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Environmental Health and Safety Blog | EHSWire

Local Hospitals Prepare to Meet Federal Guidelines for Responding to Disasters

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jul 25, 2012 4:08:54 AM

by H. Dale Wilson

In an effort to bolster a community’s ability to respond to man-made and natural disasters, states, cities, and counties continuously work with governmental agencies and private healthcare providers to make sure federal emergency response planning guidelines can be effectively implemented at the local level. With growing threats from any number of causes, such as biological or other acts of terrorism, and rising violence due to a several factors (including a lagging economy and general population growth), hospitals face the real crisis of being ill-prepared to deal with large numbers of people seeking help all at once. Poor communication, staff fatigue, supply shortages, and lack of facilities management can be disastrous to the healthcare industry at the local level in emergency preparedness. Paired with the monetary problems faced by the healthcare industry in general because of issues such as rising numbers of uninsured individuals, an aging populace, and higher costs of medical supplies and personnel, the industry faces enormous challenges with their emergency preparedness planning.



Solutions for strengthening hospitals and the healthcare system can be found in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)'s Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) and Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) Cooperative Agreement. The goal of the Agreement is to integrate HPP and PHEP to build and sustain public health and healthcare preparedness capabilities as outlined in ASPR’s Healthcare Preparedness Capabilities: National Guidance for Healthcare System Preparedness and in CDC’s Public Health Preparedness Capabilities: National Standards for State and Local Planning. These documents establish standards for protecting human health and national health security.  PHEP, released in March 2011, identifies 15 capabilities necessary for effective community emergency response; HPP focuses on 8 of PHEP’s 15 capabilities as the basis for healthcare system, Healthcare Coalition, and healthcare organization preparedness.  The 8 capabilities that impact healthcare include:

▪       Healthcare System Preparedness

▪       Healthcare System Recovery

▪       Emergency Operations Coordination

▪       Fatality Management

▪       Information Sharing

▪       Medical Surge

▪       Responder Safety and Health

▪       Volunteer Management

The Agreement, effective this month (July 2012), seeks to facilitate preparedness at the local level, stating “strong and resilient Healthcare Coalitions are the key to an effective state and local...response to an event-driven medical surge.”

Identifying gaps in preparedness, prioritization, and building a sustaining healthcare industry emergency preparedness capabilities is key to ensuring safer, well-prepared communities and cities.  With these new tool healthcare should be better prepared to support their community in event of a disaster.
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Topics: Emilcott, General Industry H&S, General EHS, PHEP, ASPR, Emergency Response, HPP

NIOSH Zadroga Act Will Cover 50 Types of Cancer for 9-11 Responders

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jul 17, 2012 6:33:33 AM

Thousands of 9/11 responders, police officers, firefighters, students, and residents of downtown New York City will now be covered under the $4.3 billion Zadroga Act, which formerly denied any cancer coverage.  The medical fund is named for New York City Police officer James Zadroga, who was the first NYPD officer whose death was attributed to exposure to his contact with toxic chemicals at the site of the attacks. Those in contact with the toxic dust have sought for years to have their cancers acknowledged and treatments covered by the fund.  The government denied any connection between exposure to 9/11 toxins and an increased risk of cancer.



On June 8 th, NIOSH (the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) stated that those workers, residents, and student who contracted cancer due to the toxic dust on 9/11 are now considered eligible for free medical treatment for cancers including those affecting respiratory and digestive systems, and other cancers including breast, ovarian, eye, oral, urinary tract cancers, and mesothelioma, melanomas, and lymphomas.

The list of ailments now includes 14 broad categories of cancer and 50 specific types, all of which were formally denied because federal officials stated that scientific evidence showed no link between exposure to 9/11 toxins and disease. First responders have consistently argued that the real reason for denial of coverage is because of cost to the federal government.

NIOSH based its revised decision on recommendations by an expert medical advisory panel who offered their opinions in March 2011. The panel further advised, however, against coverage for brain, pancreatic, and prostate cancer, stating there is not enough evidence to connect them to fall-out from 9/11.

Included in this ruling is the right of cancer sufferers to file claims with the Federal Victim Compensation Fund, which offers compensation to first responders and residents of downtown New York City, as well as students and workers for their out-of-pocket medical treatments, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
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Topics: Emilcott, NIOSH, General Industry H&S, General EHS, Emergency Response, toxic dust on 9/11, exposure to 9/11 toxins and an increased risk of c, Homeland Security, Air Monitoring, Zadroga Act, Federal Victim Compensation Fund

What Workers and Managers Should Know About Emergency Eyewashes

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Oct 24, 2011 7:54:44 AM

By John DeFillippo, EMT-B, CHMP

The CDC reports that each day more than 2,000 U.S. workers receive some form of medical treatment due to eye injuries sustained at work. More than 800,000 work-related eye injuries occur each year. Most of these injuries result from objects entering the eyes, but many are caused by chemicals. Wearing appropriate eye protection and working safely go a long way toward preventing these types of injuries. However, because nothing is 100%, OSHA requires certain areas in the workplace where chemicals are used or stored to be equipped with emergency eyewash stations and, in some cases, emergency drench showers. The OSHA Medical Services and First Aid Standard covering this area [29 CFR 1910.151 (c)] states:
"Where the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use."

If you are working with or storing corrosive materials your facility must have such installations.  Like a fire extinguisher on the wall, you hope you never need an emergency eyewash station, but you’d better be able to get to it and it had better work when there is a need. It’s important to know that chemical burns and damage start immediately upon contact. The sooner the rinsing starts, the less damage will occur.

The main function of rinse stations (portable or fixed) is first aid, and it is only step one. Immediate and appropriate medical treatment is the next step  -- whether it is calling 911 or transporting the injured person to the nearest medical facility.  Someone from your facility, preferably a manager, should stay with the injured worker and have a copy of the MSDS and any incident information that could be helpful to the medical personnel.

Emilcott staff work at a variety of industrial, commercial, construction and other hazardous sites. For many facilities and jobs, an eyewash station is an essential part of the health and safety plan. As an EMT and CHMP, these are some of the questions I ask when assessing the suitability of flushing stations:

  • Do area workers know where emergency eyewash and shower stations are located, AND how they operate?

  • Are the stations accessible? Not blocked or obstructed?

  • The route to all flushing stations must be clear and the locations boldly marked; could everyone get to a station when needed—FAST and possibly without looking?

  • Has the equipment been inspected and tested monthly? Has this been documented?

  • Is the system plumbed with fixed piping? Or is it a stored liquid type? The former must be flushed and the latter must have its water supply treated so that it remains stable. Both must be capable of delivering at least 15 minutes worth of flow.

  • Is the water at a comfortable temperature?


While there are many products on the market, we recommend the Speakman Gravityflo® Portable Eyewash & Drench Station and use one as a training tool for students in our Hazardous Waste Operations / Emergency Response training courses.  An important component in an effective HazWOPER (and all H&S) training program is the hands-on experience so that students know what to expect in the field. Instead of a slide on an eyewash station, we roll our portable unit to the front of the class or outside for the field exercise, show them how to use it and why it is critical for the eyewash station to be close, ready, and working in the event of an emergency. If your  job function is near where chemicals are used or stored, you should know as much about your nearest eyewash station as our students do!

If you work at a site with corrosive materials present, how available are emergency flushing stations?  Can these stations be accessed within 10 seconds? Has anyone ever showed you how to use it…blindfolded?
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Topics: OSHA, First-Aid, General Industry H&S, OSHA Compliance, General EHS, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, H&S Training, Hazardous Waste Management, protection, eyewash, emergency, drench, corrosive, flush, Lab Safety & Electrical, injury, eye

Indoor Air Quality in Healthcare Facilities During Construction and Renovation

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Sep 25, 2011 11:49:48 PM

Daniel Senatus

A construction and renovation project within any facility creates a range of situations which can release debris, pollutants and contaminants that can impact the indoor air quality. These contaminants may be transported to other areas via HVAC systems, personnel coming and going through encapsulation barriers, and other factors that can subsequently affect people beyond the project area. Consideration of the effect upon indoor air quality is particularly important in healthcare settings when performing construction or renovation projects. Under these conditions, patients and other people with existing health problems that are in the hospital for treatment are at increased risk of contracting nosocomial infections.

Planning and Administrative Controls


All hospital construction projects must go through an Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA) to determine the impact of the project on patient care. The ICRA process is usually lead by the Infection Control staff with additional input from the construction company, engineering, and safety managers. See ICRA Sample here.

Advance planning by all project managers, combined with proactive communication efforts, can successfully allay concerns during and after construction activities. Healthcare facilities must consider other factors that may be a potential hazard as a result of the project and then determine the controls that must be put in place to mitigate them. Other critical factors include knowing what areas will be unusable for the extent of the project, and the time of day that will minimize disruption of services (which is variable depending upon whether it is an ambulatory or inpatient facility). It makes sense that most construction in hospitals should be done in a part of the hospital that is not operational or is vacant.

Hazards to Consider


PM (Particulate Matter)

Construction and demolition activities may introduce particulate matter such as dusts and fibers into an environment. Most concerning is respirable dust; these are dust particles that are small enough to bypass the body’s natural defense and clearance systems (mucous, cilia) and not trigger the coughing reflex which is the body’s way of removing mucous and foreign material from the lungs and upper airway passages. Once these particles get deep in the lungs, they are more likely to be retained and can lead to a whole host of health issues including altered lung function, lung cancer, and even heart problems later on.
Biological Hazards

Construction and demolition of materials may contribute to the release of and exposure to a variety of microorganisms: fungi (Aspergillus, Candida, etc.), bacteria, and medical waste. There is also a good chance that animal droppings, insect parts and standing water may be encountered when breaking into areas not normally accessed. Building materials that are constantly damp or wet may serve as breeding grounds for microorganisms. Workers can come into contact with bodily fluids and bloodborne pathogens originating from leaking medical equipment (suction lines, etc).

According to OSHA “ bloodborne pathogens are infectious organisms present in blood that can cause diseases in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), the virus that causes AIDS.”  Hepatitis B and C are of the most concern in the healthcare construction and renovation setting because they can survive outside of the body for up to a week in the right conditions. Construction activities can make these microorganisms airborne, affecting the indoor air quality and posing a threat to workers and immunocompromised patients.

Engineering Controls


Typically these are implemented as part of the Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA).
Containment

Create a containment barrier with fire-rated 6 MIL polyethylene sheeting around the source and isolate it from other areas of the building so that there is no recirculation of air from the work area into other spaces. HVAC intakes within the containment should be sealed to isolate the containment from general ventilation. Create a second barrier directly outside of the containment barrier (this is considered the “dirty” area) with a sticky mat on the floor, this is where used PPE (personal protective equipment) can be discarded. Create a third barrier (clean area) where clean PPE can be stored; this will actually be the space between the dirty area and the occupied spaces. High traffic zippers should be used on all openings and sticky mats should extend six feet from the clean containment entrance to the occupied areas. These mats should be replaced daily or whenever they look dirty, whichever comes first.
Air Cleaning and Negative Pressure

Use NAM (Negative Air Machines) with HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters inside the enclosure. Filters should be changed as needed. Create a negative pressure environment so that lower pressure inside the containment pulls outside air in and prevents the contaminated air from escaping. The NAM should be on prior to construction being started and stay on for the duration of the project whether construction is going on or not. A micro-manometer can be used to verify that negative pressure is established and maintained.
Dust Monitoring and Microbial Sampling

Continuous dust monitoring outside of the area can help determine the success of the control measures put in place. This can be accomplished using direct reading instrumentation that is equipped with alarms which notify personnel when dust is escaping from the enclosure so that corrective action can be implemented before patients and staff are impacted.

Collecting surface and air samples to evaluate microbiological impacts can also aid in establishing additional preventive measures to protect health and safety of patients and staff.

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)


Prophylaxes and PPE

Construction in certain places in a hospital can increase a construction worker’s chance of being exposed to contaminated waste and bodily fluids. It is good practice to inoculate personnel with the Hepatitis B vaccine in addition to PPE if there is enough time before the project (4 to 5 months) or if the construction company does a lot of work in functioning hospitals. The vaccine is given in a three dose series to reach immunity:

  • Dose #1 – Initial dose

  • Dose #2 – 30 days after dose #1

  • Dose #3 – 4 months after dose #2


All PPE selected for construction use at any healthcare facility must be “appropriate” for the task at hand. OSHA 1910.1030(d)(3)(i) states that personal protective equipment will be considered "appropriate" only if it does not permit blood or other potentially infectious materials to pass through to or reach the employee's work clothes, street clothes, undergarments, skin, eyes, mouth, or other mucous membranes under normal conditions of use and for the duration of time which the protective equipment will be used.

In damp areas or places with medical waste or other contaminated fluids, liquid-resistant Tyvek suits, gloves, shoe covers, respirators/N95 masks, and goggles should be worn. All PPE must be discarded before exiting the containment area.

Housekeeping


Post-construction cleanup in healthcare facilities is the final stage but is just as important as any other phase. A combination of damp wiping and HEPA vacuums should be used to clean all dusty surfaces. After all trash, dirt, and debris have been removed, wet rags should be used to wipe down all areas within the containment and other areas immediately surrounding it.

Removal of trash may require that the trash be wiped down and clean and/or placed in a covered cart for transport away from the construction site to the waste dumpster so as not to spread contamination in sensitive areas. The renovated or constructed area should be in a sanitary condition before it is turned over to hospital staff. A careful inspection and testing program can aid in documenting the level of cleanliness.

Planning and Partnership


Construction in any healthcare facility is a necessity – whether it is a long-awaited and carefully planned renovation or a response to an urgent problem within the building envelope. In either case, protecting the health and safety of patients and caregivers in the facility and the construction workers can be achieved through planning, communication, and a thorough knowledge of indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and industrial hygiene (IH) procedures and best practices. The success of the project is also dependent upon the partnership of the medical staff, management personnel and all the outside resources that will address the problem and ensure that the construction is completed without creating any additional health issues.

If you have any questions about construction or renovation at a healthcare facility or clinic, please comment below or c ontact us and an Emilcott IEQ specialist will respond.

References and Further Reading


http://www.ehow.com/list_7716877_statistics-exposure-hospital-construction-activity.html

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol4no3/weinstein.htm

http://www.mycology.adelaide.edu.au/downloads/Preventing-IFI-Buildings.pdf


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Topics: indoor air quality, Personal Protective Equipment, Renovation, General Industry H&S, OSHA Compliance, General EHS, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, Air Monitoring, construction, respirable dust, remodel, ICRA, protect, biological hazards, health and safeety, containment, particulates, hospitals, sampling, demoliton, healthcare

Hurricane Irene Leaves a Legacy of Water Intrusion and the Promise of Mold

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Aug 31, 2011 5:15:00 AM

Dale Wilson, CIH, LEED AP

With the departure of Hurricane Irene, many buildings throughout NJ and NY have sustained a wide range of water damage and require action to remediate or otherwise mitigate the impacts of water intrusion:  mold, fungus and structural damage. 

Timing is a key element in this response; immediate action is necessary to minimize the potential for mold growth within the building envelope. As in medicine, early detection leads to an early (and usually less expensive) cure. Time and water combined can grow to be an expensive and time-consuming enemy.  Failure to respond promptly will very likely result in mold growth requiring significantly more demolition than if the condition is handled in a timely manner.  What is the definition of “timely”? As soon as mold is discovered!

Experts Can Determine Proper Mold Remediation


Along with timing, selection of the proper remediation technique for the building’s water intrusion and moisture problem (removal, drying in place using fans and/or dehumidification equipment, cleaning, treatment with biocide, etc.) is essential for maintaining a safe building. Improperly implemented remediation procedures can result in cross-contamination and hidden mold growth areas which could adversely impact occupants as time passes while increasing overall remediation time and costs .

Water and flood remediation procedures vary and are dependent upon the convoluted mix of building materials, building design, furnishings, extent of exposure, and the source of the water. Water intrusion investigations and cleanup can be especially challenging in buildings such as multi-unit residences, hospitals or rehab centers, schools and older buildings. There are a wide range of environmental, health and safety (EHS) issues associated with commercial, industrial and institutional facilities; it is important to manage the project as well as the complex interaction between employees, contractors, and the public within a facility; the buildings themselves; and the physical surroundings where they are located.

Mold Remediation Services


An EHS mold expert will identify and eliminate sources of mold and other Indoor Environmental Quality problems. They will also provide a detailed project roadmap for cleanup and removal as well as project oversight for safe and effective remediation. Emilcott’s mold remediation strategy for safe and effective mold removal (with minimal damage to the building and reduced impacts to building occupants) includes the following steps:

Step 1: Initial Assessment

Locate the source of the moisture without deconstruction or disruption to the building and occupants.  Determine the urgency of the mold problem and its impact upon workers or residents.

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Topics: indoor air quality, General Industry H&S, General EHS, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, Air Monitoring, Mold, water, expert, irene, new york, hurricane, remediation, new jersey, flood, intrusion

343 + 2 = Changes in NYC Asbestos Regulations

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Aug 29, 2011 7:22:05 AM

Dale Wilson, CIH, LEED AP, Sr. Project Manager

"343" is a symbol of great sadness to members of the FDNY and their families as 343 is the number of FDNY firefighters who died on September 11, 2001. That staggering figure is remembered quite readily when recalling the events of that day and during the remembrances that have followed.  However, almost six years later, the lives of two additional NY firefighters were claimed during the demolition of the 9/11-damaged Deutsche Bank Building.

The 41-story Deutsche Bank Building stood adjacent to the World Trade Center and was severely damaged by falling debris and smoke when the Twin Towers collapsed. The damage to the skyscraper was so extensive that it had to be demolished. However, as the federal EPA requires, before it could be demolished, all asbestos-containing materials needed to be removed.

By August 18, 2007, demolition was well underway and the building now stood at only 26 stories tall.  Around 3:40 pm, a massive seven-alarm fire broke out as a result of a discarded cigarette in the asbestos decontamination unit on the 17 th floor.  The building had not been inspected by the Fire Department since March, when it should have been inspected every 15 days.  As a result, a crucial but inoperable fire standpipe forced firefighters to raise hoses up from the street to combat the flames.   Inside the building, three firefighters struggled to pull a hose through the deconstructed building. Only one of these men survived. The configuration of the asbestos abatement added to the difficulty of fighting a fire in an already structurally-compromised building.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an institute within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), completed a description and evaluation of the incident as part of their fire fighter fatality investigation. Several items stand out from the asbestos abatement as contributors to the fire:

  • White plastic sheeting was used to partition the floor area into separate zones.  All these partitions created maze-like conditions for the firefighters.

  • Numerous zones were under negative pressure, as required for asbestos abatement, possibly drawing smoke and fire into localized areas.

  • Stairwell doors were blocked by wooded hatch covers as part of the construction of the asbestos containments.

  • Plastic sheeting, construction debris, and exposed lumber in partitions provided additional fuel.


These contributing conditions created by the asbestos abatement project have been recognized by several authorities, and in an effort to maximize safety, New York City enacted a number of new laws to ensure that asbestos abatement projects are conducted safely.  These laws impact the ways that asbestos projects are filed, approved and inspected, and involve new levels of cooperation among the agencies that oversee asbestos and construction safety:  the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP), the Department of Buildings (DOB) and the Fire Department (FDNY).  Most notably, the NYC DEP created the Asbestos -Technical Review Unit (A-TRU) to ensure that asbestos abatement is conducted safely and a new process for filing for asbestos permits called Asbestos Reporting and Tracking System (ARTS).

ARTS enables applicants to submit applications and/or receive approvals (or objections) electronically.  During the application process, applicants are asked questions to identify if

  • the building’s fire protection systems (e.g., fire alarm or sprinkler system) will be turned off as a result of the abatement work,

  • abatement work will result in blocked or compromised egress or whether any components of the fire protection system are going to be removed as part of the abatement

  • abatement work entails removal of passive fire protection (e.g., fire resistance rated walls, sprayed on fireproofing, or smoke dampers)


If there is an impact to any of these fire protection items then a comprehensive Work Place Safety Plan must be developed for the project indicating abatement containment areas and systems, obstructed and temporary exits, tenant protection and a description of any measures that will be taken to mitigate compromised fire protection systems or means of egress. As a final item intended to promote life safety during abatement projects, the asbestos supervisor must inspect exits daily to ensure that there are no exterior blockages or impediments to exiting. If any blockages or impediments are identified, work must stop until the blockage has been removed.  Essentially, deconstruction and asbestos-abatement work cannot compromise the safety of workers and firefighters.

As Carrie Bettinger noted in a past EHSWire blog, “ In our society and legal system it seems that, yes, someone (or many) has to tragically die before change and regulation are considered.” In this case, the tragedy was 343+2. Hopefully the A-TRU process and increased oversight from NYC DEP, DOB, and FDNY will prevent another similar tragedy from occurring.

Postscript:  The last of the Deutsche Bank tower criminal trials were completed in July, 2011. More information can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/07/nyregion/final-defendant-is-acquitted-in-deutsche-bank-fire-trial.html.
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Topics: indoor air quality, health and safety, Construction H&S, EPA, Emergency Response, Homeland Security, H&S Training, worker safety, regulation, construction, emergency response training, demolition, 9/11, Work Place Safety Plan, asbestos, September 11, Deutsche Bank NYC, A-TRU, 9-11, Fire Safety

Need Respirators for Emergency and Post-Emergency Response?

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Aug 21, 2011 10:36:09 PM

Sarah Damaskos with Paula Kaufmann, CIH

When recalling our onsite environmental, health and safety work following 9/11, Emilcott’s health and safety staff often discuss that respirators were either not worn or improperly worn by many first responders and subsequent waves of workers and construction crew members at Ground Zero. Not surprisingly, ten years later the news media are churning out plenty of stories detailing the life-threatening health effects developing in many of these people -- possibly linked to their exposure to airborne dust and chemicals present at the World Trade Center site.
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Topics: Personal Protective Equipment, General Industry H&S, General EHS, Emergency Response, H&S Training, worker safety, 9/11, preparedness, respiratory protection, Exposure, respirators

What Has Changed in Environmental Monitoring Since Sept 11, 2001?

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Aug 15, 2011 11:00:53 PM

Dave Tomsey

On the second day of 2011, the James Zadroga Act was authorized to broaden and renew funding and extend benefits to Ground Zero workers whose death was a result of exposure.  These exposures were directly and indirectly caused by toxins present in the billowing clouds of dusts and smoke following the worst tragedy to happen on American soil in my lifetime.  The tragic sickness of countless rescue workers continues to add heartbreak where there is little room for more.

What Do We Know?


In the 9/11 crisis, workers were really battling two threats:   terrorism and vaporized building materials. The high levels of toxins at the World Trade Center site were identified and measured.  This process was carried out using sampling pumps, associated media and lab results in order to classify possible carcinogens and determine their percentage in a given volume of air.  The process is the same today. Although concentrations may differ from one area to another, the goal is to establish the worst-possible contaminant scenario to protect site workers and the public.  Once the type and levels of hazards are known, engineering controls, PPE and other methods of worker health protection are put in place.

Protecting Emergency Response Workers: What Has Changed?


In the time that has passed since the WTC tragedy, technology has progressed to offer improved worker protection. Just as smart phones have become prevalent in our lives, the same technology has been integrated into measurement devices producing smaller instrumentation with better, faster communication capabilities.  Put together, these smart systems, unthinkable ten years ago, enable real time environmental hazard monitoring.  In a nutshell, as hazards are detected at the site, real time systems send up an immediate flare.  What used to take a day (at best) to reveal is now known instantly at your fingertips.

How Would Real-time Monitoring be Used for Emergency Response Today?


As lab samples are being collected and rescue workers or cleanup crews are in service with respirators, monitoring field stations can be set up and started.  Once samples identify the risk, , the field stations can continuously measure dust and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in real time as a surrogate for contaminants found in laboratory samples.  Field stations located around and within the work area form multiple monitoring zones to (1) protect workers in close proximity to contaminants, (2) determine an exclusion zone for support personnel, and (3) protect residents and other businesses at an even greater distance from the site. End result? The constant stream of field data, with corresponding weather information such as wind, precipitation and temperature, would either confirm or indicate modified worker protection needs as the project continues.

How Do You Know When Workers Need Some Type of Additional Safety Precautions Beyond Respirators?


A real time environmental monitoring system is designed for continuous monitoring of all aspects of emergency response recovery and cleanup efforts so that risk can be evaluated as the scenarios change. Today’s technology has impacted and improved virtually every aspect of environmental monitoring:

  • Authorized personnel can receive constant updates and alarms via multiple means:  text, email or 2-way radios.

  • Incoming and historical data can be viewed by multiple stakeholders at varying locations and allow managers in the field to instantly assess trends with laptops, tablets and smart phones.

  • Measurements collected in real time are averaged and processed to show trends in and around the work zone.  These trends are displayed as either a table, graphic plots or shown with contours to establish if a work practice or area is safe for personnel

  • Plotting data points with corresponding wind speed and direction allows for managers to determine if offsite sources are impacting the job site or if the vapors and dusts shown on-screen are generated onsite.  Meteorological data showing site conditions (such as high winds) indicates when additional safety precautions should be considered.

  • New monitoring equipment now measures multiple levels of dust and vapors into the parts per billion range.  Vapors measured in the parts per billion ranges allow for managers to see if potential toxic vapors are steadily climbing from the lowest detectable levels.  Multiple particle sizing differentiates inhalable dusts from heavier ones that can contain heavy metals.  This allows managers to classify dust readings, watching diesel emissions across site for workers and heavier particulates for neighboring residents and the public.


With such new and remarkable technologies there is no reason to not employ them.

The connected lifestyle and technology of today’s standards help us accomplish many tasks and stay informed.  We are all used to checking our phone or bringing up a website to learn more.  This same connection through real time monitoring to hazardous work sites would be second nature to most and allow for the protection of many.  My hope is that there will never be a need for real time monitoring in response to an incident like 9/11 but, as an American and a CIH working at hazardous sites; it is reassuring to know that there are developed technologies in place to better protect workers if the worst does indeed occur.
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Topics: indoor air quality, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, Air Monitoring, 9/11, September 11, 9-11, Exposure, WTC, volatile organic compound, technology, VOC, environmental monitoring, real time monitoring, contaminants

9/11 Tenth Anniversary Focuses on American Chemical Security

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Aug 7, 2011 10:21:05 PM

Dian Cucchisi, PhD, CHMM

As we approach the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, DHS (the Department of Homeland Security) is increasing their focus on utilities and chemical facilities which may become targets for terrorist activities.  In a recent ABC news release DHS Press Secretary Matt Chandler is quoted as saying “While DHS has no specific, credible intelligence of an imminent threat posed to the private sector utilities, several recent incidents highlight the on-going threat to infrastructure in the utility sectors from insiders and outsiders seeking facility-specific information that might be exploited in an attack.” Click here to view the complete Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis note regarding: Insider Threat to Utilities.

With many Emilcott public and private sector clients involved in the manufacture and/or processing of chemicals, we are often called in to assist with regulatory submissions detailing chemical usage, storage, import and export.  Since 9/11, this reporting has grown to include not just environmental and human health hazards but also those that could present a potential risk to our national security. In October 2010, we addressed this new chemical reporting requirement in  EHSWire post “Homeland Security and Chemicals of Interest”.  Starting in the latter half of 2010, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reviewed various databases maintained by regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, to help them identify facilities that may need to comply with the DHS Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standard (CFATS).  Compliance with CFATS requires completing and submitting a Top Screen analysis to the DHS.  If a facility is listed in another database for storing using “chemicals of interest” and had not submitted a Top Screen analysis, the DHS sent the facility a letter with the option to complete the Top Screen within 90 days or to write a letter to DHS certifying that the CFATS requirements do not apply to the facility.

The Top Screen analysis is used by the DHS to assign a “threat level Tier” to your facility.  If your facility was assigned to Tier 4, DHS feels that there is a low level of risk that chemicals at your facility would be stolen or used for malicious purposes.  Being assigned to Tier 1 means that the DHS feels that there is a high level of risk that the chemicals at your facility would be stolen or used for malicious purposes.  “Only facilities that submitted Security Vulnerability Assessments and were subsequently notified in writing by the Department they have been finally determined to be high-risk have access via CSAT to complete and submit the CSAT Site Security Plan (SSP)

Have you completed your Top Screen?  Did you make any changes to your facility or operations to reduce your Tier level if you were assigned to Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3? Do you have any concerns about the tenth anniversary and your facility?
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Topics: CFATS, Emergency Response, Homeland Security, Compliance, top-screen, chemicals of interest, DHS, threat level tier

Occupational Heat-related Illness

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jul 30, 2011 10:33:44 PM

Dian Cucchisi, PhD, CHMM

“Man is it hot out here.” As the site HSO (Health and Safety Officer), we hear and utter those words quite frequently during the summer. Working outside in 90 degree temperatures with high humidity levels is anything but comfortable. Who doesn’t look forward to the end of the work day when you can escape to an air conditioned environment with a cold drink or jump into the pool?

It’s not just unpleasant -- working in hot, humid temperatures can be very dangerous.  If you don’t take extra care to rest and hydrate you can subject yourself to heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and the deadly heat stroke. So what can you do to protect yourself in hot, outdoor conditions while continuing to work. 

As an experienced Health and Safety professional and working on construction and hazardous waste sites, I make an extra effort to see to it that there is plenty of water and electrolyte drink on hand before the work day begins. Throughout the day, I check on workers to see if any are exhibiting heat-related symptoms. Frequent breaks in a cool, shaded location and hydration (whether you feel thirsty or not) with water and electrolyte drinks are your first and best defenses against heat-related illnesses.

It’s not just construction workers that need to aware of the affect of heat as they work – anyone subjected to a continuous, hot working environment should keep heat-related illness prevention in mind. One of my most memorable projects was a cleanup of an abandoned chicken processing plant in the height of summer heat. The owner had walked away from the plant after the power had been cut off due to non-payment of the bills and there were several tons of chicken in various stages of processing in the freezers. Of course when the power gets cut, the freezers do not remain cold for very long. The odor caused by the decomposing chickens created quite a challenge for determining the proper personal protective equipment. Ultimately, the work on this project was performed in Level B (supplied air respiratory protection) with PVC suits as our protective clothing to block permeation of the odor. 

Prevention of heat-related illnesses for the cleanup workers was a one of the focuses in our pre-project planning as the project began in July and continued through summer into the early fall.  Because of the hot, humid temperatures and the heat-retaining PPE, we set a limit of 45 minutes for a group of workers who were then relieved after that time period by another group of workers. The first group would go through the decontamination process followed by a shower and rest in an area where we had assembled a tent to provide shade.  Despite the challenges, we made it through this hot and truly disgusting project without any workers suffering from heat-related illness. In fact, this long-term and highly publicized remediation project was inspected by OSHA where portions of the project layout and performance were videotaped for use in OSHA training “How-To’s!”

Symptoms of Heat-related Illness


These indicators can, but do not have to, begin in progression starting with heat rash, heat cramps, heat syncope, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather.  In high humidity, the sweat does not evaporate quickly from your skin’s surface, and as clothing rubs against the wet skin, irritation can develop resulting in a rash.

Heat cramps are involuntary muscle spasms within the large muscles of your body.  Heat cramps typically occur in the thigh, core, and arm muscles.

Heat syncope is a fainting or dizziness episode that can occur as a result of dehydration or lack of acclimation.

Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to loss of water and salt usually as a result of excessive sweating.  Symptoms include heavy sweating, extreme weakness or fatigue, dizziness, clammy moist skin, muscle cramps, elevated temperature, and fast, shallow breathing.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency.  As the body temperature rises, the sweating mechanism fails and the body is not able to cool down and control its temperature And, beware, this severe reaction can happy quickly:  the body temperature can rise to 106 degrees within 10 to 15 minutes!  Without emergency treatment, heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability.  Symptoms of heat stroke include hot, dry skin or profuse sweating, hallucinations, throbbing headache, high body temperature, confusion/dizziness, and slurred speech.

What should you do if you start to experience any of these symptoms?


First of all, take a break. Move to a cool, shaded area and drink plenty of non-alcoholic, caffeine-free liquids.  If possible take a cool shower or dip an article of clothing in cool water and place on your body.  If you are suffering from heat rash do not apply wet clothing – instead dry off and remain in a cool area until the sweating ceases.  Resume work only after your body has cooled to normal temperature.

It is very important for Supervisors and Health and Safety Officers to keep a close watch on workers especially on hot, humid days and to allow them (as well as require them) to take frequent breaks.  Workers exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above should be removed from the work area and instructed to take a break in a cool, shaded area and to drink water or an electrolyte drink.

How do you “keep your cool” on hot, humid days?
Read More

Topics: General Industry H&S, OSHA Compliance, General EHS, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, H&S Training, health and safety officer, occupational, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, humid, heat rash, heat, HSO, heat syncope, heat-related illness, hot, heat cramps

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