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NIOSH eNews – December 2012


Volume 10 Number 8 December 2012


From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH

Roughnecks, Roustabouts, and Researchers: NIOSH’s Oil and Gas Extraction Safety and Health Program Protects Workers

The past decade has seen a dramatic increase in oil and natural gas production in the United States. Since 2003, the number of rigs actively drilling in the U.S. (a measure of industry activity) has increased by 92%. This increase in drilling activity has provided employment for many, but it is also correlated with more than 800 worker fatalities and an elevated fatality rate (27.1 per 100,000 workers during 2003-2010). In 2008, NIOSH released a study that characterized fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industry and found a direct relationship between the number of drilling rigs and the industry’s fatality rate.

Since that time NIOSH has developed a research program for the upstream oil and gas industry that addresses the major causes of injury and illness among this population of workers. This month, representatives from dozens of oil and gas extraction companies will gather in Dallas, TX to attend the 3rd OSHA Oil and Gas Safety Conference. This bi-annual event is the largest oil and gas safety conference in the U.S. and will feature multiple concurrent sessions on occupational safety and health in the oilfield. NIOSH’s Oil and Gas Extraction Sector Program will be well represented by three researchers presenting on the major research areas of the program including motor vehicle safety, chemical hazard assessment and control, and Hispanic oil and gas workers. I will also be there, giving a keynote presentation with Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels.

Motor Vehicle Safety

Motor vehicle crashes account for the largest number of fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industry every year. Remote worksites, extreme weather, and long hours all contribute to the risk oil and gas workers face in their vehicles every day. NIOSH researchers worked to describe the problem and communicate their findings through the NORA Oil and Gas Extraction Sector Council and other industry partnerships and trade groups such as the STEPS Network, the International Association of Drilling Contractors, and the Association of Energy Servicing Companies. Most recently, we have concluded a study of In-vehicle Monitoring Systems and their use in reducing motor vehicle crashes and injuries in this industry. In collaboration with motor vehicle safety experts from industry and within NIOSH, researchers have developed a NIOSH numbered publication titled “Implementing an In-vehicle Monitoring Program: A Guide for the Oil and Gas Extraction Industry”, which will be released soon. This guide provides step-by-step instructions for selecting, implementing, and evaluating an In-vehicle Monitoring Program. This guide joins two motor vehicle safety DVDs developed by the NIOSH Oil and Gas Extraction Program: “Take Pride in Your Job: Seat Belts” and “Move It! Rig Move Safety for Truckers”.

Chemical Hazard Exposure Assessment and Control

NIOSH is leading the research to characterize chemical hazards in the oil and gas extraction industry with the “NIOSH Field Effort to Assess Chemical Exposures in Oil and Gas Workers”. Researchers from NIOSH have visited numerous well sites in wide-ranging states over the past three years to characterize chemical exposures to workers during hydraulic fracturing operations. As previously reported on the NIOSH blog, NIOSH researchers found elevated levels of silica exposure during hydraulic fracturing operations. Since that time, we have shared our research findings with industry, and we have worked collaboratively with industry to develop engineering and administrative controls for silica. In addition, NIOSH developed and successfully tested a control technology, the Mini-baghouse Retrofit Assembly, which reduces the amount of silica dust released from sand moving machines during hydraulic fracking operations. This technology is currently patent pending and NIOSH has received applications to license and commercialize this new technology. Based on our research findings, the industry moved rapidly to establish a “Respirable Crystalline Silica Focus Group” that has encouraged dialogue between NIOSH and the industry, helped companies understand silica exposures, and developed a guidance document on actions employees and employers can take to prevent exposures. For more information about this area of research, please contact Eric Esswein ( at the NIOSH Western States Office.

Other areas of research by the NIOSH Oil and Gas Extraction Sector Program include injuries and fatalities from falls and fires and explosions during drilling and well servicing operations and a continued focus on motor vehicle safety. The chemical exposure team is also expanding their work to look at exposures during other well servicing and drilling operations. A common thread through all of this research is collaboration with industry partners and with the members of the NORA Oil and Gas Extraction Sector Council, and a focus on producing practical outputs for workers including training materials and informational products.

For more information on oil and gas extraction research at NIOSH, visit the program’s website and follow the program on their new Twitter feed @nioshoilandgas.

Patient Safety and Worker Safety in Healthcare

The Joint Commission, which accredits and certifies more than 19,000 healthcare organizations and programs in the United States, announced a new monograph exploring opportunities for synergy, collaboration, and innovation in improving worker and patient safety. The original idea for the monograph came out of discussions among NIOSH and its diverse partners in the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Healthcare and Social Assistance Sector Council. NIOSH participated in a subsequent Joint Commission workshop to identify examples of integrated approaches to patient safety and worker safety and health.

Attention Electronic Waste Recyclers—We Need Your Assistance!

The Health Hazard Evaluation Program is evaluating occupational health and safety in the electronic waste recycling industry. This project has two components. The first component is a pilot study to survey a random sample of up to 100 e-waste recycling facilities across the United States to learn more about e-waste processes, medical monitoring, engineering and other controls, and personal protective equipment used by employees. If you are called by our contractor, we hope you will participate in the telephone survey. The results will be used to direct future research efforts with the goal of minimizing occupational hazards in this industry.

The second component of this project is to conduct health hazard evaluations (HHE) at three e-waste recycling facilities to observe work processes and practices, review safety and health programs, and perform environmental sampling and biological monitoring. Contact us if you want to be considered for an evaluation. At the conclusion of the HHEs, reports will be prepared that will include recommendations to address any identified hazards.

For more information, contact Diana Ceballos at

Study Reveals Risks for Low-wage Workers

A new obesity study uncovers risks for low-wage workers. Rather than focusing on sedentary lifestyles, a New England community partnership study, funded by NIOSH and the National Institutes of Health, on obesity/overweight and the role of working conditions looks at low-wage workers toiling in heavy labor and how their work conditions contribute to weight gain and obesity. Read the full report.

Let Your Voice be Heard

Comments are now being accepted on a draft of Stage 3 of Meaningful Use of Electronic Health Records from the HHS Health IT Policy Committee. One issue under consideration that NIOSH supports is the inclusion of industry and occupation data in Stage 3. The deadline to submit comments is January 14, 2013. View the Federal Register or for more details click here.

NIOSH Publishes Revised Medical Surveillance for Healthcare Workers Exposed to Hazardous Drugs

In a new publication, NIOSH recommends that employers establish a medical surveillance program as part of a comprehensive prevention program that also minimizes worker exposure through engineering controls, good work practices, and personal protective equipment (PPE) and provides education about working with hazardous drugs.

World Trade Center Health Program Update

The World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program has funded 10 research projects to study health effects of WTC exposures. The WTC Health Program has also funded eight groups to assist in outreach and education activities in the New York City area.

Safe-in-Sound Award™ Winner Update

The Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award™ was created in 2009 by NIOSH in partnership with the National Hearing Conservation Association. Since then, several of the recipients indicated that the award has had a measurable impact within and beyond their own organizations. Just recently, Mr. Tom Huntebrinker, one of the 2011 winners, told us about how winning the award led Shaw Industries to expand their hearing loss prevention and noise control initiatives across several of their facilities. His testimonial is now among contributions describing the Award impact.

Monthly Features

FACE Reports

Bathtub Refinisher Dies From Inhalation of Paint Stripper Vapors
The use of a highly concentrated methylene chloride chemical stripper having poor warning properties, working in a small room without local exhaust ventilation to remove chemical vapors or provide fresh air, and working without a respirator were some of the contributing factors that led to the death of the technician.

New Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program Reports Available

Volunteer Fire Fighters Die Attempting to Extinguish a Fire in a Coal Storage Silo—South Dakota
Two male volunteer fire fighters, 20 and 22 years old, were killed while attempting to extinguish a fire in a coal storage silo. An explosion occurred destroying the silo and killing the two victims. NIOSH investigators concluded that the key contributing factors that led to the fatalities included the silo design, the unique explosive characteristics of the Powder River Basin coal stored in the silo, and inappropriate fire fighting tactics for silo fires.

Wildland Fire Fighter Trainee Suffers Cardiac Death During Physical Fitness Exercise—California
A 54-year-old trainee was participating in a physical fitness exercise that involved hiking in moderately steep terrain while wearing wildland personal protective equipment and carrying hand tools. As the trainee completed the exercise, the crew leader determined he needed medical attention and called for an ambulance. The trainee’s condition further deteriorated and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was initiated. Despite CPR and advanced life support in the ambulance and in the local hospital’s emergency department, the trainee died. Given the trainee’s underlying cardiovascular disease, NIOSH investigators concluded that the physical stress of physical fitness training probably triggered his sudden cardiac death.

Volunteer Fire Fighter Dies in a Single-Motor-Vehicle Crash While Responding to a Medical Assistance Call—Louisiana
A 22-year-old male volunteer fire fighter was fatally injured when the fire department service truck he was driving crashed while en route to a medical assistance call. Fire department personnel arrived quickly on the scene and began preparing the truck to remove the victim who was alert and communicating. However, once extricated and transported to a local hospital he succumbed to his injuries. The NIOSH investigator concluded that the contributing factors that led to the crash were the speed of the vehicle; the narrow, unmarked, rural roadway; and rain and poor visibility.

News from Our Partners

Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor Survey on Work-related Skin Disease

Results from the 2011 Michigan BRFSS survey of skin diseases in Michigan, reported last month by Michigan State University and the Michigan Department of Community Health, found that the proportion of work-related skin conditions was 1.8 times larger than the proportion estimated by NIOSH from an occupational health supplement to the 2010 National Health Interview Survey. The Michigan results support the NIOSH conclusion that the Bureau of Labor Statistics employer based survey misses about 90% of work-related dermatitis, the authors found. The findings support the use of a survey question which asks whether the respondent personally believes that a given condition is work-related, in addition to a question which asks whether the respondent was told by a doctor or health professional that the condition was work-related, the researchers stated in a Letter to the Editor published online by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

Texas ABLES Program’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Guidelines for Prenatal Care

The Texas Department of State Health Services Adult Blood Lead Exposure Surveillance (ABLES) program recently created Lead Poisoning Prevention Guidelines for Prenatal Care Providers in Texas, a flip book to teach providers how to prevent and identify lead poisoning in women of childbearing age, pregnant women, and postpartum women. Appendix A has a one-page detailed list of common lead-related occupations and industries. The first “Method to Reduce Lead Exposure” (Appendix C) encourages women to “discuss with your employer ways to reduce possible lead exposure on the job.” This new resource also provides follow-up management recommendations for elevated blood lead levels in pregnant women, postpartum women, and newborns.

OSHA seeks Nominations for Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health

Nominations are being accepted for members to serve on the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health. Nominations will be accepted from those interested in representing employee, employer, public, and state safety and health agency representative groups. Members serve 2-year terms, except the representative designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Labor, who serves indefinitely. The deadline for submissions is January 7, 2013. See the Federal Register notice for details.

Check Out New “One-Stop Shop” Website on Tobacco Use

Tobacco use is the leading cause of premature and preventable death in the United States. In November, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a new Web site (, a “one-stop shop” that brings together all HHS tobacco-related content into an easy-to-navigate Web site. Please join us in spreading the word about the availability of this new resource!

CDC Survey Identifies Secondhand Tobacco Smoke Exposures Outside Airport Smoking Rooms

Workers and travelers at airports with designated smoking areas remain at risk of exposure to second hand tobacco smoke even outside those areas, according to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published Nov. 23. In locations adjacent to such designated areas, levels of respirable suspended particulates – a marker for secondhand smoke – were five times higher than levels in smoke-free airports, the study found.

Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program Update

HHE logoNew HHE Report: Metalworking Fluid Exposure at an Aircraft Engine Manufacturing Facility

HHE Program investigators evaluated metalworking fluids (MWFs) at an aircraft manufacturing facility due to concerns about the potential for a new MWF formulation to cause health hazards. Investigators found that employees who worked with MWFs reported more work-related asthma symptoms and dermatitis than employees who did not work with MWFs. Concentrations of airborne MWFs and endotoxin in the air were very low. Investigators found the central MWF supply system to have good microbial control. Investigators recommended that

  • A medical surveillance program be started for employees who are exposed to MWFs.
  • Managers train employees on the proper use of engineering controls.
  • Employees who work with MWFs wear protective sleeves.

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


Video on Rig Move Safety for Truckers

A new NIOSH video, titled Move It! Rig Move Safety for Truckers, is available from NIOSH as a streaming video or DVD and can be viewed on the NIOSH YouTube channel. Experienced workers provide information in their own words to raise awareness about hazards to truckers during tear down and set up of oil and gas drilling rigs. NORA Oil and Gas Extraction Council members saw a need for this product and made their worksites and workers available for the production. For more information or to become involved in future efforts related to this industry, contact Ryan Hill, Interim Manager, NIOSH Oil and Gas Extraction Program.

r2p Corner

r2p logoNIOSH and Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency Renew Partnership

In October, NIOSH and the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA) signed an agreement to renew their partnership. NIOSH and KOSHA plan to continue activities initiated in December 1996, to use their collaborative efforts and expertise to advance the protection of workers and to promote best practices to improve worker safety and health. For more information, please contact Dr. Margaret Kitt at

Federal Register Notices of Public Meetings and Public Comment

Proposed Data Collections: Spectrum of Flavoring Chemical-Related Lung Disease

Call for Abstracts, Proposals, and Presentations

6th Occupational and Environmental Exposures of Skin to Chemicals Conference
June 2–5, 2013, Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Call for abstracts. Submissions are due no later than December 31.

2013 National Safety Council, Congress & Expo
September 28–October 4, 2013, Chicago, IL
Call for abstracts. Submissions are due no later than February 1, 2013

23rd Annual Art and Science of Health Promotion Conference
March 18–22, 2013, Hilton Head Island, SC
Call for peer presentations. Submissions deadline is February 15, 2013.

Upcoming Conferences and Workshops

Oil & Gas Safety Conference
December 4–5, Dallas, TX

American Correctional Association 2013 Winter Conference -Look for us, booth 712!
January 25–30, 2013, Houston, TX

Pennsylvania Governors Occupational Safety and Health Conference
February 19–20, 2013, Hershey PA

Digital Health Communication Extravaganza 2013 (DHCX)
February 20–22, 2013, Orlando, FL

23rd Annual Art and Science of Health Promotion Conference
March 18–22, 2013, Hilton Head, SC

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

Association of Perioperative Nurses
March 2–7, 2013, San Diego, CA

Fire Industry Equipment Research Organization Fire PPE Symposium
March 4–6, 2013, Raleigh, NC

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

Fire Department Instructors Conference
April 22–27, 2013, Indianapolis, IN

American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
April 28–May 1, 2013, Orlando, FL,

IAFC Fire-Rescue Med
May 3–7, 2013, Las Vegas, NV

Institute for Healthcare Advancement (IHA), 12th Annual Health Literacy Conference
May 8–10, 2013, Irvine, CA

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

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

Association for Professionals in Infection Control, 40th Annual Conference
June 7–10, 2013, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

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

8th International Conference on Prevention of Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders
July 8–11, 2013, Busan, Korea

IAFC Missouri Valley Annual Conference
July 10–12, 2013, Colorado Springs, CO

Fraternal Order of Police
August 10–13, 2013, Cincinnati, OH

International Association of Firefighters Redmond Symposium
August 21–25, 2013, Denver CO

Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare
September 11–14, 2013, Orlando, FL

ICOH SC Joint Conference
September 23–26, 2013, São Paulo, Brazil

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

International Association of Chiefs of Police
October 19–23, 2013, Philadelphia PA

2013 National Safety Council, Congress & Expo
September 28–October 4, 2013, Chicago, IL

A comprehensive list of upcoming conferences.

Did you know?

Did you know workers who are exposed to extreme cold or work in cold environments may be at risk of cold stress (such as hypothermia, frostbite, etc.)? Learn more and download a free fact sheet on cold stress.

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.