Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety
IN THIS ISSUE: OSHA’s National Emphasis Program Targets
OSHA’s National Emphasis Program (NEP) has eleven targets and of those, isocyanates, hexavalent chromium, lead, and silica, are of special concern to industrial hygienists. OSHA uses additional resources to inspect, educate, and enforce regulations on businesses involved with these materials. See https://www.osha.gov/dep/neps/nep-programs.html
Exposures to isocyanates can have adverse health effects for workers. Isocyanates may sensitize employees after contact, and if repeated, even at concentrations below occupational standards, they can become susceptible to respiratory irritation, bronchitis, and severe asthma attacks. According to NIOSH, severe asthma attacks – and even death – in sensitized subjects has been reported. The major route of occupational exposure of isocyanates is inhalation of the vapor or aerosol. Exposure may also occur through skin contact during mixing or painting. Workers may also be exposed to other isocyanate-containing products such as polyurethane foam.
Jobs that may involve exposure to isocyanates include painting, blowing foam insulation, and the manufacture and thermal degradation of many polyurethane products such as polyurethane foam, insulation materials, surface coatings, car seats, furniture, foam mattresses, under-carpet padding, packaging materials, shoes, laminated fabrics, polyurethane rubber, and adhesives.
Exposure to hexavalent chromium Cr(VI) may cause lung cancer. In addition, it may irritate or damage the nose, throat, and lungs. The eyes and skin are at risk if hexavalent chromium contacts these organs in high concentrations or for a prolonged period of time. Employees may become allergic to Cr(VI) so that inhaling chromate compounds causes wheezing and shortness of breath. Employees may also develop skin allergies that cause swelling and a red, itchy rash that is long-lasting and more severe with repeated contact.
Hexavalent chromium compounds used in industry include chromate pigments in dyes, paints, inks, and plastics; chromates added as anticorrosive agents to paints, primers, and other surface coatings; and chromic acid used to electroplate chromium onto metal parts to provide a decorative or protective coating. Cr(VI) can also be formed during “hot work,” such as the welding, brazing, and cutting of stainless steel or other chromium-containing metals and the melting of chromium metal. In these situations, the chromium metal is not originally hexavalent, but the high temperatures involved in the process result in oxidations that convert the chromium to a hexavalent state.
Lead is a poison and common symptoms of overexposure include loss of appetite, metallic taste in the mouth, anxiety, constipation, nausea, pallor, excessive tiredness, weakness, insomnia, headache, nervous irritability, muscle and joint pain or soreness, fine tremors, numbness, dizziness, hyperactivity, and colic. Chronic exposure may result in damage to blood-forming, nervous, urinary, and reproductive systems. Very high levels can cause brain damage and death. It is found in both general industry and construction. Of particular concern is lead-based paint.
Sand contains silica, which is a hazardous substance. Quartz is the most common form of crystalline silica. Cristobalite and a rare form, tridymite, are two other forms of crystalline silica. All three forms may become respirable size particles when workers chip, cut, drill, or grind objects that contain crystalline silica. Crystalline silica has been classified as a human lung carcinogen. Additionally, breathing crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis, which, in severe cases, can be disabling, or even fatal. Crystalline silica is an important industrial material, and occupational exposure occurs in a variety of workplace settings, including mining, manufacturing, construction, maritime, and agriculture. High rates of silicosis occur in sandblasting, sand-casting foundry operations, mining, tunneling, cement cutting and demolition, masonry work, and granite cutting.
Companies that use processes or materials named in the NEP should make sure that they are following all applicable regulations and work practices. Failure to do so may affect the health of employees as well as subject the company to significant cost, fines, and penalties.
For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or visit us at www.occusafeinc.com
OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.
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