domingo, 3 de enero de 2016

NIOSH Research Rounds - December, 2015

NIOSH Research Rounds - December, 2015


In This Issue

Volume 1, Number 6 (December 2015)

Black Lung Disease Affects Both Current and Former Coal Miners

A new study at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) underscores the importance of anticipating respiratory disease, including black lung disease and loss of lung function, in former coal miners to allow them to receive an appropriate diagnosis and medical care. The study also shows the importance of reducing exposures to coal mine dust, which puts current miners at risk for this serious work-related illness. Black lung disease is also known as pneumoconiosis.

In the current study, NIOSH investigators compared results from the program’s testing of active and former coal miners in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. They found that former miners were significantly more likely than current miners to have signs of black lung disease on x-ray imaging and impaired lung function on spirometry tests. The increased rate of disease among former miners persisted even after controlling for other possible causes, such as length of time spent mining, smoking, and body-mass index, or weight relative to height. On average, these former miners had not worked in the mines for 14 years. These findings indicate that black lung disease continues to be a serious public health problem in the United States that affects not only current miners, but also former miners.

Study to Evaluate Physical Effects of Personal Protective Equipment

If you watch or read the news, you may have seen images of healthcare providers covered head to toe in bulky garments as they treat hospital patients who have a contagious disease. During disease outbreaks, these garments, collectively called a personal protective equipment (PPE) ensemble, play a critical role in public health. PPE ensembles protect wearers from job-related exposure to disease-causing germs. They also reduce the risk that healthcare workers will become infected while treating seriously ill patients and further spread a contagion.

The problem is that PPE ensembles can also hinder the worker’s movement and comfort, particularly in extreme weather conditions, such as excessive heat. Previous research has shown that these effects can decrease physical performance and increase the risk of other injuries, like overexertion and slips, trips, and falls. Now, a new 3-year study at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will evaluate the precise ways that PPE might put stress on the body and, subsequently, affect comfort and job performance.

Headform Could Help Advance Respirator Performance Testing

Life sometimes imitates art, but does science? Perhaps, at least at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Researchers are using a newly developed headform—a life-size, life-like replica of the human head and face—to advance the science of respiratory protection for workers.

When workers wear respirators on the job to keep from breathing harmful airborne contaminants, the respirator must be tightly sealed to the face to provide the respirator’s expected level of protection. NIOSH researchers used silicone, a highly flexible, synthetic material, to simulate the naturally occurring differences in skin thickness found on the human face to create a remarkably accurate—and eerily life-like—image. Using a database of high-tech computer scans that showed head/face size measurements of people, researchers were able to create composite images of representational head/face sizes of the U.S. workforce. The 3D composites were then used to develop the physical headform models.

Training, Communication, and Other Improvements Recommended After Fire Fighter Death

Fire investigators at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have recommended training, communication, and other improvements to a Maryland fire department after the recent death of a shift safety officer.

After a fire on November 12, 2014, a 62-year-old shift safety officer fell through a hole in a floor to the basement of an abandoned row house he was inspecting. Although some fire fighters had noticed the hole, they did not report it. No one knew the safety officer was inside the building, and he died of smoke inhalation, rather than from injuries related to the fall.

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