NIOSH logo and tagline

NIOSH eNews – March 2014


Volume 11 Number 11 March 2014

From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH

When It Comes to Old Man Winter, We’re Not Out of the Woods Yet

Coming off the brutal weather of February, with the Farmer’s Almanac predicting lingering cold and snow showers in some parts of the country in March ( and the first work days of the new month bearing out that prediction through most parts of the U.S., it’s probably safe to say that as far as winter is concerned we’re not out of the woods yet.

Fortunately, NIOSH has some safety and health recommendations for those working in industries that face particular challenges from cold and snow.

Workers who work in the cold and snow are at risk for various occupational illnesses and injuries such as hypothermia, frostbite, trench foot, and chilblains. However, there are steps you can take to protect your employees, yourself, and your coworkers. These include:

  • Monitor your physical condition, in addition to that of your coworkers, at all times.
  • Wear appropriate clothing such as layers of loose clothing for insulation.
  • Protect your ears, face, hands, and feet in extremely cold or wet weather.
  • Move into warm locations during breaks and limit the amount of time outside.
  • Carry extra clothing and thermoses of hot liquid.
  • Include chemical hot packs in your first aid kit.
  • Avoid touching cold metal surfaces with bare skin.

Workers who drive on the job are also at risk for cold stress. If travel by road during extremely cold or inclement conditions is necessary, employers and workers should consider the following precautions:

  • Keep your gas tank at least half-full to prevent the gas line from freezing and to make sure you have enough gas if you become stranded.
  • Carry a cell phone so that you are able to get information about road closures and weather conditions, check in with your employer and family, and call for help if needed. Keep emergency numbers at hand. Do not use your phone unless your vehicle is safely parked.
  • If you become stranded or stuck in the snow, stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Keep a winter emergency kit in your vehicle, including a flashlight; blanket; extra clothing; nonperishable food; first aid kit; jumper cables; snow brush and/or ice scraper; shovel; and sand, road salt, or kitty litter.

For more information, check out the NIOSH topic page, “Cold Stress,” at /niosh/topics/coldstress/ and download the NIOSH fact sheet, “Protecting Yourself from Cold Stress,” at /niosh/docs/2010-115/pdfs/2010-115.pdf.

The harsh weather also took a toll on the nation’s air and ground transportation systems. Airline, bus, train, and freight schedules were regularly disrupted. News reports daily showed crowds of stranded passengers in airports and trucks stuck in gridlock on icy interstate highways. Delays, reroutings, and cancelations spelled stress for millions of workers employed in moving people and goods across distances, from truck drivers and flight crews to airline ticket attendants and dispatchers. NIOSH’s recommendations and resources for strategies to reduce work-related stress can be found at /niosh/topics/stress/.

Finally, to take a Total Worker HealthTM approach, employers should consider providing similar alerts and health and safety guidance to workers who might plan work in cold environments when they are away from the job. Tips for preventing strain and overexertion from clearing snow from commercial premises may also work wonderfully well in clearing snow away from your doorstep at home, if March delivers one last blast of winter where you work and live.

NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety Now on Twitter

The NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety is now on Twitter ( The purpose of this Twitter site is to reach a wider audience with information about NIOSH activities and information products related to prevention of work-related motor vehicle crashes.

Policy Update! NIOSH Revising Policy on Use of Emergency Breathing Support Systems

NIOSH is revising its policy on the use of emergency breathing support systems (EBSS), also known as buddy breathers. This policy change will be applicable only to self-contained breathing apparatus that meet the requirements of NFPA 1981, 2013, or subsequent editions. NIOSH is modifying the existing policy on buddy breathers to further support and encourage best practices in the fire service for the deployment of EBSS. Interested parties can view the entire letter at /niosh/npptl/resources/pressrel/letters/InterestedParties/lttr-02182014.html.


Respirator User Notice

NIOSH recently issued a user notice warning respirator users about the danger associated with using after-market component parts. Read more at /niosh/npptl/usernotices/notices/notice02272014.html.

NIOSH Contributions to Safe Nanotechnology Recognized in GAO Report

NIOSH’s research and recommendations for the development of safe nanotechnology are reflected in a report issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office on February 7: “Nanomanufacturing: Emergence and Implications for U.S. Competitiveness, the Environment, and Human Health” ( NIOSH Program Manager Dr. Paul Schulte and Program Coordinator Dr. Charles Geraci represented NIOSH in a national forum discussion that provided the foundation for the report.

The World Trade Center Health Program Seeks Nominees for the Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee

The World Trade Center (WTC) Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee is currently seeking nominations for 7 of its 17 positions in the following categories:

  • one industrial hygienist,
  • one mental health professional,
  • one occupational physician who has experience treating WTC rescue and recovery workers,
  • two representatives of WTC responders, and
  • two representatives of WTC survivors.

Nominations are due by March 14. For more information go to

Monthly Features


Improving School Employee Safety and Health

The Labor Occupational Health Program at the University of California, Berkeley has developed extensive guidance materials and a training program for school employee injury and illness prevention across the United States ( Elementary and secondary public education recorded more than 250,000 reportable nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses in 2012, which is greater than any other public or private industry in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics ( The NORA Services Sector Council (/nora/sectors/serv/councilmembers.html) highlighted the need for improved occupational safety and health for school employees in its National Services Agenda (/nora/sectors/serv/agenda.html). For more information, contact Robin Dewey at

NIOSH Partners with Dental Safety Organization to Survey Private Dental Practices

The Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP) (, in partnership with the NORA Healthcare and Social Assistance Sector Council and NIOSH, launched an online survey of private dental practices to evaluate the use of exposure control plans for reducing the risk of exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials. The survey is designed to be answered by the person in each practice who has primary responsibility for implementing OSHA regulations. For more information, email

Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Program Reports

Fire Fighter Trainee Suffers Sudden Cardiac Death During Physical Ability Training—Texas

On March 6, 2013, a 63-year-old male volunteer fire fighter trainee participated in physical ability training as part of the fire department’s 13-week cadet program. The trainee, wearing full turnout gear and self-contained breathing apparatus (not on-air), completed all of the 15 training components over a 15-minute period and then suddenly collapsed. Instructors began cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the victim was transported to the local hospital where he was pronounced dead. The death certificate and autopsy report listed “hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease” as the cause of death. Given the trainee’s occult heart disease, NIOSH investigators concluded that the physical stress of physical ability training probably triggered a heart arrhythmia, which resulted in sudden cardiac death. /niosh/fire/reports/face201315.html

Fire Fighter Suffers Cardiac Death While Responding to Residential Structure Fire—Michigan

On February 26, 2013, a 22-year-old male volunteer fire fighter responded to his fire station for a structure fire call. He and a crew member loaded coolers of water bottles into his pickup truck and responded toward the scene; the crew member was driving. A few blocks from the fire station, the fire fighter began to have difficulty breathing and became unresponsive. Despite cardiopulmonary resuscitation and advanced life support on the scene, in transport, and at the hospital, the fire fighter died. An autopsy showed an enlarged heart with left ventricular hypertrophy but no “characteristic gross or histologic features of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.” Given the fire fighter’s previously undiagnosed heart disease, NIOSH investigators concluded that the physical exertion of loading the coolers into his truck and/or the stress of responding to the structure fire may have triggered an arrhythmia that resulted in his sudden cardiac death. /niosh/fire/reports/face201320.html

News from Our Partners

Respiratory Disease in Washington Hop Growers

In August 2013, the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention Program at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries developed outreach materials to educate hop growers and healthcare providers on hop plant-induced respiratory disease. Hop dust inhalation during harvest and processing is associated with 57 cases of occupational respiratory disease, including asthma, that were reported to the state’s workers’ compensation system from 1995 through 2011. Resources can be found on SHARP’s website at For further information on this project, please contact Carolyn Whitaker (

Survey to Assess the Manual Application of Chlorine to Recreational Pools Among Pool Employees

The New Jersey Work-Related Asthma (WRA) Project launched an education and outreach effort for workers in the swimming pool industry following the identification of 18 cases of WRA in pool workers. To view the health alert and poster illustrating the survey results, please visit Additional information about other activities in New Jersey can be found at the department’s Occupational Health Program website at

Dr. David Parker Honored

David L. Parker, MD, MPH, a research scientist, physician, and noted social documentary photographer, was presented with the National Child Labor Committee Distinguished Service Award. Dr. Parker was honored with the Distinguished Service Award for exemplary research on child labor in the United States and social documentary photography spanning over 20 years. For more information about the National Child Labor Committee and the Lewis Hine Award, visit

Save the Date! Graduate Summer Institute in Environmental Health Sciences at Johns Hopkins School of Public Heath

The Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health will host a summer institute from June 9–21 with nine full courses and three 1-day short courses offered over the 2-week period. Courses are designed for practicing public health professionals with responsibilities for health, safety, and environmental matters and for students who are interested in learning more about environmental health sciences concepts. For more information go to

Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program Update

HHE logo

Evaluation of Dermal Exposure to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Fire Fighters

The Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program carried out a study at a fire service training facility to assess whether airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other aromatic hydrocarbons pass through the skin of fire fighters wearing full protective ensembles. Air samples showed that burns released PAHs and in most burns, the levels exceeded the occupational exposure limit. The biological monitoring showed benzene and some PAHs entered the fire fighters’ bodies most likely through skin on the neck, which is the least protected area on the fire fighters’ bodies. The levels of PAHs and benzene in fire fighters’ bodies were similar to those in other groups of workers with low levels of workplace exposures to the same chemicals. HHE Program investigators recommended

  • requiring fire fighters to wear full protective ensembles, including SCBA, during knockdown and overhaul for all fire responses;
  • providing fire fighters with long hoods, which are unlikely to come untucked; and
  • washing hands immediately and showering as soon as possible after a fire response.

A link to this final report is available at /niosh/hhe/whats_new.html.

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

Federal Register Notices of Public Meetings and Public Comment

Occupational Safety and Health Investigations of Places of Employment

The notice was posted on January 16. Written comments must be received by March 17.

Occupational Safety and Health Investigations of Places of Employment; Technical Amendments

The notice was posted on January 16. Written comments must be received by March 17.

Total Worker Health for Small Business

The notice was posted on January 22. Written comments should be received within 60 days.

Evaluation of a Trench Safety CD-Rom for Hispanic Immigrant Workers

The notice was posted on January 22. Written comments should be received within 60 days.

Evaluating Interventions for Airplane Cargo Baggage Handling

The notice was posted on February 6. Written comments should be received within 60 days.

NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety: Research and Guidance Strategic Plan 2014–2018

The notice was posted on February 6. Written comments should be received within 30 days.

World Trade Center Health Programs; Amendments to the List of WTC-related Health Conditions; Cancers; Revision

Thenotice was posted on February 18. Written comments must be received by April 21.

For a listing of NIOSH official publications for rules, proposed rules, and notices, go to

New NIOSH Communication Products

The following NIOSH communication products are now available in Spanish:

  • Work-Related Motor Vehicle Crashes: Preventing Injuries to Young Drivers: What Employers Should Know (Choques automovilísticos relacionados con el trabajo: Prevención de lesiones en conductores jóvenes, Lo que los empleadores deben saber)
  • Work-Related Motor Vehicle Crashes: Preventing Injuries to Young Drivers: What Parents Should Know (Choques automovilísticos relacionados con el trabajo: Prevención de lesiones en conductores jóvenes, Lo que los padres deben saber)

Upcoming Conferences and Workshops

2014 NSC Texas Safety Conference & Expo
March 30–April 1, Galveston, TX

AIHCE 2014
May 31–June 5, San Antonio, TX

Safety 2014 ASSE Professional Development Conference & Exposition
June 8–11, Orlando, FL

2014 NFPA Conference and Expo
June 9–12, Las Vegas, NV

7th International Conference on Environmental Science and Technology 2014
June 9–13, Houston, TX

23rd Annual Social Marketing Conference
June 20–21, Clearwater, FL

International Society for Agricultural Safety and Health 2014 Annual Conference: Cultivating Ag Safety and Health
June 22–26, Omaha, NE

8th Annual National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media
August 19–21, Atlanta, GA

2014 National Safety Council Congress & Expo
September 13–19, San Diego, CA

National Symposium to Advance Total Worker HealthTM
October 6–8, Bethesda, MD

24th Annual Meeting of the International Society of Exposure Science
October 12–16, Cincinnati, OH

62nd International Association of Emergency Managers Annual Conference
November 14–19, San Antonio, TX

A comprehensive list of upcoming conferences can be found at

Did You Know?

Did you know that the National Sleep Foundation is celebrating Sleep Week on March 2–9? NIOSH has resources for those who work schedules that affect their sleep patterns. Learn more at /niosh/topics/workschedules/.

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.