Over Half of Noise-Exposed Workers Do Not Use Hearing Protection When Exposed to Noise on the Job

October 11, 2021
A new study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that over half of noise-exposed workers didn’t use hearing protection “always” or “usually” when exposed to hazardous occupational noise. Hearing protection device (HPD) non-use was only measured in workers who reported exposure to noise on the job. The study was published online October 1, 2021 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.
An estimated 22 million workers in the United States face exposure to hazardous noise at work each year. While fewer workers are exposed to noise in industries like Finance and Insurance, and Healthcare and Social Assistance, NIOSH researchers found some of the highest prevalences of HPD non-use among the exposed workers in these industries. Additionally, researchers found female workers, young workers (aged 18-25), and current smokers had a significantly higher prevalence of HPD non-use.
“Our findings regarding HPD non-use by gender and age group are consistent with previous studies,” said Elizabeth Masterson, PhD, research epidemiologist and study co-author. “However, no prior relationship between smoking and HPD non-use has been reported. Our study was the first to find a significant association between current smoking and HPD non-use.”
The study looked at 39,508 adult current workers from the 2007 and 2014 National Health Interview Surveys. These surveys asked participants about their HPD use and occupational noise exposure within the past year. Of the workers surveyed, 2,057 reported exposure to occupational noise during the previous 12 months in 2007 and 3,380 in 2014. Overall, between 2007 and 2014, the prevalence of HPD non-use did not change significantly.
Among all workers exposed to noise in 2014, researchers found the majority (53%) did not wear hearing protection consistently. Industries with the highest HPD non-use among noise-exposed workers included Accommodation and Food Services (90%), Health Care and Social Assistance (83%), and Education Services (82%). Additionally, some of the industries where noise is a well-recognized hazard, were found to have high prevalences of HPD non-use, including Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting (74%) and Construction (52%).
“The prevalence of HPD non-use remains high. Increasing worker awareness and providing training about the importance of proper and consistent use of HPDs can protect workers from the effects of hazardous noise” said Dr. Masterson. “In addition, we need to overcome barriers to HPD use by ensuring that workers have HPDs that are comfortable and do not overprotect from noise so they can hear speech and other important workplace signals.”
Visit the NIOSH website for more information about noise and hearing loss prevention research at NIOSH. For industry sector-specific statistics on hearing loss, noise exposure, and other information, please visit the Occupational Hearing Loss Surveillance webpage.
PFAS Banned in Paper-Based Food Packaging
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law banning the use of the “forever chemicals” known as PFAS in paper-based food packaging and to require disclosure of toxic substances in cookware.
The bill, AB 1200, known as the California Safer Food Packaging and Cookware Act of 2021 and authored by Assembly member Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), will protect consumers and the environment from PFAS and other harmful chemicals by:
  • Banning paper-based food packaging using PFAS chemicals starting January 1, 2023
  • Requiring cookware manufacturers starting January 1, 2024, to disclose the presence of chemicals in their products that are of concern for human health or the environment
  • Prohibiting misleading advertising on cookware packaging as early as January 1, 2023
Cosponsors of the legislation include Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Center for Environmental Health, Clean Water Action, Environmental Working Group and NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).
“Most people don’t realize there are PFAS in everyday items including food packaging. PFAS is a massive global public health issue. It is imperative that we stop adding to the problem, and eliminate PFAS use wherever possible,” said Avinash Kar, director of state health policy for NRDC. “California will do just that by banning the unnecessary use of PFAS in paper-based food packaging.”
PFAS are widely used in paper-based food packaging made from plant fibers, such as cardboard, for their water and grease resistant properties. Examples of food packaging that often contain PFAS include paper wraps, liners, bags, sleeves, dinnerware (plates, bowls, trays), and takeout containers made of molded fiber. The chemicals can migrate from the packaging into our food, contaminate soil when the packaging is composted, and pose contamination risks for water systems when the material is landfilled.
The removal of these toxic chemicals will help protect the workers making these products, the consumers using them, the communities living near their production or disposal, and vulnerable populations already bearing a disproportionate burden of environmental pollution.
“PFAS chemicals should not be used in materials that touch our food because they persist in the environment and human body, and have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, organ damage, and other severe diseases and can interfere with vaccine response,” said Sue Chiang, pollution prevention director for the Center for Environmental Health. “The Center for Environmental Health has spent 25 years protecting people from toxic chemicals and are proud to have co-sponsored AB1200 to help create a healthier world for us all.”
The bill also requires cookware manufacturers to disclose chemicals of concern, such as PFAS and bisphenol A, or BPA, and other substances on the California Department of Toxic Substances Control’s Candidate Chemical List, if they are added either to surfaces that come into contact with food or drink or to handles. The disclosure must be available online starting January 1, 2023, and January 1, 2024, on the product label.
“Consumers are increasingly demanding information about the chemicals in their products. Breast cancer survivors and new moms work extra hard to avoid chemicals that could contribute to a re-occurrence of cancer or harm the development of their children” said Nancy Buermeyer, Senior Policy Strategist for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. “This groundbreaking law will help consumers make educated decisions about their purchases and avoid harmful chemicals.”
"Consumers have for too long been kept in the dark about PFAS and other chemicals in their cookware that could enter their food, and they are often misled about cooking products' safety. AB 1200 imposes a first-ever requirement that cookware manufacturers disclose harmful chemicals present in the surface coatings of pots, pans, and other products, and the bill will curb the use of false safety claims on packaging,” said Susan Little, senior advocate for the Environmental Working Group.
The bill also sets deadlines starting January 1, 2023, to prohibit misleading advertising on cookware -- such as claims that a product is free of a specific hazardous chemical when other chemicals from the same class are present. Such claims can mislead buyers into believing a product is free of problematic chemicals. For instance, pans claiming to be “PFOA free” often contain other harmful PFAS chemicals like PTFE.
“The insidious thing about PFAS is that we are not only exposed by using products that contain them, but we are re-exposed when these chemicals get into our water, air, soil, and crops,” said Andria Ventura, legislative and policy director at Clean Water Action. “Since food packaging is a major source of litter in water and can contaminate compost, our precious water resources and food are at risk. That’s why AB 1200 is so important.”
Phasedown of HCFCs: Allowance Allocation and Trading Program
EPA has issuing regulations to implement certain provisions of the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, as enacted on December 27, 2020. This Act mandates the phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons, which are highly potent greenhouse gases, by 85% over a period ending in 2036. The Act directs the EPA to implement the phasedown by issuing a fixed quantity of transferrable production and consumption allowances, which producers and importers of hydrofluorocarbons must hold in quantities equal to the amount of hydrofluorocarbons they produce or import. To establish the allowance allocation program, this rulemaking determines the hydrofluorocarbon production and consumption baselines, from which allowed production and consumption will decrease consistent with the statutory phasedown schedule; provides an initial approach to allocating calendar-year allowances and allowing for the transfer of those allowances; establishes provisions for the international transfer of allowances; and establishes recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Additionally, it establishes provisions to support implementation, compliance with, and enforcement of, statutory and regulatory requirements under the Act's phasedown provisions. Over the time period from 2022-2050, this rulemaking will avoid cumulative emissions of 4,560 million metric tons of exchange value equivalent of HFCs in the United States with a present value of cumulative net benefits of $272.7 billion.
A New Kind of Concrete Could Reduce Emissions from the Construction Industry
A new kind of concrete could reduce emissions from the construction industry. Calcium carbonate concrete is made from waste concrete and carbon dioxide from the air or industrial exhaust gases. It shows promise as a future construction material, especially in places where natural resources are limited.
The modern world is built from concrete. Every tall building in every city on Earth uses the durable and versatile material to give it shape and strength. The concrete industry therefore is enormous, and this comes at a cost: It is estimated that around 7% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions come from the manufacture and use of cement, the main component of concrete. And a large proportion of this 7% is due to the necessary use of calcium, which is usually obtained by burning limestone.
A new way to reduce emissions levels caused by concrete use has been proposed and proven to work by Professor Ippei Maruyama and C4S (Calcium Carbonate Circulation System for Construction) project manager Professor Takafumi Noguchi, both from the Department of Architecture at the University of Tokyo. They have found a way to take waste concrete and captured carbon dioxide, and combine them in a novel process into a usable form of concrete called calcium carbonate concrete.
Inspired by the way some aquatic organisms harden into fossils over time, Maruyama wondered if the same process that forms hard calcium carbonate deposits from dead organic matter could be applied to concrete. Calcium is essential for the reaction between cement and water to form concrete, and Maruyama saw this as an opportunity to investigate a less carbon-intensive way of performing the same function.
“Our concept is to acquire calcium from discarded concrete, which is otherwise going to waste,” said Maruyama. “We combine this with carbon dioxide from industrial exhaust or even from the air. And we do this at much lower temperatures than those used to extract calcium from limestone at present.”
Calcium carbonate is a very stable material, so makes for a durable construction material. And the ability to recycle large quantities of material and waste is a great benefit. However, calcium carbonate concrete cannot replace typical concrete at present. It is not quite as strong as typical concrete, though for some construction projects, such as small houses, this would not be a problem. Also at present, only small blocks a few centimeters in length have been made.
“It is exciting to make progress in this area, but there are still many challenges to overcome,” said Noguchi. “As well as increasing the strength and size limits of calcium carbonate concrete, it would be even better if we could further reduce the energy use of the production process. However, we hope that in the coming decades, carbon-neutral calcium carbonate concrete will become the mainstream type of concrete and will be one of the solutions to climate change.”
Two Chemical Distributors Cited for TSCA CDR Reporting Violations
EPA announced settlement agreements with Smark Company and Oreq Corp. for violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Under the settlements, these chemical distribution companies will pay a combined total of more than $117,000 in penalties.
The violations at Smark and Oreq were discovered during inspections at their respective facilities in South Gate and Temecula, Calif. EPA inspectors found that both companies failed to submit timely reports to EPA associated with the import of five chemicals between 2012 and 2015, as required by the 2016 Chemical Data Reporting Rule. Smark will pay a $93,813 fine and Oreq will pay a $23,452 fine.
“It is essential that chemical importers report the quantity of chemicals they are bringing into the U.S., so that EPA can evaluate the risks to communities and the environment,” said Amy Miller, EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Director of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Companies that do not comply will face significant penalties.”
Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, chemical importers and manufacturers are required to submit Chemical Data Reporting information to EPA every four years. EPA uses this data to track the chemicals being imported into the country and to assess the potential human health and environmental effects of these chemicals. In addition, EPA makes the non-confidential business chemical information it receives available to the public.
The quadrennial chemical data reports for 2016 – 2019 were due from industry earlier this year. For information about the Chemical Data Reporting Rule under TSCA, please visit the TSCA Chemical Data Reporting website at https://www.epa.gov/chemical-data-reporting.
To find out if a specific chemical is on the TSCA chemical substance inventory, check EPA’s Substance Registry Services.
RI DEM Approves Stormwater Treatment Device as a Water Quality Best Management Practice
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has approved the Filterra® — a proprietary stormwater treatment device that uses regionally acceptable trees or shrubs typically housed in a concrete box to filter and treat stormwater runoff — for use as a water quality best management practice (BMP). The certification issued by the DEM's Office of Water Resources is effective for five years starting June 1, 2021.
The product incorporates an engineered soil media designed with a very high infiltration rate, making it ideal for urban sites with limited amounts of space for stormwater BMPs.
Precipitation in an urban or suburban area that does not evaporate or soak into the ground but instead runs across the land and into the nearest waterway is stormwater runoff. It consists of harmful pollutants like fertilizer, pet waste, chemical contaminants like pesticides, leaking fuel, and motor oil, litter, and sediment such as dirt and sand. This mix of nutrients and contaminants can fuel the growth of harmful algae blooms that reduce oxygen levels and cloud the water, blocking sunlight from reaching underwater vegetation. It can cause beach closures, shellfish closures, and other problems.
"Increased development across the Narragansett Bay watershed has made stormwater runoff the biggest source of pollution to our coastal waters," said DEM Acting Director Terry Gray. "Cleaner beaches and shellfish beds start with better stormwater control. Filterra is a type of green infrastructure that is now approved by RIDEM as a proprietary water quality technology to provide high levels of pollutant removal for stormwater runoff. Small-footprint stormwater treatment systems, like Filterra, are ideal for retrofit applications and meeting water quality goals in urban areas with limited site space or on sites with other constraints such as high water table."
The Filterra® is sold by Contech Engineered Solutions LLC. They have demonstrated via third-party testing conducted in accordance with TAPE (Technology Assessment Protocol – Ecology) that it can remove 85% of total suspended solids, 30% of total nitrogen, 30% of total phosphorus, and 60% of pathogens from stormwater runoff. The models that are approved for use in Rhode Island include the Filterra® Peak Diversion, Offline Filterra®, and the Filterra® Bioscape Boxless. These products are intended for commercial and municipal use.
Proprietary devices that are approved as water quality BMPs in Rhode Island must be designed to treat the first inch of stormwater runoff produced by a site's impervious surfaces (such as roadways, roofs, and parking lots) during a rainfall event. Treating the first inch of runoff from impervious surfaces is essential because it provides stormwater treatment for around 90% of annual rainfall events and ensures that BMPs capture the "first flush" of a storm, where most of the pollutants can be found. Approved proprietary devices also must be designed, built, and maintained to meet the conditions specified in their technology-specific RIDEM certification letter.
The review of the Filterra® application was conducted by members of the RIDEM Office of Water Resource's stormwater engineering program along with members of the RI Department of Transportation and Coastal Resources Management Council. DEM is proud to promote and contribute to the advancement of stormwater treatment technology in hopes of protecting Rhode Island's precious water resources by minimizing the environmental impact caused by land development.
To view the list of RIDEM approved proprietary stormwater technologies and their associated certification letters, click here. For additional information on the RIDEM stormwater technology review program, contact Christopher Dill, EIT, at 401-222-4700 ext. 2777404 or christopher.dill@dem.ri.gov
$178K Penalty for Ammonia RMP Violations
EPA has announced a settlement with Taylor Farms over alleged Clean Air Act violations at the Taylor Fresh, Inc. and Taylor Farms California, Inc. food storage and distribution facilities in Salinas, California. The violations pertain to chemical release prevention and reporting requirements under the Clean Air Act. The Delaware-based company will pay more than $178,000 in civil penalties and make safety improvements to their facilities to ensure protection of the public and first responders from dangerous chemicals.
Both facilities use anhydrous ammonia in their refrigeration systems. Anhydrous ammonia can cause serious, often irreversible health effects when released. The chemical, which is also highly flammable, is considered an extremely hazardous substance.
“It is paramount that facilities properly handle extremely hazardous substances to prevent dangerous chemical accidents. These efforts are needed to safeguard workers and nearby communities,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Director of the Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division, Amy Miller. “Failure to do so can result in significant fines.”
EPA inspections of the two Salinas facilities identified significant violations of the Clean Air Act’s risk management program requirements. The inspections revealed process safety and equipment maintenance issues including failure to properly conduct a hazard assessment, failure to document the design, maintenance, inspection, testing and operation of electrical equipment, and lack of written operating procedures.
Thousands of facilities nationwide make, use, and store extremely hazardous substances, including anhydrous ammonia. Catastrophic accidents at ammonia refrigeration facilities—historically about 150 each year—result in evacuations as well as fatalities, serious injuries, and other harms to human health and the environment. EPA inspected these facilities as part of the Agency’s National Compliance Initiative, which seeks to reduce risks to human health and the environment by decreasing the likelihood of accidental releases and mitigating the consequences of chemical accidents.
EPA’s 2021 Climate Adaptation Action Plan
EPA has released its Climate Adaptation Action Plan, which describes steps EPA will take to address the impacts of climate change on communities across the Nation, as part of President Joe Biden’s whole-of-government approach to confronting the climate crisis. EPA also launched a new Climate Adaptation web page that will act as a hub for climate adaptation resources from across EPA.
“This plan is an integral part of EPA’s commitment to bold and decisive action to help the country anticipate, prepare for, adapt to, and recover from the devastating impacts of climate change,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “From fires in the West, to widespread drought, and the wide path of destruction left by Hurricane Ida from Louisiana to New York, recent and current events show the impact our changing climate is having on our lives and livelihoods.”
Pursuant to President Biden’s Executive Order 14008, EPA’s approach to tackling the climate crisis is an important step in mitigating the effects of climate change. The 2021 Climate Adaptation Action Plan lays out several priorities for the agency to implement in the coming months and years, including:
  • Integrating climate adaptation and consideration of climate impacts into EPA programs, policies, rulemaking processes, and enforcement activities;
  • Consulting and partnering with Tribes; state, local, and territorial governments, and other federal agencies; community groups; scientists and adaptation experts; businesses; and other stakeholders to increase the resilience of the nation, with a particular focus on advancing environmental justice; and
  • Implementing measures to protect the agency’s workforce, facilities, critical infrastructure, supply chains, and procurement processes from the risks posed by climate change.
The Biden-Harris Administration has set the most ambitious climate change mitigation and adaptation goals in U.S. history, and EPA will play a central role in delivering on those commitments. EPA has already taken action to reduce climate pollution and will continue to implement the agenda in the months to come. At the same time, EPA will use its authorities and resources to help communities prepare for the serious climate impacts that are already underway.
Climate disruption often hits overburdened communities and people the hardest. As EPA implements this action plan, it will consider the disproportionate impacts of climate change on those who are already vulnerable, including low-income communities and communities of color, children, the elderly, Tribes, and Indigenous people. EPA will engage with underserved and vulnerable communities to ensure that our adaptation plans follow the principles of environmental justice and equity.
Anticipating and recovering from the impacts of climate change will require all levels of government to work together. EPA’s climate adaptation strategies will be informed by the best available science and will deliver co-benefits for mitigation of GHG and other pollution, public health, economic growth and job creation, national security, and environmental justice—all of which will be central to building a more resilient future.
In addition to these plans, President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal include investments to strengthen our nation’s resilience to climate change and extreme weather events, including upgrading power infrastructure, rebuilding America’s roads and bridges, and more.
The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and Office of Management and Budget seek public input on all agency climate adaptation plans. You may submit comments via the docket at https://www.regulations.gov/ (Docket ID: CEQ–2021–0003) until Nov. 6, 2021. CEQ also will hold a virtual convening this fall with national organizations who have expertise in climate adaptation and resilience or have expressed interest in agency plans.
Three Companies Cited for Illegal Antimicrobial Products
EPA fined three companies a total of more than $650,000 for importing unregistered and misbranded antimicrobial products. OnTel Products Corp., Forma Brands LLC and Loginet Inc. also failed to comply with federal reporting requirements for their products.
The agency’s mission includes protecting public health by ensuring that antimicrobial products are properly manufactured, labeled and distributed. EPA works with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to identify and block the entry of illegal products into the United States. In addition to paying penalties the companies are responsible for correcting the violations and complying with the reporting requirements of the federal pesticide law known as the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
“Antimicrobial products that are misbranded and unregistered may not actually be effective in countering public health threats, and may also pose a risk to users,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Director Amy Miller. “EPA prioritizes enforcement against manufacturers and distributors of illegal antimicrobial products.”
OnTel Products, a New Jersey corporation, imported numerous shipments of air-cooling products known as the “Artic Air Tower Evaporative Air Cooler” and the “Arctic Air Pure Chill Evaporative Air Cooler” into the United States through California. Although these products contained antimicrobial components and bore antimicrobial claims, they were not registered with the EPA and their labels included misleading language. The company also failed to file required reports under the FIFRA. Consequently, the company will pay a penalty of $638,624. In addition, OnTel has removed the antimicrobial components from the products and the misleading language from the labels, resulting in these products no longer being subject to FIFRA regulation.
Forma Brands, based in San Francisco, CA, imported a misbranded antimicrobial device called the “Morphe UV Disinfection Box”, and failed to comply with FIFRA reporting requirements. The company will pay a penalty of $22,083.
Loginet, out of the City of Industry, CA, imported and sold surface and skin disinfectant wipes called “75% Alcohol Wipes" that bore sterilizing claims but were not registered with the EPA. The company, which also failed to comply with federal reporting requirements under FIFRA, will pay a penalty of $17,666.
Products that claim to kill or repel bacteria or germs are considered pesticides and thus, under federal law, must be registered with the EPA prior to their distribution or sale. Before EPA can register a pesticide, the agency must determine that no unreasonable adverse effects on human health and the environment will occur when the product is used according to its label. The label must accurately represent the device or product being sold or distributed. Additionally, any company or distributor is required to comply with all reporting requirements under the law. Products not registered by EPA can be harmful to human health, cause adverse effects, and may not be effective against the spread of bacteria, viruses and other types of microorganisms.
For more information on EPA and pesticides, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides. For more information on the FIFRA law and its enforcement, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-federal-insecticide-fungicide-and-rodenticide-act.
Reckitt Benckiser Cited for Mislabeled Rodenticides
EPA announced a settlement with Reckitt Benckiser, LLC, that resolves violations of federal pesticide laws by the company for selling and distributing two rodenticide products in the United States that had misleading advertising claims on their packaging. Reckitt Benckiser will pay a civil penalty of $458,000 under the settlement to resolve these violations.
“It’s imperative that pesticides and rodenticides be accurately labeled to protect consumers and ensure a level playing field for the industry,” said EPA acting Regional Administrator Walter Mugdan. “This case demonstrates EPA’s commitment to ensuring regulated entities like Reckitt Benckiser comply with important environmental laws that protect public health and the environment.”
During a 2019 investigation, which included inspections of a Home Depot in South Plainfield, N.J, and Reckitt Benckiser’s offices in Parsippany, N.J., EPA determined that Reckitt Benckiser was selling two rodenticide products designed to poison mice; the products were sold in packages or with labels making comparative claims as to the effectiveness of the product. The labels EPA approved for the two products did not contain the comparative claim language, and at the time of registration, data associated with the products’ claims were never provided. Because the comparative claims were not subject to verification, they were “false and misleading comparisons” prohibited under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). EPA’s investigation found that the company had sold one or both of these products with shipping containers bearing the improper advertising claim on 239 separate occasions.
FIFRA provides for federal regulation of pesticide distribution, sale, and use. All pesticides distributed or sold in the United States must be registered or licensed by EPA. Before EPA may register a pesticide under FIFRA, the applicant must show, among other things, that using the pesticide according to specifications will not generally cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment. EPA evaluates the language that appears on each pesticide label to ensure the directions for use and safety measures are appropriate to any potential risk. Following label directions is required by law and is necessary to ensure safe use.
Employer Fined After 19-Year-Old Dies in Crane Accident
An OSHA investigation following the death of a 19-year-old worker at a Valmont Coatings' facility in Claremore found the company failed to use proper rigging equipment and perform inspections and maintenance on cranes. The worker was attaching multiple small steel I-beams to a large lifting fixture when the entire assembly fell on him.
OSHA also determined the company – doing business locally as Oklahoma Galvanizing – exposed workers to slip and trip hazards near hot-dip tanks and failed to provide required emergency showers and eyewash stations. OSHA cited Valmont for one willful and five serious violations and proposed $202,000 in penalties.
"Equipment used to lift or move heavy parts must be inspected regularly and kept in good condition or removed from service to avoid worker injuries or fatalities," said OSHA Area Director Steven Kirby in Oklahoma City. "This employer's failure to do so cost a young worker his life."
Based in Omaha, Nebraska, Valmont Coatings is a leading provider of hot-dip galvanizing and applied coating services with 35 facilities in seven countries. It is a subsidiary of Valmont Industries Inc., which does business in more than 23 countries and operates 80 manufacturing facilities to produce engineered support structures, coatings, irrigation and utility support structures.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of citations and 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.
Tootsie Roll Cited After Amputation Injury
A 48-year-old worker for Tootsie Roll Industries LLC suffered a partial finger amputation after their employer allowed bypassed safety locks on a machine's access doors that enabled a bag sealer to close on an employee's finger.
An OSHA inspection of the April 19, 2021 incident found that the worker reached into an unguarded machine to remove stuck paper debris when the bag seal's jaws closed. OSHA issued one willful violation for inadequate machine guarding and proposed $136,532 in penalties.
“Hundreds of workers are injured needlessly each year because employers ignore safety guards, often to speed up production, and that's exactly what happened in this case,” said OSHA Chicago South Area Director James Martineck in Tinley Park. “Employers must never put profits before people. When they do and fail to meet their obligations to keep workers safe, we will take action to hold them accountable.”
2020 Data Collected Under EPA Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program
EPA has released 2020 greenhouse gas (GHG) data collected under the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP). In 2020, reported emissions from large industrial sources were approximately 9% lower than in 2019, reflecting both the economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and ongoing, long-term industry trends.
“The Biden-Harris Administration recognizes the urgency of the climate crisis and has committed to a whole-of-government approach to achieve ambitious reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions,” said Joseph Goffman, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “The Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program is supporting these efforts by providing high-quality, long-term-data for the largest emitters, and contributing important details on greenhouse gas emissions trends.”
More than 8,100 large facilities reported greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 to EPA. The data show that in 2020:
  • Power plants were the largest stationary source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions reporting to the GHGRP, with 1,339 facilities emitting approximately 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. Reported power plant emissions in 2020 declined by 10% between 2019 and 2020, and nearly 33% since 2011 reflecting both changes in electricity use during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well long-term shifts in power sector fuel-stock from coal to natural gas.
  • Petroleum and natural gas systems were the second largest stationary source of emissions, reporting 316 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Reported emissions for 2020 were 9% lower than in 2019, but 11.6% percent higher than 2016. (2016 is the earliest year of comparable data for this sector, as new industry segments began reporting that year.)
  • Reported emissions from other large sources in the industrial and waste sectors were a combined 2,286 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, down 8.9% from 2019, and down 26% since 2011. All sectors reported emissions reductions, with the largest reductions in the metals, oil and gas, and refineries sectors, reflecting the reduced demand for automobiles and gasoline due to the COVID 19 pandemic.
With this year’s data publication, GHGRP is adding a new demographic mapping layer to EPA’s user-friendly online tool for presenting GHGRP data, the Facility Level Information on Greenhouse gases Tool (FLIGHT). The mapping layer will allow users to view demographic index information, including the average of percent low-income and percent people of color, using census tract information drawn from EPA’s EJSCREEN. GHGRP is also releasing a new dashboard to view data on demographic indicators in proximity to GHGRP reporting facilities by industry through interactive maps, graphs, and charts. Although the emissions reported to EPA by reporting facilities are global pollutants, many of these facilities also release pollutants that have a more direct and local impact in the surrounding communities.
EPA will be holding an informational webinar to demonstrate its greenhouse gas data publication tools, including new features, and a tutorial on common searches, on October 12, 2021.
This is the eleventh year of data collection for most sectors under the GHGRP. As directed by Congress, EPA collects annual, facility-level emissions data from major industrial sources, including power plants, oil and gas production, iron and steel mills, and landfills.  GHGRP gathers direct emissions information from the largest stationary sources in the U.S., representing approximately 50% of total U.S. emissions. GHGRP also gathers information from suppliers of fossil fuels and high global-warming greenhouse gases. The data from these suppliers are reported at the point of production rather than the point of use and provide information about the greenhouse gas emissions that occur when these products are eventually burned or employed by an end user. Information reported by these suppliers covers an additional 35-40% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. More than 8,100 direct emitters and suppliers report GHG data to GHGRP.
A complete accounting of total U.S. GHG emissions is available through a separate EPA report, the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks.
Paint Manufacturer Faces $709K in OSHA Fines for Safety Violations
An explosion and fire that killed a press operator and hospitalized eight other employees of Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corp. could have been prevented had the employer not altered a kettle reactor vessel improperly and then returned the vessel to service after it failed following the alterations, a federal workplace safety inspection has found.
An OSHA investigation of the April 8, 2021, explosion determined the same kettle reactor vessel released a flammable vapor cloud when its manway cover and gasket failed. The vapor flowed throughout the plant, ignited and caused the initial explosion.
OSHA cited the paint manufacturer for two willful and 33 serious safety violations of the agency’s process safety management and hazardous waste operations and emergency response procedures. OSHA also noted violations involving lack of personal protective equipment and employee training. The agency proposed $709,960 in penalties and placed Yenkin-Majestic in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
“Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corp. could have prevented this terrible tragedy if they had followed industry standards and removed a compromised kettle from service,” said Acting OSHA Regional Administrator William Donovan in Chicago. “Knowing that this company altered equipment, failed to use a qualified fabricator and returned equipment to service aware that it did not meet safety standards is unacceptable.”
OSHA’s investigation determined that in December 2020, Yenkin-Majestic Paint altered the kettle reactor vessel and the manway opening but did not ensure the vessel maintained its pressure-containing ability. On Jan. 3, 2021, following the alteration, the newly installed manway failed. The company made additional alterations to the vessel when installing a new gasket and again failed to adhere to OSHA’s PSM, pressure vessel inspection procedures and the American Petroleum Institute’s pressure vessel inspection code.
“Company leadership failed to follow their own internal audit procedures that were put in place to ensure the equipment’s integrity and that of the repair process,” said OSHA’s Area Director Larry Johnson in Columbus, Ohio.
Founded in Columbus in 1920, the Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corp. is a manufacturer of paint resins and coatings.
Chemours Fined $300,000 for GenX Violations
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) has assessed $305,611 in penalties in the recent enforcement action against Chemours for exceeding the facility wide GenX annual air emissions limit.  GenX is a member of a large group of man-made chemical compounds known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS and are used to make products to resist stains, grease and water. Most exposure, which can be harmful to human health, is through drinking contaminated water or eating food that contains PFAS.
“DEQ is holding Chemours accountable and ensuring they meet the requirements of their permit at all times,” said DEQ Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser. “They must uphold their obligations to reduce PFAS impacts to their neighbors in the community.”
Under the stringent emissions requirements in the facility’s air permit, Chemours must demonstrate compliance with the GenX emission limit of 23.027 pounds per year, using a rolling 12-month calculation. This limit equates to a 99% percent reduction from GenX emissions in 2017.  Although the permit expiration date was March 31, 2021, the permit has remained in effect under state law due to Chemours’s timely filing for renewal of the permit.
Excess GenX emissions in March 2021 resulted in noncompliance with the rolling 12-month limits for the seven months from March through September of 2021.
Based on the information reviewed by DAQ as part of its investigation, including the stack test results and the written response by Chemours to DAQ’s Notice of Violation and Notice of Recommendation for Enforcement, at a minimum, DAQ determined the Carbon Adsorber Unit was not properly operated or maintained from the date of the stack test (9 March 2021) until the date of the change out of the carbon in the Carbon Adsorber unit (6 April 2021). The total operating days during this time period is 26 days.
DAQ issued the civil penalty assessment based on the facility permit provisions and the agency’s statutory enforcement authority.  The annual GenX air emissions limit in the Consent Order entered by DEQ, Chemours, and Cape Fear River Watch was effective until DAQ issued an equal or more stringent limit in the permit.
The civil penalty assessment outlines the series of actions Chemours will implement for continued, longer-term improvements.  A copy of the assessment and related data is available here.
Insurance Agency Cited for Worker Covid Death
An OSHA investigation found that an auto insurance company ignored coronavirus safety requirements and allowed others displaying symptoms to work at the same Denver location where an employee died with COVID-19.
In response to a complaint of unsafe working conditions and the employee’s death, OSHA initiated an investigation on April 21, 2021, and found Fred Loya Insurance Agency Inc. did not safely distance employees, failed to implement a health and safety plan and allowed symptomatic workers to remain on site. The company faces $23,406 in proposed penalties.
“Fred Loya Insurance Agency needlessly exposed employees in its Fort Collins’ office to co-workers with COVID-19 symptoms,” said OSHA Area Director Amanda Kupper in Denver. “This company showed an indifference toward the safety and well-being of its employees, including one who fell victim to the coronavirus.”
Based in El Paso, Texas, Fred Loya Insurance Agency Inc. is a subsidiary of Loya Insurance Group, which operates more than 500 agencies in states including Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio and Texas.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of citations and 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.
BCP Ingredients Inc. Cited for 24 Serious Safety, Health Violations
Two complaints of unsafe working conditions at a Verona nutrition production plant led federal safety and health inspectors to investigate allegations of worker exposure to multiple safety and health hazards, including toxic substances, combustible dust and moving machinery parts.
OSHA issued 24 serious safety and health violations and proposed $300,759 in penalties to BCP Ingredients Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Balchem Corp.
Investigators cited multiple OSHA violations, including exposing workers to:
OSHA also cited the company for exposing workers to struck-by and fall hazards from modified forklifts, failing to maintain eyewash stations near chemical use areas, and not training workers on how to identify and prevent hazards found in the production facility.
“This company’s failure to comply with safety and health requirements exposed hundreds of workers to toxic chemicals and unguarded machine hazards,” said OSHA Area Director Karena Lorek in Kansas City, Missouri. “OSHA will always respond to reports of unsafe working conditions to ensure employers meet their legal obligation to protect workers on the job.”
BCP Ingredients is part of Balchem’s Animal Nutrition and Health Division, which produces choline, nutrient encapsulation, chelated minerals and functional ingredients for feed and animal supplements. The Verona facility also produces food ingredients primarily for the baking industry. Based in New Hampton, New York, Balchem is one of the world’s largest producers of nutrition and health products for animal and human consumption. It employs more than 1,400 people worldwide.
Oregon OSHA Administrator to Leave Post for Position with State of Washington
Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood will leave his post at the end of this month to take a job with the State of Washington, the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) announced.
The department expects soon to name an interim administrator of the workplace health and safety division, with a national recruitment for the position planned.
“Michael has dedicated his career to public service, has skillfully steered Oregon OSHA through many challenges, and is leaving behind a strong team of highly skilled professionals who are ready to address new challenges,” said Andrew Stolfi, DCBS director. “We will miss him and wish him well as he moves into a new phase of his impressive career in public service.”
Wood’s last day with Oregon OSHA will be Oct. 22. He has accepted a position as deputy director of operations for the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner. Wood has served as administrator of Oregon OSHA for 16 years. Before joining the State of Oregon in his current position, he worked for the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries for more than two decades.
Wood, a Certified Safety Professional and a graduate of Gonzaga University, said Oregon has made its workplace health and safety system a success for decades.
“We have demonstrated a resilience and flexibility in the face of these extraordinary times,” he said. “I also know that I leave behind a team that is truly capable of extraordinary work.”
14 Workers Recognized for Saving Lives
The Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) and the Governor’s Industrial Safety and Health Advisory Board are honoring 14 heroic Washington workers as part of the 70th annual Governor’s Industrial Safety and Health Conference.
“You never know when an emergency will occur, but the quick thinking and fast reactions of the Lifesaving Award honorees reassure us that our coworkers and sometimes perfect strangers are there to help,” said Craig Blackwood, acting assistant director, Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
Three of this year’s recipients are crewmembers of the MV Whatcom Chief ferry. Captain Gary Poole noticed a kayak floating with nobody inside. As he steered the ferry closer to the kayak, he saw a young man and small child in the water. Deck crewmembers, Tom Phillips and Doug Cash, pulled the kayakers onto the ferry where they warmed up and soon reunited with a family member.
Along with that heroic rescue, award winners this year are honored for performing CPR and using an automated external defibrillator to help jump start a worker’s heart after suffering cardiac arrest, stabilizing a worker suffering a seizure, and taking a co-worker with a completely blocked artery to the hospital.
Sometimes, despite best efforts, there are tragic results. This year’s Lifesaving Humanitarian Award goes to Maddie Froyd. She did everything she could to try to save a man who crashed his car through a fence and went down an embankment while she was working at the Bainbridge Athletic Club. The 73-year-old man later died at the hospital from an apparent medical condition. Froyd is being recognized for the heroic act she performed trying to save a life.
To be eligible for this year’s Lifesaving Award, the heroic act must have occurred during work hours between June 1, 2020 and May 31, 2021 and the nominee must have performed hands-on aid.
City Water Superintendent Surrenders License and Pays Penalties over Altered Water Quality Reports and Illegal Asbestos Work
The former superintendent of the South Deerfield Water Supply District (SDWSD) surrendered his professional water license, is barred from any public water supply work, and will pay $200,000 in civil penalties to settle claims he illegally altered water quality reports submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and illegally handled and removed asbestos during an emergency pipe repair, Attorney General Maura Healey announced. The water district will also adopt a series of improvement measures to the public water system.
“Our residents deserve clean drinking water and the superintendent responsible for South Deerfield’s water quality and the water district failed them,” AG Healey said. “By not complying with our state’s asbestos laws, they also put the health of their employees and the public at risk. We will hold accountable those who violate our important laws designed to protect the public from contaminants in our water and from the dangers of asbestos.”
“Public Water Systems rely upon certified operators to properly manage their systems and accurately monitor and report water quality in their systems in order to ensure that customers are provided clean, safe drinking water,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “When certified operators submit altered reports and improperly manage their systems, they violate the public trust and may place customers at risk, MassDEP must hold the certified operator and other responsible parties accountable.”
The consent judgments, entered in Suffolk Superior Court, settles allegations that Roger Sadoski, Jr., and SDWSD violated the Massachusetts Clean Air Act and the Massachusetts Safe Drinking Water Act and their implementing regulations. The AG’s complaint alleges that, from 2014 through 2018, Sadoski and SDWSD failed to report to MassDEP the level of chlorine and the turbid quality in the district’s public water system by repeatedly altering the district’s water quality records and monthly reports before submitting them to MassDEP. Additionally, according to the AG’s complaint, in 2018, during an emergency pipe break at Long Plain Road in South Deerfield, the defendants, under Sadowski’s direction, allegedly illegally handled and removed asbestos containing transite pipe, polluting the air and putting the health of SDWSD staff and the public at risk.
SDWSD is a public water system that supplies water to 3,800 residents in South Deerfield and a portion of Whately. The district maintains and treats surface waters from local reservoirs to ensure that it’s fit to use for drinking water, including by filtering out particles and disinfecting any particles that would make it unsafe for the public.
As part of the settlements, Sadoski will pay a civil penalty of $200,000 and surrender his professional water license, and he is prohibited from any professional involvement with the public water supply. SDWSD will implement a series of preventive measures to ensure high water quality for the residents of South Deerfield and the portion of Whately SDWSD serves. Among other measures, SDWSD will undertake regular water quality and asbestos audits, performed by third party auditors, and training for SDWSD employees.
The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Laila Atta of AG Healey’s Energy and Environment Bureau, with assistance from Chief Enforcement Counsel of MassDEP’s Environmental Strike Force Pamela Talbot, MassDEP Strike Force Investigator Tim Dame, and the Deputy Regional Director of MassDEP’s Western Office Brian Harrington.
Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services Investigated After Employee Deaths
On July 12, 2021, Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services LLC (NRCS), its president and owner, Stephen Michael Braithwaite, and vice president and co-owner, Adam Thomas Braithwaite, pleaded guilty to charges stemming from their mishandling wastes removed from rail cars, causing the deaths of two employees and severely injuring a third. Adam Braithwaite pleaded guilty to violating the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), obstruction, and perjury (29 U.S.C. § 666(e); 18 U.S.C. § 1519, 1622). Steven Braithwaite pleaded guilty to violating OSHA and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act’s knowing endangerment provision (42 U.S.C. § 6928(e); 29 U.S.C. § 666(e)). NRCS pleaded guilty to the same charges, including conspiracy (18 U.S.C. §§ 371). Sentencing is scheduled for October 25, 2021.
NRCS and Steve and Adam Braithwaite failed to implement worker safety standards and then tried to cover up their actions during the OSHA inspection. They also mishandled hazardous wastes removed from rail tanker cars during the cleaning process.
After a 2013 inspection, Steve Braithwaite entered into a written Corrective Action Agreement where he represented that NRCS had been testing for benzene since July 2014. In March 2015, Steve Braithwaite refused to allow OSHA inspectors on-site for a follow-up inspection. Soon thereafter, Steve and Adam Braithwaite falsified documents they submitted to OSHA to show that the company purchased equipment to test the contents of railcars for benzene and taken other required safety precautions. During inspections by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2013 and 2014 respectively, authorities informed the company that it must test its wastes to determine its hazardous nature for proper disposal. NRCS failed to test the wastes, however, until April 2015.
On April 14, 2015, while employees cleaned out a railcar, the car ignited, killing two of them and injured a third worker. Two days after the explosion, NRCS determined tested three railcars and found that two of them were determined to be hazardous.
The EPA Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation.
New “Bad Apple" Campaign Helps Save Money by Keeping Foods Fresher, Longer
Spoiled food is costing households real money. In fact, every year the average household loses $1,600 by throwing away spoiled food. And while many people are already taking steps to reduce food waste, research funded by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality found that 85% of Oregon households agreed they could do more to reduce food spoilage.
To help motivate people to take simple steps to reduce food waste, DEQ launched a new statewide campaign that uses humor and cost-saving messages to inspire households to reduce the amount of food they throw away at home. The new campaign, referred to as “Bad Apple," is the result of extensive research that found that saving money is the primary driver for people to reduce food waste.
“Our goal is for fresher foods, happier eaters and fuller wallets,” says Elaine Blatt, Senior Policy Analyst at DEQ. “It also takes time, energy and heart to grow and deliver our food to the table, and we want to honor the important efforts of the many people who make our meals possible.”
It’s estimated that 25 to 40% of all food produced or imported for consumption is never eaten, and in Oregon, as much as 70% of all food tossed might have been eaten if simple steps had been taken like storing it well, not forgetting it in the fridge, or even freezing it to use later. When food goes uneaten, the resources used to produce it go to waste as well – growing, cooling, processing, transporting, storing, cooking, and ultimately disposing of food all have an enormous greenhouse gas emissions footprint. DEQ is committed to protecting Oregon’s air, land and water, and tackling the climate impacts of food waste is essential to our work.
The campaign also focuses on Oregon’s favorite foods – especially Oregon-grown fruits and vegetables – that are most readily prone to spoil, with specific tips on how to how to keep them fresher longer and save money.
Resources are available at Don't Let Good Food Go Bad.
Helpful tips include:
  • Store food that will go bad soonest in a visible part of the fridge or pantry
  • Keep track of what you have at home or what you need to use up before it goes bad
  • Create meals from what you have on hand
  • Finish all your leftovers
  • Freeze for later use
  • Monitor the temperature in the fridge to make sure it’s at the best setting to preserve your food
  • Check your fridge and pantry before you shop
This effort builds on the work of many organizations across the state, including local governments, non-profits and businesses committed to reducing food waste.
Former Director of Operations at Stockton Biofuel Company Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison for Illegally Dumping Industrial Wastewater
Christopher Young, 45, of El Dorado Hills, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller to 18 months in prison and a $50,000 fine for tampering with monitoring equipment, unlawful discharge of industrial wastewater, and conspiracy, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
Young was Director of Operations for Community Fuels from 2010 to 2016. Community Fuels is registered in San Joaquin County by American Biodiesel Inc. and manufactured biodiesel fuel on property leased from the Port of Stockton
According to court documents, Young participated in a scheme to discharge hundreds of thousands of gallons of polluted wastewater by various unlawful means, including the discharge of wastewater directly into Stockton’s sewer system after tampering with pH sensors and discharge flow monitors to hide evidence of the dumping. Young also directed others to cause a discharge on various dates using improvised hidden hoses and pipes that ultimately connected to the city’s sewer system.
The City of Stockton issued wastewater permits to American Biodiesel that allowed the limited discharge of wastewater into the sewer system under specific standards—a limitation on the total volume discharged per month, an allowable range of pH readings, and a restriction on the concentration of methanol. American Biodiesel had previously represented to the City of Stockton that unpermitted wastewater would be transported offsite to an appropriate facility for treatment. Young’s actions circumvented these restrictions through equipment tampering and unauthorized dumping.
In one instance in 2016, the City of Stockton conducted a surprise inspection and found plant personnel engaged in a procedure that misreported the pH level data and the flow rate of wastewater being discharged into the Stockton sewer system. The City issued an immediate cease and desist order. Young then met with the city inspectors and told them that the discharge was an accident and employees had been disciplined for the act. But later, Young sent an email instructing an employee to restart the wastewater dumping into the sewer because inspectors were unlikely to appear after hours.
“Violating the environmental laws of the United States can carry criminal consequences, potentially including time in prison,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Talbert. “Protecting the environment for our community and future generations is critical, and those who violate our environmental laws will be held accountable.”
“Our nation’s environmental laws are designed to protect our communities, natural resources, and critical infrastructure from hazardous pollutants,” said Special Agent in Charge Scot Adair of EPA’s criminal investigation program in California. “The sentencing outcomes in this case demonstrate that companies and individuals that intentionally violate those laws will be held responsible for their crimes.”
On July 8, 2019, Judge Mueller sentenced American Biodiesel for violations of the Clean Water Act when it allowed the discharge of industrial wastewater into the City of Stockton sewer system. American Biodiesel admitted to tampering with monitoring devices and methods designed to detect such violations, and admitted that employees tampered with pH recordings and flow meters for the purpose of underreporting acid and pollutant levels and volumes that would have exceeded the figures allowed under the city’s regulations.
This case was the product of an investigation by the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, the City of Stockton Municipal Utilities Department, the San Joaquin County Environmental Health Department, the Port of Stockton, and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Philip A. Scarborough and Paul Hemesath prosecuted the case.
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7).  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 an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
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