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November 2013

October 2013

Hazard Alert: Methylene Chloride

Luis Pierett 2013 smile Posted by Luis Pieretti

In January 2013, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in conjunction with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released a Hazard Alert regarding the use of methylene chloride during bathtub refinishing activities.  Since 2000, a total of 14 workers within this industry have died using products containing methylene chloride.

Methylene chloride or dichloromethane is categorized as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.  It is in the carcinogen list from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and as a “Confirmed Animal Carcinogen with Unknown Relevance to Humans” by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH).  Methylene chloride is a colorless liquid with a sweet odor.  This solvent is  used in paint removers, degreasers, metal cleaning, and as a blowing agent in foams.

Exposure to methylene chloride may cause dizziness, headaches, nausea, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.  It also may have more severe effects such as chemical burns, suffocation, loss of consciousness, coma, and sudden death.

The fatalities investigated by OSHA and NIOSH within the bathroom refinishing industry revealed these common denominators:

  • Refinishing products contained methylene chloride.
  • Working in small areas with poor or no ventilation.
  • Inadequate or no personal protective equipment (skin protection and/or respiratory protection).
  • Inadequate training related to methylene chloride hazards. 

It is recommended that employers using methylene chloride-containing products should:

  • Review and ensure compliance with the methylene chloride standard from OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1052.
  • If possible, do not use products containing methylene chloride.
  • Avoid using these types of products in enclosed areas with no ventilation.  Remember that bathroom exhaust vents are not considered local exhaust ventilation.  Do not rely on them for chemical exposure control.  Provide local exhaust ventilation and/or fresh air to limit the solvent concentration. 
  • Train employees about the hazards associated methylene chloride and how to recognize them.
  • As stated in a previous MEMIC’s safety blog, adopt good housekeeping practices.
  • Use the appropriate personal protective equipment when necessary (respirators, protective clothing, gloves, and eye protection).

Additionally, review the OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.1052 to see what the requirements are regarding exposure monitoring, regulated areas, methods of compliance, respiratory protection, protective work clothing and equipment, hygiene facilities, medical surveillance, hazard communication, employee training and recordkeeping.

Safe Patient Handling Standards

Lauren Caulfield Posted by Lauren Caulfield

 The ANA (American Nurses Association) has teamed up with experts from numerous disciplines to develop new safe patient handling standards for healthcare organizations.  These standards are referred to as "Safe Patient Handling and Mobility: Interprofessional National Standards".  Below are key points regarding these standards:

  1. Released June 2013
  2. Evidence based and outcome focused
  3. Applies to a variety of settings (LTC, Hospitals, Therapy Settings, Public Health Providers)
  4. "Voluntary" with national legislation anticipated in the future

For more information or to order a copy of the standard, check out the ANA website.

ANA Book

When Your Feet Hurt, You Hurt All Over

  Tony Jones Posted by Tony Jones

Non-traumatic, occupational foot problems are so common that they can occur in virtually any workplace and under any working conditions.  Surveys suggest that two out of every three workers suffer from foot problems.  Underlying medical issues such as diabetes, obesity, and circulatory problems can seriously complicate foot problems. 

Common foot problems include the following:  Severely aching feet, blisters, calluses, corns, rheumatism, arthritis, toe malformations, fallen arches (flat feet), bunions, and sprains. Fungal infections, such as athlete's foot caused by hot and humid environments, strenuous work, and footwear with synthetic (non- porous/non breathable) uppers are also common.

Some work-related factors can lead to foot problems, particularly jobs requiring long periods of standing. Standing for hours, day after day, not only tires the worker's feet but can also cause foot injuries. Continuous standing can cause the joints of bones of the feet to become misaligned, and can cause inflammation that can contribute to the development of arthritis and inflammatory conditions such as plantar fasciitis.

Footwear that fits poorly and/ or is in need of repair contributes to foot discomfort. Pointed toes and high heels are particularly inappropriate as occupational footwear. Poorly fitted or chosen footwear can cause, or aggravate, any pre-existing foot problems. In many cases fashion sometimes takes precedence over choosing well-fitting, supportive safety footwear.

Employers should provide training and information on the health hazards of wearing improper shoes, the principles for selecting proper ones, and the simple rules of general foot care.

Good footwear should have the following qualities:

  • Inner side of the shoe must be straight from the heel to the end of the big toe.
  • The shoe must grip the heel firmly.
  • The forepart must allow freedom of movement for the toes.
  • Fastening across the instep to prevent the foot from slipping when walking.
  • Low, wide-based heel; flat shoes are recommended.

People buying footwear for work should consider the following:

  • Do not assume that footwear which is too tight will stretch with wear.
  • Have both feet measured when buying shoes. Feet normally differ in size.
  • Buy shoes to fit the bigger foot.
  • Buy shoes late in the afternoon when feet are likely to be swollen to their maximum size.
  • Ask your doctor's advice if necessary.
  • Consider using shock-absorbing insoles where the job requires walking or standing on hard floors.

Consider socks:

  • When selecting footwear, one should remember that tight socks or stockings can cramp the toes as much as poorly-fitted shoes.
  • Wrinkled socks, or socks that are too large or too small, can cause blisters.
  • White woolen or cotton socks may be recommended since dyed or synthetic socks cause skin allergies in some people.

Feet are subject to a great variety of skin and toenail disorders. Some simple rules of foot care:

  • Wash feet daily with soap, rinse thoroughly and dry, especially between the toes.
  • Trim toenails straight across and not too short. Do not cut into the corners.
  • Wear clean socks or stockings and change them daily.

To avoid athlete's foot follow these guidelines:

  • Select shoes made of leather or canvas--not synthetic materials.
  • Keep several pairs of shoes on hand and rotate shoes daily to allow them to air out.
  • For some workers, non-colored woolen or cotton socks may be recommended since dyes may cause or aggravate skin allergies.
  • Use foot powder.
  • If problems persist, see a doctor or health care specialist.


Workplace Housekeeping

Scott Valorose 2012 Posted by Scott Valorose

Housekeeping in the workplace is a critical safety issue – it’s even regulated:

  • All places of employment, passageways, storerooms, and service rooms shall be kept clean and orderly and in a sanitary condition (to the extent the work allows).
  • The floor of every workroom shall be maintained in a clean and, so far as possible, a dry condition. Where wet processes are used, drainage shall be maintained, and false floors, platforms, mats, or other dry standing places should be provided where practicable (waterproof footgear shall be provided).
  • To facilitate cleaning, every floor, working place, and passageway shall be kept free from protruding nails, splinters, (unnecessary) holes (and openings), or loose boards.
  • Storage areas shall be kept free from accumulation of materials that constitute hazards from tripping, fire, explosion or pest harborage.
  • In fiscal year 2011, OSHA issued $2.34 million in proposed housekeeping penalties.*

Benefits of good housekeeping:

  • Reduces hazards (Trip / Fall, Strike Against, Puncture / Cut, Fire, Chemical).
  • Enables you to find what you’re looking for.
  • Leads to efficient production and higher quality.
  • Facilitates safe and timely evacuation during emergencies.
  • Enables safe and timely emergency responses.

Good housekeeping practices:

  • All tools, equipment, and materials should have a specific storage space.
  • Get rid of what you don’t use or need.
  • Store items when done with them, not afterwards.
  • Store items properly, not sticking out of drawers or into aisles or work areas.
  • Set up storage location(s) based on frequency of use.
  • Don’t run or leave items on the floor – cords, cables, air hoses, debris.
  • Close cabinet or storage drawers and doors.
  • Use oily waste containers and empty daily.
  • Remove any unused or unnecessary chemicals from the facility.
  • Keep exits, electrical panels, and fire extinguishing equipment clear.
  • Minimize or keep food and drinks off of the production floor.
  • Develop a facility-cleaning schedule, especially accumulated dusts.
  • Develop accountability and make housekeeping part of one’s job performance.
  • Inspect regularly and report hazards.
  • Take action when hazards are identified – Don’t walk on by.

Additional information and guidance:

* National Safety Council