Recently, the media and many politicians have focused a great deal of attention on the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa, where at this writing, some 10,000 have died, and on the few cases that have surfaced in the United States. This has led to some false assumptions, misinformation, and confusion, particularly about the appropriate protection for healthcare workers and others who might come in contact with the Ebola virus.
When two health care workers at a Texas hospital were exposed and subsequently developed symptoms of Ebola, hospital management was called before a congressional committee. It was learned that the workers had been provided with personal protection, but had received no training or supervision in the use of the equipment. Another revelation was that the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommendations were based on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) model. The WHO model was designed for situations in which “care is given in remote places,” where it would be likely “intensive training would not be available for health care workers,” such as remote villages in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
This begs the question of why the WHO model would be put forth by the CDC here in the United States where we have the world’s most comprehensive standards on personal protective clothing and equipment. The standards have been developed by government agencies and national standards making organizations and products that meet or exceed the standards are well known and widely available. Subsequently, in late October 2014, the CDC revised its recommendations. The latest CDC recommendations are a vast improvement, yet it seems likely that more revisions will follow.
The major mover in the field of protective clothing continues to be the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) headquartered in Quincy, MA. They have two standards that apply, NFPA 1991, Standard on Vapor Protective Ensembles for Hazardous Materials Emergencies and NFPA 1994, Standard for Protective Ensembles for First Responders to CBRN Terrorism Incidents. In case there is any question here, the Ebola virus is a hazardous material, Hazard Class 6, Type A – an infectious substance. As far as the aforementioned CBRN (chemical biological, radiological, nuclear), Ebola has long been thought of as a potential biological agent that could be used as a weapon by terrorists.
Here is the bottom line- protective clothing certified to NFPA 1991 and NFPA 1994 is reliable for protection against Ebola, provided that proper donning and doffing protocols are followed as well as appropriate decontamination and waste management procedures for viral and bacterial threat contaminants.
Testing carried out under NFPA 1991 (totally encapsulating garments, also called vapor protective clothing) includes chemical resistance – how well the fabric repels the movement of the chemical though the CPC material. Each material is tested against a battery of 21 chemicals. No permeation is allowed for a minimum of one hour. One of the chemicals tested is chlorine. A chlorine molecule is about 5000 times smaller than an Ebola virus. So clearly, any ensemble that meets the standard will provide excellent protection against Ebola.
The ensembles designated Class 2 under NFPA 1994 are tested in a similar manner as the 1991 suits, but undergo separate tests for resistance to viral substances in liquid form. In one test, the entire garment is mounted on a mannequin and then sprayed with water from every direction for twenty minutes. If any water penetrates the ensemble, it fails. So, clearly these Class 2 ensembles are excellent barriers against Ebola.
Although it is likely that any garments used in the treatment and care of patients who have or are expected to have the Ebola virus will be of a disposable type, any re-useable equipment will have to be decontaminated. The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases recommends decontamination of Ebola with a solution of five percent sodium hypochlorite, common household bleach, for three to five minutes followed by washing with soft liquid soap and rinsing. Contaminated run-off must be collected. The latest CDC recommendations advise cleaning with an EPA registered disinfectant wipe “with a label claim of potency at least equivalent to that of non-envelope virus.”
While the latest CDC recommendations focus on the hospital environment, it is important to understand that protection is required in any healthcare setting where there is potential for exposure to patients or infected materials including body substances, contaminated medical equipment, contaminated surfaces, or aerosols generated by certain procedures. Potentially at risk are EMTs, members of hazmat teams involved in transporting patients, mortuary personnel, and those involved in handling medical waste.
In the face of this uncertainty, because no FDA approved vaccine or anti-viral drug is available for Ebola, and because of the high morbidity of these infected with the disease, it is important to learn the most basic lesson of self-protection – that those whose duty calls them to work with Ebola patients can do so safely provided they have adequate protective clothing and equipment and are trained to use it.
At Emergency Film Group, we have been training emergency responders and medical personnel how to carry out potentially dangerous tasks safely for more than 35 years. Several years ago, we created a four part series called Hospital First Receiver which is now in use in more than 1,000 hospitals throughout the country. One program in that series is entitled “Self Protection.” It was designed to provide a comprehensive examination of the protective clothing and respiratory protection issues which OSHA says every user of the equipment must be aware.
While designed for the first receiver, the lessons apply equally to any person who is expected to be involved in the care of Ebola patients. We have re-issued the program in a new edition to speak directly to the protective clothing issues raised by Ebola. More information about the updated program, PPE for Ebola and Other Hazards: Protecting Healthcare Workers, can be found here. . .
The results of a new study by Dräger and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) reveal that that more than half of safety experts in the oil and gas industry are unaware of new hydrogen sulfide (H2S) exposure limits set by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH).
Hydrogen Sulfide, an odorless, colorless gas, is the leading cause of death among gas inhalation-related fatalities in the workplace. The guidelines recommended by the ACGIH include:
- Threshold Limit Value (TLV): 1 ppm
- Time Weighted Average (TWA): 1.4 mg/m3
- Short Term Exposure Level (STEL): 5 ppm, 7.0mg/m3
Other results of the survey included:
- Seventy-six percent of the safety experts who were aware of the new standards felt - despite the increased safety results from using them - no urgency to adopt them.
- There is a great variation of alarm levels used by companies: 39 perenct use 10 ppm and 15 ppm; 35 percent use 5 ppm and 10 ppm; and 15 percent use 10 ppm and 20 ppm.
- Of the companies surveyed who haven’t adopted the guidelines, only 24 percent have adjusted their H2S limits within the last three years and only 34 percent anticipate adjusting their current H2S limits in the near future.
- Most of those survey believe 1 ppm is important very few think of those surveyed believe that current instruments can obtain accurate readings. The majority felt that the 1ppm resolution will cause an increase in false readings.
Emergency Film Group’s Hydrogen Sulfide safety training video teaches workers and responders how to protect themselves against the hazards of this toxic gas. More information about this program can be found here. . .
There may be secret oil and gas transfer points in your community.
Storage tanks and loading racks for products like heating oil, gasoline and propane cost big money. The siting process can be complicated and time consuming. The construction itself is subject to state and local regulations and national standards. The facilities require extensive security, fire protection features and emergency response plans.
But it seems that some clever operators have found a way around all this by storing products and loading trucks on rural rail sidings - possibly near you. Hazmat teams have begun to catch on to the scheme.
Here’s how it works: Let’s say you can buy a lot of propane at a very good price during the summer months. If you can hold on to it until winter when prices rise you can make a tidy profit. But costs for storage and trans-loading can cut into the profit. So why not just leave it in the tank car and park it on a quiet siding. When it comes time to bring the product to market, just roll up some pumping equipment and you are ready to load trucks.
No more permits. No inspections. No expensive fencing. No fire protection equipment. No emergency response plans. And the terrorists will never find it. It’s a pretty sweet deal - unless something goes wrong.
And in many states and communities it may well be illegal.
So the takeaway here is to check out the rail sidings in your response area. What’s parked there? How long does it stay there? Do trans-shipment operations take place there? Do you have a response plan for a spill or a fire there? And finally, are the regulatory authorities in your state aware of this activity? If you are not sure who the authority is, start with your state fire marshal.
Emergency Film Group's Hazmat Operations Series is a five-part DVD series that provides OSHA Hazwoper training. With five training videos, it instructs responders on competencies at the Operations Level for responding to a hazardous material incident. This series is also valuable for annual refresher training. For a limited time, EFG is offering the series at almost 40 percent off the regular price. To learn more, read here. . .
A series of explosions which spawned a 20-by-20 foot fireball at a central Florida propane plant has left nine people injured, with at least five of them in critical condition. The massive explosions happened late Monday night at the Blue Rhino propane exchange plant located in the central Florida town of Tavares.
Preliminary statements from Tavares Fire Chief Richard Keith identified either human error or equipment malfunction as the possible cause for the blast and said sabotage is not suspected. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched an investigation, as has the Florida State Fire Marshal's Office.
Lake County Sheriff's Office spokesman John Herrell said at a news conference that there were about 53,000 20-gallon tanks - more than a million pounds in all - at the plant. At the time of the explosion, there were 24 to 26 workers at the plant for an overnight shift.
The explosions could be felt for miles. Firefighters immediately set up a half-mile evacuation area around the plant. Residents were allowed to return to their homes early Tuesday morning. There were reports of trucks parked at the plant going up in “fireballs” as the cylinders they were carrying exploded.
In an interview with Fox News, Tavares Battalion Commander Eric Wages said five workers walked up to a command center firefighters set up near the plant Monday night with skin hanging off their arms, torso and faces. He said their arms were outstretched and they were in complete shock.
Gene Williams, a third-shift maintenance worker at the plant, is being credited with rescuing a forklift operator who was engulfed in flames. Williams found the victim on the loading dock area and put the man into a van, just as cylinders began exploding and raining back down to the ground. He quickly got the man to the hospital.
According to Williams, the forklift driver told him, “I did what they told me to do, I did what they told me to do, and then this happened,” indicating to Williams that the cause of the explosion may be a “combination of human error and bad practices, possibly. I don't want to speculate any further, that's
In 2011, OSHA fined Blue Rhino in 2011 over a “serious” safety violation involving tools and equipment. The violation was due to an air nozzle at the facility that had a missing component.
Emergency Film Group’s Propane, Butane & Propylene is part of the HazChem Series of safety training videos. This program focuses on propane, butane and propylene are the most common liquefied petroleum gases. Highly flammable, their containers can fail with explosive force. To learn more, read here. . .
The federal government offers no clear guidelines for chemical exposure from oil spills, leaving protection of the public in the hands of state and/or local officials when an accident does occur. There have been at least three oil spills from ruptured pipelines in the past three years, but each community handled each situation differently.
In June, 2010, 33,000 gallons of medium grade crude oil leaked from a ruptured pipeline into a Salt Lake City, Utah neighborhood. The oil leaked into Red Butte Creek and all through residential neighborhoods. There were no evacuations done. Many of the homes had windows opened, allowing fumes to seep into homes. These fumes can cause drowsiness and lethargy in people when exposed and many of the residents reported sleeping until noon that day.
A month later, in Marshall, Mich., a million gallons of heavy Canadian crude spilled into the Kalamazoo River. Four days later, officials finally issued a voluntary evacuation of residents.
In March of this year, 22 families were evacuated from their homes when 200,000 gallons of heavy crude leaked from a broken pipeline in Mayflower, Ark. However, residents who lived just blocks away in the same subdivision weren’t evacuated. The oil flowed and ended up in a lakeside community, where it is still being cleaned up. None of those residents were ever asked to evacuate.
Also at issue is the lack of studies to determine the long term health dangers from exposure to oil fumes. Many people who were exposed complained of headaches, nausea and respiratory problems after the incidents, and medical experts don’t know what long-term effects may appear years later.
Crude oil contains over 1,000 chemicals, many of which have been classified as hazardous to humans. One of the most dangerous is benzene. Increased exposure to benzene has been shown to cause leukemia and neurological problems. None of the federal guidelines about benzene exposure covers exposure from oil spills.
Despite plans to expand the pipelines by more than 10,000 miles - many of those miles in populated neighborhoods - there are still no plans for the government to set chemical guidelines at oil spills. Nor are there any plans to conduct studies of long-term health effects on those that have already been exposed.
Emergency Film Group’s Site Management & Control is part one of the Hazardous Materials: Managing the Incident series. The film includes information on preplanning to set up a systematic, coordinated approach to a hazmat accident; procedures for establishing command; guidelines for safe approach and positioning at a hazmat incident; establishing the perimeter and hazard control zones; and procedures for carrying out protective actions. To learn more, read here. . .
It’s been just over one year since Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) announced changes to its Hazard Communication (HazCom) Standard that will integrate the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) into OSHA’s HazCom standard. The deadline for compliance training is December 1, 2013. According to the agency’s website, when the original HazCom Standard was implemented in 1983, it gave the workers the ‘right to know,' but the new Globally Harmonized System gives workers the ‘right to understand.'
Both the old and the new standards requires chemical manufacturers and importers to evaluate the chemicals they produce or import and provide hazard information to employers and workers by putting labels on containers and preparing safety data sheets. The old standard allowed employers to put that hazard information on labels and material safety data sheets in whatever format they chose. The new standard requires that information to be presented using the standard GHS which provides a single set of harmonized criteria for classifying chemicals according to various health hazards (e.g., irritation, sensitization and carcinogenicity) and physical hazards (e.g., fire, explosion and corrosion), and specifies model formats and substantive requirements for labels and safety data sheets.
The major changes to HazCom standard are:
- Hazard classification: Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to determine the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import. Hazard classification under the new, updated standard provides specific criteria to address health and physical hazards as well as classification of chemical mixtures.
- Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers must provide a label that includes a signal word, pictogram, hazard statement, and precautionary statement for each hazard class and category.
- Safety Data Sheets: The new format requires 16 specific sections, ensuring consistency in presentation of important protection information.
- Information and training: To facilitate understanding of the new system, the new standard requires that workers be trained by December 1, 2013 on the new label elements and safety data sheet format, in addition to the current training requirements.
Emergency Film Group’s Global Harmonization & the Hazard Communication Standard DVD training program focuses on OSHA’s changes to the Hazcom Standard. The program includes descriptions of the classifications and subcategories of physical & health hazards of chemicals, information that must be included on a label, signal words, pictograms, hazard statements, the 16 sections of safety data sheets and an instructor's CD-Rom. To learn more, read here. . .
A massive explosion at a West, TX fertilizer plant has left almost 200 people injured and at least 5 to 15 people dead. Officials fear the number of fatalities will rise, as many people are unaccounted for, including several firefighters who were fighting a fire at the plant when the explosion occurred. The city’s EMS director, Dr. George Smith, confirmed the deaths of two EMS workers and said that three to five firefighters and a police officer were reported missing.
The blast occurred at 7:50 p.m. and registered as a 2.1-magnitude seismic event, according to the United States Geological Survey. One city councilor reported that the four block area around the explosion's epicenter was “totally decimated.” Fifty to 75 houses were destroyed, an apartment complex with about 50 units, that was reduced to "a skeleton," a middle school and a nursing home. Many witnesses compared the scene to that of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The materials made at the plant were similar to the materials used to fuel the bomb that blew up the Murrah Federal Building.
Firefighters had been called to the West Fertilizer Company plant earlier to put out a small fire. The explosion occurred as they were fighting the fire. Officials are still investigating to determine if the chemicals at the plant, including ammonium nitrate, caused the explosions.
Ammonium nitrate is a commonly manufactured fertilizer, with nitrogen making up about one-third of this chemical compound. It’s very popular as a plant fertilizer because of its solubility in soil, allowing the nitrate to move deep into the root zone under wet conditions. Ammonium nitrate is sensitive to heat and pressure which can lead to an explosion.
Another concern to authorities is the potential of exposure to anhydrous ammonia, a toxic gas that is also used as a fertilizer. West Fertilizer Co. reported it has 54,000 pounds of the chemical at the plant.
Anhydrous ammonia gas is dangerous. Upon inhalation, throat passages and lungs swell, leading to hoarseness, hardening of the respiratory tract, and in sufficient concentrations – suffocation and death. Contact with eyes can cause visual impairment. Ingestion can result in liver malfunction and coma. Although anhydrous ammonia is classified as a non-flammable gas, it can ignite with explosive force when mixed with air in the right concentration.
This explosion comes almost 66 years to the day of another massive explosion that occurred in Texas City. On April 16, 1947, the French vessel SS Grandcamp, docked at the Texas City port when a fire broke out, detonating 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate. The explosions killed almost 600 people and left thousands injured.
Emergency Film Group’s Inorganic Oxidizers DVD is one of the DVDs of the HazChem Series. This informative DVD provides training to emergency response personnel who may be called upon to respond to a leak, spill or a fire involving ammonium nitrate, calcium hypochlorite or nitric acid. Another program in the series, Anhydrous Ammonia, discusses response issues for this dangerous gas. To learn more, read here. . .
Hazcom - the Hazard Communication Standard, often called Right to Know - was implemented by OSHA to ensure that employees who work with chemicals are trained in their safe handling and use, to recognize symptoms of adverse health effects related to exposure, and to take appropriate measures in an emergency.
The 2012 update to Hazcom takes a new approach to communicating information in order to ally it with the international initiative known as Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), and is now being tagged Right to Understand. Changes include specific criteria in the way physical and health hazards are classified, new requirements for labels, and a new format for Safety Data Sheets, formerly called Material Safety Data Sheets. Ultimately GHS will affect other OSHA standards, and those of other standards-making organizations.
Emergency Film Group's newest program - Global Harmonization & the Hazard Communication Standard - examines the changes to Hazcom. It is appropriate for training personnel who work with or around hazardous chemicals, and also for hazmat teams, firefighters and others who may respond to an incident where chemicals are involved.
For more information about this program, go to the website at https://www.efilmgroup.com/product.php/166.htm.