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NIOSH eNews – December 2016

Volume 14 Number 8 (December 2016)

From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH

Miner’s Day: A Day to Acknowledge the Past and Look to the Future

December 6 is Miner’s Day. This is a good time to reflect on the men and women who work in this difficult, often dangerous, and highly skilled industry, as well as on what mining provides our society and how we can help protect miners on the job.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mining as an industry is the second most hazardous line of work, behind the category of commercial fishing, farming, and logging, and just above the industries of commercial transportation and construction. However, because much of mining takes place well removed from public view, the degree to which the public interacts with—or is even aware of—this industry is minimal, and many may not always realize what this industry provides for us.

We can easily remember seeing a new building being constructed or enjoying a train ride, but what we may not see is where our most fundamental resources come from. Mining typically happens far from population centers, snaking through miles of underground tunnels in the dark recesses of the earth to obtain coal, stone, and minerals. Or perhaps it’s a surface mine extracting clay or sand or metals from hardened ground. No matter the setting, the brave men and women who do this work face numerous hazards—noise, dust, shifting geology, huge pieces of moving equipment—that both enable and encumber their work and can endanger their lives.

Though it tends to melt into our daily landscape, the evidence of the mining industry’s efforts is all around us. It is found in the power that lights our homes, mixed in the sand and gravel that make up concrete, and embedded in the precious minerals and metals that are found in nearly anything with an ‘on’ switch, including the cell phones that are never far from our hands.

And while the contributions to our economy from mining are many, they also come with serious safety and health risks for miners.

Miner’s Day was established in 2009, and lawmakers specifically chose the date to acknowledge the Monongah mining disaster, the worst single loss-of-life event due to mining in American history. On December 6, 1907, at least 362 West Virginia coal miners were killed in a catastrophic explosion. Three years later, Congress created the Bureau of Mines—the precursor to the present NIOSH Mining Program—to research ways to make miners’ jobs safer.

The NIOSH Mining Program’s rich history and ongoing research continue to contribute meaningful improvements to the way miners work and the methods by which mines can keep their workers healthy and safe.

NIOSH researchers have developed technologies and made other contributions, including

  • a drill bit isolator to limit hazardous noise on roof bolting machines
  • intelligent proximity detection systems to keep miners safe around moving equipment
  • cap lamp designs that are brighter and more custom-built to light a worker’s specific task area
  • ErgoMine, an Android app to audit workspaces for potential ergonomic improvements in a variety of mining settings
  • a stand-alone mobile air scrubber to pull hazardous coal dust out of the air
  • a host of improvements for keeping dust out of enclosed cabs both above and below ground
  • S-Pillar, a software program to help design stable pillars in stone mines
  • the continuous personal dust monitor to empower coal miners with real-time information about coal dust exposure
  • modernization of international standards for using chest radiography to screen miners for dust-induced lung disease and to enable use of digital imaging
  • implementation of a nationwide program that provides medical screening for respiratory diseases such as black lung to thousands of miners every year as part of the Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program
  • myriad guidelines and training guides on topics such as hearing protection, refuge chamber use, decision-making in an emergency, workstation design, and breathing apparatus assembly.

Although the mining industry has come a long way since the Monongah disaster, the challenges modern-day miners face are still many, and the risks are ever-present. Therefore, for as long as mining exists, NIOSH researchers will strive to prevent injuries and illnesses and to ensure that all miners can go home to their families at shift’s end. See our website to learn more about these technologies and other NIOSH mining-related research.

Older-Driver Safety Awareness Week: Dec 5–9

The NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety is observing Older-Driver Safety Awareness Week, December 5–9, hosted by the American Occupational Therapy Association. The campaign aims to promote understanding of the importance of older adults’ mobility and transportation. Follow @NIOSH_MVSafety for tips throughout the week, and learn what employers can do to develop safety and health programs that consider older drivers’ needs.

Applying the Hierarchy of Controls to Total Worker Health®

The Total Worker Health® program recently released a conceptual model for prioritizing efforts to advance worker safety, health, and well-being. Based on the well-known traditional Hierarchy of Controls, the Hierarchy of Controls Applied to NIOSH Total Worker Health applies a prevention approach that is consistent with traditional occupational safety and health principles and emphasizes organizational-level interventions to protect workers’ safety.

New NIOSH Infographic: Keep Workers Safe on the Road

The NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety recently released an infographic that answers the question “Why does workplace motor vehicle safety matter?” It covers the human and economic impact of work-related crashes, information enabling HR or safety professionals to make a business case for a motor vehicle safety program in the workplace. The infographic is available for download.

Get Connected With NIOSH!

Did you know you can friend, like, follow, or join us on social media? Get the latest on NIOSH research, publications, and other news by following or joining us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. For a full list of all NIOSH social media accounts, click here.

Early Registration Deadline for Fatigue Conference

The early registration deadline is December 19 for the 10th International Conference on Managing Fatigue, in March 20–23, 2017 in San Diego, CA.

Understanding Small Enterprises Conference

The Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health, in partnership with the NIOSH Small Business Assistance Program, invite you to the Understanding Small Enterprises (USE) Conference in Denver, Colorado on October 25–27, 2017. This historic conference will be the first-ever international workplace safety and health conference specifically focused on small businesses to be held in the United States. Small businesses, researchers, public health professionals, and students from around the globe will come together to understand the unique needs of small businesses and share strategies for cultivating healthy work environments. With presentations on the latest research in workplace health and safety from industry experts, networking opportunities, and in-depth trainings on bringing safety and wellness to work, the USE Conference offers opportunities to gain valuable training and lasting connections. The call for abstracts is open until January 15, 2017. Please visit here to learn more.

Monthly Features

NIOSH Congratulates

George Conway, MD, MPH
Dr. George A Conway retired from CDC on November 30, after 29 ½ years’ service. For nineteen of those years Dr. Conway served various senior positions at NIOSH. From 1992 through 2011, Dr. Conway served as Chief of the CDC/NIOSH Alaska Field Station and later as Director of the CDC/NIOSH Alaska Pacific Regional Office in Anchorage, Alaska, leading injury surveillance and prevention for occupational deaths and injuries in Alaska and other Circumpolar areas.He had additional roles, 2004-2006 as Acting Director of the Spokane Research Laboratory, 2006-2011 as Director of the CDC/NIOSH Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing Program and founding Manager of the CDC/NIOSH Oil and Gas Safety and Health Program.Retiring from the USPHS in 2008, he continued that work as a civilian, becoming Director of the new CDC/NIOSH Office of Agriculture Safety and Health in 2011.

CDC Technology Challenge Winners
Kendra Broadwater and Eric Glassford of NIOSH won the first U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Technology Challenge for their project idea RAPID-TECH, an online tool for workers who participate in safety and health investigations to access their results and other important information. Over the next 9 months, the Informatics Innovation Unit of the CDC Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Services will provide public health data and technology experts to build the innovative technology. Sixty-one teams submitted applications and five finalists were chosen to pitch their idea to a panel of CDC judges. Kendra and Eric were selected as the overall winner at the final event in Atlanta, Georgia, on October 26. Both Kendra and Eric are with the NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Program in Cincinnati, Ohio.


Public Safety Sector Holds Webinar on Workplace Violence
On October 18, the Public Safety Sector conducted a webinar for NORA Council members, discussing workplace violence.The featured presenters were Dr. Dan Hartley and Capt. Marilyn Lou Ridenour from the NIOSH Division of Safety Research. Contact if you are interested in attending future NORA Council meetings.

News from Our Partners

Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders in Home Care Services Workers 
Washington State’s Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) program recently published data on work-related musculoskeletal disorders and other injuries in home care services workers. Utilization of health care services in the home environment is increasing in the United States, necessitating a better understanding of the risks and hazards workers experience in providing these services. The report is intended to provide timely data for stakeholders to develop prevention programs for home services workers. More information can be found in the Washington Home Care Workers Report.

OSHA Issues Final Rule Updating Walking-Working Surfaces Standards and Establishing Personal Fall Protection Systems Requirements
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule on November 17 updating its general industry Walking-Working Surfaces Standards specific to slip, trip, and fall hazards. The rule also includes a new section under the general industry Personal Protective Equipment standards that establishes employer requirements for using personal fall protection systems. OSHA estimates the final standard will prevent 29 fatalities and more than 5,842 injuries annually. The rule becomes effective on January 17, 2017, and will affect approximately 112 million workers at 7 million worksites.

Study Looks At Fall “Near Miss” Reporting in Construction Industry
The Florida Department of Health’s Occupational Health and Safety Program collaborated with the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, Department of Public Health Sciences, on a pilot study to develop a fall-related near-miss measurement instrument for workers in the construction industry. The instrument was used to collect data from temporary and full-time workers. The study found that payroll workers differed significantly from temporary workers when asked if the worker would report a near miss if the near miss resulted in injury.

FACE Reports

Foreman Struck and Killed by Backhoe Loader Outrigger During Excavation—Massachusetts
A foreman for a municipal water department was fatally injured while repairing a water line. The foreman was in an excavated hole and a backhoe loader was near the trench. The loader was pulled forward and the outrigger struck the foreman, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program Reports

Wildland Fire Fighter Dies from Hyperthermia During Pack Test—Arizona
A 30-year-old seasonal wildland fire fighter was completing the arduous duty work capacity test. After walking 3 miles with a 45-pound pack in 40 minutes, he collapsed. The fire fighter was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital. The autopsy report listed hyperthermia and probable dehydration due to physical exertion as the cause of death.

Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program Update

Recommendations Provided to a Federal Crime Lab
HHE Program Investigators determined that chemical exposures at the lab were well controlled. However, they recommended that the employer require employees to wear gloves when handling methylene chloride, improve the effectiveness of the ventilation hood for the wet bullet trap, and talk to employees about managing their workload. For more information, click here.

Federal Register Notices of Public Meetings and Public Comment

Request for Nominations of Candidates to Serve on the World Trade Center Health Program Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee (the STAC or the Committee)
The notice was posted on October 25. Nominations must be submitted (postmarked or electronically received) by December 15.

World Trade Center Health Program Enrollment, Treatment, Appeals & Reimbursement—Revision
The notice was posted on October 24. Written comments must be received on or before December 23.

Measuring Worker Well-being for Total Worker Health—New
The notice was posted on November 14. Written comments must be received on or before January 13, 2017.

Upcoming Conferences and Workshops

A comprehensive list of upcoming conferences can be found at

“This Month in History”

A quarter-century ago, NIOSH and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency responded to growing stakeholder concern about indoor air quality with a new guide for building owners and facility managers. Published in December 1991, the guide provided authoritative solutions for improving and maintaining ventilation quality and reducing mold and other pollutants in buildings. More information is available: Building Air Quality: A Guide for Building Owners and Facility Managers.