Tag Archives: Industrial Hygiene

Tackling Silica Exposures in the Workplace – ERC Trainee Interns at Local Foundry

Tackling Silica Exposures in the Workplace – ERC Trainee Interns at Local Foundry

On June 23, 2018 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule on respirable crystalline silica – a dangerous particle present in many construction, maritime, and general industry workplaces across the nation.

Silica01Inhaling very small, or “respirable”, silica particles is known to cause multiple, serious diseases including silicosis, lung cancer, COPD, and kidney disease. It has also been listed by the American Cancer Society, World Health Organization, and the National Institutes of Health as a known human carcinogen. Yet, up until recently, workplace health and safety standards for occupational exposure to respirable silica offered very minimal protection to workers.

In light of the recently issued final rule, and mounting evidence of the negative health effects of respirable silica exposure, companies nation-wide are revamping their safety procedures, implementing engineering controls and offering higher levels of protection to their employees.

One such company is a local investment casting foundry, SeaCast Inc., where Exposure Sciences Master’s Student, Robert Vannice, has been working as an intern as part of his training through the Northwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety (NWCOHS) Education and Research Center (ERC). Robert’s work with SeaCast Inc. is to help develop engineering and administrative controls to lower worker’s exposure to respirable crystalline silica, with the overall goal of eliminating the required use of respiratory protection by the workers.

metal pouring in casting line productionIn a foundry setting, workers are exposed to silica during the process of removing cooled metal from casting shells. After metal has been poured into casting shells and has cooled, the shell needs to be removed from the metal. The removal of the shell is primarily conducted by a pneumatic knock-off hammer that vibrates the shell off of the metal casting. “This process produces respirable crystalline silica dust, and my project is to design effective engineering and administrative controls to bring worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica below the permissible exposure limit, and hopefully below the action limit” explains Robert.

As a company with a reputation for safety, and a long-standing relationship with the UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, SeaCast was enthusiastic in bringing Robert on as an intern. Jerry McCaslin, Corporate Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Manger, serves as Robert’s internship mentor, helping Robert tackle the silica problem and practice his real-world environmental health and safety (EHS) skills.

IMG_2600“My role was to design, from scratch, a local exhaust ventilation system with integrated dust collection system to capture respirable crystalline silica from two sources and draw it away from the worker, and reduce or eliminate levels of respirable silica from being discharged into the atmosphere outside the foundry, along with a reduction of noise exposure to the foundry workers” explains Robert. His work is guided by four key aims: evaluate baseline respirable crystalline silica exposures through air monitoring and analysis of previous air monitoring data, design exposure controls for crystalline silica and noise, evaluate the exposure controls, and finally, develop a silica exposure control plan.

In addition to designing the new exhaust ventilation system, Robert has had the opportunity to practice his other EHS skills during his internship. As an intern, Robert has experienced the day-to-day life of an EHS professional by conducting emergency response training with employees, performing weekly EHS inspections, calibrating equipment, and coordinating and facilitating safety committee meetings. He has also been involved in performing ergonomic assessments, managing hazardous waste generation, storage, and disposal, and sampling for hazards including silica, noise, welding fumes, and hexavalent chromium.

“The most interesting thing that I have discovered so far is the complexity and operations in the fields of environmental, health, and safety,” says Robert, “My internship advisor, Jerry McCaslin, and my project advisor, Marty Cohen, have been extremely supportive in my work, and I have also had the opportunity to work alongside experienced engineering professionals who have been mentors to me in many aspects of this project. This internship has provided me with the opportunities to directly apply the skills and knowledge I learned as an ERC trainee in Exposure Sciences, resulting in better health and safety protections for workers.”

To learn more about academic training programs through the University of Washington’s Northwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety please visit: deohs.washington.edu/nwcohs

Claire T.: First Impressions from My First Day

First Impressions from My First Day

By Claire T.

What strikes you most about your workplace?I think what strikes me most about the workplace at Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is how much work goes into accomplishing what seems to be a simple mission: Keep Washington Safe and Working. It is a great mission statement, very direct and indisputably important. However, in order to accomplish this mission endless work is done to ensure that employers are keeping their workers safe. Part of what L&I does is work as a big insurance company. Their job is to insure the workers. It would seem that employers and employees combined would be grateful to have this system in place. However, the reality is that too many people think of L&I and they think of citations, regulations, and a lot of extra work to avoid fines. They do not always think of the countless lives that are saved, the moms, dads, brothers, sister, and spouses that get to go home to their families every day because of the regulations and worker standards that are set in place. The reward of doing this hard work shows in the statistics. At the annual DOSH Symposium that I was able to attend, they showed worker related statistics involving worker injuries and deaths. I am sure seeing those numbers was reassuring to all the L&I employees that they are making a difference.

What strikes you most about your colleagues?
What strikes me most about my colleagues, not just my colleagues in consultations but all the people who work in DOSH, is their attitude. I admire their attitude and work ethic to continue the state’s mission to Keep Washington Safe and Working.

What are you excited about?
I am excited to continue my time at L&I and get a well-rounded feel for how the organization works. I am trying to reach out to as many people as I can to understand their function within their departments. I am excited that everything I am learning here is very transferable once my internship is over. All the knowledge that I accumulate here will help me in the future whether that be with L&I, another state agency, or somewhere in private industry. I look forward to gaining more work experience and developing my knowledge as much as I can during my time here as well as after.

Ikwon J: The Role of the Industrial Hygiene Intern

The Role of the Industrial Hygiene Intern

By Ikwon J.

Ikwon in his personal protective equipment (PPE)

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), industrial hygienists use monitoring and analytical methods to measure worker exposure from environmental hazards and apply strategies including engineering, work practice controls, and other methods to control potential health hazards. This description describes the exact tasks I am performing as the Industrial Hygiene (IH) intern for the City of Seattle.

Primary tasks as the IH intern include understanding the exposure of workers to environmental hazards such as noise, air, or dust. First, a goal of noise monitoring is to prevent hearing loss of workers because extensive exposure to loud noises can negatively affect hearing and may cause hearing loss. Therefore, IH personnel try to reduce the exposure to protect hearing of workers.

Second, air monitoring is conducted, mostly for office workers because they spend eight to ten hours in offices every day. Therefore, poor indoor air quality can be very hazardous. For example, the presence of molds, high concentration of carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide, and dust can be issues regarding indoor air quality. Thus, the industrial hygienist uses analytical methods to detect health hazards in air and applies methods to improve indoor air quality to promote health of office workers.

Lastly, dust sampling may be conducted for indoor air quality for office workers, but it is more focused on protecting construction workers. For instance, silica dust is a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and many other materials and is classified as the human lung carcinogen. Because silica dust is very dangerous and commonly exists in many construction sites, IH personnel monitor silica exposure of workers, and they apply control methods to reduce health hazards.

After the sampling, the industrial hygienist writes a report about findings from the samplings and recommendations to protect health of workers from environmental hazards in work sites. The recommendations may include an engineering control to remove a source of hazard or advising safer work practices.

In conclusion, the Industrial Hygiene tasks are a mixture of field work and office work. On some days, the industrial hygienist conducts sampling and monitoring in the field, but some days they need to stay at in their offices to write reports and perform office tasks as the industrial hygienist. Because the tasks are well balanced between field and office, the career of industrial hygienist is interesting and enjoyable.

Nathan: My Role as an IH Intern

My Role as an IH Intern

By Nathan P.

Nathan at his work station at CertainTeed Gypsum

For my internship, I went to CertainTeed Gypsum, a drywall manufacturing facility located in South Seattle. I got this internship opportunity through a personal connect: my dad mentioned to his supervisor that I had to do an internship for the Environmental Health program, and at the time the Safety Engineer was completely overloaded with safety projects. CertainTeed Gypsum invited me to come on as a safety intern to help ease the load and improve the safety conditions in the plant.

My mentors are the plant’s safety engineer and safety lead.  Although his title is “Safety Engineer,” my mentor’s role is really more of a “Safety Manager. ” In essence, the Safety Manager oversees all the safety operations occurring in the plant and is in charge of handling accidents in the workplace, creating new safety protocols, and organizing meetings with workers to address safety concerns. The role of the Safety Lead”is to ensure that the plant is in compliance with all of OSHA’s regulations.  The Safety Lead does safety trainings with new workers and tries to find the most efficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that fits with not only OSHA’s regulations, but corporate’s safety decisions as well.

My role as a safety intern is risk identification and management regarding the chemical products used in the plant.  There are over 200 different chemicals used in the maintenance of all the machines and mobile equipment.  I will be going around areas of the plant and recording the name of each chemical product, its manufacturer, and the amount on site.  Afterwards, I will go onto their Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) database and determine if the SDS for the product is up to date. If it is not, then I would have to submit a chemical request form as well as the most recent SDS for the product to the safety and environmental departments in order for the most recent SDS to be uploaded onto the database.  For each product, I then make a one-page simplified version of the SDS that contains information most relevant to the workers: name of the product, health hazards, first-aid measures, appropriate storage, accidental spill protocol, and PPE required for handling the product.  I will also create PPE visual aids for the chemical products in each area so that workers don’t have to refer to simplified SDSs but instead look at a poster that gives hazard pictograms of each product and the appropriate PPE to wear.

What most excites me about this internship is the opportunity to observe environmental health and safety practices outside the classroom.  Usually in classes, people generally have the same attitudes when it comes to safety but in the real-world not everyone has a safety mindset.  Most people I think are more concerned with doing their job and doing it well, and don’t take kindly to all the safety “obstacles” that hinder their day.  I think it will be interesting to be part of the interplay between the management officials who are concerned with safety and enforce safety measures, and the workers who want to get the job done as efficiently as possible.  Of course I’m nervous, too.  This is my first time working a full-time job (or any job for that matter) and I will be working with people I haven’t met before. Personally, I hope to integrate into this work culture as smoothly as possible.

 

Meet Our Intern: Nathan P.

All About My Safety Internship

By Nathan P.

My internship is at a company called CertainTeed Gypsum, which is a drywall manufacturing facility on the Duwamish River in Georgetown, Seattle.  I work with the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) section.  My supervisor has many safety projects to manage, and he gave me one of them to complete.  The project I am in charge of is to identify the hazardous chemicals used around the facility, update their safety data sheet (SDS) database, and create simplified visuals to inform the employees of the health risks of using these chemicals as well as the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to wear when handling them.  In addition, my goal is to search for appropriate alternative chemicals to replace the ones that are known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, or reprotoxic, or CMR for short.  Besides my own project, I also assist other branches of the facility for tasks such as data entry or constructing a presentation board.  In addition, I created a presentation board to demonstrate my project and its findings to the vice president of the North American branch of CertainTeed Gypsum.

Nathan in front of the warehouse.

For the most part I work independently on my project.  On the one hand, working alone gives me free reign as to how I want to approach this project and how I want everything to look.  On the other hand, I need a certain level of creativity since I am starting this project from scratch with essentially no template or guideline to work from.  I also need to have enough self-discipline to keep me focused on my project and complete it on time, a skill that I have struggled to hone for my whole life.  Of course, it is never too late to learn, and I think that I am improving compared to when I first started.

Even though I work by myself, I’m never afraid to ask questions when they arise.  This is my first time working at a manufacturing facility, so on top of understanding all the safety precautions that are implemented here, I need to learn what kind of work an EHS manager does.  Fortunately, my supervisor is very generous and never hesitates to answer all my questions to the best of his ability, from how drywall is made to how he entered the field.  He is also very supportive of the decisions I make for this project and offers helpful advice when I am lost.  Since this is my first time working full-time, I have learned to adapt to this new schedule, but both my supervisor and my friends have been very supportive as I’ve joined the working world.  If I am to be completely honest, I would not have made it this far without them.

Meet Our Interns: Ikwon J.

My Industrial Hygiene Internship

By Ikwon J.

When Spring Quarter 2017 started, I was very worried about finding an internship. Because the Environmental and Occupational Health Science program requires a 400-hr internship to graduate, I had to find a position for Summer Quarter. Moreover, I did not have any experience with job applications or work in the past, so the process of getting an internship felt very hard. However, Career Services in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences helped me a lot with finishing every step to obtain an internship. Although I was frustrated and struggled at times with the process, I soon received an offer for an internship position with the City of Seattle. As an Industrial Hygiene Intern, I assist a Certified Industrial Hygienist in the Seattle Department of Human Resources to oversee city-wide safety, and ensure the health and safety of workers of the City of Seattle.

Ikwon at the City of Seattle

Tasks that I perform as an Industrial Hygienist Intern include sampling to protect worker’s health and wellness. The most common kinds of sampling are indoor air quality, dust or silica sampling, and noise monitoring. Many different departments of the City of Seattle request sampling based on their concerns about wellness and health. For example, the Seattle Department of Transportation requests dust sampling for their field workers. The Seattle Fire Department requests noise sampling for their employees in the Fire Alarm Center. Sometimes, the intern performs ergonomic evaluations for office workers in City of Seattle. These are the tasks that I have been doing for the first three weeks of the internship. I am truly interested in these projects, and I am enjoying the internship.

Also, I feel very lucky because I was able to get this internship with the City of Seattle. Actually, when I received information about the internship, the deadline was very close. I had only one day to prepare for the internship application. Moreover, the internship required two references from applicants. I hesitated to apply due to lack of time to prepare documents for the application and ask my references. However, I decided to apply the internship, and now I’m glad I did.

My lesson from this experience is that every chance is worthwhile and valuable. Even when faced with an obstacle like a short application time, it is worthwhile to try anyway. No one knows where the opportunity I have now will lead. We cannot know the future and our predictions do not always come true.