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NIOSH eNews – August 2015

Volume 13 Number 4 (August 2015)

From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH

Keeping Workers Safe Through Anthropometric Research

Safety at work can depend on an effective or comfortable fit between the physical workplace or the tools of work, and the worker. A seatbelt becomes impractical if it can’t be latched securely or comfortably. The safety that firefighters’ gloves provide is compromised if the gloves are too big, hampering dexterity and movement in a hectic and physically risky situation. Whatever the example of fitting today’s workplace to the worker, one thing is certain—anthropometric research can help. Anthropometry is the science of defining human body dimensions and physical characteristics. NIOSH conducts anthropometric research to prevent work-related injuries and deaths by studying how work spaces and equipment fit today’s diverse worker population. This includes the fit of machines, vehicles, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Although some anthropometric data have been published in recent years based on the body sizes and shapes of modern military personnel, most data available today were collected in the 1950s and 1970s from military personnel and the general population from that era. These decades-old data do not represent, on average and collectively, the sizes and body types of today’s workers, who are much more diverse in age, gender, and ethnicity. NIOSH research has shown workers have unique shapes and sizes for specific occupations. For instance, research revealed that truck drivers are heavier and wider than the average worker in the U.S. population, which has prompted many in the truck manufacturing industry to redesign truck cabs to support truck driver safety.

The differences in the body sizes and shapes of today’s workers when compared to previously available anthropometric data, as well as limited availability of proper fitting PPE, can contribute to worker injuries and fatalities. The anthropometric research we’re conducting will support worker safety and health by helping designers and manufacturers in:

  • re-designing equipment and workspaces to better meet the needs of workers;
  • developing PPE that fits and works better; and
  • making PPE more comfortable.

Using anthropometric data to design machines, vehicles, and PPE that better fit today’s workers is an important part of Prevention through Design (PtD). An example of PtD is Dr. Ziqing Zhaung’s research on head-and-face anthropometry and 3D head models of industrial workers, which was incorporated into technical specifications of the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) standards for testing new respirator face pieces. Moreover, an article written by NIOSH’s Dr. Hongwei Hsiao, which has been among the most-read articles in Human Factors in the past few years, gives several other examples of how equipment and PPE can be redesigned to improve the safety and health of workers. Taken together, these research outputs have assisted in the development of better-fitting PPE for the workplace, with manufacturers reporting the use of NIOSH data in design efforts of everything from hard hats to fall protection harnesses.

Most of NIOSH’s research on workers’ physical measures takes place in the NIOSH Anthropometry Labs. The Morgantown and Pittsburgh labs were developed in 1995 and 2001 respectively, and they are two of only several in the world with advanced technologies for collecting highly accurate anthropometric data. Computer-generated human models are available for analysis through 3-dimensional digital scanning in the lab. Full-body, head, and foot scanners as well as a hand-held scanning device for stationary objects are available and can produce high resolution scans within seconds.

NIOSH also has a Mobile Anthropometry Lab equipped with a whole body, foot, hand, and head scanner, all inside a 30-foot long trailer. This lab on wheels allows researchers to reach workers across the nation. The Mobile Anthropometry Lab has traveled across the United States, making stops in Boise, ID; Fort Worth, TX; New Haven, CT; Phoenix, AZ; Minneapolis, MN; Richmond, VA; and Tallahassee, FL.

These two labs were instrumental in our most recent research. As you may recall from the February issue of eNews, I shared some of NIOSH’s 2015 priorities. One of those goals was to develop and publish a summary of truck driver and firefighter anthropometry data on the NIOSH website for use in equipment and workspace design. I am delighted to report that NIOSH has made significant progress toward achieving this goal.

NIOSH recently released a summary of results from the first-ever federal anthropometric study of U.S. truck drivers. This document can help truck manufacturers improve the ergonomic design of truck cabs to better fit the sizes and shapes of today’s drivers. A truck cab designed on up-to-date truck driver body size and shape data supports a safer work environment for its operator. NIOSH gave data from this research to several truck manufacturers, which are using it to redesign truck cabs.

As for firefighter anthropometric research, NIOSH’s most recent studies have assessed fire apparatus seat and seat belt designs, and the fit of  gloves used in structural firefighting to accommodate current firefighters. As a result, NIOSH has given apparatus manufacturers and standards committees recommendations for seatbelt length, seat width and spacing, and head supports. NIOSH has also proposed an improved sizing scheme for structural firefighting gloves. A summary of firefighter anthropometry data was published in Human Factors, and NIOSH expects to publish the detailed data on its website by the end of 2015.

With support from stakeholders and partners, NIOSH has finished collecting data on emergency medical services workers, and it is gearing up to collect data on law enforcement officers. We expect these study findings will help identify design improvements for work vehicles and PPE.

Our anthropometric research gives us significant opportunities to prevent injuries through the concept of Prevention through Design. This research also takes our findings and allows them to be applied to practical uses outside the Institute. Working with manufacturers, standards committees, trade associations, labor organizations, employers, and workers, our research can be adopted in the workplace, so that together we can help ensure workers’ safety and health in today’s places of employment.

John Howard, M.D.
NIOSH Director

Lead Exposure from an E-Scrap Recycling Facility Can Transfer to the Home

Recycling of used electronics (E-scrap) is an emerging area of concern as a source of occupational exposures among workers, and as a source of take-home exposures. In evaluating an Ohio e-scrap facility, described in the July 17 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), NIOSH researchers found that take-home contamination and lead exposure can occur when dust is transferred from the workplace to the home. To read the full report, go to For more information on occupational exposures at e-scrap facilities go to

Tom Waters CDC Scholarship Announced

The CDC Foundation has established the Thomas R. Waters Memorial Scholarship for Ergonomics Research. The fund is in memory of former NIOSH researcher Dr. Waters, who passed away suddenly in October 2014. The fund will provide partial scholarships to graduate students doing research in human factors/ergonomics with an emphasis on occupational safety and health. The fund can accept both corporate and individual donations.

New NIOSH Newsletter Available

NIOSH released the first edition of its new newsletter, Research Rounds, in July. Research Rounds is a monthly bulletin of selected research at NIOSH. View or subscribe at /niosh/research-rounds/.

NIOSH Documents Available in Many Languages

NIOSH recently posted a new webpage compiling all of the NIOSH documents in languages other than English and Spanish. This includes Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Indonesian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Turkish, and Vietnamese. /niosh/otherlang.html

New Guidance to Reduce Worker Exposure to Diacetyl

NIOSH has developed guidance to reduce workers’ exposures to diacetyl through engineering controls, best work practices, and techniques for monitoring worker exposures. Although these guidelines emphasize diacetyl, they can be applied to reduce exposures to diacetyl substitutes such as 2,3-pentanedione and other alpha-diketones. To view the guidelines, visit Best Practices: Engineering Controls, Work Practices, and Exposure Monitoring for Occupational Exposures to Diacetyl and 2,3-Pentanedione. /niosh/docs/2015-197/pdfs/2015-197.pdf

New Mobile Friendly NIOSH Doc

NIOSH announces its first new digital publication, known as an eDoc, which will present workplace safety and health information in a way that is accessible and easy to use on any mobile device, desktop, or laptop computer. For more information check out the blog on the new mobile-friendly NIOSH eDoc design.

Recognize N95 Day on September 4 – A Day Earlier, But Another Year Wiser

NIOSH is celebrating our fourth annual N95 Day on Friday September 4, 2015. This is a deviation from our normal September 5 schedule … but we didn’t want the pesky weekend to hinder you from accessing this great information. For more information visit

Monthly Features

NIOSH Congratulates

John C. Eason Rising Star Award

Matthew Dahm received the John C. Eason Rising Star Award from the Environmental Health Officers Advisory Committee at the National Environmental Health Association Award Ceremony in July. The John C. Eason Award recognizes a talented newcomer’s accomplishments in the environmental health field, and it acknowledges the promise the recipient holds for the future of the Public Health Service.

2015 Nominee for Charles C. Shepard Lifetime Achievement Award

Steven Schrader attended the 2015 CDC Shepard Award ceremony held at CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, as the NIOSH nominee for the for the Charles C. Shepard Lifetime Achievement Award. NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D., announced Dr. Schrader’s nomination NIOSH-wide. “Nomination for this prestigious award recognizes not only Dr. Schrader’s outstanding contribution to occupational safety and health, but also his dedication and commitment to the NIOSH mission,” Dr. Howard said in the announcement.


Revised National Services Agenda

The NORA Services Sector Council has updated the National Services Agenda. The goals were edited and reduced in number to better reflect accomplished goals and the level of effort currently available in the nation to address the remaining priorities. An updated literature review lists documents that helped advance the original goals. The council is interested in comments on the agenda and in additional documents that should be added to the literature review. Contact the NORA Coordinator with any comments.

News from Our Partners

Connecticut Program Announces Campaign on TCE Risks at Childbearing Age

The Connecticut Department of Public Health’s Occupational Health Program has launched a campaign to educate employers and workers who use trichloroethylene in their workplaces about the increased risk to women of childbearing age from low-level exposure to the chemical. The health alert can be found at  The program cites recent toxicology reviews by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that have indicated significant risks to fetal development when pregnant workers are exposed to airborne trichloroethylene (TCE) concentrations as low as 1.5 parts per billion.

Study by New Hampshire Surveillance Program on Injuries and Underreporting

A recent study by the New Hampshire Occupational Health Surveillance Program of the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services focused on injury underreporting and the role of workers’ compensation in paying for the treatment of work-related injuries. The study focused on survey respondents who were working for wages when they had been injured at work seriously enough to require medical attention. Nearly half of these survey respondents used workers’ compensation to pay for their injury. Other payer sources included personal insurance plans, Medicare and Medicaid combined, and those only partially paid for by workers’ compensation. The report can be found at

OSHA Directive Updates Inspection Procedures for Protecting Workers From Tuberculosis in Healthcare Settings

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration updated instructions for conducting inspections and issuing citations related to worker exposures to tuberculosis in healthcare settings. This instruction incorporates guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, “Guidelines for Preventing the Transmission ofMycobacterium Tuberculosis in Health-Care Settings, 2005 (” This directive also covers additional workplaces regarded as healthcare settings, such as sites where emergency medical services are provided and laboratories handling clinical specimens that may contain M. tuberculosis. More information on hazard recognition and solutions for reducing or eliminating the risks of contracting tuberculosis is available on OSHA’s Tuberculosis Safety and Health Topics page

FACE Reports

Horse Breeder Falls 11–12 Feet from Hayloft When Throwing Hay Bale—Michigan

A horse breeder died when his coat became entangled in the twine of a bale he was physically throwing from the hayloft. He fell 11–12 feet from the loft onto hard-packed dirt. Emergency responders arrived and transported him to a local hospital, where he died the next day. /niosh/face/stateface/mi/12mi281.html

Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program Reports

Pump Operator/Paramedic Suffers Sudden Cardiac Death After Physical Fitness Training—Texas

On November 16, 2014, a 40-year-old male career pump operator/paramedic responded to a standby call and later ran 1 mile and lifted weights in the gym during his 24-hour shift. After performing fitness training, the pump operator went into one of the fire station’s restrooms. A crew member entered the restroom about an hour later and found the pump operator collapsed on the floor. After further assessment, the pump operator was declared dead on the scene. /niosh/fire/reports/face201423.html

Fire Engineer Suffers Sudden Cardiac Death at Shift Change—California

On January 20, 2014, a 49-year-old male career fire engineer was scheduled to work his regular 24-hour shift. This would have been his third consecutive 24-hour shift, because he had volunteered to work a 24-hour overtime shift the day before. During the first 48 hours, the fire engineer responded to seven medical calls, none of which required heavy physical exertion. When the engineer did not attend the third shift change meeting, crew members found him unresponsive in his bunk. NIOSH investigators concluded that an arrhythmia probably triggered his sudden cardiac death. /niosh/fire/reports/face201501.html

Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program Update

Recommendations Provided to a Poultry Processing Plant

HHE Program investigators found a high percentage of poultry processing employees with hand activity and force above recommended levels—34% of tested employees had evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome. To help protect against musculoskeletal disorders and traumatic injuries, investigators recommended following OSHA poultry processing guidelines, redesigning job tasks, and using a job rotation schedule. A link to this final report is available at /niosh/hhe/whats_new.html.

Evaluation of Tuberculosis Transmission at an Elephant Sanctuary

The HHE Program evaluation found that improvements could be made to ventilation systems in barns at an elephant refuge where elephants with active tuberculosis disease were kept, and to employee work practices and personal protective equipment. HHE Program investigators recommended ways to treat elephants with active tuberculosis disease, perform employee tuberculin skin tests, and improve employee respirator use. This final report is available at /niosh/hhe/whats_new.html.

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

New NIOSH Communication Products

Federal Register Notices of Public Meetings and Public Comment

Assessing Safety and Health Hazards to Workers in Oil and Gas Extraction: A Survey—Information Collection Request (New)
The notice was posted on July 10. Written comments must be received on or before September 8.

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Occupational Safety and Health Program Elements in the Wholesale Retail Trade Sector (Extension)
The notice was posted on July 10. Written comments must be received on or before September 8.

Assessing the Impact of Organizational and Personal Antecedents on Proactive Health/Safety Decision Making (New)
The notice was posted on July 17. Written comments should be received within 30 days.

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

Call for Abstracts

International Conference on Occupational Health and Safety 2016 
Call for abstracts. Deadline for submission is November 1.

Upcoming Conferences and Workshops

Ninth Annual National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media
August 11–13, Atlanta, GA

2015 National Safety Council Congress & Expo—Building Safer Workplaces
September 26–October 2, Atlanta, GA

Infectious Disease Week
October 7–11, San Diego, CA

National Fire Protection Association 2015 Backyards and Beyond Wildfire Education Conference
October 22–24, Myrtle Beach, SC

Tenth Symposium on Performance of Protective Clothing and Equipment: Risk Reduction through Research and Testing
January 28–29, 2016, San Antonio, TX

International Conference on Occupational Health and Safety 2016
March 1–2, 2016, Miami, FL

American Association of Occupational Health Nurses
April 11–14, 2016, Jacksonville, FL

ASSE Professional Development Conference & Exposition Safety 2016
June 26–29, 2016, Atlanta, GA

A comprehensive list of upcoming conferences can be found at

This Month In History

This month, 27 years ago . . .

Richard A. Lemen, then-director of the NIOSH Division of Standards Development and Technology Transfer, testified before the U.S. Department of Labor about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s proposed rules on air contaminants. He began his statement by saying, “We agree there is an urgent need to update the current air contaminant standards because they represent exposure limits based on data available prior to 1968.”

NIOSH advised that the “chemical universe” in the proposed rules includes all chemicals with NIOSH-identified recommended exposure limits. To support this position, NIOSH provided 179 comprehensive scientific analyses. To read the full statement go to /niosh/docket/archive/pdfs/NIOSH-240/1988policyStatement.pdf.