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NIOSH eNews – March 2013

Volume 10 Number 11 March 2013


From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH

A Sound Investment

Hearing is important and hearing loss, with implications on communication, employment opportunities, job performance, injury-risk, depression, and anxiety, places a significant burden on society. Occupational hearing loss represents a substantial portion of all hearing impairments and is nearly always permanent. It is also nearly always preventable. Reducing worker exposure to hazardous noise is a sound investment.

Concern about occupational hearing loss was highlighted recently when the NIOSH study “Prevalence of Hearing Loss in the United States by Industry” was ranked as one of the Top Read Articles of 2012 on . This report was a result of our ongoing effort to inventory audiometric datasets and analyze the epidemiology of occupational hearing loss in collaboration with industry partners and health services providers. While this study confirmed the continuing epidemic of occupational hearing loss, other NIOSH efforts provide hope that investing in simple but innovative strategies can yield high return in hearing loss prevention.

Aware that noise control initiatives such as Buy-Quiet and Quiet-by-Design have demonstrated a strong return on investment, NIOSH created an award program to recognize effective and innovative initiatives, share success stories, and encourage others to follow suit. In partnership with the National Hearing Conservation Association, NIOSH awarded the first Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Awards™ in 2009.

On February 22, I had the pleasure to present the fifth round of awards at the 38th Annual Hearing Conservation Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. This year’s recipients confirm that the benefits of noise control go far beyond the prevention of hearing loss and make good business sense.

The recipient of the 2013 Safe-in-Sound Award for Excellence is the Vulcan Materials Company (VMC). Recognized for the implementation of a quality, data-driven hearing loss prevention program, VMC has embraced innovative and cost-effective noise measurement and control strategies. VMC is leading advancements in noise monitoring strategies for mobile workers by integrating technologies such as GPS and video in noise measurement protocols. I am confident that these novel approaches will benefit other industries in the future.

Two Safe-in-Sound Awards for Innovation were also presented. One was presented to Johns Manville (JM), a Berkshire Hathaway company, for their use of metrics to track noise exposure levels along with noise control engineering training. The JM “Hearing Conservation Pyramid” approach is readily adaptable to other industries. The second award for innovation went to Dangerous Decibels®, a program dedicated to the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus. It was recognized for the development, widespread dissemination, and cultural adaptation of innovative training strategies shown to positively change knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors in youth and adults, including occupational settings. Applying solid scientific and theoretical basis into all program aspects emphasizes the need to protect hearing for a “lifetime” and bridges the occupational and nonoccupational noise risks.

These remarkable experiences (as well as those of past award winners) can be viewed at You will also find testimonials from past award recipients describing the impact the award has made on their hearing loss prevention efforts. I hope the return on investment illustrated by our Safe-In-Sound award winners encourages other businesses to take noise levels into account when purchasing new machinery.

This approach is known as Buy-Quiet. NIOSH has led efforts to promote Buy-Quiet initiatives including the development of a Power Tools Database to make noise data available to tool buyers, users, and manufacturers of powered hand tools. NIOSH also held a Buy-Quiet Workshop in 2012 and is developing additional tools for use by organizations when implementing Buy-Quiet programs.

NIOSH also conducts other research on occupational hearing loss. NIOSH researchers developed an impulse-noise measurement system, which evaluates and analyzes such exposures. Impulse noise is the most pressing issue in risk characterization, as there is no universally accepted standard that defines impulse noise or how to measure it accurately. This system has been used to evaluate impulse noise at firing ranges. In addition, NIOSH researchers developed recommendations to protect law enforcement and military personnel from impulse noise at firing ranges. To learn more, visit our firing range topic page.

When noise control is not sufficient to reduce worker exposures to safe levels, hearing protection devices (HPDs) are required. NIOSH developed a hearing protector fit-testing system called HPD Well-Fit™ to estimate the attenuation of devices. HPD Well-Fit™ allows a hearing conservation professional to quickly and accurately assess the attenuation of essentially any commercially available earplug and to use these data to estimate a worker’s noise exposure.

In 2013, look for the revised NIOSH Hearing Protector Device Compendium, a comprehensive searchable database to help workers and safety professionals select the most appropriate product for their specific environment and exposure scenario. This web tool identifies devices by type, manufacturer, and noise reduction ratings, among other features, and will be linked to other NIOSH products and online training.

In summary, NIOSH is using a range of mechanisms to improve the nation’s hearing health by developing new tools and awards, conducting and evaluating research, disseminating information through traditional publications and social media, and including a hearing loss themed series at NIOSH Science Blogand Twitter @NIOSHNoise. We look forward to opportunities to further serve this national need and hope you will keep hearing from us.

For more information on NIOSH research and tools related to noise and hearing loss prevention, visit /niosh/topics/noise.

Avoiding the Dangers of Bathtub Refinishing

In February, NIOSH and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a joint hazard alert titled Methylene Chloride Hazards for Bathtub Refinishers. At least 15 workers have died since 2000 as a result of using stripping agents containing methylene chloride during bathtub refinishing. One death was identified this past month by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and NIOSH. Many stripping products (including those that may also be available to consumers) contain high percentages of methylene chloride. Methylene chloride is extremely dangerous when not used properly. Alternative products and processes exist for bathtub refinishing. Products containing methylene chloride should be avoided when possible. To learn more about the dangers, download the Alert, or provide comment, visit our blog or contact Ron Hall at

NIOSH Announces the 1st Release of the NIOSH Industry and Occupation Computerized Coding System

The NIOSH Industry and Occupation Computerized Coding System (NIOCCS) is a web-based software tool designed to efficiently, accurately, and uniformly translate industry and occupation text found on employment, vital statistics, and health records to standardized industry and occupation codes. This system is used by organizations that collect and/or evaluate information using industry and occupation data. NIOCCS is available free of charge and requires only Internet access and a web browser for use. Users are required to register for a NIOCCS account if they wish to upload files of records for coding. For more information go to

Journal Highlights Significant Occupational Injury Research Accomplishments

NIOSH has joined with the Journal of Safety Research to release a special issue highlighting research projects presented at the 2011 National Occupational Injury Research Symposium (NOIRS). The special issue provides readers with a broad spectrum of the research projects presented during the symposium, ranging from surveillance work to intervention evaluation projects. For more information, go to

NIOSH Announces Meeting on Respiratory Protection for Healthcare Workers

On June 18, 2013, NIOSH will hold a meeting for stakeholders in Atlanta on respiratory protection for healthcare workers. This meeting will focus on a theme of improving healthcare worker compliance with respiratory protection and this gathering provides an opportunity to exchange knowledge and ideas between professionals, policy makers, and manufacturers involved in the field of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

New Flu Transmission Study Published

Why is influenza more prevalent in the cold and dry months than in the warmer and more humid months? Some studies suggest that the degree of humidity may influence the transmission of flu. In new findings that add to the scientific evidence needed to assess those questions, NIOSH researchers used “coughing” and “breathing” manikins in a controlled environment to investigate whether humidity contributes to the risk of airborne transmission of influenza on aerosols from coughs. Under these conditions, the study found that at a higher relative humidity, the influenza virus inactivated rapidly after coughing occurs. The study was part of NIOSH’s program of research to understand and mitigate health care workers’ potential occupational risks for flu. The new study is posted online in the journal PLOS ONE at:

Monthly Features

FACE Reports

Farmer Crushed by Corn Head When Disengaging it from Combine
Not blocking elevated equipment, the lack of inspecting equipment prior to use, and not contacting distributors to identify new safety features that may have been available on existing equipment were some of the factors that led to the death of the farmer.

Farmer Caught in Compression Rollers of Hay Baler
Failure in disengaging the power takeoff (PTO), setting the brake, shutting off the tractor, pocketing the tractor key, identifying and controlling nip point hazards, identifying original and retrofitted machine guards and safety devices, and reviewing hazards associated with the operation of the machine before operating were some of the factors that led to the death of the farmer.

Farmer Engulfed in Soybeans while Operating Grain Vacuum in Steel Bin
Entering a bin when working alone, not notifying coworkers of a planned entry, the lack of a response plan in place prior to entering bins, no training on emergency response measures, failure in assessing potential hazards, not maintaining a leveled surface of grain as grain was removed, and not following confined space entry procedures when entering bins were some of the factors that led to the death of the farmer.

Convenience Store Cook Died from Smoke Inhalation
Not installing and maintaining smoke or smoke/heat detectors, not reviewing emergency evacuation plans with workers, failure in incorporating emergency exit needs when designing store security, not ensuring emergency exit doors were operable with a single action, not marking emergency pathways with appropriate lighting, and not removing malfunctioning electrical equipment from service were some of the factors that led to the death of the cook.

Farmer Dies from Injuries after Being Attacked by Bull
Failure in maintaining an awareness of the location and behavior of bulls when entering a holding area or pasture, working alone, failure in recognizing scenarios and behaviors indicating a bull is likely to threaten or attack, and not culling a bull from the herd upon first display of aggressive or frenzied behavior were some of the factors that led to the death of the farmer.

Truck Driver Dies of Thermal Injuries after his Truck Crashes Into Concrete Median
Not recognizing the signs of fatigue, distracted driving, the fuel tank location on the truck, and not maintaining space around the truck to avoid driving too close to stationary objects and other vehicles were some of the factors that led to the death of the truck driver when his tractor trailer crashed into a concrete median on the interstate and burst into flames.

Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program Reports

Fire Chief Suffers Sudden Cardiac Death after Physical Fitness Training—Washington
A 47-year-old male career fire chief responded to two medical calls and then performed apparatus inspection and maintenance and station duty during his regular work shift. After work, the chief exercised at the local gym before going home. A few hours later, he commented that he did not feel well and then collapsed. The chief was transported via ambulance to the local hospital where he was pronounced dead. NIOSH investigators concluded that the physical stress of performing physical fitness training may have triggered a cardiac arrhythmia and a possible heart attack resulting in his sudden cardiac death.

Fire Fighter Suffers Sudden Cardiac Death While Performing Driver/Operator Duties at a Residential Structure Fire—New Jersey
A 58-year-old male volunteer driver/operator (D/O) responded with his fire department to a residential structure fire. A short time after they arrived on scene, the D/O was found slumped over the steering wheel. On-scene paramedics removed the D/O from the truck and found him unresponsive, not breathing, and without a pulse. The D/O was transported to the local hospital where he was pronounced dead. NIOSH investigators concluded that the physical stress of responding to and working at the fire may have triggered his sudden cardiac death.

News from Our Partners

New Reports from Florida Occupational Health and Safety Program

The Florida Occupational Health and Safety Program collaborated with the University of North Florida to release two reports on the costs of work-related hospitalization and emergency department visits for the years 2006–2010. The first report focused on total gross charges ( The second report examined gross charges for occupational injury and illness visits that were associated with chronic diseases (

New Report on Asbestos and Silicosis in Texas

Asbestosis and silicosis are two of the serious occupational conditions that are reportable in Texas. From 2004 to 2009, the burden of asbestosis and silicosis in Texas, as measured both by age-adjusted hospital discharge rates and age-adjusted mortality rates, have been decreasing. Implementation of asbestos- and silica-related regulations, improved workplace practices, and the overall decreased use of asbestos products could in part be responsible for the observed decreases, the state report said.

AIHA to Host Global Exposure Limit Webinar

The American Industrial Hygiene Association will host a webinar on April 11 from 1pm to 3pm on the “New Era of Global Exposure Limit Setting Processes—Harmonization on An OEL Hierarchy Approach.” /

Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program Update

HHE logoNew Health Hazard Evaluation Report Available

At the request of a union, HHE investigators evaluated concerns about indoor lighting, indoor environmental quality, and job stress at a call center. Investigators determined that although the level of light met the requirements listed in the building lease, the lighting design may produce glare in some areas. In evaluating the ventilation system, investigators found that air was not evenly distributed to all areas of the call center. Investigators also found that job stress and employee concern for their health at work was moderately high. Investigators recommended that the employer:

  • Try different lighting patterns and ask employees for input.
  • Evaluate the uneven airflow. Then conduct a test and balance on the system.
  • Give employees feedback to improve their communications with customers. Investigators recommended that employees.
  • Seek counseling for symptoms of anxiety, anger, depression, or other mental health issues.
  • Debrief with a supervisor or coworker immediately after a call with an unfriendly customer.
  • Immediately report suspicious behavior or expressions of violence to a supervisor.

A link to this report can be found at /niosh/hhe/whats_new.html.


Revised National Healthcare and Social Assistance Agenda

The NORA Healthcare and Social Assistance Sector Council has published a revised agenda to guide research and other activities to better prevent injuries and illnesses in the sector. The main revisions added goals for the veterinary medicine and non-farm animal care industries. The goals are applicable to workers in other industries, including zoo and laboratory animal care workers. Review the goals at Please send comments to .

Foundation Calls for Mining Safety and Health Research Concepts

The National Mining Sector Councildeveloped the National Mining Agenda. Its goals overlap many of the priorities in the first call for proposals of the Alpha Foundation for the Improvement of Mine Safety and Health, Inc. Researchers seeking Foundation funding should submit a concept paper by March 15. See for more information.

r2p Corner

r2p logoNew Partnership with the French National Research and Safety Institute

Dr. John Howard, director of NIOSH, and Dr. Stéphane Pimbert, director of INRS, the French National Research and Safety Institute for the Prevention of Occupational Accidents and Diseases (Institut national de recherche ed de sécurité) have signed a partnership agreement committing to cooperate in sharing knowledge and preventive measures to improve worker safety and health. An initial activity will be the keynote presentation by Dr. Jean Meade, NIOSH medical officer, entitled “Understanding Cutaneous Occupational Allergy: A Necessary Step for Prevention” at the INRS April 2013 Conference on Occupational Allergies in Nancy, France. See for additional information about INRS.

What’s New on the NIOSH Science Blog? Join the Discussion Today!

Federal Register Notices of Public Meetings and Public Comment

Request For Information: Update Of NIOSH Nanotechnology Strategic Plan For Research And Guidance

The deadline to submit comments is March 19.

Request for Information on Edel-Kindwall Caisson Tables for Preventing Decompression Illness in Construction Workers

The deadline to submit comments is March 29.

Proposed Data Collections on Virtual Reality to Train and Assess Emergency Responders

The notice was posted February 25. Written comments should be received within 60 days from that date.

For a full listing of NIOSH official publications for rules, proposed rules, and notices, go to /niosh/fedreg.html.

New NIOSH Communication Products

NIOSH Factsheet: Solid Waste Industry (Spanish) Hoja informativa de NIOSH: Industria de los desechos sólidos

OSHA/NIOSH Hazard Alert: Methylene Chloride Hazards for Bathtub Refinishers

NIOSH released a series of fact sheets on Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs):

Upcoming Conferences and Workshops

Fire Industry Equipment Research Organization Fire PPE Symposium—Look for us!
March 4–6, Raleigh, NC

2013 Indiana Safety and Health Conference and Expo
March 11–13, Indianapolis, IN

23rd Annual Art and Science of Health Promotion Conference
March 18–22, Hilton Head, SC

IAFC Wildland Urban Interface 2013
March 19–21, Reno, NV

Safety in Action Conference
March 21–23, Nashville, TN

2013 National Safety Council Texas Safety Conference & Expo
April 7–9, Galveston, TX

American Association of Occupational Health Nurses—Look for us!
April 15–18, Las Vegas, NV

Michigan Safety Conference
April 16–17, Grand Rapids, MI

Fire Department Instructors Conference
April 22–27, Indianapolis, IN

American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine—Look for us!
April 28–May 1, Orlando, FL

IAFC Fire-Rescue Med
May 3–7, Las Vegas, NV

Institute for Healthcare Advancement (IHA), 12th Annual Health Literacy Conference
May 8–10, Irvine, CA

West Virginia Safety Expo
May 8–11, Charleston, WV

Texas Workplace Safety and Health Conference
May 14–16, Austin, TX

APA Work, Stress, and Health 2013: Protecting and Promoting Total Worker HealthTM
May 16–19, Los Angeles, CA

AIHCE 2013—The Art and Science of Professional Judgment
May 18–23, Montreal, Canada

2nd International Conference and Exhibition on Occupational Health and Safety
May 21–22, Beijing, China

6th Occupational and Environmental Exposures of Skin to Chemicals Conference
June 2–5, Amsterdam, Netherlands

National Homeland Security Conference
June 4–7, Los Angeles, CA

Association for Professionals in Infection Control, 40th Annual Conference—Look for us, booth 128!
June 7–10, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

NFPA Conference and Accessibility Expo
June 10–13, Chicago, IL

New England Fire/Rescue/EMS 2013
June 19–23, Springfield, MA

American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), Safety 2013 Conference
June 24–27, Las Vegas, NV

8th International Conference on Prevention of Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders
July 8–11, Busan, Korea

IAFC Missouri Valley Annual Conference
July 10–12, Colorado Springs, CO

FBI National Academy Associates Annual Training Conference
July 27–30, Orlando, FL

American Correctional Association Congress
August 9–14, National Harbor, MD

Fraternal Order of Police—Look for us, booth 112!
August 10–13, Cincinnati, OH

International Association of Firefighters Redmond Symposium—Look for us!
August 21–25, Denver, CO

29th Annual National VPPPA Conference
August 26–29, Nashville, TN

World Safety Organization
September 9–11, San Diego, CA

Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare—Look for us!
September 11–14, Orlando, FL

National Tactical Officers Association, Kansas City, MO—Look for us, booth 421!
September 22–27, Kansas City, MO

ICOH SC Joint Conference
September 23–26, São Paulo, Brazil

AIHA Fall Conference 2013 Your Source for Scientific, Management & Technical Knowledge
September 28–October 2, Miami, FL

2013 NSC Congress & Expo
September 28–October 4, Chicago, IL

International Association of Chiefs of Police
October 19–23, Philadelphia, PA

61st Annual International Association of Emergency Managers
October 25–30, Reno, NV

AIHA 2013 Asia Pacific OH+EHS Conference + Exhibition
October 29–31, Singapore

A comprehensive list of upcoming conferences can be found at

Did You Know?

Beginning this month, NIOSH will offer a series of free, confidential health screenings to coal miners throughout Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. The screenings are intended to provide early detection of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, also known as black lung, a serious but preventable occupational lung disease in coal miners caused by breathing respirable coal mine dust. NIOSH encourages miners and their families to find out additional information about the Enhanced Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program at You may also call the toll free number (1-888-480-4042) with questions.

Please send your comments and suggestions to us by visiting /niosh/contact/.

This newsletter is published monthly via email by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to inform members of the public health community as well as interested members of the general public of Institute related news, new publications, and updates on existing programs and initiatives.