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NIOSH eNews – February 2017

Volume 14 Number 10 (February 2017)

From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH

Check, Check: NIOSH Launches New Sound Level Meter App

Our world is getting louder. Excessive noise is a public health problem and can induce hearing impairment, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, sleep disturbance, and a host of other psychological and social behavior problems. The World Health Organization estimates that 360 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss. Occupational hearing loss is the most common work-related illness in the United States; NIOSH estimates that approximately 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise. Understanding and minimizing the risks associated with noise exposures are the keys to preventing noise-related hearing loss.

The ubiquity of smartphones (~2 billion users as of 2016), their constant network connectivity, the built-in geographic information system functionality, and user-interactivity features present a great opportunity to revolutionize the way we look at noise, its measurement, and its effects on our hearing and overall health. The ability to acquire and display real-time noise exposure data raises people’s awareness about their work (and off-work) environment and allows them to make informed decisions about hearing hazards and overall well-being.

NIOSH hearing loss prevention researchers conducted several studies on smartphone sound measurement apps to examine their accuracy and applicability to the occupational noise environment. Most of the apps on the market are aimed at the casual user and lack the accuracy and functionality necessary to conduct occupational noise measurements. This lack of reliable apps led us to develop the NIOSH sound level meter application for iOS devices, which is freely available to the occupational safety and health community as well as the general public. The new app can help industrial hygienists, occupational safety and health managers, and workers who may not have access to professional sound measurement instruments to measure noise levels on the spot. The app is also designed to help raise awareness among workers about their work environment. Researchers hope that increased awareness could lead workers and managers to request professional noise surveys and to implement engineering controls or hearing conservation programs to reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing loss.

Although the app is not meant to replace professional sound level meters or noise dosimeters or be used for compliance purposes, we recommend that those interested in making proper noise measurements use an external microphone that can be calibrated with an acoustical calibrator similar to how a professional instrument is calibrated before use.

Read more about the app on our science blog and share your thoughts on how we can make this tool better and more useful to you.

NIOSH Updates Seasonal Flu Webpage

NIOSH recently updated its seasonal flu webpage to showcase research initiatives, publications, and key findings from NIOSH flu-related work. Information is available on these specific topics: Health Hazard Evaluations, Surveillance, Respiratory Protection, Influenza Transmission, and Engineering Infection Control.

NIOSH Oil and Gas Meeting Materials Available Online

Members of the 2016 US-EU Hydraulic Fracturing Safety Tour at an active hydraulic fracturing site in North Dakota.

Members of the 2016 US-EU Hydraulic Fracturing Safety Tour at an active hydraulic fracturing site in North Dakota.

NIOSH oil and gas researchers Kyla Retzer and John Snawder participated in a joint United States–European Union (US-EU) oil and gas safety tour in September 2016. The purpose of this US-EU tour was to share occupational safety and health information related to oil and gas exploration and production. During this event, Kyla and John described NIOSH research activities, partnerships, and the impact that work has had on improving safety and health in the oil and gas extraction industry. Photos and information about this event, including the presentations, are available online. For more information about the NIOSH Oil and Gas Extraction Program, contact coordinator David Caruso.

NIOSH Participates in Science Symposia

NIOSH helped to coordinate and participated in the first CDC Office of the Associate Director for Laboratory Science and Safety (OADLSS) Science Symposia held January 18 and attended by over 300 CDC participants. NIOSH attendees included Patrick Dempsey, Clara Seaman, Jonathan Szalajda, Ed Fisher, Ken Brown, Sam Glover, and Margaret Kitt. In addition to oral and poster presentations by NIOSH, OADLSS coordinated tours of the National Center for Environmental Health laboratories and CDC campus labs for NIOSH personnel.

NIOSH Co-Sponsorship of 10th International Conference on Managing Fatigue

NIOSH is pleased to be a co-sponsor for the 10th International Conference on Managing Fatigue, which will be held in San Diego, California, on March 20–23. Fatigue is an important contributor to work-related injuries. This conference will include presentations from internationally renowned authorities on fatigue from academic, government, industry, and research organizations. We anticipate approximately 350 attendees and look forward to the opportunity to learn state-of-the-art science and how it can be applied to improve fatigue management and worker safety. The conference is co-hosted by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Transportation Safety Board, with numerous co-sponsors including Department of Transportation agencies, the National Safety Council, and industry groups. Registration is currently open, with fees increasing on February 9.

NIOSH Offers Fentanyl Safety Resources for First Responders

Did you know that Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic drug that is similar to morphine and heroin but is 50 to 100 times more potent? Visit NIOSH’s new topic page Fentanyl in the Workplace, Preventing exposure to emergency responders to find out more about the harmful health effects of Fentanyl and how law enforcement, public health workers, and first responders can protect themselves when exposed to this drug.

Monthly Features

NIOSH Congratulates

Matthew Wheeler Awarded Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers
President Obama named Matthew Wheeler one of the recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. As a researcher, Wheeler has worked to develop approaches toprobabilistic risk assessment, which allows for a more reliable estimate of the true risk to populations when exposed to chemical agents.Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

John Snawder Recognized by the National STEPS Network
The National Service, Transmission, Exploration and Production Safety (STEPS) Network recognized John Snawder for his outstanding leadership. His prestigious award reads as follows, “Your integrity, tenacity and tireless dedication for protecting worker safety and health has inspired a generation, helping us to understand how science, technology, and a caring heart saves lives.” The National STEPS Network promotes safety, health, and environmental improvement in the exploration and production of oil and gas in U.S. onshore operations.


Upcoming Public Safety Council Webinar
The NORA Public Safety Sector Council will hold its 2nd Quarter 2017 Public Safety Webinar on March 16.The topic for this webinar will be the NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program with a focus on the program’s impact on public safety organizations and its interactions with employers and employees. Contact Bill Haskell to attend.

NORA Respiratory Health Cross-sector Meeting
The NORA Respiratory Health Cross-sector Council (RHCC) conducted an online/telephone meeting on January 6. Participants had a wide-ranging discussion about priorities, which Council organizers summarized into 10 strategic objectives that will be the starting point for the next meeting in February. Plans were also made to reach out to potential new members. Contact the NORA Coordinator for more information about NORA.

News from Our Partners

Connecticut Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance Program
The Connecticut Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance (CT ABLES) program brings awareness to lead exposure in local firing ranges through an educational program for range owners and users that is focused on proper cleaning techniques, ventilation controls, and encouraging blood lead testing. A recent analysis found an over 10-fold increase in recognized elevated blood lead levels related to indoor firing ranges in the past 10 years, to the point where over half of all very high lead levels (> 40 ug/dl) reported to the CT ABLES program are caused by using or working in firing ranges.

r2p Corner

Partnership between NIOSH and the National Center For Environmental Assessment (NCEA) Extended
NIOSH and NCEA recently extended a 5-year partnership using their collaborative efforts and expertise to advance the protection of environment and public health, promote best practices, and encourage employers to develop and utilize safety and health management programs and effective prevention strategies and technologies. In addition, NIOSH and NCEA will explore opportunities for working collaboratively to share information and coordinate research activities regarding proposed rules, guidelines, risk assessments, and risk management strategies for controlling exposure to toxic agents. For more information, contact Christine Whittaker at (513) 533-8439 or

FACE Reports

Semi-truck Driver Fatally Struck by Falling Flatbed Cage Door—Kentucky
A truck driver delivered elevator equipment to a construction jobsite. While standing next to the truck flatbed, the cage door fell and struck him in the head. The driver was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

City Police Officer Dies after His Vehicle is Struck by a Civilian Motorist in a Federal Highway Intersection—Kentucky
A police officer driving to a training site was struck by a motorist at an intersection. The officer lost control of his cruiser and collided with another vehicle. The officer was transported to a trauma center, where he died from his injuries.

19-Year Old Construction Laborer Crushed in Trench Collapse While Laying Sewage Pipe—Kentucky
A construction laborer was in a parking lot laying sewage pipe in a trench when some of the spoil pile and concrete gave way. The laborer was covered by debris and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Maintenance Technician is Struck by Crane, Falls 10 Feet to Conveyor and Dies—Kentucky
A maintenance technician was working from an elevated platform while an overhead crane system was active. The crane struck his hand and caused him to fall. The technician died while in transit to the hospital.

Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program

Evaluation of Noise and Metal Exposure at a Security Portal Manufacturer
HHE Program investigators found that fabrication employees were not overexposed to aluminum or other metals in the air. Sanders and the mill/saw operator were overexposed to noise over an 8-hour work shift. However, employees typically performed these tasks for only 2–3 hours per shift. We recommended enclosing the band saw area to reduce noise and re-evaluating employee noise exposure during a typical work shift and whenever production changes. For more information click here.

Federal Register Notices of Public Meetings and Public Comment

Assessment of the Market for Electronic Technology for Underground Coal Mining Safety and Health Applications—New
The notice was posted on January 17. Written comments must be received on or before March 20.

A Performance Test Protocol for Closed System Transfer Devices Used during Pharmacy Compounding and Administration of Hazardous Drugs; Extension of Comment Period
The notice was posted on December 8, 2016. Written electronic or written comments must be received by June 7.

Closed-Circuit Escape Respirators; Guidance for Industry; Availability
The notice was posted on December 28, 2016. Comments must be received by February 27.

“This Month in History”

Seventeen years ago, a collaboration between NIOSH and the National Safety Council culminated in two new guides for preventing work-related hearing loss. Published as special issues of the National Safety Council publications Safeworker and Today’s Supervisor, the illustrated, pocket-sized guides emphasize the importance of using protection to decrease exposure to loud noises at work. More information is available: NIOSH, National Safety Council Team for Practical Advice on Preventing Hearing Loss.