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NIOSH eNews – March 2011


Volume 8 Number 11 March 2011


From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH
March eNews 2011

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

A century ago this month, one of the most horrendous disasters in industrial history occurred. On March 25, 1911, fire ignited in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, a business in New York City that manufactured shirtwaists, as women’s blouses were then termed. The fire rapidly spread through the eighth, ninth, and tenth stories of the Asch Building, on the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street, which the factory occupied. The disaster claimed the lives of 146 immigrant garment workers, most of them young women, who either died from the fire or, desperate to escape, jumped to their deaths. The toll represented the fourth highest loss of life in an industrial disaster in U.S. history.

Many of the survivors later gave personal accounts of what happened that day. In the book The Triangle, by Leon Stein, machine operator Ida Kornweiser tells how she escaped with her life that day. “I ran into the staircase hall but the flames were coming up from downstairs. I tried to get through but I could not. There was too much heat. I ran back into the shop. I don’t know where it came from but I found a roll of lawn piece goods. Maybe it wasn’t a whole roll. It was white lawn. I wrapped it around and around and around me until only my face showed out. Then I ran right into the fire in the stairway hall. I ran upstairs. I gasped for breath. The lawn caught fire as I ran and I kept peeling it off of me. I kept turning and twisting while I was running because the burning lawn was on me. I suffered first degree burns.”

In the accounts of the survivors such as Ida, and in volumes of testimony in a trial that followed, a picture emerges of unsafe and exploitative working conditions. Even though their employers adamantly denied it, the survivors asserted that their employers had locked the exit door as a deterrent against stealing. According to accounts, few employees were even aware that a fire escape existed. Histories of the disaster indicate that 23 individual civil suits against the owners of the Asch Building were eventually settled, with an average recovery of $75 per life lost. This tragedy horrified America and prompted many labor reforms. It was one of the pivotal moments that eventually led to the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the pledge of safe employment conditions for all working men and women. We are fortunate that the nature of work in the United States has changed for the better in many significant ways since the tragedy of that day in 1911. Our society no longer accepts exploitative conditions and occupational hazards as inevitable costs of doing business.

Despite this progress, we must remember that the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy still holds many important lessons a century later. People continue to die on the job. There were 4,340 work-related fatalities in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary estimates. All of us have critical roles to play in reducing this toll. We in occupational safety and health must continue our efforts to eliminate the hazards that persist in our traditional heavy industries, to anticipate and address the potential hazards of our emerging economies, and to make the case that corporate responsibility and profitability go hand in hand. Immigrants continue to arrive in the United States, seeking better lives for themselves and their families. In 2011 as in 1911, new immigrants are employed disproportionately in the most hazardous industries, hold a disproportionate share of low-paying jobs, and face great challenges in accessing health care and social services. We must be sensitive to those factors and to do what we can to eliminate health and safety disparities. We also must be sensitive to factors of culture and language that demand new approaches to meaningful safety training, as we continue to transition from the mostly English-speaking, mostly male workforce of the middle and late twentieth century to a much more diverse twenty-first century demographic.

The following online resources provide much information about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and its aftermath. The accounts of the workers, the newspaper reports, and the trial testimony are almost unbearably painful, even after the passage of a hundred years, but they are indispensable as a means of appreciating the impact of the disaster in the history of occupational safety and health in this country.

2011 Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Awards

NIOSH and the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) presented the 2011 Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Awards™ at the 36th Annual Hearing Conservation Conference on February 25 in Mesa, Arizona. The awards honor exceptional hearing loss prevention programs designed to protect workers in the construction, manufacturing, and service sectors. In addition, the awards recognize individuals or organizations for innovation and dedication to fostering and implementing advances in the prevention of hearing loss. This year’s winners include the Shaw Industries Group Fibers Division and CPT Leanne Cleveland and the Fort Carson Army Hearing Program. For more information go to /niosh/updates/upd-02-24-11.html.

NOIRS Abstract Deadline Less Than Four Weeks Away

Abstracts are due April 1 for the National Occupational Injury Research Symposium (NOIRS). NOIRS 2011 is a national forum for presentation of the latest findings and methods in occupational injury research. Abstracts of 300 words or less are invited from across all industry sectors in areas such as motor vehicle safety; fall prevention; workplace violence; machine safety; business case/economics of injury; work hours, fatigue, and sleep; safety culture and work injury; injury surveillance; intervention evaluation; risk factor identification; research to practice; injury prevention technology and innovation; and high-risk and vulnerable worker groups. For more information, go to /niosh/noirs/2011/ or contact Jim Collins at

NIOSH Workplace Safety Messages on Spanish-Language TV

NIOSH developed content for a series of short Spanish-language videos on occupational safety and health for the Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network (HITN). The videos, narrated by Maria Sofia Lioce of NIOSH, aired on a live national Spanish-language talk show on HITN. The videos featured topics on silicosis (; tobacco disease (; construction and fall prevention (; preventing infections due to hepatitis B, HIV, and other bloodborne pathogens (; working teens (; and occupational cancer ( For more information, e-mail Maria Sofia Lioce at

Report Tracks Progress of Effective PPE in Emergency Response Situations

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has released a new report, Preventing Transmission of Pandemic Influenza and other Viral Respiratory Diseases: Personal Protective Equipment for Healthcare Personnel, Update 2010 (2011). This report provides a progress update on a 2008 IOM report that responded to a NIOSH request for the IOM to investigate the urgent need to address concerns regarding effective personal protective equipment for use by healthcare personnel in an influenza pandemic.

Healthcare Worker Survey: Chemical Safety, Health Practices

NIOSH invites healthcare workers to participate in a voluntary online survey about safety and health practices in working with hazardous chemicals on the job. The survey will close March 26. /niosh/updates/upd-03-01-11.html.

AFGE Honors the Late Sharon Jenkins

During its celebration of Black History Month, the American Federation of Government Employees honored the late Sharon Jenkins on Feb. 15 for her longtime leadership in employee rights, women’s rights, and workplace diversity. Sharon, who passed away on Nov. 10, 2010, was a valued NIOSH employee, AFGE member, and community leader.

NIOSH Research Leadership Reflected in New Nanotechnology Book

NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D., and NIOSH Senior Scientist Vladimir Murashov, Ph.D., are the co-editors of a new technical book, Nanotechnology Standards, published by Springer Science + Business Media, LLC. The book is described as the first comprehensive collection of state-of-the-art reviews of twenty-first century nanotechnology standards development written by an international team of experts representing both the international standards development community and the nanosciences community. Dr. Howard and Dr. Murashov contributed the introduction to the book, and a chapter, “Health and Safety Standards,” that describes voluntary, consensus-type standards adopted by the private sector as well as mandatory, or government-regulatory, health-related standards for the workplace.

Exercises Help NIOSH Stay Prepared

NIOSH personnel in Cincinnati recently participated in a two-day full-scale emergency response exercise. The exercise allowed those who may be called upon to respond and provide technical assistance during national emergencies to practice using their training and knowledge to safeguard responders and other workers. NIOSH conducts various forms of these exercises throughout all of its facilities in order to be prepared for an emergency situation. NIOSH also has an Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response that provides resources on various related issues, including natural disasters, terrorism, personal protective equipment, and disaster site management. Visit /niosh/topics/emergency.html for additional information.

a group of seven emergency responders in protective gear walking toward the viewer between an ambulance on the right and a NIOSH branded trailer on the left.

NIOSH Stakeholder Meeting to Award Certification Points

The NIOSH Personal Protective Technology Program stakeholders meeting on March 29 in Pittsburgh has been approved by the American Board of Industrial Hygienists to award certification maintenance points for participation. Several states are also participating in awarding continuing education credits to certified pesticide handlers. An application has been submitted to the Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare for continuing education credits for nurses and is pending. Additional information is available at /niosh/npptl.

NIOSH Seeks Public Comment

Online Query System for Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis

NIOSH is accepting public comment through May 1 on a new online query system that provides statistics on the severity of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP) over time and by state and county. The information was collected by the NIOSH Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program, a federally mandated program for surveillance of underground coal miners. To view the database and/or provide comment, go to

New Emergency Response Framework

NIOSH requests comments on the draft document “Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance.” This document proposes a new framework for ensuring responders’ safety and health by monitoring and conducting surveillance of their health and safety during the entire cycle of emergency response. Deadline for comments is April 1. /niosh/docket/review/docket223/.

9/11 Health and Compensation Act

NIOSH requests comments on the implementation of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. Deadline for comments is April 29. /niosh/docket/review/docket226/.

NIOSH Congratulates

NIOSH Researchers Awarded NHCA 2011 Media Award

NIOSH’s hearing loss prevention researchers received the National Hearing Conservation Association’s (NHCA) 2011 Media Award for a series of postings on the NIOSH Science Blog focused on work-related noise and occupational hearing loss prevention. The NHCA Media Award was established to recognize the efforts of writers and/or producers of news features that serve to heighten public awareness of the hazards of noise. The researchers utilized the NIOSH Science Blog platform to engage partners and the public in scientific discussion about noise and hearing loss prevention. /niosh/updates/upd-02-23-11.html.

Mitloehner Recognized for Dairy Research and Impact

Frank Mitloehner, PhD, of the University of California, Davis, received the 2011 Outstanding Dairy Researcher/ Educator Award in February at the World Ag Expo. Dr. Mitloehner is an internationally renowned authority on agricultural air quality, animal-environmental interactions, and environmental engineering. Through funding support from NIOSH, he also conducts research on the impact of air emissions from livestock operations on human health. Learn more at

Global Happenings

Change in Venue for 2012 ICOH Congress

The venue for the 30th International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH), scheduled for March 18-23, 2012, has been moved to Cancun, Mexico. The meeting was originally scheduled to be held in Monterrey, Mexico. However, concerns about security and travel cautions issued by some government institutions led to the decision to move the congress venue. The dates and the scientific program will remain the same. More information is available at

Inclusion of Young Workers in WHO Executive Board Resolution

A new World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board Resolution on Child Injury Prevention ( includes wording to remind countries of their obligations to prevent child labor and to address risks at work encountered by youth under the age of 18. This resolution will go to the World Health Assembly in May 2011 for passage, and it will provide a foundation for continued activities of WHO, ILO, and partners to assist all countries in reducing hazards to young workers. /niosh/programs/global/WHOres128-15CIP.html.

News from Our Partners

Restaurant Workers in San Francisco’s Chinatown Benefit from NIOSH-funded Research

Dr. Meredith Minker ( and the Labor Occupational Health Program at the University of California at Berkeley worked with community, academic, and health department partners on a study of worker health and safety in San Francisco Chinatown restaurants ( A report by the Chinese Progressive Association in partnership with the UC Berkeley program states that these restaurant workers were exposed to significant health and safety risks, such as wet or greasy floors and blocked emergency exits, in addition to inequities in the distribution of wages and tips ( Partners report that this community-based participatory research has resulted in several changes to the local practices of the San Francisco Department of Public Health ( and is being used as part of a national workers’ rights campaign.

IOWA OHSS Program Publishes Pesticide Reports

The Iowa Department of Public Health, Occupational Health and Safety Surveillance Program (IDPH OHSSP), recently updated its website with surveillance reports for its pesticide poisoning program IDPH tracks both work-related and non-work-related pesticide exposures and reports human exposures to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, which is the regulatory agency for the state. IDPH OHSSP is one of five currently funded NIOSH SENSOR-Pesticides states.

Wisconsin’s Work-Related Asthma Mini-Grants

To promote research of and interventions for workplace asthma, the Wisconsin Division of Public Health’s Occupational Health Surveillance Program awarded mini-grants for four projects. These included asthma education in the workplace, development of an adult asthma education module, and investigation of a dairy operation for airborne asthma triggers. A summary of the projects and their findings can be found at

Report Focuses on Lessons Learned to Improve Worker Safety and Health

The University of Massachusetts Lowell, Center for Sustainable Production, has released the report “Lessons Learned: Solutions for Workplace Safety and Health.” The report contains case studies of what it terms systemic failures in protecting workers from injury and illness. The publication also outlines some paths that can more effectively protect workers, the communities in which they live, consumers, and the environment, while stimulating innovation in safer forms of production. For more details, visit

Symposium on Prevention of Work-Related Distracted Driving

NIOSH and The Johns Hopkins Education and Research Center (ERC) for Occupational Safety and Health are co-sponsoring a national symposium on work-related distracted driving April 18 in Laurel, MD. Distracted driving, including texting and cell phone use, is a major cause of motor vehicle crashes and poses a particular risk to workers who drive as part of their job. Registration is $35. For more information go to

New Health Hazard Evaluation Report Now Available

HHE logo Environmental Assessment for the Presence of Influenza Viruses in Dental Practices

HHE program investigators recently evaluated concerns about transmission of 2009 pandemic influenza A (pH1N1) virus to staff at a general dental practice and a pediatric dental practice. No pH1N1 was found in the air or on surfaces at either practice, but seasonal flu virus was found in the air at the pediatric practice during one visit. Although dental staff did not come to work while ill, vaccination rates at both practices were low for both seasonal and pH1N1. HHE program investigators recommended that each office develop procedures for tracking ill employees and excluding them from work and for screening patients for flu symptoms before their visits or at the time of check-in. The report also recommended that the practices encourage employees to get the seasonal flu vaccine every year as part of a comprehensive influenza infection control strategy. /niosh/hhe/reports/pdfs/2010-0019-0021-3120.pdf

Friend Us on Facebook!

Stay up to date on new reports from the NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) program or learn more about the program on the new HHE Facebook page.!/pages/Health-Hazard-Evaluation-Program/157605994287818


NORA 2011 Abstract Submission Deadline Approaching

Wednesday, March 9, is the last day to submit an abstract for the NORA Symposium 2011: Achieving Impact through Research and Partnerships. We encourage you to submit a proposal, as the poster presentations will be at the heart of the exchange between researchers and practitioners. Submission information is accessible at

Call for Nominations for NORA Innovative Research and Partnering Awards

The National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Liaison Committee and NIOSH are pleased to announce an invitation for nominations for two prestigious worker health and safety awards to be presented at the seventh NORA Symposium, to be held in Cincinnati, OH, on July 12 and 13, 2011. Links to the award criteria are located at

r2p Corner

r2p logo NIOSH Activities Highlighted in 2011 Calendar

NIOSH research and emergency response efforts were featured in this year’s calendar for the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) for Technology Transfer, Southeast Region. Featured activities include research to reduce occupational carbon monoxide (CO) exposure from commercial and recreational houseboats, as well as efforts to assess potential exposures and health effects related to containment, cleanup, and other work involved in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon response. In collaboration with partners, the NIOSH boating research stimulated the development of new emission control devices and industry regulations that have dramatically lowered CO build-up in the rear of houseboats. The emergency response efforts resulted in recommended best practices to protect oil-response workers from risks of work-related injury, illness, and fatality and guidance reports that addressed topics such as avoiding exposure, preventing heat stress, and coordinating data collection efforts. To order a calendar or for more information about the FLC Southeast Region go to

What’s new on the NIOSH Science Blog?

Cops and Cars

NIOSH is undertaking what it believes to be the first statewide study of law enforcement officers’ attitudes and beliefs about seatbelt use. Thus, this month the NIOSH Blog is asking police officers, police administrators, law enforcement unions, training academies, and motor-vehicle researchers about their experiences with motor-vehicle crashes and the use of seatbelts while in patrol cars. Read more at /niosh/blog/nsb020911_police.html.

New Web Resources

Comprehensive Directory of Construction Resources

In February the NIOSH Office of Construction Safety and Health launched a new web page that brings together all of the construction resources on the NIOSH website. Please visit this directory and explore at /niosh/construction.

Explore the Virtual Motor Vehicle Safety Center

In February NIOSH launched a virtual research center within the agency that will better focus, coordinate, and stimulate research to prevent work-related motor vehicle injuries and fatalities: Researchers and others interested in further information or in partnering with the new NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety can contact the coordinator, Stephanie Pratt, at

New Communication Products

Preventing Sensitization and Disease from Beryllium Exposure

Workers exposed to particles, fumes, mists, or solutions from beryllium-containing materials may develop beryllium sensitization or chronic beryllium disease, a potentially disabling or even fatal respiratory disease. /niosh/docs/2011-107/.

The Economic Burden of Occupational Fatal Injuries to U.S. Civilian Workers

This document adds an economic dimension to existing research efforts addressing the incidence and prevalence measures of loss associated with fatal occupational injury. /niosh/docs/2011-130/.


To see other new NIOSH communication products, including documents and topic pages, go to the NIOSH “What’s New” page. /niosh/whatsnew/

Call for Abstracts

NORA Symposium 2011: Achieving Impact through Research and Partnerships.
Call for poster abstracts. Deadline for submission is March 9.

CIB W099 Prevention: Means to the End of Construction Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities
Call for abstracts and papers. Deadline is March 15.

National Communication Association 97th Annual Convention
Call for submission. Deadline for submission is March 16.

APHA Film Festival: Healthy Communities Promote Healthy Minds & Bodies
Call for film nominations. Deadline for submission is April 1.

NIOSH National Occupational Injury Research Symposium
Call for abstracts. Deadline for submission is April 1.

Eliminating Health and Safety Disparities at Work
Call for abstracts. Deadline for submission is April 1.

Institute for Healthcare Advancement Health Literacy Conference
Call for posters and call for award nominations. Deadline for posters submission is March 14, and deadline for award submission is April 1.

Upcoming Conferences & Workshops

Occupational and Environmental Medicine Update and Construction Industry: Old and Emerging Occupational Hazards
March 17-19, San Francisco, CA

21st Annual Art & Science of Health Promotion Conference
March 21–25, Colorado Springs, CO

American Occupational Health Conference (AOHC)
March 26–29, Washington, DC

Personal Protective Technology Program Stakeholders Meeting
March 29, Pittsburgh, PA

AAOHN 2011 National Conference: Health and Safety of Workers at Home and Around the World
April 29–May 5, Atlanta, GA

Fire Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Symposium
May 2–4, Charlotte, NC

American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Expo (AIHce)—Look for us! Booth #849
May 14–19, Portland, OR

Work, Stress, and Health 2011: Work and Well-Being in an Economic Context
May 19-22, Orlando FL

NORA Symposium 2011: Achieving Impact Through Research and Partnerships
July 12-13, Cincinnati, Ohio

The American Society of Safety Engineers—Look for us!
June 12–14, Chicago, IL

5th International Conference on Nanotechnology Occupational and Environmental Health
August 9-12, Boston, MA

Prevention Through Design Conference—A New Way of Doing Business: A Report on the National Initiative
August 22–24, Washington, DC

CIB W099 Prevention: Means to the End of Construction Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities
August 24–26, Washington, D.C.

Eliminating Health and Safety Disparities at Work
September 14–15, Chicago, IL

National Occupational Injury Research Symposium (NOIRS)
October 18-20, Morgantown, WV

A comprehensive list of upcoming conferences can be found at /niosh/exhibits.html.

Word of the Month

CWP— CWP or Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis is a lung disease caused by the long-term inhalation of coal mine dust and can cause disability and premature death.

Please send your comments and suggestions to us at

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.