New Strategic Plan for Chemical Testing

July 23, 2018
Ten years ago, a group of federal partners formed a unique collaboration — Toxicology in the 21st Century (Tox21) — to develop faster, more efficient approaches to predict how exposure to chemicals may affect human health. Tox21 program partners from NCATS, the National Toxicology Program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration published a new strategic and operational plan to broaden the scope of their research activities to address new challenges.
Traditional pre-clinical approaches to testing drugs, environmental chemicals and other substances involve animal models or other living organisms. These methods are slow, costly and often unable to predict toxic health effects observed in clinical trials. In contrast, in vitro approaches involve testing substances outside living systems, making it possible to increase the volume and speed of testing through automated, “high-throughput” screening.
Using NCATS’ state-of-the-art robotic screening system, Tox21 scientists have produced more than 120 million data points on approximately 8,500 chemicals since 2008. These data help researchers understand the potential effects of exposure to a substance based on how it interacts with biological molecules during screening.
All Tox21 data are publicly released for broad use in research and regulatory decisions, and screening results have been published in over 200 articles in more than 55 scientific journals. Many of the tested chemicals had no prior information available about potential toxic effects.
Challenges remain in improving the reliability, efficiency and predictive capability of toxicity testing using in vitro high-throughput screening. To address these obstacles, the Tox21 collaborators have published a plan in the journal ALTEX to expand the scope of their research, including five new areas of focus:
  1. Develop alternative test systems that can predict human response to chemicals and capture more potential toxic effects, including variability among different groups of people
  2. Address key technical limitations of current in vitro test systems, including technological and biological barriers and obstacles to translating results
  3. Collect, organize and analyze available data from toxicity studies in living systems, which can help inform analysis of in vitro testing results
  4. Strengthen scientific confidence in the data produced by in vitro test systems, including developing an evaluation framework for performance standards
  5. Develop new in vitro methods and models for predicting how substances will move through and be processed by the human body, thus improving estimates of impact and effectiveness
Tox21 collaborators are launching new cross-partner research projects to address these five focus areas. The three-year projects each have support from a minimum of two Tox21 partners and will be reviewed annually by Tox21 leadership. Learn more about the projects.
“Tox21 is truly a collaborative initiative, with each partner bringing unique expertise and resources that are crucial to advancing toxicity testing methods,” said Anton Simeonov, Ph.D., NCATS scientific director. “The new strategic plan and expanded research areas will ensure Tox21 efforts continue to benefit the entire toxicology community and help protect individuals from potential harmful effects of exposure to chemicals.”
Hazardous Waste Training
Annual hazardous waste training is required for anyone who generates, accumulates, stores, transports, or treats hazardous waste. Learn how to manage your hazardous waste in accordance with the latest state and federal regulations. Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s new Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule. Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training is available at nationwide locations, and via live webcasts. If you plan to also attend DOT hazardous materials training, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on a new Amazon Fire HD10 tablet at no extra charge.
Virtual Reality Used Fall Protection Training
Fall protection training is critical to the safety of workers who perform jobs at height, and the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) is making it safer and easier for them to learn best practices through a virtual reality application. The new ASSP VR Fall Protection Experience enables workers to train in settings that mirror actual environments without the dangers that come with high-risk tasks.
“Virtual reality is an innovative tool that enables a worker to be trained and evaluated without ever putting that employee in a precarious position,” said Keisha Raines, manager of online learning at ASSP. “Studies have shown that the closer you can replicate reality in your training environment, the more the training experience will stick.”
Fall protection was the most frequently cited OSHA violation in 2017, and falls accounted for 38 percent of all construction deaths in 2016. The benefits of virtual reality training include realistic exercises when hands-on experiences aren’t feasible; reduced cost of training workforces of any size; and consistent training for each worker regardless of the location or trainer.
Preventing injuries and fatalities caused by jobs at height is the main objective of the new app, which focuses on hazard identification and building a fall protection system. It follows the ANSI/ASSP Z359 Fall Protection and Fall Restraint standards.
The app provides an immersive 3- to 5-minute experience in which users wear a headset and enter a virtual environment to learn how to operate safely when working above ground. They navigate the roof of a two-story building and identify common fall hazards.
“We created a good cross-section of hazards that users might see when working at height,” said Thomas Kramer, P.E., CSP, vice chair of the ANSI Z359 Accredited Standards Committee and fall protection subject matter expert for the app. “Whether a user is construction-focused or maintenance-focused, the app helps them be aware of hazards that are not necessarily obvious.”
After users identify fall hazards such as a skylight or a rooftop fan detached from its base, they build a fall protection system for a coworker. Users choose between four anchor points, three harnesses and three lanyards, selecting and inspecting the equipment that provides the safest level of fall protection for the job at hand. After building the fall protection system, users get to see it in action on their coworker, learning about the anchorage strength, equipment limitations and fall clearance. Once done, each user’s performance is assessed.
“The app demonstrates that fall protection is a system that needs to be designed rather than just a piece of equipment that will keep you safe,” Kramer said. “It impresses upon the user the seriousness of these life and death decisions and allows them to fail safely.”
The ASSP VR Fall Protection Experience was recently introduced at Safety 2018 in San Antonio. Companies can purchase the new app from the ASSP online store.
CPSC Wants Input on Improving Recall Effectiveness
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has requested  input from stakeholders regarding the use of direct notices and targeted notices for recalls, as part of its ongoing effort to improve recall effectiveness.
This request for input and information follows CPSC’s July 2017 Recall Effectiveness Workshop, which brought together stakeholders and CPSC staff to discuss ways to improve recall effectiveness. CPSC issued a follow-up report identifying key findings and proposing further collaboration among stakeholders to promote direct notice to consumers.
You can submit your input and ideas through For additional information, see the links below:
New Fact Sheet for Preventing Work-Related Injuries to Housekeeping Workers
Cal/OSHA has produced a fact sheet and poster to help employers in the hotel and lodging industry comply with a new regulation to prevent work-related injuries suffered by housekeeping workers. The Hotel Housekeeping Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention regulation went into effect July 1 and requires employers to complete an initial worksite evaluation by October 1 to identify and address housekeeping worker hazards.
The Safety and Health Fact Sheet provides an overview of the workplace health and safety requirements that reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries and disorders common among housekeepers. Employers are also encouraged to post the Preventing Musculoskeletal Injuries in Housekeepers poster in a place accessible to all housekeeping workers. The poster includes information on the causes of musculoskeletal injuries, the employer’s responsibility to have an effective program to control the risk of musculoskeletal injuries, and employees’ rights.
“We created these guidance materials to help workers know their rights and employers their responsibilities to comply with this standard,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “In addition, Cal/OSHA Consultation Services are available to assist employers and employees who have questions or need more information.”
The employer’s housekeeping safety program must include the following:
  • Procedures to identify and evaluate housekeeping hazards through worksite 
  • Procedures to investigate musculoskeletal injuries to housekeepers
  • Methods to correct identified hazards
  • Employee and supervisor training on safe work practices and on the process for 
early reporting of injuries to the employer
  • Procedures to involve employees and their union representative in worksite 
evaluations, injury investigations, and evaluation of corrective measures 
A musculoskeletal injury is caused by a single traumatic event, such as slip, trip or fall, or by repeated exposure over weeks, months or years to repetitive motion, force, vibration or awkward positions caused by daily tasks such as lifting heavy furniture and equipment, pulling linens and pushing carts.
In 2012, hotel worker representatives presented a petition to the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board requesting a new standard to control the hazards faced by hotel housekeepers. Cal/OSHA convened public advisory meetings over a three-year period to gather information and determined that existing regulations did not adequately address the hazards faced by housekeepers. Dozens of workers spoke at the meetings, sharing their experiences and discussing how their injuries impacted their lives at work and at home.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, is the division within the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) that helps protect California’s workers from health and safety hazards on the job in almost every workplace.
Hotel and lodging industry employers are encouraged to contact Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch for free on-site or telephone consultations. Consultation Services assist employers in developing and maintaining workplace safety and health programs pursuant to Cal/OSHA’s regulations. You can call 800-963-9424 for assistance from Cal/OSHA Consultation Services.
Western Kentucky Mines Charged with Cheating on Safety and Lying To Regulators
United States Attorney Russell M. Coleman announced that 8 former supervisory and safety officials at Armstrong Coal, formerly of Madisonville, KY, were charged by a Federal Grand Jury with Conspiracy to Defraud the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), by deceit, trickery and dishonest means of its lawful and legitimate function in enforcing the Mine Safety and Health Act (MSA).
The Indictment charges that the conspirators sought to deceive federal mine safety regulators as to the daily levels of breathable dust at both the Parkway Mine of Muhlenberg County, KY and Kronos Mine of Ohio County, KY. Breathable or “respirable” dust is the primary cause of pneumoconiosis or “Black Lung” in miners. The Federal Grand Jury also charges the eight Armstrong Coal officials with making false statements as to results of tests required to be conducted every 60 days to protect certain “designated occupations,” that is the dustiest and most dangerous job assignments in a coal mine.
“The health of our miners matters; to Western Kentucky communities and those sworn to protect them” stated U. S. Attorney Russell Coleman “When companies and their senior officials are prepared to disregard the law and put miners at risk, they should also be prepared to face federal prosecutors.”
“Compliance with dust sampling programs is crucial to protecting miners against respiratory illness,” said MSHA Assistant Secretary David G. Zatezalo.  “Deliberate disregard for the safety and health regulations that protect workers warrants the most severe penalties allowed under the law.”
The Grand Jury charges that contrary to regulations, Armstrong officials removed dust testing devices early in the miners’ shifts and placed the devices in less dusty or “clean air”; that during a testing period, officials replaced miners who ran the most dust-causing machines with miners who were not wearing the dust testing devices, so that the company would pass the tests; that Armstrong officials fabricated and submitted dust sampling test results on days the mine was shut down or otherwise not in operation; that officials ordered that testing devices be run in “clean air,” before and after shifts, to skew the test results toward passing; that a mine superintendent twice mandated to a safety official to take whatever action necessary to ensure that the company passed dust sampling tests.
Armstrong Coal, now bankrupt, is designated by the Indictment as an unindicted co-conspirator. Those former Armstrong supervisory and safety officials charged include:
  • Charley Barber, age 63, of Madisonville, a former Superintendent of Parkway Mine;
  • Brian Keith Casebier, age 60, of Earlington, a former Safety Director at Parkway Mine;
  • Steven Demoss, age 48, of Nortonville, a former Assistant Safety Director at Parkway Mine;
  • Billie Hearld, age 41, of Russellville, a former Section Foreman at Parkway Mine;
  • Ron Ivy, age 49, of Manitou, a former Safety Director at Kronos Mine;
  • John Ellis Scott, age 61, of South Carrollton, a former employee in the Safety Department at Parkway Mine;
  • Dwight Fulkerson, age 40, of Drakesboro, a former Section Foreman who performed dust testing at Parkway Mine; and
  • Jeremy Hackney, age 45, of White Plains, also a former Section Foremen who performed dust testing at Parkway Mine.
The Kronos Mine remains in operation under different ownership. The Parkway Mine is no longer open.
The MSA is an Act passed by Congress in 1977, and updated in 2006, to protect miners by preventing the scourges of pneumoconiosis, commonly known as “Black Lung.”
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Randy Ream and Corinne Keel of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky and Special Assistant United States Attorneys Mary Sue Taylor and Jason Grover of MSHA. The investigation by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, United States Department of Labor.
Arkal Automotive Cited for Exposing Employees to Safety Hazards
OSHA cited auto parts manufacturer Arkal Automotive USA Inc. for exposing workers to electrical and amputation hazards. The Auburn, Alabama, company faces $47,857 in proposed penalties.
OSHA investigators responded to a complaint that employees were not properly protected while entering injection molding machines. OSHA cited the employer for inadequate machine guarding; failing to implement lockout/tagout procedures during machine maintenance and servicing; failing to implement safety procedures for entering a robotic cage; and exposing employees to hazardous energy.
"Moving machine parts have the potential to cause severe injuries when they are not properly guarded and safety procedures are absent," said OSHA Mobile Area Office Director Joseph Roesler. "Arkal Automotive USA Inc. failed to identify and correct hazards to ensure the safety and health of their employees."
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Wisconsin Contractor for Repeatedly Exposing Workers to Falls
 OSHA cited Carlos Ketz, who operates as Ketz Roofing, for the sixth time in the past five years for exposing employees to falls. OSHA proposed penalties totaling $48,777.
OSHA inspectors cited the roofing contractor – based in Menasha, Wisconsin – after observing employees working without adequate fall protection on a commercial building in Appleton.
"Employers are required to provide fall protection to employees working in construction at heights above 6 feet," said OSHA Appleton Area Office Director Robert Bonack. "Ketz Roofing's repeated failure to comply with federal safety requirements exposes employees to fatal injuries from falls, which remains the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry."
Missouri Excavating Company After Observing Employees Working in Unprotected Trench
OSHA has cited Karrenbrock Excavating LLC for allowing two employees to work in an unprotected trench while installing sewers. The company faces proposed penalties of $189,221.
OSHA inspectors determined that the company failed to use benching, sloping, shoring, or other protective systems to prevent a trench collapse; conduct regular inspections of the jobsite; adequately train workers to recognize and avoid unsafe trench conditions; ensure a safe means for exiting the excavation; and ensure that excavated materials were kept at least 2 feet from the trench edge. OSHA initiated the inspection under its National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation.
"A trench can collapse in seconds and trap workers under thousands of pounds of soil," said OSHA St. Louis Area Office Director Bill McDonald. "Employers performing excavation work must develop and implement safety procedures to properly protect their employees from cave-ins, and train crews to recognize and evaluate hazards."
Flooring Manufacturer Cited for Exposing Employees to Mechanical, Chemical, and Other Hazards
OSHA has cited Timberline Hardwood Floors LLC for willful and serious violations of workplace safety and health standards. The Fulton, New York, custom hardwood-flooring manufacturer faces proposed penalties totaling $182,917.
OSHA cited the company for failing to implement lockout-tagout procedures to prevent machines from unintentionally starting; adequately train forklift operators; repair exposed electrical circuits; and develop hearing conservation and chemical hazard communication programs. OSHA also cited the company for locked emergency exits, unguarded machines, and unlabeled hazardous materials and chemicals.
"During this inspection, OSHA identified serious hazards that posed a threat to workers' safety and health," said OSHA Syracuse Area Office Assistant Director Jeffrey Prebish. "Unfortunately, Timberline Hardwood Floors LLC ignored its obligation to protect employees from these well-known issues."
Dupont Yard Inc. Cited After Employee Amputation
OSHA has cited Dupont Yard Inc. after an employee suffered a partial hand amputation and other injuries while working on unguarded machinery in Homerville, Georgia. The wooden post manufacturer faces $109,548 in proposed penalties.
OSHA cited the company for allowing employees to operate unguarded machinery and failing to have an emergency stop switch on a conveyor, exposing employees to caught-in and amputation hazards.
“Employers that fail to incorporate safety in their work operations are placing employees at risk for serious injuries,” said OSHA Savannah Area Office Director Margo Westmoreland. “This employer’s disregard for safety is leaving employees vulnerable to preventable hazards.”
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