February 27, 2023
OSHA recently issued a publication (PDF
) intended to assist employers and employees in selecting and using personal protective equipment (PPE) to control hazards. After a short introduction explaining the necessity of controlling hazards using the hierarchy of controls, the guide informs readers of employers’ and employees’ responsibilities related to PPE according to federal regulations and briefly outlines the procedure for performing a hazard assessment. Much of the document focuses on specific PPE categories, including eye and face, head, foot and leg, hand and arm, full body, hearing, and fall protection equipment. Each section discusses factors to consider when choosing PPE for a variety of workplace circumstances, ranging from eye protection for users who wear prescription glasses to suitable materials for full-body protective clothing.
While most occupational and environmental health and safety professionals are likely familiar with the information within the new document, it presents this information in concise language accessible to those outside of the profession. The document also includes links to OSHA assistance, services, and programs as well as contact information for regional offices so that readers can reach out for additional information. OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment
document can be downloaded as a free PDF
EPA Orders Norfolk Southern to Conduct All Cleanup Actions Associated with the East Palestine Train Derailment
The EPA recently ordered Norfolk Southern to conduct all necessary actions associated with the cleanup from the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment. As part of EPA’s legally binding order, Norfolk Southern will be required to:
- Identify and clean up contaminated soil and water resources
- Reimburse EPA for cleaning services to be offered to residents and businesses to provide an additional layer of reassurance, which will be conducted by EPA staff and contractors
- Attend and participate in public meetings at EPA’s request and post information online
- Pay for EPA’s costs for work performed under this order
As part of the order, EPA will approve a workplan outlining all steps necessary to clean up the environmental damage caused by the derailment. If the company fails to complete any actions as ordered by EPA, the Agency will immediately step in, conduct the necessary work, and then seek to compel Norfolk Southern to pay triple the cost.
“The Norfolk Southern train derailment has upended the lives of East Palestine families, and EPA’s order will ensure the company is held accountable for jeopardizing the health and safety of this community,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Let me be clear: Norfolk Southern will pay for cleaning up the mess they created and for the trauma they’ve inflicted on this community. I’m deeply grateful to the emergency responders, including EPA personnel, who’ve been on the ground since day one and ensured there was no loss of life as a result of this disaster. As we transition from emergency response, EPA will continue to coordinate closely with our local, state, and federal partners through a whole-of-government approach to support the East Palestine community during the remediation phase. To the people of East Palestine, EPA stands with you now and for as long as it may take.”
To address the concerns of residents regarding potential indoor contamination, EPA will offer cleaning services to area businesses and families. The Agency has extensive experience with similar cleaning programs in other Midwestern communities. Under the terms of the order, Norfolk Southern will reimburse EPA for the costs of these cleaning services. More details about how community members can request this service will be available this week.
EPA’s order marks the transition of the multi-agency response from its “emergency phase” to a longer-term remediation phase. To help implement the order, EPA will establish a “unified command structure” to coordinate the clean-up related efforts of FEMA, HHS, Ohio EPA, Ohio EMA, PA DEP, as well as Norfolk Southern. This approach is frequently used in situations where multiple agencies need to work together. In this case, the response includes federal, state and local agencies across multiple states.
EPA issued this unilateral administrative order pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, which gives EPA the authority to order those responsible for pollution to clean it up. The order takes effect two days after signature, though the cleanup work has already begun and will continue.
New Silica Resources Available from California Department of Public Health
Two resources recently published by the Occupational Health Branch of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) are intended to help employers protect workers through reducing exposures to respirable crystalline silica. The first, a new employer guide (PDF
) focusing on silica air monitoring in the workplace—particularly in the stone fabrication industry—outlines steps and best practices for conducting personal air monitoring for silica. This document provides information about exposure limits and how to obtain an industrial hygienist’s support for sampling and analysis. CDPH also summarizes steps for selecting workers for personal air monitoring, conducting air monitoring, reviewing and sharing results with workers, and maintaining records. The guide also includes a table that employers can use to determine when to repeat air monitoring. The second new resource, a one-page overview of Cal/OSHA’s silica standard for general industry (PDF
), informs employers of the regulation’s key requirements.
Federal OSHA estimates
that 2.3 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to silica on the job. Workers in the cut stone and stone products industry are exposed to respirable crystalline silica dust during activities such as manufacturing stone countertops and cutting or crushing stone. A report
published by CDC in 2019 identified 18 cases of silicosis, including two fatalities, among stone fabrication workers in the states of California, Colorado, Texas, and Washington during the years 2017–2019. The report noted that the affected workers worked primarily with engineered stone, which “contains substantially more silica” than natural stone. Silicosis is a preventable occupational disease that may be attributed to the inhalation of respirable crystalline silica particles. Before 2017–2019, only one case of silicosis had been reported among engineered stone fabrication workers in the U.S., according to CDC.
For more information, see the CDPH webpage
on silica safety resources for stone fabricators. The department’s new resources are also available for download in Spanish from this page.
Clean Water Act Methods Update Rule Proposed
The EPA is proposing changes to its test procedures required to be used by industries and municipalities when analyzing the chemical, physical, and biological properties of wastewater and other samples for reporting under EPA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program. The Clean Water Act (CWA) requires EPA to promulgate these test procedures (analytical methods) for analysis of pollutants. EPA anticipates that these proposed changes would provide increased flexibility for the regulated community in meeting monitoring requirements while improving data quality. In addition, this proposed update to the CWA methods would incorporate technological advances in analytical technology and make a series of minor changes and corrections to existing approved methods. As such, EPA expects that there would be no negative economic impacts resulting from these proposed changes. Comments on this proposed rule must be received on or before 24 April 2023. POC is Tracy Bone, Engineering and Analysis Division (4303T), Office of Water, Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20460-0001; tele: 202-564-5257; email: Bone.firstname.lastname@example.org. (Federal Register 21 February 2023 [Proposed Rule] Pages 10724-10771
New Report Series Examines ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Industry and the Future of PFAS Pollution Prevention
As Minnesota state agencies and community partners advance strategies to prevent, clean-up, and manage per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances, the agency is learning more about their use — and identifying alternatives that would better protect communities from contamination.
The MPCA has released the first in a series of reports on industrial uses of PFAS in Minnesota. The full report, PFAS in the metal plating and finishing industry
, is intended for a technical audience, but the findings are of interest to anyone concerned about PFAS pollution.
PFAS, the family of human-made chemicals that are commonly known as “forever chemicals,” are a priority for MPCA due to their widespread use and pollution found across the state and planet. The Minnesota Department of Health finds that exposure to sufficient levels of certain types of PFAS
may be linked to immune suppression, liver problems, lower birth weight, certain cancers, and other health concerns. Research on health effects is ongoing.
PFAS may be best known for their use in non-stick cookware, but, as the new MPCA reports detail, PFAS are also found in thousands of other products and manufacturing processes in industrial settings. The risk for PFAS pollution extends far beyond manufacturing the chemicals themselves. An estimated 1,200 Minnesota businesses may be using PFAS. They produce a wide range of important goods, including car parts, electronics, flooring, metals, paint, plastics, soap, and many more. Each industrial application, product, and that product’s ultimate disposal represents an opportunity for PFAS to enter the environment.
“Taking a closer look at how industries in Minnesota use PFAS, understanding how PFAS pollution might happen, and exploring alternatives to PFAS within those industries are all steps toward a future without PFAS pollution,” says author and MPCA researcher Maya Gilchrist.
Gilchrist’s first report unpacks how PFAS is used in metal plating. There are numerous plating businesses operating throughout Minnesota, in our cities as well as in Greater Minnesota. These businesses might use PFAS as part of the process to make jewelry more brilliant in appearance, prevent engine corrosion, and plate other metals with nickel or chrome which has many applications — perhaps even your car’s hubcaps.
PFAS pollution from these processes can happen in unexpected ways. For example, Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis, formerly known as Lake Calhoun, was contaminated with a type of PFAS called PFOS used at a chrome plating facility in neighboring St. Louis Park. PFAS residue from the chrome plating process travelled through vents and accumulated on the facility’s roof. Rain and melting snow washed the PFAS off the roof into the stormwater system, draining into the lake. PFOS levels in Bde Maka Ska have been declining since 2013 and the lake is considered safe for swimming and boating, but PFAS continue to be found in the lake’s fish. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends eating no more than one serving of fish from Bde Maka Ska per month due to PFAS contamination
The best way to avoid consequences like the contamination of Bde Maka Ska is to avoid PFAS altogether, whenever possible.
“Perhaps the most exciting thing about these studies is identifying alternatives to PFAS,” says Gilchrist. In many cases, a different, safer substance or process can be substituted to deliver a comparable product, greatly reducing risk of PFAS exposure to employees and the public. This is especially important as industries prepare for PFAS product bans happening in various states and countries are proposed and take effect.
Minnesota’s PFAS Blueprint
recommends ending non-essential use of PFAS. The Legislature is currently considering several bills to put the state on that path, including HF1000
. A ban on PFAS in food packaging in Minnesota begins January 2024.
As Gilchrist describes in her report, there is encouraging research underway to find PFAS-free alternatives in metal plating. While more work needs to be done before there are viable options in metal plating, the transition away from PFAS is well underway in other sectors. For instance, PFAS alternatives are quickly becoming mainstream in clothing, with major brands pledging to be PFAS-free starting next year.
Gilchrist takes a closer look at the clothing, leather, and textile industries and their use of PFAS in her next report. It is due in a few months and will be published alongside her metal plating report and other PFAS studies on the MPCA PFAS studies webpage
Broadly Supported Petition Urges EPA Reforms for Bee and Bird-Killing Pesticides
Recently Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the American Bird Conservancy spearheaded a regulatory filing with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on behalf of 65 non-profit groups proposing major reforms in the way the agency regulates systemic insecticides with a focus on the neonicotinoids, which have caused excessive honeybee deaths and bird mortalities since their introduction more than 20 years ago. The groups are pushing EPA to discard a 1984 regulatory waiver that allowed companies to register pesticides without first submitting “efficacy” data showing that the product actually provides claimed benefits. Instead of requiring data on the costs versus the benefits of a pesticide application, the Reagan-era EPA simply formally declared: “rather than require efficacy data the Agency presumes that benefits exceed risks”.
The Petition documents how EPA’s shocking 1984 presumption and its subsequent failure to require efficacy data has led to extensive environmental harm, including the overproduction of thousands of tons of surplus neonicotinoid-coated seeds that were never planted and have contaminated the environment.
“We have overwhelming proof that neonicotinoids are devastating to birds and insects. One seed coated with a neonic can kill a songbird, which is to say nothing of the millions of birds impacted by the loss of beneficial invertebrates from neonic pollution,” said Hardy Kern, Director of Government Relations for American Bird Conservancy’s Pesticides and Birds Campaign. “What we don’t have is the expectation that chemical registrants have to prove their product works as intended.”
Expert study after expert study, including by EPA’s economists, show that in most situations the use of neonicotinoid-coated seeds is unnecessary – and in some contexts using the seeds actually reduces crop yields. Yet, neonicotinoids on seeds are the most widespread application of pesticides in the country, impacting about 100 million acres in a typical year.
“While EPA should hold all pesticides to a higher standard, for the neonics we have voluminous published evidence on their lack of efficacy, their prophylactic overuse, and the environmental harm they are causing.” said Peter Jenkins, PEER senior counsel. “The threat they pose to long-term ecosystem integrity is especially insidious.”
The list of co-petitioners includes: Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Endangered Species Coalition, Farmworker Association of Florida, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pollinator Stewardship Council, and the Sierra Club.
Scientific, Economic, and Legal Underpinnings of Limits on Toxic Air Pollution from Power Plants Reaffirmed
EPA is reaffirming the scientific, economic, and legal underpinnings of the 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for power plants, which required significant reductions of mercury, acid gases, and other harmful pollutants. Controlling these emissions improves public health by reducing fatal heart attacks, reducing cancer risks, avoiding neurodevelopmental delays in children, and helping protect our environment. These public health protections are especially important for anyone affected by hazardous air pollution, including children and particularly vulnerable segments of the population such as Indigenous communities, low-income communities, and people of color who live near power plants.
The final rule, which responds to President Biden’s January 20, 2021, Executive Order 13990, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis,” reverses a rule issued by the previous administration in May 2020, which undermined the legal basis for these vital health protections. Reaffirming the science behind these clean air standards advances the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government commitment to environmental justice.
“For years, Mercury and Air Toxics Standards have protected the health of American communities nationwide, especially children, low-income communities, and communities of color who often and unjustly live near power plants,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “This finding ensures the continuation of these critical, life-saving protections while advancing President Biden’s commitment to making science-based decisions and protecting the health and wellbeing of all people and all communities.”
The final rule leaves the current emissions standards unchanged and ensures the continuation of public health protections provided by these requirements. When weighing the substantial burden that hazardous air pollutants, including mercury, impose on public health against the reasonable costs of controlling these emissions, EPA finds that it is appropriate and necessary to regulate emissions of air toxics from power plants under the Clean Air Act. The Agency is also continuing to consider the MATS Risk and Technology Review, as directed by Executive Order 13990, to determine whether more stringent protections for hazardous air pollution from power plants are feasible and warranted and expects to address that review in a separate action.
The initial appropriate and necessary finding was made in 2000 and affirmed in 2012 and 2016. In May 2020, the previous administration reversed EPA’s 2016 finding, undermining the legal basis for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. President Biden’s Executive Order 13990 directed EPA to review that finding and consider an action to rescind it. In the recent action, EPA finds that the 2020 action was based on a fundamentally flawed interpretation of the Clean Air Act that improperly ignored or undervalued vital health benefits from reducing hazardous air pollution from power plants. Based on a thorough review of these benefits, the reasonable costs of controls, and other relevant factors, EPA reaffirms that it is appropriate and necessary to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants.
The MATS, combined with advancements in the power sector, have driven sharp reductions in harmful pollutants. EPA has estimated that by 2017, mercury emissions from power plants were reduced by 86 percent, acid gas emissions were reduced by 96 percent, and non-mercury metal emissions were reduced by 81 percent compared to pre-MATS levels in 2010. After a reassessment of costs now that the MATS has been implemented, EPA concludes that the cost for the power sector to comply with the MATS was likely billions of dollars lower than originally estimated.
Prior to the MATS, coal- and oil-fired power plants were by far the largest domestic source of mercury and other toxic pollutants such as hydrogen chloride and selenium. They were also among the largest domestic emitters of arsenic, chromium, cobalt, nickel, hydrogen cyanide, beryllium, and cadmium.
Oregon Contractor Earns Workplace Health, Safety Recognition
Gerding Builders, a Corvallis-based commercial general contractor, and its sister company, TGC Structural, a carpentry and specialty concrete contractor, have strengthened their commitment to workplace health and safety, achieving first-year certification as part of Oregon OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP).
SHARP, primarily set up to help small- and mid-sized businesses, coaches employers on how to effectively manage workplace safety and health. The program encourages Oregon employers to work with their employees to identify and correct hazards and to continuously improve. In turn, companies are recognized for their success in reaching specific benchmarks during the five-year program. An employer may graduate from SHARP after five years of participation.
Gerding Builders and TGC Structural began the SHARP process in February 2022.
One of the most important core values for the companies is ensuring that everyone goes home safe every day, said Corporate Safety Manager Roy Shawgo. “This includes not only our employees, but all who work on our job sites. It’s important to us as a company to take the next step in keeping our workforce safe. SHARP has helped us work closer with our crews to identify and correct potential hazards.”
Shawgo said he is impressed by the guidance provided by Oregon OSHA consultants. “It was hard work, but they walked us through each step,” he said. “What we didn’t understand, they took the time to explain it and assisted with it. I look forward to working with them over the next four years.”
SHARP encourages Oregon employers to work with their employees to identify and correct hazards, and develop and implement effective safety and health programs. The benefits of the program, which is part of Oregon OSHA’s consultation services, include lower injury and illness rates, decreased workers’ compensation costs, increased employee morale, and lower product losses.
Learn more about SHARP
and Oregon OSHA’s free confidential consultation services
, which include hazard assessments, recommendations to control and eliminate hazards, written program evaluation, and hands-on training. Consultations involve no fault, no citations, and no penalties. Oregon OSHA consultants in workplace safety, industrial hygiene, and ergonomics can help employers reduce accidents and related costs, and develop comprehensive programs to manage safety and health.
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7). 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 an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
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