CDC Report: Masks Prevent COVID-19 Spread by Exposed Workers

July 20, 2020
In an editorial published on July 14 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), CDC reviewed the latest science and affirms that cloth face coverings are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19 that could reduce the spread of the disease, particularly when used universally within communities. There is increasing evidence that cloth face coverings help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.
“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”
This review included two case studies, one from JAMA, showing that adherence to universal masking policies reduced SARS-CoV-2 transmission within a Boston hospital system, and one from CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), showing that wearing a mask prevented the spread of infection from two hair stylists to their customers in Missouri.
Additional data in the MMWR showed that immediately after the White House Coronavirus Task Force and CDC advised Americans to wear cloth face coverings when leaving home, the proportion of U.S. adults who chose to do so increased, with 3 in 4 reporting they had adopted the recommendation in a national internet survey.
The results of the Missouri case study provide further evidence on the benefits of wearing a cloth face covering. The investigation focused on two hair stylists — infected with and having symptoms of COVID-19 — whose salon policy followed a local ordinance requiring cloth face coverings for all employees and patrons. The investigators found that none of the stylists’ 139 clients or secondary contacts became ill, and all 67 clients who volunteered to be tested showed no sign of infection.
The finding adds to a growing body of evidence that cloth face coverings provide source control – that is, they help prevent the person wearing the mask from spreading COVID-19 to others. The main protection individuals gain from masking occurs when others in their communities also wear face coverings.
When two stylists at a Missouri hair salon tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, researchers from CoxHealth hospitals, Washington University, the University of Kansas, and the Springfield-Greene County Health Department worked together to trace contacts, investigate the cases, and publish their findings in the MMWR.
One of the stylists developed respiratory symptoms but continued to see clients for eight days. The other, who apparently became infected from her co-worker, also developed respiratory symptoms and continued to see clients for four days.
The salon in which they worked had a policy requiring both stylists and their clients to wear face coverings, consistent with the local government ordinance. Both stylists wore double-layered cloth face coverings or surgical masks when seeing clients. The median appointment time was 15 minutes and ranged from 15 to 45 minutes. More than 98% of clients wore a face covering—47% wore cloth face coverings, 46% wore surgical masks, and about 5% wore N-95 respirators.
When customers were asked whether they had been ill with any respiratory symptoms in the 90 days preceding their appointment, 87 (84%) reported that they had not. None of the interviewed customers developed symptoms of illness. Among 67 (48%) customers who volunteered to be tested, all 67 tested negative for the virus that causes COVID-19. Several family members of one of the stylist’s subsequently developed symptoms and received a diagnosis of COVID-19.
CDC analyzed data from an internet survey of a national sample of 503 adults during April 7–9 and found that about 62% said they would follow the newly announced recommendations to wear a face mask when outside the home. A repeat survey during May 11-13 showed that the percentage of adults endorsing face mask wearing increased to more than 76%.
The increase was driven largely by a significant jump in approval by white, non-Hispanic adults, from 54% to 75%.  Approval among Black, non-Hispanic adults went up from 74% to 82%, and remained stable among Hispanic/Latino adults at 76% and 77%.
There was also a large increase in face-mask approval among respondents in the Midwest, from 44% to 74%.  Approval was greatest in the Northeast, going from 77% to 87%.
Safely Get Your EHS Training at Home or in Your Office
To help you get the training you need, Environmental Resource Center has added a number of dates to our already popular live webcast training. Stay in compliance and learn the latest regulations from the comfort of your office or home. Webcast attendees receive the same benefits as our seminar attendees including expert instruction, comprehensive course materials, one year of access to our AnswerlineTM service, course certificate, and a personalized user portal on Environmental Resource Center’s website.
Upcoming hazardous waste and DOT hazardous materials webcasts:
Hazardous Waste Management: Annual Update – July 28, August 11, August 25
11 Consumer Products to be Studied for Toxic Chemicals
Following a 2019 state law aimed at keeping toxic chemicals out of consumer products, the Washington Department of Ecology last week submitted its report to the Legislature that outlines 11 consumer products that need further study and potential regulation. These products could be hazardous to human health and the environment.
The draft report, made public in January 2020, was amended after a 45-day public comment period to include additional products suggested by consumers. Products on that list include paints, printer inks, laundry detergents, and beauty supplies, among others.
“I’m grateful to the residents and community groups who provided feedback on the draft list of products,” said Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program Manager Darin Rice. “We now have a much more robust list of potentially hazardous products to study, and we’re looking forward to feedback from lawmakers as we continue researching these products and chemicals.”
Rice added that the overwhelming theme of the public input was concern about exposure to toxic chemicals from consumer products. Ecology will use the public input as it works with industry to help move the market toward replacing toxic chemicals with safer alternatives.
The priority chemicals below are followed by examples of products that contain them:
  • Flame retardants
    • Electric and electronic enclosures (device casings)
    • Recreational foam products
  • PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)
    • Paints and printing inks
  • PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances)
    • Carpet and rugs
    • Leather and textile furnishings
    • Aftermarket treatments for textile and leather
  • Phenolic compounds
    • Food cans
    • Thermal paper
    • Laundry detergent
  • Phthalates
    • Vinyl flooring
    • Personal care and beauty products (fragrances)
Ecology’s next steps will be to look for safer, feasible alternatives to these priority chemicals. This proposed list of products will be final at the end of the 2021 legislative session.
Revised OSHA Beryllium General Industry Standard
OSHA published a final rule revising the beryllium standard for general industry. The final rule includes changes designed to clarify the standard, and simplify or improve compliance. According to OSHA, these changes maintain protection for employees while ensuring that the standard is well understood and compliance is simple and straightforward.
The final rule amends the following paragraphs of the beryllium standard for general industry: "Definitions," "Methods of Compliance," "Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment," "Hygiene Areas and Practices," "Housekeeping," "Medical Surveillance," "Hazard Communication" and "Recordkeeping." It also has a new Appendix A: "Operations for Establishing Beryllium Work Areas."
The compliance date of this final standard as modified is September 14, 2020. OSHA has been enforcing most of the provisions for general industry since Dec. 12, 2018. The agency began enforcing the provisions for change rooms and showers on March 11, 2019, and engineering controls on March 10, 2020. The final standard will affect approximately 50,500 workers employed in general industry and is estimated to yield minor net cost savings to employers.
Updates to EPA TRI Reporting Regulations
In the July 14 Federal Register, EPA made corrections to the existing regulatory language for the TRI Program. The agency made editorial corrections that update identifiers, formulas, and names for certain TRI-listed chemicals described in the CFR, and updated the text to indicate for which chemicals the 0.1 percent de minimis concentration applies to remedy a cross-reference to a no-longer-accurate OSHA regulatory citation.
The updates did not change the regulatory requirements of the TRI Program. EPA described the action is a housekeeping rulemaking intended to correct inaccuracies in regulatory text.
Kachina Petroleum Equipment Company Cited for Hazardous Waste Violations
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) issued an administrative compliance order to Kachina Petroleum Equipment Co. (Kachina) for alleged violations of state and federal hazardous waste laws.
NMED discovered multiple violations at the Kachina facility located at 9600 Bell Avenue SE in Albuquerque during a routine compliance inspection in July 2019. The violations include improper transport, documentation and labeling of hazardous wastes stored at the facility, as well as insufficient employee training. Kachina also failed to pay required fees in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
As of the date of the citation, Kachina had not adequately addressed the violations. The administrative compliance order requires Kachina to correct the violations, as well as pay a civil penalty of $20,100.
EPA, Justice Department and Texas Settle with DuPont for Alleged Violations of Waste, Water and Air Environmental Laws at Former La Porte, Texas Facility
EPA, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the state of Texas have announced a settlement with E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) to resolve alleged hazardous waste, air, and water violations at its former La Porte, Texas chemical manufacturing facility. In 2014, the La Porte facility was the site of a chemical accident where the release of nearly 24,000 pounds of methyl mercaptan resulted in the death of four workers and forced the company to permanently close the chemical manufacturing plant in 2016. As part of a separate settlement in 2018, DuPont paid a $3.1 million civil penalty for violating EPA’s chemical accident prevention program. Under this settlement agreement, DuPont will pay a $3.195 million civil penalty.
“This settlement concludes EPA’s efforts since 2008 to address impacts to the environment at the La Porte site,” said EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine. “Although DuPont’s chemical manufacturing facility never reopened after the 2014 explosion, there are other operations located on the DuPont-owned property. This settlement ensures both proper management of the wastes generated by those operations as well as the cleanup of contamination from past operations.”
“This settlement represents TCEQ’s ongoing commitment to protecting human health and the environment, and is a crucial step in the restoration process,” said Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Executive Director Toby Baker.
This settlement resolves alleged violations of the Resource, Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Clean Air Act (CAA) from DuPont’s past chemical manufacturing operations. The alleged RCRA violations include failure to make hazardous waste determinations; treatment, storage or disposal of hazardous waste without a permit; and, failure to meet land disposal restrictions. The alleged CWA violations include failure to fully implement the facility’s oil spill prevention plan and alleged CAA violations include failure to comply with applicable emissions standards at its Biological Water Treatment unit.
Even though the facility closed in 2016, DuPont continues to operate a wastewater treatment system on site and, as a result of this settlement, will perform sampling and analysis to determine the extent of any existing soil, sediment, or groundwater contamination within or around impoundments remaining on site which may contain wastes from the closed chemical manufacturing plant. DuPont will perform this work pursuant to Texas’ Risk Reduction Program and perform any necessary cleanup.
The Consent Decree was lodged on July 9, 2020 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
Research Points to Strategies for Recycling of Solar Panels
Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have conducted the first global assessment into the most promising approaches to end-of-life management for solar photovoltaic (PV) modules.
PV modules have a 30-year lifespan. There is currently no plan for how to manage this at end of their lifespan. The volume of modules no longer needed could total 80 million metric tons by 2050. In addition to quantity, the nature of the waste also poses challenges. PV modules are made of valuable, precious, critical, and toxic materials. There is currently no standard for how to recycle the valuable ones and mitigate the toxic ones.
Numerous articles review individual options for PV recycling but, until now, no one has done a global assessment of all PV recycling efforts to identify the most promising approaches.
“PV is a major part of the energy transition,” said Garvin Heath, a senior scientist at NREL who specializes in sustainability science. “We must be good stewards of these materials and develop a circular economy for PV modules.”
Heath is lead author of “Research and development priorities for silicon photovoltaic module recycling supporting a circular economy,” which appears in the journal Nature Energy. His co-authors from NREL are Timothy Silverman, Michael Kempe, Michael Deceglie, and Teresa Barnes; and former NREL colleagues Tim Remo and Hao Cui. The team also collaborated with outside experts, particularly in solar manufacturing.
“It provides a succinct, in-depth synthesis of where we should and should not steer our focus as researchers, investors, and policymakers,” Heath said.
The authors focused on the recycling of crystalline silicon, a material used in more than 90% of installed PV systems in a very pure form. It accounts for about half of the energy, carbon footprint, and cost to produce PV modules, but only a small portion of their mass. Silicon’s value is determined by its purity.
“It takes a lot of investment to make silicon pure,” said Silverman, PV hardware expert. “For a PV module, you take these silicon cells, seal them up in a weatherproof package where they’re touching other materials, and wait 20 to 30 years—all the while, PV technology is improving. How can we get back that energy and material investment in the best way for the environment?”
The authors found some countries have PV recycling regulations in place, while others are just beginning to consider solutions. Currently, only one crystalline silicon PV-dedicated recycling facility exists in the world due to the limited amount of waste being produced today.
Based on their findings, the authors recommend research and development to reduce recycling costs and environmental impacts, while maximizing material recovery. They suggest focusing on high-value silicon versus intact silicon wafers. The latter has been touted as achievable, but silicon wafers often crack and would not likely meet today’s exacting standards to enable direct reuse. To recover high-value silicon, the authors highlight the need for research and development of silicon purification processes.
The authors also emphasized that the environmental and economic impacts of recycling practices should be explored using techno-economic analyses and life-cycle assessments. Finally, the authors noted that finding ways to avoid waste to begin with is an important part of the equation, including how to make solar panels last longer, use materials more effectively, and produce electricity more efficiently.
“We need research and development because the accumulation of waste will sneak up on us," Silverman said. "Much like the exponential growth of PV installations, it will seem to move slowly and then rapidly accelerate. By the time there’s enough waste to open a PV-dedicated facility, we need to have already studied the proper process."
If successful, these findings could contribute one piece of a PV circular economy.
Allterra Environmental Settles with State Over Fraud Allegations
A Santa Cruz, CA based consulting company accused of inflating invoices tied to work with the Underground Storage Tank Cleanup Fund has agreed to pay more than $100,000 in penalties as part of a settlement agreement with the State Water Resources Control Board.
The company, currently doing business as Allterra Solar, submitted invoices that included padded expenses, exaggerated hours for project management and excessive mileage tallies, according to the settlement approved by the State Water Board.
“Honest invoicing of actual costs for reasonable and necessary services is essential to the relationship between the Cleanup Fund program and the consultant community,” said Yvonne West, director of the State Water Board’s Office of Enforcement. “We will vigorously investigate and prosecute firms and individuals who falsify invoices or otherwise inflate costs to obtain unjustified reimbursements.”
The State Water Board alleged that Allterra’s geologist made misrepresentations with reimbursement requests that included excessive project management hours as well as mileage reimbursement costs for employees who never requested reimbursement nor received the reimbursement funds that were paid to Allterra.
As part of the January 2020 settlement, Allterra will pay a $106,533 penalty, and the company and its chief executive officer, James Allen, will be banned from participating in any State Water Board reimbursement program, including the Cleanup Fund.
A website documents the State Water Board’s efforts to prevent, investigate and prosecute cases of fraud, waste and/or abuse against the Cleanup Fund. Also, the State Water Board maintains an online list of disqualified businesses and persons banned from working for the State of California.
Invisible Plastics in Water
A Washington State University research team has found that nanoscale particles of the most commonly used plastics tend to move through the water supply, especially in fresh water, or settle out in wastewater treatment plants, where they end up as sludge, in landfills, and often as fertilizer. Neither scenario is good.
“We are drinking lots of plastics,” said Indranil Chowdhury, an assistant professor in WSU’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, who led the research. “We are drinking almost a few grams of plastics every month or so. That is concerning because you don’t know what will happen after 20 years.” 
The researchers, including graduate students, Mehanz Shams and IftaykhairulAlam, examined what happens to tiny, nanoscale plastics that are making their way into the aquatic environment. They have published their work in the high-impact journal, Water Research.
It’s estimated that every day about eight trillion pieces of microplastics go through wastewater treatment plants and end up in the aquatic environment. These little bits of plastic can come from the degradation of larger plastics or from microbeads that are used in personal care products. A recent study showed that more than 90 percent of tap water in the U.S. contains nanoscale plastics that are invisible to the human eye, Chowdury said.
In their study, the researchers studied the fate of nanoparticles of polyethylene and polystyrene, which are used in a huge number of products, including plastic bags, personal care products, kitchen appliances, disposable drinking cups and packaging material. They examined how the tiny plastic particles behaved under various chemistries, ranging from salty seawater to water containing organic material.
“We’re looking at this more in a fundamental way,” Chowdury said.  “Why are they becoming stable and remaining in the water? Once they’re in different types of water, what makes these plastics remain suspended in the environment?”
The researchers found that while acidity of water has little impact on what happens to nanoscale plastics, salt and natural organic matter are important in determining how the plastics move or settle. What is clear is that tiny plastics are staying in the environment with unknown health and environmental consequences, he said.
“Our drinking water plants are not sufficient at removing these micro and nanoscale plastics,” he said. “We’re finding these plastics in the drinking water but we don’t know why.”
Chowdury and his team are now studying techniques for removing the plastics from water and have recently received a grant from the State of Washington Water Research Center for that work. In the meantime, he encourages people to lessen the impact of nanoscale plastics by reducing their use of single-use plastics.  “Reuse plastics as much as possible,” he said.  
Employers Urged to Follow State’s Guidance on Protecting Workers from COVID-19
Cal/OSHA urged California employers to carefully review and follow the state's COVID-19 workplace safety and health guidance to ensure their workers are protected from the virus. The guidance will help employers comply with their obligations to implement effective measures to train and protect employees at each worksite.
“Protecting employees from workplace hazards is not only required by law, it is also the right thing to do and an essential part of stopping the spread of the virus,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker. “We’ve designed guidance documents for more than 30 industries so employers have a roadmap.”
Existing regulations require employers to implement effective measures to protect employees from worksite hazards, including recognized health hazards such as COVID-19. Employers must take steps to: 
  • Modify work or the worksite to allow people to be at least six feet apart or install effective barriers where that is not feasible.
  • Provide workers enough time and supplies to disinfect common surfaces.
  • Encourage workers to wash their hands frequently in accordance with CDC guidelines, and provide enough time and supplies so they can do it properly.
  • Provide employees with cloth face coverings or allow them to use their own and reimburse them for the cost. 
  • Screen workers for COVID-19 symptoms before they start work, 
  • Have workers stay home if they feel ill and inform them about sick leave benefits. 
Employers in businesses that interact with the public must follow the latest public health orders and ensure a safe workspace to protect workers and customers. In response to an increased number of COVID-19 cases, on July 13 Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health issued an expanded statewide order on indoor closures to slow the spread of the disease.
Workers and customers should use face coverings at all times in accordance with the latest public health order. If employers are moving worksites outdoors, they must account for new hazards such as heat illness, moving vehicles and proper illumination for those working at night.
Company President Sentenced to Prison, Fined for Violating Clean Air Act
The former president of Custom Carbon Processing, Inc. was sentenced to 18 months in prison, three years of supervised release and fined $50,000 for his actions related to an explosion that injured three workers at the company’s oil processing plant in Wibaux, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.
A jury in September found Peter Margiotta, 63, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, guilty of all three counts in an indictment, including conspiracy, Clean Air Act—general duty and Clean Air Act-knowing endangerment.
U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided. Judge Watters took restitution under advisement and will issue a ruling later. Margiotta was released pending assignment to a federal prison.
“By failing to comply with the law in the construction and operation of a plant that handled hazardous materials, Mr. Margiotta endangered his employees, three of whom were injured in the explosion. Companies doing business in Montana must follow environmental regulations," U.S. Attorney Alme said.
“By knowingly operating an oil processing facility without appropriate safeguards, the defendant endangered workers and the public,” said Bert Marsden, Resident Agent in Charge of the Environmental Protection Agency’s criminal enforcement program.  “Today’s sentencing reflects the egregious nature of the defendant’s actions.”
“Employees expect that their employers prioritize their safety by ensuring adherence to Federal safety regulations. In hazardous material transportation and processing, this expectation is paramount,” stated Cissy McCune, Regional Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General.  “Our work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and agents from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which resulted in the sentencing of Mr. Margiotta, is a testament to our commitment to protecting the safety of our nation’s transportation workforce.”
“The hard work and dedication of our federal partners to bring justice for victims and hold Mr. Margiotta accountable for his unacceptable actions is to be commended,” said Rita Lucero, Acting Regional Administrator for OSHA’s Denver Region.  “OSHA will continue to collaborate with federal agencies to hold employers accountable if they violate federal workplace safety and health laws that place their employees at risk of serious physical harm and death.”
During a five-day jury trial, the prosecution presented the following evidence:
  • Margiotta was president and CEO of Custom Carbon Processing, a Wyoming company that constructed the Michels Disposal Well and Oil Reclamation Facility in Wibaux in 2012. The construction was done in ways that allowed extremely hazardous hydrocarbon vapors and air pollutants to be released into the air.
On July 4, 2012, Margiotta directed the opening of the plant before implementing appropriate electrical wiring, ventilation and other safety measures. On that date, the project manager emailed Margiotta: “The control panels must be moved asap with the explosion proof wiring. We also run the risk of killing someone, not only our operators but also customers.”
Margiotta also directed employees to accept shipments of highly volatile and flammable “natural gas condensate” or “drip gas” into the operations in a purported effort to help thin and process the slop oil at the plant.
Margiotta disregarded repeated warnings from the plant’s foreman that the natural gas condensate was not effective in thinning the slop oil and instead was creating a dangerous situation because of its highly volatile and flammable nature.
On Dec. 29, 2012, the plant accepted a delivery of natural gas condensate. During the offloading of the material, hazardous and flammable vapors from the condensate filled the plant building and spread out the open bay doors where the truck delivering the condensate was located. The vapors reached an ignition source, triggering an explosion that injured three employees and extensively damaged the plant, the truck and trailer involved in the delivery.
This Clean Air Act prosecution was of national significance not only for the extent of the harm caused, but also because it is the first trial conviction under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 7413(c)(5), which imposes increased penalties for anyone who knowingly releases hazardous air pollutants knowing that, at the time of the release, they have put someone in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury. It is also the first conviction under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 7412(r)(1), which places a general duty on owners/operators of facilities handling extremely hazardous substances to prevent and mitigate the consequences of accidental releases of those substances.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Dake and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Nelson prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
COVID-19 Emergency Workplace Standards Adopted in Virginia
On July 15, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced the adoption of statewide emergency workplace safety standards in response to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. These first-in-the-nation safety rules will protect Virginia workers by mandating appropriate personal protective equipment, sanitation, social distancing, infectious disease preparedness and response plans, record keeping, training, and hazard communications in workplaces across the Commonwealth. The actions come in the absence of federal guidelines.
“Workers should not have to sacrifice their health and safety to earn a living, especially during an ongoing global pandemic,” said Governor Northam. “In the face of federal inaction, Virginia has stepped up to protect workers from COVID-19, creating the nation’s first enforceable workplace safety requirements. Keeping Virginians safe at work is not only a critical part of stopping the spread of this virus, it’s key to our economic recovery and it’s the right thing to do.”
Newly adopted standards require all employers to mandate social distancing measures and face coverings for employees in customer-facing positions and when social distancing is not possible, provide frequent access to hand washing or hand sanitizer, and regularly clean high-contact surfaces. In addition, new standards require all employees be notified within 24 hours if a coworker tests positive for the virus. Employees who are known or suspected to be positive for COVID-19 cannot return to work for 10 days or until they receive two consecutive negative tests.
The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board voted to approve an emergency temporary standard on infectious disease prevention after Governor Northam directed the creation of enforceable regulations in May. These temporary emergency standards will remain in effect for six months and can be made permanent through the process defined in state law.
“As a top state for workforce development, it should be no surprise that Virginia is also the first in the nation to establish such a robust set of emergency workplace safety regulations,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “Our workers are our greatest asset, and I am confident that these temporary standards will provide Virginians with the peace of mind they need to return to work and fuel the Commonwealth’s economic recovery.”
“Keeping Virginia’s economy moving forward has never been more important, and keeping our workers safe is critical to sustained economic recovery,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “COVID-19 is unfortunately going to continue impacting our everyday lives, and these regulations will provide for safer, more predictable workplaces for Virginians.”
“The Commonwealth’s new emergency workplace safety standards are a powerful tool in our toolbox for keeping Virginia workers safe and protected throughout this pandemic,” said C. Ray Davenport, Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry. “Many employers have already enacted these evidence-based practices, and we are committed to working collaboratively with those who have not to ensure they are in compliance with the new emergency temporary standard.”
The emergency temporary standards, infectious disease preparedness and response plan templates, and training guidance will be posted on the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry website at Workers who feel unsafe in their workplace can file a formal complaint with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration here.
In accordance with Va. Code §40.1‐22(6a), the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) will take immediate effect upon publication in a newspaper of general circulation, published in the City of Richmond, Virginia.
The Department anticipates that publication of the ETS will occur during the week of July 27, 2020, although the exact date is not known at this time.
Training and outreach products are being developed by the VOSH Cooperative Programs Division and will be made available to the regulated community, employees, and the general public as soon as they are available:
  • COVID‐19 Training PowerPoint for Employers and Employees with an included training certification form
  • ETS Training PowerPoint that explains the elements of the standard with an included training certification form (including different versions for different industries)
  • FAQs about the standard
  • Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan Template (including different versions for different industries)
  • Training PowerPoint on how to develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan Template with an included training certification form
  • Flowchart for determining how to classify job tasks by hazards employees are potentially exposed to for “very high”, “high”, “medium”, and “lower” exposure risk levels
Covered employers will be given 60 days from the effective date of the ETS to develop and train employees on their Infectious disease preparedness and response plan required under §16 VAC 25‐220‐70. They will be given 30 days to train employees on the standard under §16 VAC 25‐220‐80.
Environmental Resource Center Update
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have combined our Safety and Environmental Tips of the week. This issue includes some of the latest recommendations for you to keep safe at work and at home in this evolving event.
The health and wellbeing of our employees, customers and our communities is what matters most to all of us. To continue to serve you, our seminars have been converted to live online webcasts. You can find a list of upcoming live webcasts at this link.
If you have enrolled in a seminar in July or August, in many cases the seminar will be held on approximately the same dates and at the same times via online webcast. We will contact you by phone or email regarding the details on how to attend the class. On-site training and consulting services are proceeding as usual. If you wish to convert these to remote services, please call your Environmental Resource Center representative or customer service at 800-537-2372.
Because many of our live and on-site training sessions have been postponed or canceled, we have staff available to assist you in coping with COVID-19 as well as your routine EHS requirements. If you have EHS staff that have been quarantined, we can provide remote assistance to help you meet your ongoing environmental and safety compliance requirements. For details, call 800-537-2372.
EPA Takes Action to Help Americans Disinfect Indoor Spaces Efficiently and Effectively
EPA has taken action to ensure that you are able to disinfect public spaces effectively and efficiently to control SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The newly released guidance outlines what information registrants need to submit in order to expedite the review of requests to add electrostatic sprayer application directions to disinfectant product labels for use against SARS-CoV-2.
“Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces continues to be an effective way to reduce the spread of the virus,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “With this guidance, EPA is ensuring offices, schools, and local governments have access to as many effective and approved surface disinfectant products as possible—including those designed to disinfect large indoor spaces.”
Electrostatic spraying has drawn increased interest through the public health emergency because of the need to disinfect large indoor spaces (e.g., schools, offices, businesses) or areas with many surfaces. Unlike conventional spraying methods, electrostatic sprayers apply a positive charge to liquid disinfectants as they pass through the nozzle. The positively charged disinfectant is attracted to negatively charged surfaces, which allows for efficient coating of hard nonporous surfaces.   
EPA’s new guidance covers requests to add electrostatic spraying directions to both new and currently registered disinfectant products—including those on EPA's List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2  —that require review under Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA). This guidance builds on EPA’s previously announced expedited review of certain submissions for products intended for use against SARS-CoV-2.
When using these products, always follow the directions and safety information on the label. A disinfectant product’s safety and effectiveness may change based on how it is used. If a product’s label does not include disinfection directions for electrostatic spraying, EPA has not reviewed any data on whether the product is safe and effective when used by this method.
EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released updated guidance to help facility operators and families properly clean and disinfect spaces. The guidance provides step-by-step instructions for public spaces, workplaces, businesses, schools, and homes. EPA has compiled a list of disinfectant  products, including ready-to-use sprays, concentrates, and wipes, that can be used against COVID-19.
For information on EPA’s efforts to help address the novel coronavirus, visit:
Georgia Telecommunications Contractor Cited for Exposing Employees to Excavation Hazards After Fatal Incident
OSHA has cited Triple S Communications Inc. for violations of OSHA’s trenching and excavation standards after an employee was fatally injured in a trench collapse at a De Soto, Georgia, worksite. The Moultrie, Georgia, telecommunications installation contractor faces $58,025 in penalties.
The employee was fatally injured while performing fiber optic connections. OSHA initiated the inspection as a result of the incident and as part of the National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation.
OSHA cited the company for failing to train employees on how to recognize trench safety hazards, have a competent person conduct trench inspections, provide a safe means of egress from the excavation and prevent water accumulation inside the excavation. OSHA also cited the employer for allowing employees to work in the 10-foot excavation without shoring, sloping or shielding trench walls, and failing to report a fatality within eight hours, as required.
“Excavation collapses are among the most dangerous hazards in the workplace. Employers must be vigilant in identifying and mitigating these hazards,” said OSHA Savannah Area Office Director Margo Westmoreland. “Training employees to recognize and control hazards can minimize serious and fatal injuries. OSHA encourages employers to contact the agency for compliance assistance with trenching and excavation requirements.”
OSHA’s trenching and excavation webpage provide additional information and resources on hazards and solutions, including a trenching operations QuickCardand a “Protect Workers in Trenches” poster.
EPA Sued Over Understating Risks of Methylene Chloride
On July 16, a coalition of community, labor, and environmental groups filed a petition challenging the EPA final methylene chloride risk evaluation, which unlawfully determined that manufacturing, disposal, and several other uses of methylene chloride present no unreasonable risk. The risk evaluation — the first to be released under the 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) — violates the requirements of that law by understating methylene chloride’s known risks and excluding multiple ways in which workers and communities are exposed to the chemical.
The groups challenging the methylene chloride risk evaluation — Neighbors For Environmental Justice, New Jersey Work Environment Council, Sierra Club, the United Steelworkers union, and the Natural Resources Defense Council — represent workers who manufacture and use methylene chloride and communities that are exposed to methylene chloride from their air and water. Methylene chloride is acutely lethal, and long-term exposures are associated with cancer and other serious health effects.
“This risk evaluation tells communities and workers across the country that their health isn’t worth considering, much less protecting. While Congress directed EPA to conduct comprehensive risk evaluations that protect the most susceptible populations, the Trump administration prepared an unlawfully narrow evaluation that ignores the ways that many people are exposed to methylene chloride,” said Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, a staff attorney at Earthjustice, counsel for Sierra Club and New Jersey Work Environment Council and co-counsel, with the Natural Resources Defense Council, for Neighbors for Environmental Justice. “The methylene chloride risk evaluation completely fails to consider the presence of methylene chloride in our air and drinking water, the effects of methylene chloride on ozone depletion, and the risks to workers who are not provided respirators and other PPE. This administration should know by now that refusing to look for the evidence of a public health threat doesn’t mean the threat isn’t there.”
“Instead of protecting workers from one of the most dangerous chemicals on the market, the methylene chloride risk evaluation leaves workers to protect themselves through the assumed use of respirators and other personal protective equipment. But EPA knows that many workers lack access to adequate PPE, and that many of those who are provided respirators are not protected by them. EPA’s assumptions of universal PPE use are wrong, dangerous, and unlawful,” said Debra Coyle McFadden, Executive Director of New Jersey Work Environment Council.
“Across the country, millions of Americans are exposed to methylene chloride in their air, drinking water, and soil. Yet EPA fails to consider those exposures in its draft risk evaluation, leaving nearby communities at risk,” said Eric Uram, chair of the Sierra Club’s Toxics Committee. “This current risk evaluation was designed to protect the companies that manufacture and release methylene chloride, not the families and workers who are harmed by it.”
The challenge to the methylene chloride risk evaluation was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Last year, Earthjustice, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and others sued Trump’s EPA for excluding workers from a ban on methylene chloride paint strippers. That lawsuit is currently pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Ruling Reinstates BLM Waste Prevention Rule
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California invalidated the administration’s rollback of the Obama-era Waste Prevention Rule. This ruling means that the Waste Prevention Rule goes back in effect in 90 days, and the oil and gas industry will have to comply with the Rule’s requirements to prevent waste of gas on federal lands.
Enacted in 2016, the Waste Prevention Rule was designed to protect the public from wasteful venting, flaring, and leaking of gas from drilling operations on federal and tribal lands. In 2018, the Trump administration’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rescinded this rule to give oil and gas companies operating on public lands a free pass for air and climate pollution from wasted gas.
In yesterday’s ruling, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers found that this rescission violated federal law because it ignored the federal government’s statutory duty to prevent waste, instead relying almost entirely on inadequate or nonexistent state regulations. The judge also rejected the administration’s attempt to downplay the costs of the climate impacts of this rule. Further, the judge rejected the administration’s refusal to investigate the public health impacts of this rule on the people living near near oil and gas facilities including tribal communities.
“The court’s ruling is a victory for people who are bearing the brunt of federal and tribal oil and gas development,” said Lisa Deville, vice chair of Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights. “Everyday invisible methane spills impact our people's health contributing to asthma and other respiratory health issues. The court rejected BLM’s attempt to ignore these public health impacts.”
“The judge basically rejected every attempt by the Trump administration to gut these common-sense waste prevention measures on behalf of their oil & gas industry cronies,” said Robin Cooley, an Earthjustice attorney representing tribal and conservation citizen groups. “Most importantly the judge said the administration cannot ignore the impacts on health and well-being of the people who live near oil and gas facilities. This is a resounding win for American taxpayers, the environment, and the communities most at-risk from this industry.”
“Once again, the courts are confirming that the Trump administration can’t just scrap environmental protections and ignore its responsibility to hold polluters accountable and protect our communities from toxic pollution,” said Kelly Martin, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. “Millions of Americans and diverse stakeholders weighed in when this commonsense standard was developed, and the only people who wanted to see it weakened were fossil fuel industry executives. Toda’s ruling is a major win for public lands, clean air, and the climate.”
“The court’s decision is a win for science-based decision-making and the climate, at a time when the Trump administration is trying every way possible to give polluters a free pass. The Trump administration is now 0 for 3 in attempting to overturn this rule and should take the hint that they can’t evade the law at the expense of public health and our environment,” said Alison Flint, senior legal director, The Wilderness Society.
“I’m so excited by this ruling because strong air pollution rules for the federal wells on our ranch means I may be able to spend more time with my family in Montana again,” said Laurie Wilson, member of the Western Organization of Resource Councils, in Silver City, New Mexico. “In the midst of a public health crisis, reducing pollution which contributes to asthma and other respiratory diseases is a blessing. Now more than ever these protections are vital.”
In its opinion, the court stated: “[It] finds that the rulemaking process resulting in the Rescission was wholly inadequate. In its haste, BLM ignored its statutory mandate under the Mineral Leasing Act, repeatedly failed to justify numerous reversals in policy positions previously taken, and failed to consider scientific findings and institutions relied upon by both prior Republican and Democratic administrations.”
The court’s decision marks the third time that the Northern District of California has rejected the Trump administration’s attempts to roll back the Waste Prevention Rule. This rule was the first update to BLM’s standards to reduce waste from oil and gas development on public and tribal lands in more than 35 years. The rule requires the oil and gas industry to use proven, low-cost technologies and practices to reduce venting and flaring and to fix leaks in infrastructure. It also saves taxpayers millions of dollars by requiring companies to pay royalties when they waste gas on public lands.
Interior Department data show that companies wasted an estimated 462 billion cubic feet of gas on public and tribal lands through venting, flaring and leaks between 2009 and 2015 — enough gas to serve more than 6.2 million homes for a year. The primary component of that gas is methane, a greenhouse gas 87 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Other pollutants that are leaked and vented contribute to smog formation, causing asthma attacks and other respiratory problems. And some pollutants, like benzene, are known carcinogens.
Customizable Smart Window Technology Could Improve Energy Efficiency of Buildings
Windows play multiple crucial roles in our homes. They illuminate, insulate and ventilate our spaces while providing views of — and protection from — the outdoors. Smart windows, or windows that use solar cell technology to convert sunlight into electricity, present the additional opportunity to leverage windows as energy sources.
However, incorporating solar cells into windows while balancing the other complex, and often conflicting, roles of windows proves challenging. For example, juggling luminosity preferences and energy harvesting goals throughout changing seasons requires complex and strategic approaches to material design.
“This design framework is customizable and can be applied to virtually any building around the world.” — Junhong Chen, scientist at Argonne and professor at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering
Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, Northwestern University, the University of Chicago and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee recently combined solar cell technology with a novel optimization approach to develop a smart window prototype that maximizes design across a wide range of criteria.
The optimization algorithm uses comprehensive physical models and advanced computational techniques to maximize overall energy usage while balancing building temperature demands and lighting requirements across locations and throughout changing seasons.
“This design framework is customizable and can be applied to virtually any building around the world,” said Junhong Chen, a scientist at Argonne and the Crown Family Professor of Molecular Engineering at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago.  “Whether you want to maximize the amount of sunlight in a room or minimize heating or cooling efforts, this powerful optimization algorithm produces window designs that align with user needs and preferences.”
The scientists demonstrated a wholistic approach to window design to maximize the overall energy efficiency of buildings while considering lighting and temperature preferences.
“We can regulate the sunlight in a room to ensure the desired luminosity while managing the amount of energy the building uses for heating and cooling,” said Wei Chen, the Wilson-Cook Professor in Engineering Design at Northwestern Engineering whose research group led the development of the optimization approach. “Additionally, the sunlight that doesn’t pass through is captured by the solar cell in the smart window and converted into electricity.”
The approach, called multicriteria optimization, adjusts thicknesses of solar cell layers in window design to meet the needs of the user. For example, to reduce the energy required to cool a building in the summer, the optimal window design might minimize the amount and type of light passing through while maintaining the desired luminosity inside. On the other hand, when winter savings are a priority, the design might maximize the amount of sunlight that passes through, thereby reducing the energy required for heating the building.
“Rather than focusing only on the amount of electricity produced by the solar cell, we consider the entire building’s energy consumption to see how we can best use solar energy to minimize it,” said Wei Chen.
In some scenarios, for example, it might be more energy efficient to allow a greater amount of light to pass through the window, instead of being converted into electricity by the solar cell, in order to decrease the electricity required for lighting and heating the building.
To determine the optimal design, the algorithm incorporates comprehensive physics-based models of the interactions between light and the materials in the smart window, as well as how the processes affect energy conversion and light transmission. The algorithm also takes into account the varying angles at which the sun hits the window throughout the day — and year — in different geographical locations.
“The model we created allows for exploration of millions of unique designs by an algorithm that mimics biological evolution,” said Wei Chen.  On top of the physics-based models, the algorithm uses computational mechanisms that resemble reproduction and genetic mutation to determine the optimal combination of each design parameter for a certain scenario.”
To demonstrate the feasibility of a smart window capable of this level of customization, the scientists produced a small prototype of the window with an area of a few square centimeters.
The prototype consists of dozens of layers of varying materials that control the amount and frequency of light passing through, as well as the amount of solar energy converted into electricity.
One group of layers, made of a type of material called a perovskite, comprises the window’s solar cell, which harvests sunlight for energy conversion. The window prototype also includes a set of layers called a nanophotonic coating, developed by associate professor of mechanical engineering Cheng Sun and his research group at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. The coating tunes the frequencies of light that can pass through the window.
Each layer is tens of microns thick — thinner than the diameter of a grain of sand. The scientists chose an aperiodic design for the layers, meaning each layer varies in thickness. As the angle of the sun’s rays against the window changes throughout the day and year, the aperiodic design enables the performance of the window to vary in accordance with the user’s preferences.
“The variation in layer thickness is optimized for a wide spectrum of change in the nature of the sunlight that reaches the window,” said Sun. “This enables us to systematically allow less infrared transmission in the summertime and more in the wintertime to save energy consumption for temperature regulation, while optimizing the visible transmission for the purpose of indoor lighting and energy harvesting.”
The scientists optimized the prototype used in this study for a 2,000 square foot, single-story home in Phoenix. Based on experimental characterization of the window prototype, the scientists calculated significant annual energy savings over leading commercially available window technologies. The calculations used the EnergyPlus building model, a software developed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy laboratory, that estimates realistic power consumption over time.
The synthesis methods the scientists used to produce the window prototype mimic common industrial-level manufacturing processes, and the scientists believe that these existing commercial processes would allow for successful scaling of the window prototype to full-size.
Future considerations include developing the same technology in a flexible form so that the smart window materials can be retrofitted to cover preexisting windows.
A paper on the study, titled ​“Maximizing solar energy utilization through multicriteria pareto optimization of energy harvesting and regulating smart window”, was published July 8 in Cell Reports, Physical Science. The work was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.
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