Ensuring Safety, Health, and Environmental Management at EPA Workplaces
From nanotechnology and chemical weapon agents to motor vehicle safety and injury prevention, ERG has supported the safety, health, and environmental management program for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) workplaces for more than a decade. As part of this work, ERG has evaluated, developed, and implemented programs addressing existing and emerging health and safety issues; implemented training programs; collected, analyzed, and reported on executive order requirements; collected and analyzed injury and illness data; and created guidance and outreach materials. ERG has implemented top-level, comprehensive management systems that define the agency’s overall environmental and health and safety programs, as well as more targeted products and programs, such as a health and safety guidance manual for EPA’s emergency responders and policies and guidelines for EPA’s occupational medical surveillance program.
Assessing Employee Exposure to Diacetyl
Following reports of a serious rare lung disease in workers exposed to concentrated butter flavoring vapors in the microwave popcorn manufacturing industry, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) asked ERG to help determine the extent to which employees are exposed to these flavoring agents in other industries. ERG conducted site visits to various food manufacturing facilities where products containing diacetyl and acetoin—chemicals used for aroma and taste in butter and other products—were manufactured. Using both sampling media and direct reading instruments, ERG conducted short-term and full-shift personal air monitoring. ERG then correlated worker exposure levels with flavor usage rates, work practices, and exposure controls. With this information, ERG considered possible alternative control methods that might help reduce employee exposure to diacetyl and acetoin.
Analyzing Alternatives for Regulating Occupational Exposure to Silica
ERG analyzed regulatory alternatives for a revised standard that would protect millions of U.S. workers who are exposed to crystalline silica on their jobs. ERG prepared a profile of the affected industries within the general industry, construction, and maritime sectors. For each sector, ERG identified the processes, activities, and associated job categories in which workers might experience elevated silica exposures. ERG also estimated the number of workers in each of the affected job categories, and then characterized the range of exposures experienced by each affected job category. Finally, ERG used the exposure characterization to assess the effectiveness of common baseline controls to mitigate silica exposures and evaluated the potential effectiveness of additional controls in achieving the revised silica permissible exposure limits (PELs) being considered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Based on this analysis, ERG presented technological feasibility conclusions for each sector and job category for PEL alternatives.
Minimizing Worker and Community Exposure to Toxic Substances
ERG helps EPA’s Design for the Environment Program minimize worker and community exposures to toxic substances from the nation’s approximately 54,000 auto refinish shops. Toxic substances generated from auto refinish shops include diisocyanates, the leading cause of occupational asthma in the United States. At the start of this project, ERG designed and implemented pilot site visits at typical and “model” auto refinish shops in the Philadelphia area to thoroughly characterize operations, equipment, and work practices that contribute to or control worker and community exposures. ERG then developed recommendations for safe work practices and effective control technologies to minimize worker exposures and reduce secondary exposures to the surrounding community. ERG also analyzed the economic costs and benefits associated with each recommendation. Based on these recommendations, ERG developed a series of outreach products to encourage behavior change, including fact sheets, posters, self-audit checklists, and training materials. ERG also conducted site visits, workshops, and training presentations across the country to communicate recommended practices and technologies to auto refinish shop owners, painters, paint manufacturers, insurance representatives, and state and local regulators.