At this point, the OSHA silica rules are forthcoming, what should you be doing to prepare?

  • Read the OSHA Small Entity Guide. Initially it is daunting – 103 pages, but much of it is specific to tasks from Table 1 and the full rules are within it, as well. Plus, they have pictures!
  • Identify tasks which could have silica exposures silica-grinding
  • Train employees, identify your “competent person(s)” – my suggestion is: Superintendents/Project Managers
    • Warn those on your projects: NO VISIBLE DUST on any tasks (cutting, finishing, dry sweeping, etc.)
  • Document activities with airborne silica exposures below 25 ug/m3
  • Identify possible solutions for overexposures
    • Verify airborne levels with personal air sampling
  • Start a process to log the number of days with (any) exposure – >30 is inclusion into medical
  • Find a medical provider that can have medical screen performed & with a B reader

*Thanks Andrew for the photos*


I live in a moderate climate, but we had some 102 degree weather and it reminded me of how important it is to have a heat stress program and educate our workers.

Here are some tips and suggestions for keeping this hazard under control:

  • Mandatory rest/water breaks (time between work & break dependent on heat) in shade
  • Monitor/measure water consumption (& urine, if extreme)
  • Educate employees on symptoms and factors which might contribute (medications, were you drinking last night?= deydration)
  • Always work with a partner
  • Flexible work schedule (start early, leave when conditions get unbearable)
  • Increase ventilation
  • Consider the space (attics can be worse than conditions outside)
  • Provide easy access to emergency services
  • One of the coolest (pun intended) ways is a “smart” vest with a downloadable app – workers wear this safety vest and it will alert people when symptoms/conditions get bad (heart rate, temperature, etc). Developed in Australia by RMIT University in Melbourne.



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.

I am ashamed I have not written on this topic yet. In fact, this issue is so close to me, it bewilders me why I never connected it to occupational exposures. It’s even a carcinogen, and I try to get as much of it as I can when it is around.

To summarize my personal examples:

  • My dad has skin cancer on his ears and annually has these removed.
  • My next door neighbor died in 2009 from skin cancer (metastasized). He was a county construction worker for 35+ years and was in the sun, with his shirt off. A LOT.

More recently:

There are some chemicals and foods, when taken/exposed, actually make you more sensitive to the suns UV exposure (aka: photosentisizer). A list can be found here. Some of them are:

  • foods: carrots, dill, clover, eggs
  • medicine: antibiotics, diuretics, high blood pressure
  • chemicals: coal tar (creosote), benzene, xylene
  • cosmetics

And, if you haven’t noticed, construction workers get a lot of sun exposure, especially in the summer. Don’t forget, welders can have high exposures, and our heavy highway (road paving) crews are exposed to coal tar pitch. We talk about heat stress, but we should talk about the long term effects of skin damage.

There are no specific OSHA regulations on UV exposure. However, there are some guidelines from the ACGIH. There might be an instance where we can work within our “hierarchy of controls” and and eliminate the exposure to the employee. However, with this hazard, rather than working on eliminating the hazard, I would recommend we provide PPE.

Do you provide sunscreen to your employees?

This topic is not industrial hygiene specific. However, it is a construction safety/cost issue. A lot of contractors do a poor  job at modified duty (light duty) for injured employees. There are a few reasons for this:

  • temporary worker (disposable employee)
  • no “light duty” for the hard work needing done
  • the superintendent doesn’t want them back
    • doesn’t like him
    • can find someone else to do job
    • job is over

One of the best methods to reduce your return to work costs (aka workers compensation costs) is to return employees back to (some kind of) work as soon as possible. Keeping these injured employees on the project where the superintendent was responsible not only impact’s their projects bottom line, it reminds them of the injured employee.

Here is a list of some light duty jobs from Safety Awakenings.

Also, psychologically, how do you treat your injured employees? I have a brother, when younger, who would cry over a little tiny scrape. However, when he was actually hurt, he would firm-up, not shed a tear, and act as tough as possible. Employees are no different. Their reaction really varies, and your response might also need to change. There is probably not a one-size fits-all approach, but being professional is a good start.

Do you:

  • Shame them (make fun of them because of their injury?)
  • Encourage their injury (baby those who get hurt?)
  • Highlight it (bring it up in meetings?)
  • Discourage the behavior? or the act of unsafe behavior?

As you know, sometimes it’s hard to find light duty in construction.mixing1

To raise awareness for construction fall protection, OSHA is asking for construction employers to join them between June 2 – 6, 2014 for employee training on the subject.

At OSHA’s site, you can find out how to:

  • conduct a safety stand-down
  • get additional resources; videos, wallet cards, etc
  • print a certificate
  • get a company poster (even in spanish)
  • share your story

And, look at my earlier posts for more additional resources.

fall protection

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.

Construction workers falling is the number 1 cause of death in this industry (residential & commercial).

NIOSH has published a prevention through design (PtD) document for those who design parapets to prevent falls. This document is new. But the principle of it has been around since Moses’ time: “When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.” Deuteronony 22:8. 

Another good resource: Stop Construction Falls .com. They even have an interesting map which shows where they occur.

The CPWR obtained a NIOSH grant and has some free videos here.

map of falls

Spring is when the work picks up, be safe out there.

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.

People are inspiring. Starting in 2014, I would like to profile prominent professionals in the health, safety and construction industry.

The idea originally came from a publication  called, The Synergist,  published by the AIHA. At the back of their magazine they introduce someone in the industry. I have always enjoyed hearing about how others got into this field and where their paths have taken them. Unfortunately, this publication is (mostly) only for people in industrial hygiene. Which (IMO) does little to promote the profession to others outside of it.


Illa Gilbert-Jones, CIH, CSPIlla 2014

How did you get started in IH?
I was in the Masters program at the University of Washington and started out with an emphasis on toxicology. I noticed that those in industrial hygiene in the class before me we’re getting job offers so I decided to also complete the industrial hygiene courses.

What is your background?
My career started at Boeing Company as a safety administrator just before completing my masters. From there I have worked as an industrial hygienist for Bayer Corporation Product Safety for the chemical business, primarily isocyanates. I also worked in their Corporate Safety/Industrial Hygiene group before moving to Phoenix where I worked for Phelps Dodge Mining Company as the Corporate Occupational Health Manager. Although a copper mining company, Phelps Dodge also had smelters, refineries, copper magnet wire, and carbon black facilities with classic industrial hygiene issues-heavy metal fumes. After leaving Phelps Dodge, I did a short stint with Clayton Environmental in California before taking a position with a paint manufacturing/distribution as the Security, Safety, Health & Environmental Manager. After a few years in California, we returned to the Northwest where I worked for SAIF Corporation for over 7 years as a safety management consultant.

You are starting a new position, can you tell us what you will be doing?
On January 1st I accepted the position as Program Administrator for Oregon Fatality Assessment & Control Evaluation (OR-FACE). OR-FACE operates under a NIOSH grant. The program is research based and designed to identify and study fatal occupational injuries. The goal of the FACE program is to prevent occupational fatalities by identifying and investigating work situations at high risk for injury and then formulating and disseminating prevention strategies to those who can intervene in the workplace. More specifically,
• Identify traumatic occupational fatalities through a statewide surveillance network
• Investigate selected traumatic occupational fatalities
• Have a multidisciplinary team analyze the surveillance and investigation data
• Develop and disseminate prevention strategies for these injuries
• Collaborate with other states and NIOSH to develop prevention strategies to decrease the rate of occupational injuries and fatalities

What has been the most satisfying aspect of the field?
Similar to all occupational safety & health professionals, satisfaction is in observing and experiencing improvements in work conditions by reducing risk of contaminant and physical exposures. It is especially satisfying after struggling time-after-time to influence decision makers and then a breakthrough finally occurs and they become safety advocates.

What is the most fun part?

Developing relationships with those as passionate about injury/illness prevention and in giving back to the profession by mentoring those new to the field.

What is the challenging part?

The realization that the job is never done. Serious injuries and fatalities continue to happen. For occupational illnesses from chronic exposure it is very difficult to influence change today for a negative outcome in the distant future.

What advice do you have for those getting started?

Never be satisfied with small changes, be persistent and try all options in pursuing what you believe to be right. Always look for opportunities to increase yours and others in subject knowledge. Additionally, expand your expertise into areas that are normally grouped with industrial hygiene, e.g., safety, risk management, environmental.

What are your hobbies and outside interests?

I try to please my artistic side by learning and writing calligraphy. On the physical side, I try to go to water aerobics regularly, bicycling, and also use a wrist fit-bit to track my daily steps.

What do you see for the future of IH?

Practicing industrial hygiene creates skills for investigating and understanding several layers of causes. These skills enable an H&S professional to critically look at all possible solutions. Because of these skills, I believe industrial hygienists can be successful in a lot of different field. I have seen IH’s become HR Managers, Lab Managers, and of course HSE Managers. The future of IH is taking on more complex issues such as determining true body burden from exposure and in understanding genetic susceptibility to disease from these exposures.

Editor: Thank you Illa! You are inspiring. You may contact Illa directly at OHSU, or at: illagjones {at}gmail.c0m

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