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New Guidance Targets Blast, Respiratory, Training Risks

Friday, April 1, 2011

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Explosive atmospheres and respiratory hazards—two deadly industry dangers—are the focus of new guidance documents issued by international and federal agencies. A third initiative takes aim at overly lengthy training sessions.

Managing Explosive Environments

A Common Regulatory Framework for Equipment Used in Environments with an Explosive Atmosphere, new from the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe, offers a regulatory blueprint to address the explosion hazards in chemical plants, mills, refineries, mines and similar environments.

UNECE hopes the booklet will provide a framework for countries that lack regulations and help others align theirs with internationally harmonized best practices.

Equipment used in explosive environments must be designed, installed, and maintained to avoid sparks or open flames. It requires rigorous, often-costly testing and certification—protocols that may change from country to country and year to year.



 The booklet offers a blueprint for best practices involving equipment used in explosive environments.

Populations at Risk

Changing, frequent certifications may make it too expensive for equipment manufacturers to enter some markets, leaving those areas unable to obtain the best equipment and their populations at risk, UNECE says.

The booklet, written by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), is designed to address such issues. The framework is based on, and encompasses, international best practice and international standards.

“The UNECE framework regulation builds on the positive experience of multilateral schemes for assessing conformity to standards, such as the IECEx [Equipment for Explosive Atmospheres],” said Uwe Klausmeyer, a German winner of the IEC Lord Kelvin Award for his work in standardization.

“Under these schemes, testing and certification are carried out through agreed procedures and by peer assessment. These systems are transparent, fully democratic and self-financing."

Respiratory Testing

In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have developed guidance documents describing the use of spirometry testing to help reduce and prevent worker exposure to respiratory hazards.

Spirometry is a common pulmonary function test that measures how well a person moves air in and out of the lungs. Workers who inhale some types of dusts, gases or other air contaminants can, over time, experience lung damage. The spirometry test may detect breathing problems or significant changes in a worker’s lung function at an early stage.

The documents—one for employers and one for workers— explain the importance of testing and detail related issues.

Help for Employers, Workers

The OSHA/NIOSH InfoSheet for employers clarifies what spirometry is, when it is needed, and critical elements that employers can use to evaluate the quality of spirometry services provided to their workers. The sheet also describes the importance of monitoring workers’ lung function over time to identify problems early and make corrections in the workplace.

The companion OSHA-NIOSH Worker Info explains to workers the importance of taking a spirometry test, what to do during the test, and their right to receive an explanation and copy of test results.

“Spirometry is the best available test for early detection of decreasing or abnormal lung function,” said OSHA Administrator David Michaels. “Our joint effort with NIOSH in developing these products will help broaden outreach and enhance knowledge of preventive measures aimed at protecting worker health and safety.”

OSHA Limits Training Sessions

OSHA has also revised its policy for all Outreach Training Programs to address the number of hours each day a student may spend in OSHA 10- and 30-hour classes. The agency has limited the length of daily classroom instruction to prevent workers from being saturated with so much information that they miss important content.

OSHA trainers are now required to limit worker training classes to seven and one-half hours per day. Previously, there were no limits, and students could sit in classes for up to 13 hours a day.
Beyond the excessive fatigue, OSHA was also concerned that some classes were not meeting program time requirements. This concern followed random records audits and unannounced monitoring visits.



 OSHA has called a halt to lengthy training sessions.

OSHA outreach trainers must now conduct 10-hour courses over a minimum of two days and 30-hour courses over at least four days. The agency also set up an outreach fraud hotline at 847-725-7810 for complaints about program fraud and abuse.


Tagged categories: Chemical Plants; Explosions; Health and safety; Respirators

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