FED's Industry Related News


Tuesday, September 01, 2015

NYC's Legionnaire Outbreak Over, Leading to New Requirements for Building Owners.

The recent legionnaire's disease outbreak in the Bronx, is over according to the New York City Health Department.  The impact of this disease outbreak seems to have not had an impact on the Opera House Hotel (according to the New York Times) which was at the center of the outbreak.  A far cry from the first legionnaire outbreak back in 1976.  That outbreak caused the closing of the Bellevue Stratford Hotel, four months after the outbreak and it did not reopen until 1979.

English: Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, Philadelphia
English: Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, Philadelphia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Legionnaire's disease is caused by a common gram negative rod-shaped bacterium called Legionella. It is widely distributed natural inhabitant of waters.  There are approximately 50 species and 70 serogroups have been described.  The 1976 occurrence in Philadelphia had 221 people that were treated and 34 deaths.  Legionella bacterium was found in the cooling tower of the hotel's air conditioning system.

Legionnaire's disease symptoms include fever, chills, cough, muscle aches, headache, tiredness, loss of appetite, loss of coordination and occasionally diarrhea and vomiting.  Typically takes 2-10 days to incubate.  Many cases go undiagnosed and transmission is not person to person.  It is treatable with antibiotics if diagnosed early enough.

The infection occurs from inhaling water droplets that originated from a water source contaminated with Legionella.  Typical manmade sources include cooling towers, evaporative coolers, hot water systems, showers, whirlpool spas, architectural fountains, room-air humidifiers, ice-making machines and misting equipment.  Environmental sources are freshwater ponds, rivers and creeks. 

A forced draft cooling tower
A forced draft cooling tower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Commonly used method of analysis is the methodology from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which involves collecting a sample of the water source. Culture Analysis is considered the "gold standard" and analysis can take 10-14 days.  The OSHA Technical Manual offers the following guidelines for interpreting Legionella analysis results (numbers are in colony forming units per milliliter (cfu/ml)):

  1                     100                           10                     1
  2                    1000                         100                    10

Action 1: Prompt cleaning and/or biocide treatment of the system.
Action 2: Immediate cleaning and/or biocide treatment.
As part of the outbreak, the New York City Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) issued a mandatory order to have cooling systems inspected and remediated within 14 days of receipt of the order.  New York City has recently passed new requirements (Local Law 77 of 2015) for the registration of cooling towers and evaporating condensers.  Existing cooling towers and evaporative condensers must be registered with the New York City Building Department (NYC DOB) by September 17, 2015.  Visit the NYC DOB website for more info.  The DOHMH order requires building owners to hire environmental consultants experienced in disinfection using current industry standard protocols including the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 188P and Cooling Technology Institute Guidelines WTB-148. 

Disinfection will require the use of biocides, biocides are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC).  EPA regulates the labeling and use of biocides.  NYS DEC requires a commercial pesticide applicator certification in Category 7G - Cooling Towers, Pulp & Paper Process.

Will these new requirements prevent another outbreak?  Only if the regulations are enforced.  There are many laws on the books, however, how many of them are enforced.  You can almost say instead of "the devil is in the details", you should say "the devil is in enforcement".  Be Safe!

Monday, August 24, 2015

NYS Mold Law Changes, Licensing Requirement Goes Into Effect January 1, 2016

On July 25, 2015 Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Chapter Amendments to Article 32 of the New York State Mold Law.  The Chapter Amendments modify Article 32 adding new information, clarifying wording, and most importantly adding a deadline for licensing.  The deadline for licensing is now January 1, 2016.  

To assist people with the licensing requirements, Future Environment Designs has submitted three courses (mold worker, a two day course; mold remediation contractor a three day course; and mold assessment consultant, a four day course) for approval to New York State Department of Labor (NYS DOL).  We are hoping to be approved before November so we can start holding these classes in November & December, 2015 (give us a call to make arrangements).  

Mold Remediation Project in Nassau County. Licenses will be Required by 01/01/16.
NYS DOL has created a NYS Mold Program website.  At present, it has the original legislation, the chapter amendments and sample course outlines for the three licenses, along with an FAQ.

In our blogpost on February 7, 2015 we discussed the details of the law.  Some of the Chapter Amendments to Article 32, that revises the law include:
  • a modification of the definition of mold to "any indoor multi-cellular fungi".
  • Addition of the word "Project" and its definition, "means mold remediation, mold assessment, or mold abatement, of areas greater than ten square feet, but does not include (a) routine cleaning or (b) construction, maintenance, repair or demolition of buildings, structures or fixtures undertaken for purposes other than mold remediation or abatement."  So licensing is not required for routine cleaning (this seems like it could be abused) and mold projects 10 (2' x 5') square feet (SF) or less.
  • The addition of "on a project" for what is unlawful.  For example, "It shall be unlawful for any individual to engage in mold abatement on a project or to advertise or hold themselves out as a mold abatement worker unless such individual has a valid mold abater's license issued by the commissioner."  The same has been added to the mold assessment & remediation licenses.
  • Changes were made to the minimum requirements to get a mold assessment license.  Particularly a requirement for insurance to get the mold assessment license.  The mold assessment business entity "must provide insurance certificates evidencing workers' compensation coverage, if required, and liability insurance of at least $50,000 providing coverage for claims arising from the licensed activities and operations performed pursuant to this article."
  • Substantial change to the minimum requirements for a mold remediation license include the elimination of the requirement for a financial statement audited by an independent auditor.  Mold remediation license will require providing "insurance certificates evidencing workers' compensation coverage, if required, and liability insurance of at least $50,000 providing coverage for claims arising from the licensed activities and operations performed pursuant to this article."
  • Fees were changed.  Mold Remediation license fee is to be between $500 - $1,000.  Mold Assessment license fee is to be between $150 - $300.  Mold Abatement (worker) license fee is to be between $50 - $100. 
  • Exemptions have changed.   Added to the list are "an owner or a managing agent or a full-time employee of an owner or managing agent who performs mold assessment [or], remediation, or abatement on a residential apartment building of more than four dwelling units owned by the owner provided, however, that this subdivision shall not apply if the managing agent or employee engages in the business of performing mold assessment [or], remediation, or abatement for the public;" and "a federal, state or local governmental unit or public authority and employees thereof that perform mold assessment, remediation, or abatement on any property owned, managed or remediated by such governmental unit or authority."
  • Nothing has really changed between the difference between assessment and remediation and the conflicts of interest between them.
  • One minor change was done to the minimum work standards which was a rewording and the replacement of "must" with "may".  Basically removing the requirement of a containment, and allowing a remediation plan not to require containment.

Mold Licensing will not be required for projects 10 SF or less or routine cleaning.
 Since NYS DOL has moved forward with the training requirements and has started the process of approving training providers, the next steps seem to be clarifying who is required to be trained for mold assessment and remediation (owners, supervisors, foremen, industrial hygienists, etc.).  In addition, the standards for assessment and remediation need to be fleshed out for a better understanding of what is expected.  Another words still alot to do between now and January 1, 2016. Tick Tock! Tick Tock!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Confined Spaces In Construction Goes Into Effect August 3, 2015

On August 3, 2015 the new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard Subpart AA confined spaces in construction goes into effect (1926.1200-1213).  This standard is very similar to the confined space standard in general industry (1910.146).  OSHA recently announced that enforcement of the new standard is being postponed until October 2 to allow additional time for the construction industry to train workers and purchase equipment.  OSHA will not issue citations to employers making a good faith effort to comply with the standard.  Factors OSHA will consider if an employer is making a good faith effort to comply are:
  1. If the employer has not trained its employees as required under the new standard, whether the employer has scheduled such training,
  2. If the employer does not have the equipment required for compliance with the new standard, including personal protective equipment, whether the employer has ordered or otherwise arranged to obtain such equipment required for compliance and is taking alternative measures to protect employees from confined space hazards, and
  3. Whether the employer has engaged in any additional efforts to educate workers about confined space hazards and protect workers from those hazards.
The standard does not apply to construction work regulated by:
  1. Subpart P Excavations.
  2. Subpart S Underground construction, caisson, cofferdams, & compressed air
  3. Subpart Y Diving
The standard requires the employer to comply with this standard and any other provisions that are required in other standards that apply to confined space hazards (i.e., welding).

Like most standards it begins with definitions (1926.1202).  Most of them are again similar to the general industry standard.  For example the definition of a confined space means a space that:
  1. Is large enough & so configured that an employee can bodily enter it;
  2. Has limited or restricted means for entry and exit; and
  3. Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.
Confined Space Testing & Monitoring in Brooklyn
However, some of the more interesting changes entail the difference between construction and general industry.  For example the definition for a "Controlling Contractor" is the employer that has overall responsibility for construction at the worksite.  There is a note attached to this definition which indicates if the controlling contractor owns or manages the property, then it is both a controlling employer and a host employer. 

Entry employer means any employer who decides that an employee it directs will enter a permit space. The note on this definition warns that the employer cannot avoid the duties of this standard by refusing to decide.  OSHA will consider the failure to so decide to be an implicit decision to allow employees to enter those spaces if they are working in the proximity of the space.

The standard defines host employer as the employer that owns or manages the property where the construction work is taking place.  This definition also has a note that states if the owner of the property on which construction activity occurs has contracted with an entity for the general management of that property, and has transferred to that entity the information specified in 1203(h)(1), OSHA will treat the contracted management entity as the host employer for as long as that entity manages the property.  Otherwise, OSHA will treat the owner of the property as the host employer.  In no case will there be more than one host employer.

The general requirement of the standard requires each employer (host employer, controlling contractor, & entry employer) must ensure that a competent person identifies all confined spaces…and identifies each space that is a permit space, through consideration and evaluation of the elements of that space, including testing as necessary.  

Two interesting sections of the standard are 1926.1203(h) which dictates Permit Space Entry Communication & Coordination and 1926.1211 which dictates Rescue & Emergency Services.  Permit Space Entry Communication & Coordination (Section 1926.1203(h)) spells out what is expected in the communication and coordination between the host employer, controlling contractor and the entry employer. While the Rescue & Emergency Services (1926.1211) spells out the requirements for an emergency/rescue service entity (1926.1211(a)) or if the entry employer will designate employees to provide permit space rescue and/or emergency services (1926.1211(b)).

According to OSHA this new standard will improve safety and protect nearly 800 construction workers a year from serious injuries and reduce life-threatening hazards.  Training requirements for entrants, attendants, and supervisors are relatively the same as the general industry standard.  Give us a call and we can provide this training, at your location or ours.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Electronic Cigarettes & Vaping Catching on With High & Middle Schoolers

A recent YouTube video highlights the issues with electronic cigarettes.  These popular gadgets have become very popular with teens & tweens with their usage doubling from 2011 to 2012.  They are also very controversial with very little research available on there effectiveness.  In addition, there is very little regulation on e-cigarettes and the amount of nicotine in them.  New York City is one of the few governments that treats e-cigarettes as the same as regular cigarettes as part of the amendments of the Smoke-Free Air Act of 2002.    

According to WebMD, "all e-cigarettes work basically the same way.  Inside, there's a battery, a heating element, and a cartridge that holds nicotine and other liquids and flavorings.  Features and costs vary.  Some are disposable.  Others have a rechargeable battery and refillable cartridges.  Using an e-cigarette is called "vaping"."

One of the major concerns with e-cigarettes is the liquid nicotine that is used.  Since nicotine is highly addictive, e-cigarette users will have withdrawal symptoms of irritability, depression, restlessness, & anxiousness.  Nicotine is dangerous to people with heart problems and may damage arteries over time.  Many of these products claim to be nicotine free, however, testing has shown that some may have varying levels of nicotine in the vapor.

The purpose of these e-cigarettes were to help smokers with their smoking cessations programs.  However, these are now being marketed and popularity is bringing them to underage students (primarily because there are no laws limiting their sale to minors - there are some laws regarding nicotine and liquid nicotine, but not enough).  A Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study found that during 2011-2013, the number of youths who had never smoked a cigarette but had used e-cigarettes at least once increased three-fold (from 79,000 in 2011 to 263,000 in 2013).  Never-smokers who had ever used e-cigarettes were nearly twice as likely to have an intention to smoke conventional cigarettes than never smokers who had not used e-cigarettes (43.9% vs 21.5%).

According to Fortune Magazine, e-cigarette sales in the United States, were estimated to be $1.5 billion in 2014, with estimated growth of 24.2% per year through 2018.  With the current state of lack of regulations are we looking at a next generation of smokers hooked on nicotine from e-cigarettes and hence the next health crisis.  It may be time to start regulating this industry specifically the use of nicotine in these products.  Truth in advertising would go a long way to resolving many of the concerns with this potentially useful gadget.  

Monday, April 13, 2015

NIH Still Active in Gulf Region Five Years After Oil Spill

NIH Still Active in Gulf Region Five Years After Oil Spill - as we've written in the past, the increase use of respirators during disasters is a necessary step to prevent worker exposure to contaminants that make them sick immediately or in the future.  Respirator use during disasters continues to be optional when it should be mandatory.  Disasters typically involve exposures to asbestos, silica, lead, poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), etc.  The only way to protect yourself from many of these contaminants is through the use of properly fitted air-purifying respirators.

English: Respirator
English: Respirator (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A properly fitted air purifying respirator will protect workers for most disaster and demolition exposure issues.  Providing workers with this type of respirator requires that you meet the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) 1910.134 respirator standard.  The standard is not that difficult to comply with.  It does require a plan for respirator use (selecting the type of respirator that will protect workers), medical evaluation for employees using respirators (to ensure they can wear the respirator), fit testing (to ensure the employee wears the correct size and it fits), and training the worker (so they know how to wear a respirator and its limitations).  There are other requirements but these are minimal compared to the four main requirements listed above.