There have been lots of new information available, so this post will just share new information on a few different subjects:

  • Silica rule:
    • At this point, it doesn’t appear that the silica rule will be legally blocked. So, now is the time to prepare for all of the coming changes. However, the new administration may have some influence.
    • Federal OSHA has (finally) published their Small Entity Guide (103 pages!) but, no doubt, this will be useful for many.
  • NIOSH Noise Control Contest
    • I encouraged people to submit their ideas…and then, I missed the deadline to submit.
    • However, the results are in.  And at least one of them seems like a decent one (I have my opinion, but will let you decide which one is your favorite)
    • Check their main page, Hear and Now, for a summary
  • I AM IH
    • Another contest!
    • AIHA is asking for a short documentary highlighting the people behind the industrial hygiene profession. Are you interesting? ’cause most IH’s arent… (ha)
  • Free Safety Videos- Health in Construction
    • This project has taken a massive amount of my time, and it is still not completed yet . However, below are the links to the videos for those of you looking for a sneak peek.  Please feel free to share…more materials,  website upgrades, and ‘giant fan fare’ will be forthcoming.
      • Silica Awareness Video: Hierarchy of controls
      • Noise: Life from a construction worker’s experience with noise
      • Asbestos: What to do when you encounter suspect asbestos
      • Lead: A humorous look at why we shouldn’t be exposed to lead


Exciting news! In just a few months we will be releasing free training materials!

In summary: I applied (and obtained) a grant through OSHA to produce training materials for the four major health hazards in construction. We are titling it, “Focus 4 Health Hazards for Construction”.  (similar to the Focus 4 Susan Harwood training materials available at OSHA)

Indented audience is for younger construction workers in hazard recognition of, 1. silica, 2. noise, 3. asbestos and 4. lead (pb) in construction. A short video (1-4 minutes) for each subject gives an introduction to the hazard. And, to follow up a training power point presentation (and short summary) will also be available to further instruct people in how to control and protect themselves.

On a personal level…it has been exhausting, and I’ve learned a lot!  From obtaining the grant, to hiring a videographer, filming, securing filming sites, and quarterly reports…. exhausting.  But, I’m confident you (and others) will enjoy it. Subscribe (via email) to keep updated. You can also follow me on instagram: “adventuresInIH”. (link coming)

grant filming

You’ve probably heard of this issue in the news, originally from the CBS News 60-minutes Show, March 1, 2015.

Formaldehyde is NOT good to have indoors, especially with kids (or those with upper respiratory issues). I believe there are a lots of homes and facilities with issues (which are not reported).

There are is some good information out there if you are worried you may have this flooring in your home or business. In summary, here are some notable points:

  • you should really ignore the people pushing this issue (remember they shorted the stock before the news story)
  • formaldehyde is used in a lot of product during manufacturing
  • go to Lumber Liquidators and get your free test kit
  • if you find high levels of formaldehyde, do something.
  • But, the solution may not be to tear out your floors.
  • Remember, formaldehyde can come from many sources.

Here’s a good article on the subject from Galson Labs. If you have concerns, hire a qualified industrial hygienist.


I love hearing about other IH/EHS/Safety -people and their careers. They are inspiring and there are some really COOL jobs in this profession. I’d like to introduce you to Michael Grasso. He’s been on some very interesting projects, is very personable, and has some insight into the future of construction safety. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How did you get started in IH/Safety?

I got started in IH/Safety in high school as a student athletic trainer. In college I was a health science major, the athletic training program was only opened to physical education majors. My professor for School and Community Safety encouraged me pursuit a career in safety. At this time OSHA was fairly new. The professor took me along with him when he did safety inspections on the campus. While going to the University I attended classes at the local community college in Safety and one in Industrial Hygiene. The text book was the first addition of the NIOSH white book. During the summers I worked for a public utility company as a laborer. The Safety Director bought me a copy of the “Accident Prevention Manual for Business & Industry” (NSC). My grandfather related the story of miners dying in the tunnel in West Virginia from the dust. Years, latter while reading the Washington Post, I found out it was Gauley Bridge, West Virginia.

What is your background?

I have a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Health Science and minored in biology and psychology. I did my student internship in the corporate safety office of an electric and gas Utility Corporation and an internship with the county health department in the environmental health division. Upon graduating from college worked as a laborer for a pipeline company. The majority of my career has been in a construction related field. Starting off as a Safety and Health technician advancing by changing jobs to Safety and Health Manager and finally to a Corporate Safety Director position for a design-build firm. At this firm I was instrumental in building the organizations safety and health program and culture from ground zero. In a short period of time the company won the AGC Contractor of the year award, had one VPP site, several SHARP projects and won numerous safety awards including the Golden Hardhat award from the USACE.

What do you do in your current position?

Currently I am an EHS professional for a large engineering firm. I work on various wet-infrastructure projects for clients in the northeast; assist the client with developing EHS procedures in accordance with ISO 14001 and ANSI/AIHA Z10 protocols and severe as temporary EHS manager on projects. Internal client’s consultant with me on unique health and safety issues they run into as related to construction and environmental remediation projects.

Tells us your favorite project?

My favorite project is working in Antarctica for two seasons as the resident industrial hygienist. I enjoyed the beauty of Antarctica, peacefulness, history, applying my experience and the people. You can always leave Antarctica but it can never leave you.Michael Grasso

What do you enjoy most about your career?

Knowing that you touched someone’s life, and made differences is the most satisfying aspect of my career.

What has been the most fun?

The most fun was doing the 30-hour construction awareness training for high school students who are in the building trades program. The students loved the lab as they got to wear the PPE and play with the monitoring equipment.

Anytime that was particularly difficult?

Emotionally the most difficult time for me was when a subcontractor’s hand was amputated in a concrete pump. When I went to his home with the OSHA investigator it was hard, as he was the bread winner of the family. His mother was proud that he graduated from high school, spoke good English and had a good job. This was the first serious accident that I experienced in my career.

Any hobbies/interest which makes you unique to the profession?

I collect old safety and health books. I have a collection going back to the 30’s. I have the Heinrich’s books which are difficult to read. It is interesting to compare what was going on in the 30’s and early 40’s and how OSHA incorporated them into their standard. Since college I have been a volunteer firefighter. What we learn in the fire service has applications I have used in safety and industrial hygiene. Presently, I am the fire company’s safety officer.

What books would you recommend reading? “Christ In Concrete”, By Pietro di Donato. “The Hawk’s Nest Incident: America`s Worst Industrial Disaster”, By Martin Cherniack M.D .

Words you have for those interested in construction?

It is important to know the fundamentals of construction management and the type of contract you will be working under.
Safety and health at the dirt level is where things get done and where you have the most direct influence. Saying, “Good morning Bill (or Judy)”,  or having coffee with the Project Manager goes much farther than a meeting policy statement or an EHS procedure. It shows you care. Treat others as you want to be treated goes a long away on construction projects. It is important that you can speak or understand Spanish or Portuguese. Even if you do not speak a foreign language, a smile, or a tip of the hard hat goes along way.

From an IH point what have you seen in construction that makes a difference?

Over the years heavy equipment has gotten much quitter thanks to fully enclosed cabs and engine noise reduction. Ergonomics for heavy equipment operators has come a far way in the last 10 years. It appears that many medium and large size contractors have gotten the silica message without government intervention. You see more and more workers using respiratory protection and having a hose trained on the dust generating operation. Contractors are more aware of what’s a confined space: doing monitoring, ventilation and training. Compact loaders and excavators are doing jobs once done manually. Robotic or remote operated is being used in high hazard areas. Prevention through design is slowly catching on to eliminate safety hazards. As far as health hazards go, owners, and engineers continue to specify materials potentially hazard to the health and safety of the end user, when other products are out on the market.
The number one item that is making a big difference in the construction industry is the internet. From a smartphone a trades person can find out all types of information on substances they are working or about a safety hazards.

What I see in the future for IH?

I see the future of IH playing a large role in nanotechnology. The health implications of manufacturing and using nanomaterials are not yet clearly understood. Nanotechnology may be a Pandora box.

Thank you Michael! If you have specific questions, you can reach Michael at (michaelgrasso 78 (@) hotmail .com, with no spaces).


Confession: I missed the assessment of this hazard the first time.

Awhile back I performed air sampling during aluminum welding. The welders were cordial and let me crawl over their welding equipment, poke around old boxes of wire and metal stock. I did not think there were any “real” hazards. We did find some airborne levels of various metals. From the picture can you tell who did the most welding?

welding mce

After I had performed the sampling and the report was sent, I was asked if I had checked for ozone (O3)? I admitted I hadn’t and asked if it was an issue? Well, apparently it is (or rather, might be).

I went back to the shop, begged for another chance, and performed ozone sampling. It wasn’t difficult, but eating crow was the hardest part.

More information on the subject can be found at: NIOSH, UK- HSE. Ozone is formed when the UV radiation hits oxygen. The ACGIH TLV is variable (see table below)ozone acgih, and the OSHA PEL is 0.1 ppm.

Health: Ozone, O3, can cause lots of different respiratory illnesses. These can include a decrease in lung function, aggravation of asthma, throat irritation/cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, inflammation of lungs, and a higher susceptibility to respiratory illnesses. ACGIH classifies it as an A4, or not a suspected carcinogen.

Luckily the results were found to be non-detectable (“IH talk” for none-found). Which only means I didn’t find it, not that it is not there. I sampled for a long time (530 minutes) because they were working 10 hour shifts. But, they only welded for a total of approximately 1.5 hours during that time.

If welders are in a confined area, or a small space with limited ventilation, the results might be significantly different.


I am the current chairperson of the AIHA Consultant’s Special Interest Group (Consult SIG). We conducted a survey and asked the AIHA membership of industrial hygiene consultants what their needs are, and how, as a group, we could help them. A summary of the survey result findings was just published in the November, 2014 AIHA’s, The Synergist, titled, “What IH Consultants Want“.  

We didn’t make the front page. But hey!, we weren’t on the last page either (second page to back, ha).

Nov 2014 Synergist

I cannot publish it here due to copyright infringement, but email me if you want information on the results of the survey.

Can we measure an exposure accurately with just one sample? (statistically, no.) Also consider: Can we measure a “worst case” scenario and be OK for the rest of the project? (again, hypothetical question)

There was a blog post, here by Mike Jayjock, which reminded me of how silly our data points (aka industrial hygiene sample results) are in the big picture of statistics.  I’m slowly reading a book titled, “Control Banding” by David Zalk who is with Lawrence Livermore National Labs. The CDC also has a section on control banding here.

Another side of this is a common practice we all perform called Risk Analysis. There is much on the subject, but essentially it’s similar to triage at an emergency room. What is the easiest, best thing you can do: given what you have available and what you are able to muster?safety triangle

Too often (myself included) we perform air monitoring for a specific situation and use that information as the gospel-truth. Well, this might be like living in the United States and never traveling. We meet a very nice person from the Ukraine. They seem very typical Eastern European and have a thick accent, but are they really like everyone in Russia? Is this person typical? Are they exactly like every other person from Russia?

This type of stereotyping is the same as taking one sample and drawing conclusions about all exposures. You might be right, BUT…you might be wrong.

There is a fun app you can download called, IH DIG by Adam Geitgey (Apple & Android).  This app illustrates the importance of using statistical tools, rather than guessing. (It’s a game)

Sorry I do not have many answers in this post, just a lot of questions.

Let’s clarify: You are a working adult. You are feeling symptoms (of some sort). And, you think it’s from something your exposed to while at work (in construction). This could include, but will not, the flu-bug. Below is a list of the most common construction illnesses.

Most Common Construction Illnesses:

  1. Upper respiratory
    • could be from silica, drywall, dust, asbestos, nuisance dust, chemicals (I won’t even try to list all of them)
  2. Skin (dermal, dermatitis) damage –
    • From: concrete, abrasion, chemicals
  3. Eyes
    • mostly from things that get into the eye.
  4. Cumulative trauma (ergonomics) or inflammation
    • repetitive motion, over a day hurts, imagine this for years
  5. Burn (heat or chemicals)
    • Usually around hot work like welding, but this can occur when using certian chemicals
  6. Hearing loss
    • cumulative trama to the ears when exposure is above about 85 decibels for any extended period of time.
  7. Poisoning– General or systemic
    • From: poison ivy, stinging needles, dog bites, bees, etc.

This list may vary depending on many things including what type of construction you are in; GC, heavy, civil, specialty, etc.  I put this list together to get a picture of where we see illnesses. However, as previously mentioned, and, everyone knows, the FOCUS FOUR is really where most injuries occur in construction.

We have seen the most prevention of illness due to one single device:

back supportthe back support.   ha. just kidding, of course.

If you haven’t heard, Federal OSHA is proposing to reduce the airborne silica permissible exposure limit (PEL) to 50 µg/m³. It is difficult to say how much lower this new rule will be, since the current standard relies on a calculated formula to obtain the exposure limit. However, to make this easier, let’s just say it’s a 50% reduction in the PEL. This limit is the same at the NIOSH Recommended Limit and above the ACGIH Threshold Value of 25 µg/m³. Before I offer my opinion, you can state yours to OSHA here, and I’d recommend you do.


OSHA helps


  • Increase awareness by everyone (any news is good news for silica awareness)
  • Further protect employees from overexposures
  • Update the health standards. The original rule was from the 1970s.
  • New products for the industry will be created to control silica, like this.
  • Pretask planning (JSA, JHA) will become more common
  • Consultant hygienists will get more $ to: train, air monitor, etc.
  • Alternatives to sampling. This is written in the proposed rule.
    • Rather than air sampling, you can choose to “over protect” and assure employees have adequate PPE
    • This is great for short duration tasks where exposure monitoring is prohibitive (see Table 1. below from OSHA’s Fact Sheet)

OSHA lead table 1



  • Employers will spend additional money:
    • on controls for silica
    • on labor during the activities
    • on consultants to verify you’re below the PEL
  • OSHA will cite you easier
    • (my guess) is compliance officers will cite you for failure to implement controls, rather than measuring the airborne dust and finding overexposure
    • driveby citations. Look at some of my “caught on cameraoverexposures. It is easy to see why this will be easy for OSHA to cite.
  • More confusion
    • remember how you felt when you started working with leaded paint? Picture that again.
    • smaller contractors might be confused with the changes
  • I’ve heard: the airborne levels trying to be achieved are so low, they are at the laboratory detection limits. (this is a bit beyond me, honestly, but it has to do with chemistry & analytical methods)

Overall, I think lowering the limit will reduce employee overexposures to silica. The increase in awareness across the US will bring more attention to the danger. Contractor employers who are doing absolutely nothing to control silica will get caught, punished, and hopefully change. For good-contractors out there, this will make it easier to explain to your subcontractors who are a little behind. I can see many contractors using Table 1 as a guide to easily protect employees on short tasks with high silica exposures.

Your thoughts? I’d love to hear them. Here is a NY Times Article perspective.