as the CSB criticism of OSHA’s slow response to getting a standard in place (For a complete list of all the combustible dust articles covered on this blog go here).
So, having comes across a website that has a good series of articles on combustible dust as well as a white paper that you can request, I wanted to give you the link so that you could explore this issue better for yourself if it is relevant to you and your place of work.
The articles are a part of the Nilfisk website, a company that sells explosion proof vacuums (National Safety, Inc. is not affiliated with Nilfisk in any way and we are not a distributor for their products).
Besides the white paper entitled “Reduce the Risk: Understanding and Resolving Combustible Dust Issues” which you can request after giving them your information, there is also a Combustible Dust FAQs section that you will find informative.
This site isn’t the end all on the question of combustible dust but it’ll at least give you a firm grasp of the risk as well as some possible solutions.
JULY ASBESTOS SAFETY MONTH
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals that are resistant to heat and corrosion. Asbestos has been used in products, such as insulation for pipes (steam lines for example), floor tiles, building materials, and in vehicle brakes and clutches. Asbestos includes the mineral fibers chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, actinolite and any of these materials that have been chemically treated or altered. Heavy exposures tend to occur in the construction industry and in ship repair, particularly during the removal of asbestos materials due to renovation, repairs, or demolition. Workers are also likely to be exposed during the manufacture of asbestos products (such as textiles, friction products, insulation, and other building materials) and during automotive brake and clutch repair work.
What are the hazards of asbestos?
Asbestos is well recognized as a health hazard and its use is now highly regulated by both OSHA and EPA. Asbestos fibers associated with these health risks are too small to be seen with the naked eye. Breathing asbestos fibers can cause a buildup of scar-like tissue in the lungs called asbestosis and result in loss of lung function that often progresses to disability and death. Asbestos also causes cancer of the lung and other diseases such as mesothelioma of the pleura which is a fatal malignant tumor of the membrane lining the cavity of the lung or stomach.
Even if asbestos is in your home, this is usually NOT a serious problem. The mere presence of asbestos in a home or a building is not hazardous. The danger is that asbestos materials may become damaged over time. Damaged asbestos may release asbestos fibers and become a health hazard.
THE BEST THING TO DO WITH ASBESTOS MATERIAL IN GOOD CONDITION IS TO LEAVE IT ALONE! Disturbing it may create a health hazard where none existed before. Read this booklet before you have any asbestos material inspected, removed, or repaired.
Where Asbestos Hazards May Be Found In The Home
What can be done to reduce the hazards of asbestos?
Worker exposure to asbestos hazards are addressed in specific OSHA standards for the construction industry, general industry and shipyard employment sectors. These standards reduce the risk to workers by requiring that employers provide personal exposure monitoring to assess the risk and hazard awareness training for operations where there is any potential exposure to asbestos. Airborne levels of asbestos are never to exceed legal worker exposure limits. Where the exposure does, employers are required to further protect workers by establishing regulated areas, controlling certain work practices and instituting engineering controls to reduce the airborne levels. The employer is required to ensure exposure is reduced by using administrative controls and provide for the wearing of personal protective equipment. Medical monitoring of workers is also required when legal limits and exposure times are exceeded.
How Can Asbestos Affect My Health?
From studies of people who were exposed to asbestos in factories and shipyards, we know that breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of:
The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increases with the number of fibers inhaled. The risk of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibers is also greater if you smoke. People who get asbestosis have usually been exposed to high levels of asbestos for a long time. The symptoms of these diseases do not usually appear until about 20 to 30 years after the first exposure to asbestos.
Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos, as we all are in our daily lives, do not develop these health problems. However, if disturbed, asbestos material may release asbestos fibers, which can be inhaled into the lungs. The fibers can remain there for a long time, increasing the risk of disease. Asbestos material that would crumble easily if handled, or that has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder, is more likely to create a health hazard.
Where Can I Find Asbestos And When Can It Be A Problem?
Most products made today do not contain asbestos. Those few products made which still contain asbestos that could be inhaled are required to be labeled as such. However, until the 1970s, many types of building products and insulation materials used in homes contained asbestos. Common products that might have contained asbestos in the past, and conditions which may release fibers, include:
What Should Be Done About Asbestos In The Home?
If you think asbestos may be in your home, don’t panic! Usually the best thing is to LEAVE asbestos material that is in good condition ALONE.
Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers. THERE IS NO DANGER unless fibers are released and inhaled into the lungs.
Check material regularly if you suspect it may contain asbestos. Don’t touch it, but look for signs of wear or damage such as tears, abrasions, or water damage. Damaged material may release asbestos fibers. This is particularly true if you often disturb it by hitting, rubbing, or handling it, or if it is exposed to extreme vibration or air flow.
Sometimes, the best way to deal with slightly damaged material is to limit access to the area and not touch or disturb it. Discard damaged or worn asbestos gloves, stove-top pads, or ironing board covers. Check with local health, environmental, or other appropriate officials to find out proper handling and disposal procedures.
If asbestos material is more than slightly damaged, or if you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb it, repair or removal by a professional is needed. Before you have your house remodeled, find out whether asbestos materials are present.
How To Identify Materials That Contain Asbestos
You can’t tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it, unless it is labeled. If in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos or have it sampled and analyzed by a qualified professional. A professional should take samples for analysis, since a professional knows what to look for, and because there may be an increased health risk if fibers are released. In fact, if done incorrectly, sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone. Taking samples yourself is not recommended. If you nevertheless choose to take the samples yourself, take care not to release asbestos fibers into the air or onto yourself. Material that is in good condition and will not be disturbed (by remodeling, for example) should be left alone. Only material that is damaged or will be disturbed should be sampled. Anyone who samples asbestos-containing materials should have as much information as possible on the handling of asbestos before sampling, and at a minimum, should observe the following procedures:
How To Manage An Asbestos Problem
If the asbestos material is in good shape and will not be disturbed, do nothing! If it is a problem, there are two types of corrections: repair and removal.
REPAIR usually involves either sealing or covering asbestos material.
Sealing (encapsulation) involves treating the material with a sealant that either binds the asbestos fibers together or coats the material so fibers are not released. Pipe, furnace, and boiler insulation can sometimes be repaired this way. This should be done only by a professional trained to handle asbestos safely.
Covering(enclosure) involves placing something over or around the material that contains asbestos to prevent release of fibers. Exposed insulated piping may be covered with a protective wrap or jacket.
With any type of repair, the asbestos remains in place. Repair is usually cheaper than removal, but it may make later removal of asbestos, if necessary, more difficult and costly. Repairs can either be major or minor.
Asbestos Do’s And Don’ts For The Homeowner
Major repairs must be done only by a professional trained in methods for safely handling asbestos.
Minor repairs should also be done by professionals since there is always a risk of exposure to fibers when asbestos is disturbed.
Doing minor repairs yourself is not recommended since improper handling of asbestos materials can create a hazard where none existed. If you nevertheless choose to do minor repairs, you should have as much information as possible on the handling of asbestos before doing anything. Contact your state or local health department or regional EPA office for information about asbestos training programs in your area. Your local school district may also have information about asbestos professionals and training programs for school buildings. Even if you have completed a training program, do not try anything more than minor repairs. Before undertaking minor repairs, carefully examine the area around the damage to make sure it is stable. As a general matter, any damaged area which is bigger than the size of your hand is not a minor repair.
Before undertaking minor repairs, be sure to follow all the precautions described earlier for sampling asbestos material. Always wet the asbestos material using a fine mist of water containing a few drops of detergent. Commercial products designed to fill holes and seal damaged areas are available. Small areas of material such as pipe insulation can be covered by wrapping a special fabric, such as rewettable glass cloth, around it. These products are available from stores (listed in the telephone directory under Safety Equipment and Clothing”) which specialize in asbestos materials and safety items.
REMOVAL is usually the most expensive method and, unless required by state or local regulations, should be the last option considered in most situations. This is because removal poses the greatest risk of fiber release. However, removal may be required when remodeling or making major changes to your home that will disturb asbestos material. Also, removal may be called for if asbestos material is damaged extensively and cannot be otherwise repaired. Removal is complex and must be done only by a contractor with special training. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family.
For more information, contact your local American Lung Association at their website at http://www.lungusa.org for copies of:
For more information on asbestos in other consumer products, call the CPSC Hotline or write to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, DC 20207. The CPSC Hotline has information on certain appliances and products, such as the brands and models of hair dryers that contain asbestos. Call CPSC at 1-800-638-CPSC. A teletypewriter (TTY) for the hearing impaired is available at (301) 595-7054. The Maryland TTY number is 1-800-492-8104.
To find out whether your state has a training and certification program for asbestos removal contractors, and for information on EPA’s asbestos programs, call the EPA at 202-554-1404.
For more information on asbestos identification and control activities, contact the Asbestos Coordinator in the EPA Regional Office for your region, or your state or local health department.
Today’s Post is courtesy of Ken Oswald
Safety and Security Manager for ENMR·Plateau
As a safety officer you often feel like an over anxious parent spending all your time trying to identify all possible risks your workers might be exposed to and implementing changes to protect them from those risks. It sometimes feels like there no end to the mischief that they might be able to do, especially in a plant with machines running, forklifts driving, trucks offloading, etc… So how do we go about identifying and prioritizing the risks?
Here’s a simple equation that can help: Risk = Severity x Likelihood
Create a chart with severity on one axis and likelihood on the other. Whenever both are high you’ve identified a risk that needs to be addressed immediately. Your chart should look something like this:
Anything in the bottom left quadrant is a low priority risk. Anything in the top right quadrant is a high priority risk that needs to be addressed immediately. multiply the numbers and high numbers show a high priority.
Once you have identified your high risk items you can create another chart with risk on one axis and “number of exposures” on the other. This new chart would incorporate the number of people who might potentially be injured if this risk is not addressed. On the vertical axis, plug in the number you got from chart 1 above. On the horizontal axis, adapt the numbers to reflect the number of workers you have at your particular location, plant, etc… If your location had 50 people, for example, the chart will look something like this:
Obviously a high risk that one person might be exposed to once a month isn’t going to be as high a priority as one that is numerically equal in the first chart but which has the potential of affecting 20 people daily.
Running around trying to identify and solve all safety related issues all at the same time is a recipe for frustration and isn’t going to be very effective. Identifying which risks are the ones that need to be addressed first will help you know how to allot funds, time and personnel and make you much more effective in creating a safe environment.
All too often, when thinking about risk, we automatically start to think about how to protect the worker from the hazard (e.g. when welding we automatically start to consider which respiratory will work best in order to protect the worker from the fumes generated by the welding process). That is really not the hierarchy, however. Way before we start thinking about respirator cartridges we should be thinking about exhaust, fume extractors, thinking about alternate ways to get the job done, etc… There is, in fact, a hierarchy of risk assessment and it runs like this:
Notice that the PPE part doesn’t show up until #8!
On a press release dated September 29th, Dudley, the new CEO of BP, announced that he is creating a whole new division entitled “Safety and Risk Unit” that will have “Sweeping powers to oversee and audit” as well as “intervene in all aspects of BP’s technical activities”.
In the words of Dudley:
“The Macondo incident was a tragedy that claimed the lives of 11 people, caused injury to many others and had a widespread environmental impact.
Our response to the incident needs to go beyond deepwater drilling. There are lessons for us relating to the way we operate, the way we organize our company and the way we manage risk. As I take up my new role I am aware of two things. First, there is a pressing need to rebuild trust in BP around the world. Second, BP’s people have both the commitment and the capability to rebuild that trust.”
This press releases raises more questions than it answers, of course.
What is the extent of the power that this unit will have? How will this change the way that BP does business, especially when the share holders are anxious to see prices go back up?
BP really couldn’t do anything else. With billions of dollars at stake and confidence in BP at an all time low, it needed to do something “drastic” to show that they were serious about changing the way they have been doing things for so long. The world was watching and the world wanted to know what BP was going to do to make sure that the type of accident that recently claimed 11 lives and negatively impacted the environment for years to come would not be repeated.
The question of whether this unit will do more than write reports and try to look like they are making changes is yet to be determined. Unfortunately when it comes down to a battle between caution and dollars, especially when most of the changes that are called for will be called “overeacting”, the record hasn’t been good.
What do you think??