MSHA Reports Mining Industry Sets Best Safety Record Since 1910

January 22, 2004

Mining fatalities in 2003 were at their lowest level since statistics were first recorded in 1910, according to preliminary numbers released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

In 2003, mining-related fatalities decreased 18 percent from 2002 figures. The total number of miners killed in mining accidents was 55, compared with 67 in 2002. This is the third consecutive year of decreased fatalities for the mining industry. “We are encouraged by three years of steady improvement, yet we will not be satisfied until every miner goes home safely to his or her family every working day,” said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “We must maintain focus and continue this progress.”

Fatalities in the nation’s metal and nonmetal mining sector dropped from 40 in 2002 to 26 in 2003. In the coal sector, mine fatalities totaled 29 in 2003 versus 27 in 2002. “MSHA developed new alliances for safety and health in 2003, gave special attention to small mines, enhanced outreach efforts, and emphasized compliance assistance,” Lauriski said. “We continued a balanced use of the tools provided by law: enforcement, education and training, and technical assistance. The efforts of all involved have achieved the positive results we were reaching for, and we plan to stay on this track.”

For the first time since 1910, MSHA recorded no fatalities in December for the coal sector of the industry. December fatalities dropped from six in all mining sectors in 2002 to one in 2003 as MSHA continued its safety outreach campaign to alert miners about winter weather and the hazards it can bring to the workplace. Fatalities involving falls from the roofs of coal mines, previously a leading cause of deaths, dropped to two in 2003. “Miners and the mining industry can be proud of their contribution to the new low record,” Lauriski said. “More and more mines are making safety a value in every part of their operations each day, and this is moving us toward a true culture of prevention-the key to improved performance.”

MSHA gathers mining fatality data from the 50 states, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. To view these statistics on the Internet, go to http://www.msha.gov/stats/charts/chartshome.htm.




Limiting Job Exposures to Food Flavorings, Flavoring Ingredients is Recommended in New Alert

NIOSH recommends in a new Alert that employers take measures to limit employees occupational respiratory exposures to food flavorings and flavoring ingredients in workplaces where flavorings are made or used. These steps provide practical ways to reduce potential risks of occupational lung disease, NIOSH said.

The Alert stems from a series of NIOSH health hazard evaluations that began in 2000 when NIOSH learned of the occurrence of bronchiolitis obliterans, a severe lung disease, in workers at a microwave popcorn packaging plant. Results of the health hazard evaluations to date suggest that adverse effects may result from occupational inhalation exposures to high, airborne concentrations of some flavorings or their ingredients in the form of vapors, dusts, or sprays. Consumers are not believed to be at risk from preparing or eating the microwave popcorn products.

The Alert provides practical guidance for recognizing and reducing potential occupational risks while research continues that will help NIOSH and others better determine what flavorings or ingredients may pose a work-related risk of adverse effects, and in what circumstances. The Alert discusses the symptoms of the cases that have been associated with job-related exposure to flavorings, provides details of six workplace case clusters, notes the types of medical evaluations that may reveal adverse effects, and recommends practical measures for limiting occupational exposures.

The Alert draws on interim findings and recommendations that were previously reported to employers and employees at the plants where NIOSH has been conducting its health hazard evaluations, and previously reported in the scientific literature. It also reflects discussions that NIOSH has held with industry groups, employees, and occupational health professionals while conducting the health hazard evaluations over the past three years.

"The Alert reflects NIOSH's commitment to moving research findings into practice, and we appreciate the assistance of our diverse stakeholders who have helped us in these studies," said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. "While our basic findings and recommendations have been reported in the scientific literature, in meetings with industry and employee groups, and in the press, the Alert provides an important additional vehicle for disseminating clear, easy-to-understand information to a wide audience."

In order of preference, according to standard occupational health practices, NIOSH recommends that employers minimize occupational exposures to flavorings or flavoring ingredients by:

  • Substituting a material or materials that may be less hazardous, after carefully evaluating potential substitutes,
  • Using engineering controls such as closed systems, isolation, or ventilation,
  • Instituting administrative controls such as housekeeping and work practices,
  • Educating employers and employees to raise their awareness of potential hazards and controls,
  • Using personal protective equipment where needed as an adjunct to primary engineering or administrative controls, and
  • Monitoring occupational exposures and the status of workers' health, tracking potential symptoms or cases, and reporting such symptoms or cases to NIOSH and state health departments.

"NIOSH Alert: Preventing Lung Disease in Workers Who Use or Make Flavorings," DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2004-110, is available on the NIOSH web page at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-110/. Printed copies can be ordered from NIOSH at toll free 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674).




New Computer Program Advances Guidance On Predicting Air-Purifying Respirator Filter Cartridge Service Life

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announces new computer software that enables administrators of workplace respiratory-protection programs to consider the effects of relative humidity on the service life of NIOSH-approved organic vapor (OV) chemical cartridges. This software assists program administrators, in workplaces where air-purifying respirators are used, in reducing on-the-job respiratory exposures to potentially harmful organic vapors from a single volatile source, such as an individual paint, thinner, or solvent.

The ambient relative humidity in the environment in which an air-purifying respirator is used or stored is one of the factors that, over time, can cause the sorbent in a cartridge to lose its ability to collect organic vapors from the air breathed in through the cartridge. Collecting the vapors removes them from the air that the respirator user breathes into his or her body. Advances in computational capabilities of personal computers, and verification of the mathematical model through recent research, made possible the addition of this critical factor to the software program that was not included in previous government versions.

The new software program also incorporates factors that were used in previous computer software available from the government. Those factors include, for example, the type of air contaminant against which the chemical cartridge will protect the user, the concentration of the contaminant, the parameters of the cartridge, and the rate at which the user is working.

By using the software, a respirator program administrator can determine when the cartridge is likely to reach the end of its service life or effectiveness; this is the point at which “breakthrough” is likely to occur as the sorbent no longer is able to collect organic vapors at the needed capacity. With that information, the administrator will know when to schedule a replacement of the cartridge.

“Especially in situations when the use of air-purifying respirators may be necessary for hours, knowing when to change the organic vapor cartridge is critical for keeping the user safe and healthy,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “By adding in a key factor that was not included in previous government software, program administrators can feel more confident in the schedules they set for changing cartridges.”

The new computer software reflects the concept of government leadership through collaboration with diverse technical organizations. The software resulted from research conducted by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), in conjunction with a partnership by NIOSH, LANL, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA), the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (SOCMA), the National Paint and Coatings Association (NPCA), and the American Petroleum Institute (API), organized and led by ORC Worldwide. The consortium provided funding for the initial research, and then joined with NIOSH, which provided funding necessary to complete the work.

Further research is continuing on a more sophisticated program that will enable respirator program administrators to determine schedules for changing OV cartridges in environments that contain vapors from more than one volatile source.

The new computer software, “Breakthrough: Single Vapor Beta Version 3.0.0, expiration date December 2004,” will be available shortly as a CD-ROM that can be ordered from NIOSH at 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674). The software is currently available as a download from OSHA’s website at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/respiratory/advisor_genius_wood/breakthrough.html. The download includes a digital training video illustrating the use of the program, as will the CD-ROM. For further technical information, contact Gerry Wood, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Mail Stop K-486, Los Alamos, N.M. 87545, email gerry@lanl.gov or Jay Snyder, NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, email ESLI@cdc.gov.




OSHA Cites Honeywell International Inc. For Safety and Health Violations

Honeywell International Inc. in Baton Rouge, La., has agreed to pay $110,000 in penalties and to correct hazards listed in OSHA citations. The company was cited for failure to protect workers from hazardous gas, chemical burns and exposure to hydrofluoric acid.

Citations were issued for three separate OSHA investigations stemming from incidents that occurred July 20, July 29, and Aug. 13, 2003. On July 20, approximately 20 employees were exposed to hazardous levels of chlorine gas for several hours, eight of whom were hospitalized; on July 29, an employee was killed when a release of chemical mixture from a pressurized cylinder caused extensive burns; and on Aug. 13, a sudden pressure surge caused the release of hydrofluoric acid.

Honeywell International Inc., which employs about 215 workers at its plant in Baton Rouge, manufactures refrigerants and other specialty chemicals. The company, headquartered in Morristown, N.J., employs about 105,000 workers worldwide.

Twelve violations were issued for deficiencies in the employer's process safety management (PSM) program. PSM is an established set of procedures designed to prevent the release of toxic, reactive, flammable or explosive chemicals. One violation was issued for a deficiency in the employer's chemical hazard communication program, which is supposed to inform and train employees about chemicals in the workplace.




OSHA Offers Two New Compliance Assistance Web Tools

OSHA announced the availability of two new resources on the agency's website: MyOSHA, a tool to create personalized links to OSHA online resources; and Quick Start, a step-by-step guide to identify major OSHA requirements and guidance materials.

"We want to provide the most useful and most accessible information possible to help employers, employees and businesses stay safe, healthy, and successful," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "It's important that America's workers and employers know what OSHA can do and how we can help those who need it. These new resources can be especially useful for small and new businesses as an introduction to the compliance assistance resources on OSHA's website."

Visitors to MyOSHA can sign up to create personalized links to OSHA online resources. Users can customize the content of their pages by choosing links from categories that include "Industry," "Safety and Health Topics," "What's New," "Audiences," "Publications," "Laws and Regulations," "Strategic Management Plan Areas of Emphasis" and "Working with OSHA."

MyOSHA features a tutorial that introduces new visitors to the tool. The tutorial walks users through the set up process and explains the tool's many functions. MyOSHA also includes randomly rotating eTips that educate users about OSHA and the agency's website. The eTips will appear at the top of the user's personalized page and will change each time the user accesses their MyOSHA page.

Quick Start is a new tool on OSHA's Compliance Assistance web page that provides step-by-step guidance on how to identify OSHA requirements and guidance materials that may apply to specific workplaces. It includes a module for workplaces that are subject to OSHA's general industry standards, including manufacturing, wholesale, and retail establishments. The general industry module includes information on OSHA's recordkeeping and reporting requirements and provides links to compliance assistance resources and key standards and information for developing a comprehensive safety and health program.

Quick Start also includes a library that lists a collection of forms, fact sheets, publications, OSHA web pages and electronic tools, and sample programs.




OSHA Reminds Employers to Post Injury/Illness Summaries on February 1

Beginning February 1, employers must post a summary of the total number of job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred last year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Employers are required to post only the Summary (OSHA Form 300A)-not the OSHA 300 Log -from Feb.1 to Apr. 30, 2004.

The summary must list the total numbers of job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred in 2003 and were logged on the OSHA 300 form. Employment information about annual average number of employees and total hours worked during the calendar year is also required to assists in calculating incidence rates. Companies with no recordable injuries or illnesses in 2003 must post the form with zeros on the total line. All establishment summaries must be certified by a company executive.

The form is to be displayed in a common area wherever notices to employees are usually posted. Employers must make a copy of the summary available to employees who move from worksite to worksite, such as construction workers, and employees who do not report to any fixed establishment on a regular basis.

Employers with ten or fewer employees and employers in certain industry groups are normally exempt from federal OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping and posting requirements. A complete list of exempt industries in the retail, services, finance and real estate sectors is posted on OSHA's website.

Exempted employers may still be selected by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics to participate in an annual statistical survey. All employers covered by OSHA need to comply with safety and health standards and must report verbally within eight hours to the nearest OSHA office all accidents that result in one ore more fatalities or in the hospitalization of three or more employees.

Copies of the OSHA Forms 300, 300A and 301 are available on the OSHA Recordkeeping Webpage in either Adobe PDF or Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet format.