New Test Predicts Hearing Loss

One of the mysteries of hearing loss is why some people lose their hearing while working in a high noise environment and why some others, working in the same environment, don’t.

A new test that measures the Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS) seems to be able to predict who will and who won’t suffer hearing loss.

Apparently in some people, the cells of the inner ear recover quicker than others when exposed to high frequencies. Those who recover quickly are apparently not as prone to hearing loss as those who take longer to recover.

The article, published in the Occupational & Environment Medicine is available here.

Test your hearing and find out how hearing loss happens

We are lose a little bit of our hearing as we get older but we also all know that really old man who can hear everything as well as that younger person who needs us to repeat everything.

How does hearing loss happen? Why do some people hear better than others? How do I test my hearing without spending a lot of money?

Check out this youtube video to test your hearing and to see what probably caused you to lose some of your hearing.


New Test Method for Needlestick Resistance of Protective Gloves

A new test method has just been standardized for needlestick resistance of protective gloves. It is available as a free download on the irsst website.

This from the irsst website:


Hand injuries, which represent approximately 21% of CSST-compensated injuries, affect several professions, including blue collar workers, prison guards, and police officers, who run a high risk of being pricked by contaminated needles. Current standardized test methods do not correctly evaluate the resistance of protective gloves to these punctures and do not take into account the effect of the presence of a hand inside the glove. The aim of this study is to develop a method for characterizing the actual resistance of gloves to puncture by very pointed objects such as needles, with this method later becoming the subject of a standard. It will also determine the degree of dexterity and sensitivity that this protective equipment offers to workers. The data collected will help users choose the puncture-resistant gloves most appropriate for their task, thus promoting their wear and helping to reduce the number of injuries to workers hands. These results will be exportable to other activity sectors, including the hospital environment, and will be useful to manufacturers for improving their products.

Free download (PDF 1682 Ko)

January is National Radon Action Month

Radon: A Safety Hazard You Have Rarely Heard Of

The safety reason is that January has been designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as National Radon Action Month. Here’s some important information about radon and health to pass along.

Radon is a radioactive gas.  It comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. It typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home traps radon inside, where it can build up. Any home may have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements.

Radon is very common for our area (Zone 1 and 2 on the EPA Radon Zone map), if you live in the Plateau area you should be aware of the threat that radon gas poses. Radon gas is a natural occurring geological event and can be radioactive and in tightly insulated houses it can accumulate to concentrations that pose a health threat. If you inhale the gas into your lungs, its decay can increase your chance of getting lung cancer. A study reported in the summer of 2010 by the National Safety Council and EPA estimated that between 15,000 and 22,000 deaths a year could be attributed to radon.

The Map was developed using five factors to determine radon potential: 1) indoor radon measurements; 2) geology; 3) aerial radioactivity; 4) soil permeability; and 5) foundation type. Radon potential assessment is based on geologic provinces. Radon Index Matrix is the quantitative assessment of radon potential. Confidence Index Matrix shows the quantity and quality of the data used to assess radon potential. Geologic Provinces were adapted to county boundaries for the Map of Radon Zones.

Zone 1 counties have a predicted average indoor radon screening level greater than 4 pCi/L (pico curies per liter) (red zones) Highest Potential
Zone 2 counties have a predicted average indoor radon screening level between 2 and 4 pCi/L (orange zones) Moderate Potential
Zone 3 counties have a predicted average indoor radon screening level less than 2 pCi/L (yellow zones) Low Potential


Radon atoms are fairly short-lived. Over the course of several days a radon atom becomes a lead atom. While it is a radon atom, however, it is a gas. Because radon is a gas, it can seep from the ground into the air in a house. The primary way that radon enters a house is through the foundation (crawl space, basement) by a variety of paths:

  • cracks in basement floors
  • drains
  • sump pumps
  • exposed soil
  • construction joints (mortar, floor-wall)
  • loose fitting pipes

Radon may also enter the air of a house from well water, but this is a minor source compared to that coming in through the foundation. .

What are the hazards? Radon is a naturally geographic occurring gas. You can’t see, smell, or taste it. Outdoors it’s harmlessly dispersed in the air, but when trapped inside a building, it becomes a health problem. If high levels of radon are trapped in your home, for example, it could make your whole family sick.

The main hazard of radon is lung cancer. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, radon is responsible for an alarming number of new cases of lung cancer every year. That danger increases if you have no knowledge of this hazard. Some people have never even heard of radon, much less that it could be present in their homes, and affect the health and that of their families.

What can you do about radon? EPA NSC and the Surgeon General urge all Americans to protect their health by testing their homes for radon. Testing for high levels is simple and inexpensive. Radon test kits that meet EPA requirements are available at local hardware stores and home improvement stores, many kits for less than $25. If the test indicates dangerous levels of radon in a home, prompt action should be taken to correct the problem. This generally requires the services of an experienced professional contractor.

Because radon levels can vary from day to day and from season to season, testing can be done on the short-term (two to 90 days) or long-term (greater than three months). Short-term tests are best done if the results are needed quickly and should be followed by another short-term test. Long-term tests will yield better information on a home’s average year-round radon levels. Radon test devices are placed in the lowest occupied level of the home.

Changes in air pressure pull radon in

Houses act like large chimneys – as the air in the house gets warmer, it rises to leak out the attic openings and around the upper windows. This change in air pressure creates a small suction at the lower level of the house, pulling radon out of the soil and into the home. Even sealing basement cracks with caulk can’t stop it from entering – just a few tiny gaps or pinholes in the caulking to can let radon in.

Radon Test Devices
Radon tests detect either radon gas directly or the daughter products of radon’s radioactive decay. There are two categories of radon test devices, passive and active. Passive devices require no electrical power and generally trap radon or its daughter products for later analysis by a laboratory. Passive devices include charcoal canisters, charcoal liquid scintillation detectors, alpha track detectors and electrets ion detectors.

  • Charcoal canister and charcoal liquid scintillation devices absorb radon or its products on to the charcoal. In the laboratory, the radioactive particles emitted from the charcoal are counted directly by a sodium iodide counter or converted to light in a liquid scintillation medium and counted in a scintillation detector.
  • The alpha track detectors have a plastic film that gets etched by the alpha particles that strike it. In the laboratory, the plastic is chemically treated to make the tracks visible, and then the tracks are counted.
  • Electrets ion detectors have a Teflon disc, which is statically charged. When an ion generated from radon decay strikes the Teflon disc, the electrical charge is reduced. In the laboratory, the charge reduction is measured and the radon level is calculated.


Typically, all of the passive devices, except electrets ion detectors, are available in hardware stores or by mail; electrets ion detectors are usually only available through laboratories. The passive devices are generally less expensive than active devices and may require little or no special training for their use. Of the passive devices, the charcoal canisters and charcoal liquid scintillation detectors are typically used for short-term tests.

In contrast to passive devices, active devices need electrical power and include continuous monitoring devices (continuous radon monitors, continuous working level monitors). Active devices detect and record radon or its daughter products continuously. They are generally more expensive and require professionally trained testers for their operation.


Radon levels in the average home are about 1.25 picocuries/liter of air (pCi/L). If a radon test discloses levels of 4 pCi/L or greater, then some action should be taken to reduce the radon level. Radon can be reduced by preventing its entry into the home or by removing it once it has entered the home. The general solution involves active ventilation either in the basement or below the slab of the home.

Radon Removal

A variety of methods are used to reduce indoor radon levels, from sealing cracks in floors and walls to changing the flow of air into the home. Simple systems use pipes and fans to remove radon gas from beneath the concrete floor and foundation before it can enter the home. Radon is then vented out above the roof, where it safely disperses.

Other methods may also work in your home. The right radon removal system depends on the design of your home and other factors. Lowering high radon levels requires technical knowledge and special skills. You should use a professional who is trained to fix radon problems. The cost of making repairs to reduce radon depends on how your home was built and the extent of the radon problem, but most homes can be fixed for a reasonable cost.

How can you and your workers get more information about radon? EPA’s website at . You can also call the agency’s Washington, D.C. phone number 202-343-9370, or contact an EPA regional office (see the blue pages of your phone book).

EPA supports the following hotlines to best serve consumers with radon-related questions and concerns.

  • 1-800-SOSRADON (1-800-767-7236)* Purchase radon test kits by phone.
  • 1-800-55RADON (557-2366)* Get live help for your radon questions.
  • 1-800-644-6999* Radon Fit-It Hotline. For general information on fixing or reducing the radon level in your home.
  • 1-800-426-4791 Safe Drinking Water Hotline. For general information on drinking water, radon in water, testing and treatment, and standards for radon drinking water. Operated under a contract with EPA
  • 1-866 528 3187 National Hispanic Indoor Air Quality Hotline

Why It Matters…

–Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers in America and the second leading cause of lung cancer overall (smokers and nonsmokers). -According to the U.S. Surgeon General, radon claims the lives of between 15,000 and 22,000 Americans each year.

–A simple, inexpensive test can warn of dangerous levels of radon in the home.

–Most of you probably aren’t even aware of the risk, or what to do about it.

Information provided by and with approval of the EPA, National Safety Council, Office of the Surgeon General and BLR Safety Ezine

Today’s blog post comes to us courtesy of Ken Oswald
Safety and Security Manager for Plateau


Nationwide Emergency Alert System Test on Nov. 9th

The FCC has announced that they will be conducting the first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS), which is scheduled to take place on November 9th, 2011 at 2:00 PM Eastern Standard Time.

From the FCC consumer facts sheet:

What exactly is the EAS?

The Emergency Alert System is a media communications-based alerting system that is designed to transmit emergency alerts and warnings to the American public at the national, Tribal, state and local levels. EAS participants broadcast alerts and warnings regarding weather threats, child abductions and other types of emergencies. EAS alerts are transmitted over television and radio broadcast, satellite television and satellite radio, cable television and wireline video services.

When is the EAS used and when would a national EAS alert be sent?

The EAS is often used by state and local emergency managers to alert the public about emergencies and weather events. The system provides the ability to send messages regionally or nationally, though it has never been tested at these levels. A major disaster such as an earthquake or tsunami could require the use of the system to send life-saving information to the public.

Why do we need a nationwide test?

Although local and state components of the EAS are tested on a weekly and monthly basis, there has never been an end-to-end nationwide test of the system. We need to know that the system will work as intended should public safety officials ever need to send an alert or warning to a large region of the United States. Only a complete, top-down test of the EAS can provide an appropriate diagnosis of the system’s performance.

How will the national EAS test be conducted?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), along with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will conduct the nationwide test on November 9, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. eastern standard time. The alert will be transmitted throughout the country and will be monitored by the EAS participants. After the test has been completed, the EAS participants will report back to the FCC on the results of the test.

What will people see and hear during the test?

Although the nationwide EAS test may resemble the periodic monthly EAS tests that most consumers are familiar with, there will be some differences in what consumers may see or hear, which is one reason for conducting a nationwide EAS test. During the test, the public will hear a message indicating “this is a test”. The audio message will be the same for everyone, however due to limitations of the EAS, the video test message may not be the same and may not indicate “this is a test”. This is due to the use of a “live” national code – the same code that would be used in an actual emergency. Also, the background image that appears on video screens may indicate “this is a test” but in some cases there may be no image at all. FEMA and the FCC plan to reach out to organizations representing people with hearing disabilities to prepare that community for the national test. In addition, FEMA and the FCC will work with EAS participants to explore whether there are solutions to address this limitation.

How long will the test last?

We anticipate that the test will last approximately 3 minutes.

Why is the national test being conducted at this particular date and time?

In order to minimize disruption and confusion during the EAS test, it is being conducted on November 9 because this date is near the end of hurricane season and before the severe winter weather season begins. The 2 p.m. EST broadcast will minimize disruption during rush hours while ensuring that the test occurs during working hours across the country.

Will the test involve mobile communications devices?

No. The test will involve only those communications service providers – broadcast radio and television, cable television, satellite radio and television and wireline video services – that participate in the EAS.


Take the Fall Protection IQ Test

Think you know about fall protection? Up on all the regulations? What about your employees?

There’s a simple way to find out, take the Fall Protection IQ Test by Miller Fall Protection (Miller was recently acquired by Honeywell).

There are 15 questions some simple, some not so simple. Examples are:

At what height are workers required to wear fall protection according to the Federal OSHA Construction standard? (Question # 1)


According to ANSI Z359.13, an energy absorber on a 6 ft. lanyard can deploy up to: (Question # 11)

The questions are multiple choice.

Take the test yourself and have you employees take it. At best it’ll let you know that everyone knows the basics, at worse, it’ll let you know what to focus in on during your next training.


Are You a Safe DIY-er?

Last week I gave you a link to a quiz for you to take to see if you knew about table saw safety (See “Table Saw Safety Quiz“). This week, instead of pointing you to the Fine Woodworking website, I’m going to point you to the TLC website for a “Are you a Safe DIY-er?” quiz.

Once again, you’ve got 10 questions to answer. They’re pretty straight forward and easy to figure out but it’s a great way to be reminded about some basic safety rules that you may have forgotten.

If you like quizzes you can take a bunch more on the TLC “getsmart challenge” section of their website. They don’t have to do with safety but maybe they’ll help round out your education on a wide variety of subjects.

Spirometry is important according to OSHA and NIOSH

Spirometry, most of us have no idea what the word even is (my spell checker certainly didn’t). Turns out, however that it’s pretty important when it comes to measuring lung health.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) came out with documents designed to drive home the importance of spirometry, a test that measures lung capacity and how well we move air in and out of our lungs.

One document designed for employers “clarifies what spirometry is, when it is needed, and critical elements that employers can use to evaluate the quality of spirometry services provided to their workers.”

The other document designed for workers “explains to workers the importance of taking a spirometry test, what to do during the test, and their right to receive an explanation and copy of test results.”

One can’t help but wonder if this is eventually going to lead to mandatory spirometry in addition to the medical evaluation prior to fit testing.

Table Saw Safety Quiz

Fine Woodworking’s website has a fun little quiz that you can take to test your knowledge of safety when it comes to table saws.

The test, found here consists of 10 questions.

Here’s a sample of the types of questions:

The proper place to stand when operating a tablesaw is:

  1. In line with the blade
  2. Leaning over the blade
  3. Between the fence and the blade
  4. Out of the path of the workpiece and blade

Go test your knowledge and have fun!