In June, 2013, NIOSH issued a report from a 2012 investigation of health concerns by employees at a medical examiner's office. The report discussed NIOSH’s approach and findings as part of their Health Hazard Evaluation Program and commented on what might be the cause of typical employee health concerns in the healthcare and medical industry—focusing on both occupational hazards and indoor air quality issues from building conditions.
The evaluation was conducted because employees were reporting health problems such as itchy eyes, hives, mouth sores, asthma, and gastrointestinal symptoms, among other issues. According to the report, the HHE investigators evaluated exposures to volatile organic compounds, mold, airborne particles, and formaldehyde in the autopsy suite, histology laboratory, and the toxicology laboratory. They also considered the issue of airborne latex from the use of latex gloves, and looked at the buildings condition for evidence of water damage, fiberglass and mold in ductwork.
While NIOSH found occupational exposures in this facility to be below permissible limits, indoor air quality issues were evident. Most prevalent was water damage—which may have contributed to mold growth and deteriorating ducts work on several floors.
As typical of these HHE reports, recommendations were made for both employers and employees as follows:
- Use engineering controls such as work area ventilation if necessary
- Identify and repair all leaks from building pipe work, windows, doors, roofs and facades
- Keep building temperatures consistent and comfortable throughout the building
- Remove mold safety—especially from ductwork to prevent spores from spreading
- Provide nitrile gloves instead of powered latex
- Evaluate rooftop exhausts from morgues and labs to make sure they are not near intakes
- Use engineering controls when available
- Use nitrile gloves
- Keep formaldehyde containers closed when not in use
- Be proactive in health and safety on the job.
The CDC offers various pamphlets and publications containing advice on the air quality of the indoor environment and building ventilation that is very useful. Emilcott has worked extensively with hospitals and other healthcare facilities and can perform both occupational exposure assessments and indoor air quality evaluations to address problems before complaints are filed.