Bathroom hot air hand dryers deposited large quantities of bacteria on agar plates held beneath the nozzles for 30 seconds and grew 15 to 60 bacterial colonies each, according to research published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology. The vast majority of the bacteria appear to come from the bathrooms.
Bacteria deposited by hand dryers are skin flora and/or environmental organisms that can cause invasive human disease, including bloodstream, ocular, and peritoneal infections. In most cases, patients sickened by these bacteria had a vulnerability to infection because of factors such as a permanent catheter, an immunodeficiency, chronic disease, or IV drug use.
St Louis Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in St Louis, MO on May 8-10 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Hilton Head Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Hilton Head, SC on May 22-24 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Baton Rouge Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Baton Rouge, LA on June 5-7 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
How OSHA Works with EPA
Although each of the 15 federal departments (and the hundreds of federal agencies) has its own mission, personnel, and operating procedures, that does not mean that these separate entities operate with no knowledge of what the others are doing or no interest in seeing that their sister agencies achieve their statutory and discretionary objectives. Federal agencies have a long history of developing memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with one another.
MOUs can cover a broad range of topics. For example, agencies may commit to checking with one another before developing regulations to eliminate or reduce duplication, share staff or other resources, and also share information. One type of information sharing that should be of special interest to employers is OSHA’s receipt of potential worker safety violations forwarded by inspectors from other agencies.
A page on OSHA’s website lists 45 MOUs, including five with the EPA, the most OSHA has with any Agency.
One MOU between OSHA and what was formerly called EPA’s Office of Enforcement that was issued in 1991—and, apparently, is still in effect—is intended to aid both agencies in “identifying environmental and workplace health and safety problems and to more effectively implement enforcement of our national workplace and environmental statutes”
The MOU covers several areas of cooperation, including coordination between the EPA and OSHA, at all organizational levels, in developing and carrying out training, data and information exchange, and technical and professional assistance. Also listed as an area of cooperation and coordination is the “referral of alleged violations, and related matters concerning compliance and law enforcement activity to ensure the health and well-being of the Nation's workforce, the general public, and the environment.”
The MOU states that the EPA and OSHA may conduct joint inspections in accordance with an annual joint work plan that identifies areas for joint initiatives. Such inspections may also be scheduled on an ad hoc basis, such as in investigations following accidents or fatalities or injuries to workers resulting from reported activities or situations subject to either EPA or OSHA jurisdiction.
It also states that EPA and OSHA inspectors, in the course of conducting separate inspections, may discover situations involving potential violations of the other agency's laws or regulations. In those instances, referrals to the appropriate office will be undertaken under the following guidelines:
- OSHA and the EPA shall develop a regular system to track and manage referrals of potential violations, allegations of violations, or situations requiring inspection, evaluation, or follow-up by either agency.
- Although the EPA does not conduct inspections for occupational safety, in the course of an EPA inspection, EPA personnel may identify safety concerns within the area of OSHA responsibility or may receive complaints about the safety or health of employees related to their working conditions. While EPA inspectors are not to perform the role of OSHA inspectors, the EPA will bring the matter to the attention of OSHA-designated contacts in the regional office. In the case of worker complaints, the EPA will disclose the name of individuals to OSHA but will not further disclose the name and the identity of the employee.
- OSHA will inform the EPA regional administrator or appropriate EPA office of matters that appear to be subject to EPA jurisdiction when these come to their attention during federal or state safety and health inspections or through worker complaints. Following are examples of matters that would be reported to the EPA:
- Worker allegations of significant adverse public health or environmental reactions to a chemical or chemical substance; and
- Accidental, unpermitted, or deliberate releases of chemicals or chemical substances beyond the workplace.
- The EPA shall respond to referrals from OSHA, and OSHA shall respond to referrals from the EPA, concerning potential violations of the other agency's requirements, when appropriate, by conducting investigations in a timely manner.
- OSHA will work to facilitate referrals of potential violations of EPA regulations to the EPA and will encourage the relevant state agencies in those states that operate their own occupational safety and health programs also to make such referrals. The EPA will work to facilitate referrals to OSHA or OSHA state-plan states of potential violations of occupational health and safety standards or regulations discovered by federal or state environmental inspection activities.
- The EPA and OSHA will conduct periodic meetings, as necessary, to report on the progress of actions taken on the other agency's referrals and to evaluate the effectiveness of the referral system and operating procedures. Both agencies agree to establish a system to monitor the progress of actions taken on referrals.
- OSHA will encourage state-plan states to respond to referrals from the EPA and state agencies concerning potential violations of the states' occupational safety and health standards or regulations by conducting investigations in a timely manner.
In viewing the EPA-OSHA MOU specifically, and all OSHA MOUs in general, employers should be aware that an inspection by any government entity, including state and local agencies, has the potential to bring a regulatory violation in any area to the attention of the agency with oversight of that area.
Lack of Sleep May Be Linked to Risk Factor for Alzheimer’s Disease
Losing just one night of sleep led to an immediate increase in beta-amyloid, a protein in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a small, new study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. In Alzheimer’s disease, beta-amyloid proteins clump together to form amyloid plaques, a hallmark of the disease.
While acute sleep deprivation is known to elevate brain beta-amyloid levels in mice, less is known about the impact of sleep deprivation on beta-amyloid accumulation in the human brain. The study is among the first to demonstrate that sleep may play an important role in human beta-amyloid clearance.
“This research provides new insight about the potentially harmful effects of a lack of sleep on the brain and has implications for better characterizing the pathology of Alzheimer's disease,” said George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the study.
Beta-amyloid is a metabolic waste product present in the fluid between brain cells. In Alzheimer’s disease, beta-amyloid clumps together to form amyloid plaques, negatively impacting communication between neurons.
Led by Drs. Ehsan Shokri-Kojori and Nora D. Volkow of the NIAAA Laboratory of Neuroimaging, the study is now online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Volkow is also the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at NIH.
To understand the possible link between beta-amyloid accumulation and sleep, the researchers used positron emission tomography (PET) to scan the brains of 20 healthy subjects, ranging in age from 22 to 72, after a night of rested sleep and after sleep deprivation (being awake for about 31 hours). They found beta-amyloid increases of about 5 percent after losing a night of sleep in brain regions including the thalamus and hippocampus, regions especially vulnerable to damage in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
In Alzheimer’s disease, beta-amyloid is estimated to increase about 43 percent in affected individuals relative to healthy older adults. It is unknown whether the increase in beta-amyloid in the study participants would subside after a night of rest.
The researchers also found that study participants with larger increases in beta-amyloid reported worse mood after sleep deprivation.
“Even though our sample was small, this study demonstrated the negative effect of sleep deprivation on beta-amyloid burden in the human brain. Future studies are needed to assess the generalizability to a larger and more diverse population,” said Dr. Shokri-Kojori.
It is also important to note that the link between sleep disorders and Alzheimer's risk is considered by many scientists to be “bidirectional,” since elevated beta-amyloid may also lead to sleep disturbances.
Keep DOT Workers Safe
Last week was National Work Zone Awareness Week. As the weather improves, road work will increase, putting DOT workers nationwide in harm’s way. Many states are sponsoring events aimed at increasing awareness of road workers and safe driving in work zones.
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner joined state and federal transportation officials to kick off National Work Zone Awareness Week in Illinois. He urged drivers to slow down and give workers adequate space as construction season ramps up.
"Construction workers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the state. They put themselves in harm's way every day to make sure we all have decent roads to travel," Rauner said. "They deserve to feel safe in their workplace and we want to make sure they go home to their families every night."
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Illinois State Police, Illinois Tollway and other local and national partners to spread the word about work zone safety. The theme this year is "Work Zone Safety - Everybody's Responsibility."
"Almost four out of five work zone fatalities involve someone other than a worker. That's why it's critical that work zones be safe for all - workers, motorists, freight haulers, drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike," Blankenhorn said. "As the transportation hub of North America, Illinois will have work zones of all sizes this construction season. Everyone has to be diligent when it comes to keeping safe."
In recent years, Illinois has strengthened laws to increase safety in work zones. Fines for speeding in work zones are $375 for first-time offenders and $1,000 for a second offense. The penalty for hitting a worker is a fine of up to $10,000 and 14 years in prison.
"Last year, we lost a colleague who was killed while doing his job along one of our roads," said Illinois Tollway Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom. "We know firsthand that accidents can happen anywhere, but we want to emphasize that it's vitally important for drivers to slow down, eliminate distractions, and focus on safety in work zones. At the end of the day, we want everyone--drivers, emergency responders and the workers building and maintaining the roads—to return home safely to their families."
The American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) showcased the National Work Zone Memorial during the kickoff event, paying tribute to those who have lost their lives in work zones across the country. It is a blunt reminder that work zone fatalities are more than just statistics.
"This event continues to grow every year and we are grateful to all those who participate in spreading awareness of work zone safety," said ATSSA President and CEO Roger Wentz. "Thousands of people are impacted each year by work zone-related injuries and fatalities. We all need to advocate for infrastructure changes and safety measures that protect those who put their lives on the line to maintain and repair our nation's roadways."
To promote safety in the field, IDOT is working with its industry partners to host tailgate talks at construction sites throughout the week. The discussions provide workers with refreshers on work zone protocol to encourage safety throughout the construction season. Click here for some tips for driving in construction zones.
Safety Procedures for Horizontal Drilling
OSHA recently published a Safety and Health Information Bulletin intended to help underground utility workers and employers avoid hazards associated with horizontal directional drilling.
Workers performing HDD face reduced visibility compared to those involved with vertical drilling, the bulletin states. Installing underground utility lines safely via HDD equipment helps keep drills from contacting or rupturing existing underground lines for electric, water, sewage, gas, steam and chemical utilities. Hitting and breaking underground electrical or gas wires, however, puts workers at risk of electrocution, gas leaks and explosion.
In 2013, an HDD operation in Kansas City, MO, damaged a natural gas line – triggering an explosion and fire at a nearby restaurant. One restaurant worker was killed, and three HDD workers were severely injured.
The bulletin includes tips to help workers avoid making contact with lines:
- Perform a visual inspection of the planned digging path. If possible, physically confirm underground locations by digging small test holes from the surface, also known as potholing.
- When possible, review drawings and contact utility companies directly to review underground utility locations.
- Analyze findings with surface markings to determine any missed utilities.
- Call 811 before digging to ensure no utility lines are in the work area.
Although HDD operations are considered trenchless, OSHA wants workers to be aware of trenching and excavation controls for projects in which trenches are used to accommodate the machine or reception pit.
The agency recommends that employers provide job-specific training for workers to identify utility lines; use potholing; and follow proper protocol to identify, evacuate and report natural gas leaks. Signs of a natural gas leak include dirt, water or debris blowing from the ground to the air; an unusual hissing, whistling or roaring sound near a natural gas line; and a distinctive sulfur-like odor.
In addition, because some gases are odorless, OSHA recommends the use of handheld natural gas detectors.
Companies Fined $212,675 Following Fatal Accident
OSHA has reached a settlement with Lynnway Auto Auction Inc., in which the Billerica, MA facility agrees to correct hazards, implement significant safety measures, and pay $200,000 in penalties. Lynnway was cited for 16 violations following a May 2017 incident in which a sport utility vehicle fatally struck five people during an auto auction.
As part of the settlement, Lynnway will designate and mark non-driving locations, walkways, and crosswalks; install barriers in the auto auction area; establish and enforce speed limits and a safe driving program; periodically evaluate employees’ driving capabilities and licenses; provide employee training; and review all vehicle accidents or near-misses.
“The settlement commits Lynnway to correct existing hazards and requires it to take continuous action to help prevent future employee injuries or fatalities,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Galen Blanton.
“The processes put into place by this agreement have the goal of ensuring that such needless loss of lives will not occur again,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Michael Felsen.
TrueBlue Inc., doing business as PeopleReady, which supplied temporary employees to Lynnway, also agreed to correct hazards, implement a traffic control program, and pay a $12,675 penalty. OSHA cited the staffing firm for exposing employees to struck-by hazards.
The Lynnway settlement became a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission on April 5, 2018; the TrueBlue settlement agreement became final on March 5, 2018. OSHA’s Andover Area Office conducted the inspections. Senior Trial Attorney James Glickman of the Boston regional solicitor’s office litigated the cases for OSHA.
Landscaping Industry Safety Training Events in South Eastern States
Landscape industry associations and employers are partnering with the OSHA to sponsor one-hour, safety stand-down events to educate employees on landscaping hazards, and preventing heat-related illnesses. The events will be held at worksites in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi on April 17-18, from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. EDT.
At the safety stand-downs, employers will stop work voluntarily, and conduct safety training with employees on landscaping hazards, such as falls, being crushed or hit by objects, electrical, and heat exposure.
“Employers who train their workers, and implement effective safety and health programs can reduce the risks of workers being injured on the job,” said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA Regional Administrator. “Educational events such as these are valuable tools in helping to assure a safe workplace for everyone.”
The Associated General Contractors of Georgia Inc., OSHA, employers, and their workers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi are organizing the effort. Contact your local OSHA area office for event information.
For more information on how to identify and correct landscaping hazards, visit OSHA’s Landscaping and Horticultural Services page.
Even Moderate Drinking Linked to Heart and Circulatory Diseases
Regularly drinking more than the recommended guidelines for alcohol could take years off your life, according to new research that published in the Lancet. The study shows that drinking more alcohol is associated with a higher risk of stroke, fatal aneurysm, heart failure and death.
The authors say their findings challenge the widely held belief that moderate drinking is beneficial to cardiovascular health, and support the UK’s recently lowered guidelines.
The study compared the health and drinking habits of around 600,000 current drinkers in 19 countries worldwide and controlled for age, smoking, history of diabetes, level of education and occupation.
The upper safe limit of drinking was about five drinks per week (100g of pure alcohol, 12.5 units or just over five pints of 4% ABV2 beer or five 175ml glasses of 13% ABV wine). However, drinking above this limit was linked with lower life expectancy. For example, having 10 or more drinks per week was linked with 1-2 years shorter life expectancy. Having 18 drinks or more per week was linked with 4-5 years shorter life expectancy.
The research supports the UK’s recently lowered guidelines, which since 2016 recommend both men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week. This equates to around 6 pints of beer or 6 glasses of wine a week. However, the worldwide study carries implications for countries across the world, where alcohol guidelines vary substantially.
The researchers also looked at the association between alcohol consumption and different types of cardiovascular disease. Alcohol consumption was associated with a higher risk of stroke, heart failure, fatal aortic aneurysms, fatal hypertensive disease and heart failure and there were no clear thresholds where drinking less did not have a benefit.
By contrast, alcohol consumption was associated with a slightly lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks. The authors note that the different relationships between alcohol intake and various types of cardiovascular disease may relate to alcohol’s elevating effects on blood pressure and on factors related to elevated high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) (also known as good cholesterol). They stress that the lower risk of non-fatal heart attack must be considered in the context of the increased risk of several other serious and often fatal cardiovascular diseases.
The study focused on current drinkers to reduce the risk of bias caused by those who abstain from alcohol due to poor health. However, the study used self-reported alcohol consumption and relied on observational data, so no firm conclusions can me made about cause and effect. The study did not look at the effect of alcohol consumption over the life-course or account for people who may have reduced their consumption due to health complications.
Dr Angela Wood, from the University of Cambridge, lead author of the study pointed out that drinking less may help people to live longer, “the key message of this research is that, if you already drink alcohol, drinking less may help you live longer and lower your risk of several cardiovascular conditions.”
“Alcohol consumption is associated with a slightly lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks but this must be balanced against the higher risk associated with other serious – and potentially fatal – cardiovascular diseases,” Victoria Taylor, Senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation stressed that alcohol guidelines should serve as a limit, not a target, “this powerful study may make sobering reading for countries that have set their recommendations at higher levels than the UK, but this does seem to broadly reinforce government guidelines for the UK. “This doesn’t mean we should rest on our laurels, many people in the UK regularly drink over what’s recommended. We should always remember that alcohol guidelines should act as a limit, not a target, and try to drink well below this threshold.”
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