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NIOSH eNews – September 2015

Volume 13 Number 5 (September 2015)

From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH

NIOSH Emergency Preparedness and Response

September is National Preparedness Month, reminding us that we need to plan wisely to minimize death, injury, and devastation from large-scale disasters. We have seen this in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; the flooding of New Orleans and other destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago; and other calamities of the past 15 years. Every disaster or novel disease can put workers at higher risk of injury, illness, or death. An effective response ensures the health and safety of people who work in or near a disaster area, workers who respond to the emergency, and those who work in recovery.

The National Response Framework, coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the national blueprint for emergency preparedness and response. It includes a “Worker Safety and Health Support Annex” that details responsibilities for work-related safety and health during major emergencies. This includes a role for NIOSH to assess work-related risks to life, safety, and health. NIOSH also determines and recommends personal protective equipment for use in hazardous emergency work environments. Debriefing from past emergencies, we see that significant gaps and deficiencies continue in systems and procedures to monitor the health and safety of emergency response workers (including first responders and other groups, such as public health personnel, cleanup workers, and recovery workers).

When the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks made the need to address recognized gaps become increasingly clear, NIOSH created the Emergency Preparedness and Response Office (EPRO). EPRO plans and coordinates, across NIOSH, the work needed within our area of authority to improve preparedness and response ahead of the next disaster. Also, when an emergency strikes, EPRO coordinates how our occupational physicians, epidemiologists, industrial hygienists, toxicologists, engineers, and others are mobilized. These workplace safety and health experts assess hazards to responders in the field, conduct or guide often-complex sampling, and recommend effective measures to prevent injury and illness in harsh environments. This coordination helps ensure that NIOSH’s limited number of staff and resources are used most effectively in national responses.

EPRO advances NIOSH’s response capabilities by supporting professional development, monitoring equipment and personnel readiness, improving response coordination with our partners, and advancing research and stakeholder collaboration to improve worker safety and health during emergency responses. NIOSH staff members have provided expertise to help protect responders and advise employers and workers in every major disaster of the 21st Century that involved U.S. responder and worker safety. From the 9-11 attack and anthrax attacks of 2001, the list also includes 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill response, 2011 radiation concerns over Japan’s earthquake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi power plant, 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, and most recently, the 2014–2015 Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak.

Through EPRO, NIOSH led efforts to develop the Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance (ERHMS) system, which was adopted by the National Response Team as a Technical Assistance Document. The National Response Team coordinates actions by 15 federal departments and agencies to prepare for and respond to emergencies that involve oil and hazardous substances pollution. ERHMS provides a health monitoring and surveillance framework with recommendations and tools that protect emergency responders during all phases of a response—pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment. ERHMS training is now available online. The free training provides the necessary tools to implement health monitoring and surveillance of emergency response workers. The training outlines important procedures for pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment. To register, go to CDC TRAINExternal Web Site Icon.

Recently, to address another critical need, NIOSH established the Disaster Science Research Initiative to develop an approach for timely responder-based research. Research allows us to better understand and address the hazards of rescue and recovery in a disaster, as well as the hazards of exposure to new pathogens in an epidemic. Research is especially important to help identify the risks for illnesses or disabilities that may take years or decades to become known after the first exposure to toxic contaminants, physical overexertion, or traumatic stress.

Valuable information can come from actual experience or observation in the field. Often, such data are difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate in the laboratory. In planning and conducting such research, it is critical to avoid impeding responders in their immediate mission of rescue, recovery, or medical care. In the set routine of a factory or office, it may not be a hindrance for a worker to wear a personal sampling device that he or she would not wear otherwise. In the dynamic environment of a city block leveled by a hurricane, or a busy hospital ward triaging care for incoming patients with a new type of flu infection, the situation is likely quite different.

Recognizing the importance of broad input to the Disaster Science Research Initiative process, NIOSH convened a 1-day workshop of invited stakeholders on July 10, 2014, in Atlanta, GA, and under direction from NIOSH. The RAND Corporation has produced a report  on the workshop, outlining the rich and varied input on current issues and needs within disaster science research, and the potential steps forward. In March 2015, NIOSH created an internal steering committee that is developing a strategic implementation plan to highlight priority areas that need to be addressed over the next 2 years. This effort will help research to quickly be included in a response, and it will identify ways to find outside funding alternatives for disaster research.

Please take time during National Preparedness Month to salute the people who save lives and maintain continuity in emergencies, and consider how you might join with NIOSH and its partners to keep those men and women safe.

Closed-Circuit Escape Respirators: Extension of Transition Period Final Rule

The Closed-Circuit Escape Respirators: Extension of Transition Period Final Rule, effective August 12, 2015, amends 42 C.F.R. § 84.301 to allow NIOSH to extend the original 3-year period for continued manufacturing, labeling, and sale of closed-circuit escape respirators (CCERs). Approved under Subpart H the amendment allows NIOSH to extend the original transition period to grant eligible manufacturers additional time to obtain NIOSH approval, establish production capacity, and to modify existing CCER designs—if necessary—or develop new designs that comply with the new testing and certification requirements under Subpart O. The entire rule can be viewed in the Federal Register Notice, dated August 12.

In Memoriam

  • Mike Flemmer, NIOSH Computer Engineer
    NIOSH was saddened by the death of Michael M. (Mike) Flemmer, a computer engineer in NIOSH’s Health Effects Laboratory Division (HELD). Mike came to the HELD in 1997 as a computer engineer who designed equipment supporting research in HELD and other divisions. He designed a cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS) system which has been used extensively to characterize surface chemistry and most recently was developing a new field portable CRDS system for field studies. He was a co-inventor on two US patents, one for the NIOSH Local Positioning System, the other a NIOSH Physiologic Sampling Pump.  Mike authored or co-author multiple journal articles, one of which was nominated for a 2010 Charles C. Shepard Science Award and another which received Honorable Mention in this year’s Alice Hamilton Awards.
  • Dr. J. Donald Millar, Former NIOSH Director
    NIOSH was saddened by the death of J. Donald Millar, M.D., retired rear admiral and assistant surgeon general in the U.S. Public Health Service, and the fourth director of NIOSH (1981 to 1993). In addition to his two-term leadership of NIOSH, Dr. Millar also was known internationally for other accomplishments in a long career with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including a prominent role in the global campaign that eradicated smallpox in 1980.

NIOSH Awards Funding for Study on Police Officer Health

NIOSH recently awarded a $2.5 million grant to the University of Buffalo to study the impact of stress on police officers’ health. The study will address the question, “How do the rigors of police work—from traumatic sights and sounds, to long work shifts and high demand levels—affect officers?” Read more at

Monthly Features

NIOSH Congratulates

NIOSH Wins Merit Award for Ladder Safety App

The NIOSH Ladder Safety App is a winner in the 17th annual Digital Health Awards program. This award program recognizes the world’s best digital health resources for consumers and professionals. It is organized by the Health Information Resource Center, a clearinghouse for professionals who work in consumer health fields. The app can be downloaded free for both iPhone and Android devices.


Aviation-Related Wildland Firefighter Fatalities

The NORA Public Safety Council set a goal of characterizing risk factors for wildland fire-related injuries in the council’s agenda for the nation. A recent MMWR article contributes to this goal. Data were obtained from federal agencies and other organizations through partnerships. Analysis of these data provided information about the types and causes of aviation incidents that led to fatalities, and the types of workers involved in these incidents. This information will be used to encourage adoption of improved safety guidelines by each organization involved in wildland firefighting.

Motor Vehicle-Related Law Enforcement Injuries

NIOSH recently launched a new topic page, “Motor-Vehicle Safety of Law Enforcement Officers,” that supports strategic goal 6 of the National Public Safety Agenda under NORA. Among the many resources provided is a description of a large ongoing study, “Evaluation of an Occupational Motor-Vehicle Crash Prevention Program in Law Enforcement.” Partnerships at the NORA Public Safety Council led to information exchange and ultimately to developing this research project. More information is available from the contacts listed on the topic page.

News from Our Partners

Chemical Burn Risk In Car and Truck Washing Highlighted by Washington Researchers

In Washington State, from 2001 through 2013, one worker died and 48 others suffered chemical burns from contact with hydrofluoric-acid-based products used during car and truck washing and auto detailing, researchers reported August 21. Safer alternatives are needed to prevent risks of severe chemical burns and toxicity, said researchers Carolyn K. Reeb-Whitaker, Naomi J. Anderson, and David K. Bonauto, of the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention Program, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries; and Carly M. Eckert, of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington. 

New Hampshire Health Surveillance Program Develops Fact Sheet on Salon Safety

The New Hampshire Occupational Health Surveillance Program, in collaboration with the New Hampshire State Asthma Collaborative, has developed a fact sheet on salon safety, with a focus on respiratory exposures and asthma. “Healthy Body, Healthy Lungs, What Salon Workers Need to Know About Their Risk for Work-Related Asthma” provides resources and lists of alternative products for hair and nail care. Staff members from New Hampshire OHSP and the New Hampshire WorkWISE program (OSHA Consultation group) are providing safety trainings at various schools of cosmetology in New Hampshire.

For more information, go to


FACE Reports

Two Masons Electrocuted After Contact With an Overhead Power Line—Kentucky


Hispanic Roofer’s Fall Protection Failed Causing Him to Fall 29.91 Feet to His Death—Kentucky


Scrap Processor Struck by Wrench and Dies After Makeshift Torque System Fails—Kentucky


Mechanic Crushed When the Dozer He Was Lowering Shifted and Fell off the Jack—Massachusetts


Truck Porter Dies From Head Injury Complications When He Fell From Either the ICC Bumper or Deck of a Semi-Trailer—Michigan


Truck Driver Crushed by Roll off Scrap Metal Box During Unloading From Truck—Michigan


Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program Reports

4 Career Fire Fighters Killed and 16 Fire Fighters Injured at Commercial Structure Fire—Texas

On May 31, 2013, four career fire fighters ranging from 24 to 41 years old were killed when the roof of a restaurant collapsed on them during fire-fighting operations. NIOSH investigators identified delayed notification of the fire department, building construction, high winds, ineffective scene size-up, personnel accountability, fire ground communications, and lack of a fire sprinkler system among the contributing factors that led to these fatalities. /niosh/fire/reports/face201316.html

Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program Update

Evaluation of an Odor at an Aircraft Ejection Seat Manufacturer

Finding an odor-causing chemical in the metalworking fluid, HHE Program investigators recommended decontaminating the metalworking machines, relocating the machines to an isolated area, and improving the ventilation systems. A link to this final report is available at /niosh/hhe/whats_new.html.

Recommendations Provided to a Dry cleaning Shop Using SolvonK4

Although no overexposures to formaldehyde and butanol in the air were found, HHE Program investigators noted the potential for skin exposure. They recommended improvements to work practices, housekeeping, and using personal protective equipment. 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!

New NIOSH Communication Products

Federal Register Notices of Public Meetings and Public Comment

Occupational Safety and Health Research and Related Activities; Administrative Functions, Practices, and Procedures
The notice was posted on August 13. Written Comments must be received by September 14.

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

Call for Abstracts

2016 National Safety Council Texas Safety Conference & Expo
Proposals must be submitted by Friday, October 23,

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

Upcoming Conferences and Workshops

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

2016 National Safety Council Texas Safety Conference & Expo
March 20–22, 2016, San Antonio, TX

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, 20 years ago . . .

NIOSH adopted a new policy for recommending exposure limits for chemical carcinogens and other workplace hazards. Previously, NIOSH did not recommend specific exposure limits, recommending, instead, “lowest feasible” or “no detectable” exposure to these hazards. To learn more about chemical exposure limits, visit NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. To read the policy from September 1995, go to NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit Policy.