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EPA Strengthens Chemical Assessment Process To Protect Public Health

Source: EPA | 30 October 2013

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this summer announced changes to its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program to improve the scientific foundation of assessments, increase transparency in the program and the process, and allow the agency to produce more IRIS assessments each year. IRIS is a human health assessment program that evaluates information on health effects that may result from exposure to environmental contaminants. These high quality, science-based health assessments are used to inform decisions to protect public health and the environment.

“EPA is committed to producing high-quality scientific assessments in a timely and transparent manner,” said Lek Kadeli, principal deputy assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “The improvements … will further strengthen our IRIS assessments and enable the agency to better protect human health and the environment by completing more health assessments for chemicals that are being used across our country every day.”

Consistent with recommendations from the National Research Council, EPA will now begin releasing preliminary materials and hold a public meeting early in the assessment development process to explain the criteria for selecting studies and to ensure that critical research was not omitted. Meeting with the public earlier in the process will result in more timely opportunities for the public to provide input into the assessment and comment on the information available for each chemical assessed.

The EPA is also using a new document structure for IRIS assessments that is clearer, more concise, and more systematic to make the information more accessible. To improve transparency, the agency is enhancing the IRIS website by providing more detailed information regarding assessment schedules, stakeholder meetings, and updates on IRIS progress.

Additionally, the agency is implementing “stopping rules” for IRIS that will provide a cut-off point for accepting new data for individual IRIS assessments and raising scientific issues related to the assessment. With these changes, EPA’s goal is to increase the number of assessments being completed each year and provide more accurate assessment development timelines to the public.

The IRIS database contains crucial information about how and at what level chemicals may affect human health. When combined with exposure information, governments and private entities use IRIS to help characterize the public health risks of chemical substances, thereby supporting risk management decisions designed to protect public health.


The Relationship Between Smoking and Health Care, Workers’ Compensation, and Productivity Costs for a Large Employer

Source: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine | 21October 2013


Objective: To quantify and compare employee health- and productivity-related costs for current smokers vs. nonsmokers for a large US employer.

Methods: Multivariate regression models were used to compare medical, pharmacy, workers’ compensation, and short-term disability costs, self-reported absenteeism, and presenteeism by smoking status. Costs were aggregated over 3 years, from 2008 to 2010.

Results: Controlling for demographic variables, smokers had significantly different health care utilization patterns, as well as higher absenteeism and presenteeism costs. Overall, employees who smoke were estimated to cost employers $900 to $1,383 more than their nonsmoking counterparts.

Conclusions: Current smokers experience incrementally greater lost productivity than nonsmokers, contributing to employer costs associated with smoking. Increased employer focus on smoking cessation may help mitigate these organizational costs.

Expro Wins RoSPA Scotland Trophy for Health, Safety Management

Source: 27 September 2013

Leading international oilfield services company Expro has received another major acknowledgement for its approach to occupational health and safety management from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

Expro’s David Ford receivs the Scotland Trophy from Tom Mullarkey MBE, RoSPA chief executive, left, and Eric Wiles, RoSPA chairman.

Expro’s David Ford receives the Scotland Trophy from Tom Mullarkey, RoSPA chief executive, left, and Eric Wiles, RoSPA chairman.

Expro was presented with the prestigious RoSPA Scotland Trophy at the charity’s Occupational Health and Safety Awards, in a ceremony at the Hilton Glasgow, on 19 September.

The RoSPA Scotland Trophy is presented annually to recognize the highest standard of health and safety management and performance by an organization based in or operating in Scotland.

This accolade adds to the 9 years of continuous recognition of Expro by RoSPA for its consistent and outstanding safety record. Earlier this year, the company was awarded a RoSPA Commendation for excellence in health and safety at work within the oil and gas sector in the Society’s 2013 Awards.

In 2010, Expro received a coveted Gold Medal in recognition of 6 years of industry-leading health and safety performance and commitment. In 2011 and 2012, Expro was also commended in the oil and gas industry sector highlighting its long-term commitment to safety.

David Rawlins, RoSPA’s awards manager, said, “RoSPA firmly believes that organizations that demonstrate commitment to continuous improvement in accident and ill health prevention deserve recognition. Expro has shown that it is committed to striving for such continuous improvement, and we are delighted to honor it through the presentation of an award.”

David Ford, Expro’s Group HSEQ Manager, said, “We are very proud to receive this major award from RoSPA. This accolade is indicative of how much effort Expro employees, across the globe, put into safety and safe working practices in the delivery of our services.”

OSHA Proposes New Silica Exposure Rule

Source: Sensear | 27 September 2013

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States recently released a proposed rule, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica.

OSHA proposes reducing the permissible exposure limits for respirable crystalline silica to 50 μg/mor below. Among the suggested solutions are wearing respiratory equipment to protect the worker from exposure. OSHA has taken into consideration the difficulty this requirement brings to effective communications within certain industries. An excerpt from the proposed rule states: “Safety problems created by respirators that limit vision and communication must also be considered. In some difficult or dangerous jobs, effective vision or communication is vital. Voice transmission through a respirator can be difficult and fatiguing.”


How An Ohio Company Eliminated Silica Dust

Source: Energy in Depth | 28 August 2013

Producers Service Corporation is going over and above to protect its workers from silica dust exposure. Not only is it meeting the parameters set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but it has almost completely eliminated all silica exposure on site.

Starting in 2013, Producers Service Corporation began using a KSW Environmental dust control system and configured it with completion operations. What it found was a system that finally gave  the answers it was looking for to eliminate silica dust onsite. In addition to eliminating dust for its employees, it found dust control actually increased the life of its equipment.

Heat Poses Danger to Permian Basin Workers

Source: Permian Basin Oil & Gas Magazine | 7 August 2013

The thermometer is topping 100 degrees, and it seems even hotter working on a drilling rig in the hot west Texas sun. In other words, it is another typical summer day in the Permian Basin oil patch.

Whether it is the potential of flash fires, poisonous hydrogen sulfide, or the many other dangers associated with working on a drilling rig, heat stress is one more thing that oil and gas industry health and safety supervisors have to worry about.

Directives from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requiring workers on drilling rigs to wear flame retardant clothing (FRC) and to take breaks every hour because of the requirement of wearing heavier FRC clothing has caused clothing manufacturers to come up with lighter-weight FRC. It has also created a new service industry providing “cooling trailers” to allow rig hands a place to get out of the heat and cool down.

So what are the latest developments for oil industry workers in beating the heat in the Permian Basin? Some steps that workers can take to avoid heat-related injuries are just common sense, according to Lenard Garrett, general manager of Lone Star USA Safety and Training in Midland. He said he offers a session on heat stress during the safety training he provides industry personnel.

SPE Holds First HSE Conference in Latin America

Source: 18 June 2013

SPE is holding the first Latin American conference on HSE 26–27 June in Lima, Peru. The SPE Latin American and Caribbean Health, Safety, Social Responsibility, and Environmental Conference will bring together experts from two geographic locations to share best practices, technological advances, and new ideas for HSE.

Experts from Latin America and the Caribbean will conduct more than 50 technical and poster presentations that showcase the latest technological advances and innovative applications in HSE. The opening plenary session, “How to Address and Obtain a License To Operate in Sensitive Areas,” features an in‐depth discussion on social and safety risks, control and transportation of hazardous materials, wastewater treatment, and more.

The second day’s plenary session, “Measures and Improvements After Industry Accidents,” addresses the lessons learned from previous accidents and the latest measures and improvements in managing the prevention and response of oil spills.

“This conference is important to the Latin American and Caribbean regions,” said Carlos Arturo Rosas Mota, conference program committee chairman and HSE manager for Schlumberger Peru. “It is a great opportunity to share best practices and case histories and to learn from each other’s experience. Doing so will help us in our efforts to improve HSE performance for the betterment of the entire industry and all its stakeholders.”

Technical sessions, which will have simultaneous translation in English and Spanish, fall into five categories.

  • Environment: Topics include “Designing an Optimal Offshore Pipeline Route To Minimize Impacts on Coastal and Marine Biodiversity,” “The New Structure for International Oil Spill and Preparedness & Response,” and “The Challenges for the Treatment of Drilling Fluid Wastes Generated by E&P Industry in Brazil.”
  • HSE Management: Topics include “The Human Chain—A Different Approach to Behavior Safety Program Through the Use of Social Marketing Concepts,” “Assessing Risks and Regulating Safety Standards in the Oil and Gas Industry: The Peruvian Experience,” and “Building Strong Stakeholder Relations and Minimizing Operational Risks in the Oil and Gas Industry Through Market‐Based Certification.”
  • Social Responsibility: Topics include “The Social Side of Unconventional Oil and Gas in Latin America,” “Innovative Ways to Inspire New Employees to Embrace an HSE Culture,” and “Social Responsibility: A Comparative Study of Oil Majors—Who is the Best?”
  • Safety: Topics include “Integrity Management System Based on Risk Analysis: A Tool to Prevent Failures on Pipelines Which Cross Amazonian Jungles and the Andes,” and “A Study of Rollover Occupant Injury Mitigation Using Dynamic Testing To Evaluate Alternative Protection Systems.”
  • Health: Topics include “Improving the Health of the Workforce May Improve Work Performance,” “Cardiovascular Risk Impact in the Oil Industry,” and “Obesity in the Oil and Gas Industry Population.”

The conference includes an exhibition that will showcase some of the latest developments and trends in HSE.

Exposure to Silica Endangers Hydraulic Fracturing Workers

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention | 5 June 2013

Hydraulic fracturing sand transfer.

To date, most of the attention on the safety and health implications of hydraulic fracturing has been related to impacts on the environment, primarily the potential for groundwater contamination by hydraulic fracturing fluids. Although worker safety hazards in the oil and gas extraction industry are well known, there is very little data regarding occupational health hazards during hydraulic fracturing operations; for example, whether workers are exposed to toxic chemicals at hazardous concentrations. To investigate potential worker health hazards in this rapidly expanding industry and address the existing lack of information on occupational dust and chemical exposures associated with hydraulic fracturing, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) initiated the NIOSH Field Effort to Assess Chemical Exposures in Oil and Gas Extraction Workers. Initial hazard assessments identified exposure to crystalline silica during hydraulic fracturing as the most significant known health hazard to workers, and this has been the focus of the NIOSH study to date.

Sand refill truck and dust release from thief hatches on the top of the sand mover.

Crystalline silica, in the form of sand, plays a major role in the hydraulic fracturing process. Each stage of the operation typically involves hundreds of thousands of pounds of sand. The sand is used as a proppant to hold open the fissures created by hydraulic fracturing and allow the gas to flow out of the shale into the well. Moving, transporting, and refilling thousands of pounds of sand onto and through sand movers, along transfer belts, and into blenders generates considerable dust, including respirable crystalline silica, to which workers can be exposed.

Norway Authority Strives To Boost HSE Culture

Source: Petroleum Safety Authority | 23 May 2013

Norway’s petroleum regulations specify that enterprises must have a sound health, safety, and environmental (HSE) culture. The aim is to ensure a further improvement in HSE standards. However, the regulations do not specifically define what the concept of an HSE culture entails.

Approaches to understanding the concept are provided in a brochure put together by the Petroleum Safety Authority of Norway, together with suggestions on how such a culture can be created.

Requirements for a sound HSE culture are that

  • efforts to improve health, safety, and the environment are not viewed in isolation from each other
  • a good balance is maintained between the independent responsibility of each person in HSE work and the responsibility of the enterprise to provide good working conditions

The brochure does not provide any hard-and-fast rules but is intended to assist the industry in improving its HSE culture. Important considerations include

  • taking an integrated view of different HSE measures
  • maintaining a systematic and critical focus on one’s own HSE activities
  • paying greater attention to the “H” and “E” components
  • working continuously to improve the level of HSE and not relying simply on spasmodic efforts

Column: Is There Such a Thing as Oilfield Ergonomics?

Source: Balance Biomechanics | 20 May 2013

A column by Balance Biomechanics takes a look at the apparent incompatibility of ergonomics with the oil field.

“Oilfield ergonomics; these two words immediately contradict in my brain. I’ve been on an oil patch and a frac pad and neither is the poster child for ergonomics. The goal of ergonomics is to design a workstation or environment around an employee to decrease the risk of soft tissue injury. This is a valiant effort and quite successful in many industries with controlled environments. However, in many oilfield situations and uncontrolled environments, perfect ergonomics just isn’t possible. Even when it comes to back safety and proper lifting, most of the time, perfect lifts just aren’t possible.”

Column: Industrial Athlete’s Guide to Eating Healthy at Work

Source: Balance Biomechanics | 20 May 2013

A column by Balance Biomechanics takes a look at how healthy eating can boost industry workers.

“Industry workers like roughnecks, frac hands, and construction workers are what I call industrial athletes. Just like professional athletes, these folks need their body to function in order to get paid, they need to focus and keep their head in the game in order not to get themselves (or their crew) seriously injured. These industrial athletes are most often working out in the elements and have long shifts day and night. Unfortunately, the nutrition habits of many that come through my classes leave plenty to be desired.

“The good news is that most of these hard-working men and women are interested in eating healthier and a few simple tips go a long way.”


ExxonMobil Grants Go Toward Fighting Malaria

Source: ExxonMobil | 24 April 2013

On the eve of World Malaria Day, 25 April, ExxonMobil announced its next round of ExxonMobil Foundation grants to organizations working  to combat the disease.

Since 2000, ExxonMobil has provided more than $110 million in funding and support, reaching 83 million people. USD 10 million in grants have been announced for 2013.laria

ExxonMobil-supported programs have distributed 13.1 million bed nets, 1.7 million top-line malaria treatments and 942,000 rapid diagnostic tests over the past 13 years

The new grants support the lifesaving malaria programs of leading global organizations, including Malaria No More, Africare, the United Nations Foundation, USAID, Jhpiego, Population Services International, UNICEF, and the Medicines for Malaria Venture. ExxonMobil is also supporting a number of these organizations’ World Malaria Day events across Africa, including Malaria No More’s World Malaria Day Concert and Ceremony in Cameroon and Grassroot Soccer’s World Malaria Day soccer tournaments in Nigeria, Tanzania, and Equatorial Guinea, among others.

“Through our longstanding work in Africa, ExxonMobil has witnessed firsthand the devastating health and economic impacts of malaria,” said Suzanne McCarron, president of the ExxonMobil Foundation. “We are building on our efforts over the past 13 years to support innovative programs to stop the spread of this preventable disease and save lives.”