November 14, 2002

A collaborative working relationship designed to further protect workers in the airline industry was cemented when OSHA signed an Alliance with a group of 13 airlines and the International Air Transport Section of the National Safety Council.

OSHA and the airlines agreed to share best practices and technical knowledge, focusing on ergonomics. Ergonomic issues related to the handling of passenger checked baggage will be addressed by exploring methods of promoting communication, outreach, training, education and a national dialogue.

"This Alliance provides us a great opportunity to advance a culture of injury and illness prevention among workers in the airline industry," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "By law, employers are responsible for the safety and health of their workers. It is our job to ensure that employers keep their workplaces safe. This Alliance is the beginning of what I hope will be a continuing relationship with the airline industry that is focused on results - worker safety and health."

The Alliance consists of the following companies: Air Canada, AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, American Trans Air, America West Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Midwest Express Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and U.S. Airways.

Over the next year, OSHA and the participants will review ways to improve OSHA's e-tool and conduct a one-day seminar for participating airlines and other interested aviation participants on OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs. Plans also call for a seminar with the airlines and OSHA personnel to discuss ergonomic issues, solutions and limitations related to handling passenger-checked baggage.

The Alliance participants will discuss ideas for ergonomic improvement associated with handling of checked baggage during a national safety-related conference and possibly other venues. Finally, OSHA and the Airline Group will develop a biomechanics-training module for workers who handle checked baggage and make that module available free-of-charge to all airlines.

A team of Alliance members will meet at least quarterly to develop and execute an action plan, determine working procedures, and identify the roles and responsibilities of the participants. OSHA will also offer the opportunity for representatives of the Occupational Safety and Health State Plan Association and the association of state Consultation Projects to participate in the Alliance.


OSHA cited Manning Building Supplies, Inc., and fined the company $70,200 for safety violations that led to an accident involving an amputation.

OSHA began an inspection of the company's Jacksonville, Fla., truss manufacturing plant following a June 6 accident that occurred when an employee's arm was caught in a finish press with an unguarded ingoing roller. The worker was unable to free the captured arm because a safety bar, which should have stopped the machine in an emergency, failed to work properly. As a result of the accident, the employee lost two fingers and the dexterity of his left hand.

"This company showed a disregard for worker safety by failing to guard moving machine parts and to fix the safety bar on the finish press even after employees and outside maintenance companies called attention to the need for repair," said James Borders, OSHA's Jacksonville area director. "Employers must take immediate action once they are aware of serious safety hazards that can cause injury or death."

Manning Building Supplies was cited for one willful violation for failure to guard the finish press. A willful citation implies an intentional disregard for, or plain indifference to, safety regulations and requirements.

OSHA also cited the plant for serious violations for failing to guard a saw; have a lock-out/tag-out program, which would render machinery inoperable during servicing and maintenance; ensure that forklift operators were properly trained and evaluated, and have in place an adequate hazard communication or right-to-know program for hazardous chemicals used at the facility.

A serious violation is one where there is a substantial probability that death or serious harm could result and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

The company has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced that the Third National Occupational Injury Research Symposium, NOIRS 2003, will be held on October 28-30, 2003, in Pittsburgh, Pa.

NIOSH also invites abstracts from scientists who may be interested in presenting at the symposium. The deadline for abstracts is April 1, 2003.

NOIRS is convened by NIOSH, in association with its public and private partners, as a national forum for the presentation of latest findings and methods in occupational injury research. NOIRS is a means of implementing the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA), which was established by NIOSH with input and review by more than 500 individuals and organizations. NORA identifies traumatic occupational injuries as one of 21 priority areas where new research will do the most to reduce worker injuries, illnesses, and deaths over the next decade.

NOIRS 2003 will consist of contributed oral presentations in concurrent sessions, organized sessions around topics of special interest, and poster presentations. The presentations will describe research studies, methods, and findings related to traumatic work-related injuries. Abstracts of 300 words or less are invited in areas that may include, but are not limited to, agriculture, communication/technology transfer, construction, engineering/technology, fire fighters/emergency responders, intervention evaluation, mining, motor vehicles, social/economic impact, special populations at risk, surveillance of fatal and non-fatal injuries, and workplace violence.

For further information on NOIRS 2003 and on submitting abstracts, visit the NIOSH web site at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/noirs/noirsmain.html or call the toll-free NIOSH information number, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674). Further information on NIOSH research regarding traumatic occupational injuries, including information on past NOIRS symposiums, is available at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/injury/traumaresearch.html


A new study by NIOSH, drawing from a representative sample of the U.S. adult population, identifies industries and occupations with a higher-than-expected prevalence of chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD). The study also estimates the fraction of cases with COPD attributable to work in such "at-risk" industries and occupations. To NIOSH's knowledge, this was the first study that has developed such an estimate from U.S. population-based data.

NIOSH noted that the purpose of the study was to stimulate questions that will lead to further, focused research in this critical area of public health. In so doing, the findings provide scientists, health professionals, and others with new leads for research and interventions to reduce the occurrence of chronic obstructive lung disease, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema and is the fourth leading cause of death in the general U.S. population.

Results included these:

  • The study found that 19 percent of COPD cases found in the U.S. population are attributable to work in industries that pose a risk for these illnesses. In persons who never smoked, the proportion was even higher (31 percent). This indicates a substantial potential to prevent COPD through control of respiratory health hazards in the workplace.

  • Consistent with earlier industry-specific research, the study found an increased risk for COPD in the rubber, plastics and leather manufacturing industries, the textile mill products manufacturing industry, the food products manufacturing industry, agriculture, and construction. The study also suggests an increased risk in other industries (such as utilities and office building services) that have not previously been associated with a risk for COPD.

  • Consistent with past studies and with known job-related exposures in specific industries and occupations, the study found that COPD was substantially more prevalent in blue-collar industry sectors than in white-collar industry sectors. The study found more than a two-fold increased prevalence (in comparison with white-collar workers combined across all industries) in workers in rubber, plastic, and leather manufacturing; utilities; office building services; textile mill products manufacturing; armed forces; and food products manufacturing. Similarly, an increased prevalence of COPD was observed among freight stock and material handlers, vehicle mechanics, and in non-smokers in several occupational categories: records processing and distribution clerks, machine operators, and construction workers.

More than 20 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to gases, vapors, fumes, and dusts that can cause COPD. The findings suggest that the burden of COPD, particularly among the blue-collar industrial workforce, can be reduced or prevented through measures to reduce hazardous occupational exposures, and through effective workplace pulmonary function screening for timely identification and treatment of COPD in early stages. Reducing the burden of work-related COPD would also significantly reduce the overall burden of COPD in the U.S. adult population. Epidemiological research is needed to confirm the association of COPD with the industries that were not previously identified as being at-risk industries, and to identify causal risk factors.

The study was published in the October 15, 2002, issue of the "American Journal of Epidemiology." It was based on a sample of 9,823 individuals, 30 to 75 years old, drawn from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which was conducted by CDC's National Center for Health Statistics from 1988 to 1994. The methods of the study took into account various potential confounding factors such as age, sex, race/ethnic group, education, income, and smoking. However, because of limitations in its data and approach, the study did not identify all industries and occupations where exposures are hazardous; for example, mining was not identified as a high-risk industry.

COPD is included among several priority areas identified by NIOSH and its partners under the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) for research that will do the most to protect workers from job-related illnesses and injuries. NORA was developed and implemented by NIOSH and diverse outside partners with input and review by more than 500 individuals and organizations.

For further information on NIOSH research pertaining to COPD and other job-related respiratory diseases, call toll-free 1-800-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674) or visit the NIOSH web page at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh. For more information on NORA, visit http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/nora.