Occupational Health News Roundup

Katherine Torres of Occupational Hazards reports that Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) investigators have identified an overheated chemical reactor as the likely cause of the blast that killed four workers at T2 Laboratories in Jacksonville last month (see Celeste’s posts on the disaster here, here, and here).

In a separate article, Torres covers a letter sent by U.S. Representatives George Miller and Lynn Woolsey to OSHA Secretary Edwin Foulke, which states that if OSHA had modified its Process Safety Management Standard in accordance with recommendations CSB made in 2002, that the revised standard would “most likely have covered the reactive process at T2 Laboratories” and that “compliance with that modified standard might have prevented the fatal explosion.” Torres explains:

In 2002, CSB conducted a major study of reactive hazards and identified 167 serious reactive chemical accidents in the United States over a 20-year period. The board concluded that the incidents were “a significant chemical safety problem” and that OSHA’s standard has “significant gaps in coverage of reactive hazards because it was based on a limited list of individual chemicals with inherently reactive properties.”

Woolsey and Miller chastised the agency for not heeding CSB’s recommendations and instead focusing more on compliance assistance and voluntary efforts. …

The issue of improving this standard was raised long before the 2002 CSB study. According to Miller and Woolsey, five national unions in 1995 petitioned OSHA for a revision of the standard following an explosion and a fire at a chemical plant in Lodi, N.J. Although the agency issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for reactive hazards on its regulatory agenda in 1998, OSHA later withdrew it because of “resource constraints and other priorities.”

In other news:

Medscape Medical News: A paper published in Annals of Neurology suggests that occupational exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE) is a strong risk factor for the development of parkinsonism (the changes in movement seen in Parkinson’s Disease).

New York Times: In 121 cases across this country, veterans have committed a killing or been charged with one after returning from Iraq or Afghanistan; in many of the cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment appear to have been factors. Approximately one-third of the victims were spouses, girlfriends, children or other relatives.

Occupational Hazards: New research from the Danish Work Environment Cohort Study finds that women who do shift work may be more likely than men to be forced into early retirement by disability or poor health.

Capitol Weekly (California): After delays from a lengthy review process, Cal-EPA has released a report on scores of chemicals that aren’t currently regulated in the workplace, though they’re classified as known carcinogens for other types of exposure.

Associated Press: The family of Glenn Winuk, a volunteer firefighter killed at the World Trade Center, has won their struggle to get a federal death benefit and public recognition of Winuk’s public service.

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