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November 2015

May you have a Happy, and Safe, Thankgiving!

Klatt Posted by Randy Klatt

As the leaves disappear, the air a little cooler, and families gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, we at MEMIC would be remiss if we didn’t reach out to you with a holiday safety message.

  • Travelling over Thanksgiving can be hectic, frustrating, and hazardous. Plan ahead, allow plenty of time, and consider the weather forecast. Flying or driving to grandma’s house can be made safer and easier with these tips from the American Red Cross.
  • Let’s talk turkey! If you’re going the traditional route for the big meal this year, you might want to read this page from the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Did you know that Thanksgiving Day 2013 was the leading date for home cooking fires for that entire year? 1,550 fires.  That’s 230% above the daily average. Since turkey is likely not the only item on the menu check out these safety tips from the National Fire Protection Association. If you are considering deep frying the big bird, please read this NFPA information first! Then chose a safer method!

So without taking all the fun out of the holiday, please safely enjoy the time with family and friends. There is a lot of turmoil in the world, and plenty of stress to go around. Thanksgiving can be a helpful day of repose, good food, and good company. From all of us at MEMIC, we wish you the very best.



What's This I Hear About Ear Damage?

Klatt Posted by Randy Klatt

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), four million people go to work each day exposed to damaging noise, 10 million people in the U.S. have noise-related hearing loss, and 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise each year.

With this in mind, employers have the responsibility to create hearing conservation programs should their employees be exposed to harmful noise levels and durations. The following excerpt is taken directly from OSHA's Occupational Noise Exposure page:

How loud is too loud?

Noise is measured in units of sound pressure levels called decibels, named after Alexander Graham Bell, using A-weighted sound levels (dBA). The A-weighted sound levels closely match the perception of loudness by the human ear. Decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale which means that a small change in the number of decibels results in a huge change in the amount of noise and the potential damage to a person's hearing.

OSHA sets legal limits on noise exposure in the workplace. These limits are based on a worker's time weighted average over an 8 hour day. With noise, OSHA's permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 90 dBA for all workers for an 8 hour day. The OSHA standard uses a 5 dBA exchange rate. This means that when the noise level is increased by 5 dBA, the amount of time a person can be exposed to a certain noise level to receive the same dose is cut in half.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recommended that all worker exposures to noise should be controlled below a level equivalent to 85 dBA for eight hours to minimize occupational noise induced hearing loss. NIOSH has found that significant noise-induced hearing loss occurs at the exposure levels equivalent to the OSHA PEL based on updated information obtained from literature reviews. NIOSH also recommends a 3 dBA exchange rate so that every increase by 3 dBA doubles the amount of the noise and halves the recommended amount of exposure time.

Here's an example: OSHA allows 8 hours of exposure to 90 dBA but only 2 hours of exposure to 100 dBA sound levels. NIOSH would recommend limiting the 8 hour exposure to less than 85 dBA. At 100 dBA, NIOSH recommends less than 15 minutes of exposure per day.                                                                

As you can see, the NIOSH recommendation is more conservative than the OSHA standard requires. This may be confusing to employers, but the good news is that this exposure can be largely eliminated by putting the proper controls in place. Noise induced hearing loss is permanent, so the risks are significant.  

The first choice is the elimination of the loud noise. Although this may be infeasible it should be considered. Replacing loud equipment with quieter models to decrease the exposure is a possible method. Secondly, consider an engineering control to limit the exposure. Installing insulation or acoustic tiles, or isolating machine components might be options to reduce the sound levels.

Administrative controls would be the next choice. This could include the rotation of employees to reduce each person’s exposure, training employees as to the hazards of excessive noise, and creating policies/procedures such as a formal Hearing Conservation Program

Last, we are left with personal protective equipment (PPE). If all methods to reduce the noise to safe levels have been exhausted, then the only remaining choice is to protect employees with PPE. The choices are vast, but the imperative is that the PPE fit properly, be worn correctly, and cleaned/maintained appropriately. There are protectors available that are designed for specific tasks, those which protect under various conditions (such as electric arc flash), that have varying protection levels, and that are worn over the ears, block the ear canal opening, or that are inserted into the ear canal. Regardless of the choice, keep these things in mind regarding hearing protection devices:

  • The noise reduction rating (NRR) on the packaging is only valid if worn perfectly at all times the worker is exposed. With the vagaries of fit, installation, condition of the PPE, and inconsistent use, OSHA takes this a step further to say that the NRR should be reduced by this method:   NRR – 7dB, then divide by 2. So an NRR of 20 would actually be only 6.5dB.
  • Hearing protectors reduce the dB level entering the ear canal. This protects the delicate inner ear components from harmful sound levels, but does not diminish the worker’s ability to hear important ambient noise such as malfunctioning equipment or aural alarms. Workers who already have hearing damage might find it more difficult to understand voices; however, these workers must be protected in order to prevent further damage!

For more information regarding hearing conservation, ear and hearing damage, or hearing protection check out the resources from It’s a Noisy Planet, OSHA’s Noise in Construction Pocket Guide, and NIOSH.


OSHA Proposes a New Standard for Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds

Pieretti Posted by Luis Pieretti, PhD, CIH, CSP

On August 7, 2015, OSHA provided a notice for a proposed rule for Occupational Exposure to Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds. It should be noted that this process did not start in 2015 but on November 26, 2002. This proposed rule not only updates the current permissible exposure limit but creates a specific standard.

What is berryllium?

What is beryllium? Beryllium is a naturally occurring metal. It can be found in rocks, soil, coal and volcanic dust. Beryllium compounds may include beryllium oxide, beryllium carbonate, beryllium sulfate, beryllium nitrate, beryllium hydroxide, beryllium chloride, beryllium fluoride, and beryllium phosphate.                                                             

The Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the National Toxicology Program and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) have classified beryllium as a human carcinogen. Beryllium particles and fumes can cause sensitization for employees, which can create the conditions for chronic beryllium disease or CBD. CBD symptoms include cough, loss of weight, fevers, night sweats, and it could become fatal .

Where is it present in the workplace?

Due to beryllium’s physical properties, it can be found in the aerospace, defense, telecommunications, automotive, electronics, and medical specialty industries. Beryllium can also be found as a trace metal in materials such as aluminum ore, abrasive blasting grit and coal fly ash. For example, it can be found in medical equipment ceramics, lasers, semiconductors, transistors, heat sinks, x-ray windows, and communication equipment among other products.

What is the current standard and what is the proposed?

The current permissible occupational exposure limit for beryllium is 2 μg/m3. This exposure limit was established by OSHA when they adopted the ANSI national consensus standard in the 1970s (ANSI Z37.29-1970). But the exposure limit of 2 μg/m3 was first established by the Atomic Energy Commission in 1949. Yes, 1949, and this exposure limit is most likely based in data and studies prior to that year. In 1975, OSHA tried to lower the permissible exposure limit to 1 μg/m3 but the process was never completed. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the ACGIH continued updating its recommended guidelines as new information became available.

The proposed rule would lower the permissible exposure limit to 0.2 μg/m3 or 10 times lower than the current limit. It also proposes requiring employers, to whom this standard may apply, to make assessments of employee’s exposure to beryllium, develop medical surveillance requirements, and require methods of control, training, and record keeping. For more information, please visit OSHA’s website.