Care, Protect, Grow: The U.S. Compliance Blog

Reducing Zinc and Total Suspended Solids in Stormwater Runoff

Many states require facilities covered under a general industrial stormwater permit to collect stormwater samples and have them analyzed for common pollutants. Stormwater pollutants vary by facility and industry because the potential pollutants will be dependent on the materials and equipment stored inside and outside of the facility. Two common stormwater pollutants are zinc and total suspended solids (TSS). It is not always clear where a pollutant is coming from, which makes lowering the level of that pollutant in the stormwater runoff quite challenging.

If a stormwater sample is collected and has a high concentration of a pollutant, what should be done to lower that number? The first step to reducing pollutants is to identify the source of the pollutant. After a source is identified, best management practices can be implemented to help control or reduce the exposure of potential pollutants.

ZINC

Common Sources

Zinc is a common metal found in stormwater runoff and can come from numerous locations around a facility. Some common sources of zinc are:

  • Galvanized metals such chain links fences, HVAC equipment, roofing, gutters/downspouts, steps, and bay doors.
  • Motor oil & hydraulic fluid that can be found in equipment, storage tanks, or vehicles.
  • Tire dust, which is found in areas with heavy truck and forklift traffic. These areas include loading docks, around tight corners, and frequently traveled forklift routes.
  • Fertilizers/Moss Removers

Best Management Practices

After the source of zinc has been determined at the facility, best management practices should be implemented to help control the potential contact between zinc and stormwater runoff. If best management practices are properly implemented, they should help reduce the level of zinc found in the stormwater runoff. Below are the best management practices that can be implemented for the common sources of zinc pollution.

  • Galvanized metals can be painted to limit the release of zinc. The galvanized metal can also be replaced with aluminum, steel or PVC.
  • Motor oil & hydraulic oil storage containers can be stored within secondary containment to prevent a release in the event of a spill. Spill response equipment should be stored around the property to ensure spills or leaks from tanks, equipment, or vehicles are cleaned up immediately.
  • Tire dust can be controlled by implementing a regular sweeping schedule in areas with high traffic or around tight corners. Forklift tires can also be replaced with tires that do not contain zinc.
  • Fertilizers/moss removers should only be applied directly to the areas that they are meant to treat. Do not apply if rain is in the forecast for the next couple of days, as it is much more likely that the fertilizer or moss remover will be picked up by stormwater runoff.

TOTAL SUSPENDED SOLIDS

Common Sources

Total suspended solids (TSS) is one of the most common pollutants found in stormwater runoff. Total suspended solids can be exposed to stormwater in many areas, but some common sources are:

  • Dust collectors, if there is a leak or spill during operation or disposal.
  • Dumpsters that are leaking or that spill on the ground in the surrounding areas.
  • Loading docks with consistent traffic can build up sand and sediment quickly.
  • Gravel or exposed dirt on the property will result in higher levels of TSS in the stormwater.

Best Management Practices

After the source of TSS has been determined at the facility, best management practices should be implemented to help control the potential contact between TSS and stormwater runoff. If best management practices are properly implemented, they should help reduce the level of TSS found in stormwater runoff. Below are best management practices that can be implemented for the common sources of total suspended solids pollution.

  • Dust collectors should be inspected on a regular basis to ensure that there are no leaks and that the drum or bag is tightly connected to the dust collector. Spill response equipment should be stored near the dust collector to ensure that any spills are cleaned up immediately.
  • Dumpsters can be covered when they are not being filled or emptied. Covering a dumpster will greatly decrease the exposure of the contents of the dumpster to stormwater. The dumpsters should also be inspected on a regular basis to ensure the surrounding areas are clean and that good housekeeping is being practiced.
  • Loading docks tend to have large buildups of sand and sediment due to trucks regularly driving in and out. A sweeping schedule can be implemented to reduce the amount of sand and sediment exposed to stormwater.
  • Gravel or exposed dirt can be managed by paving gravel parking lots, landscaping areas of the property that show signs of erosion to prevent further degradation, and by using silt filters and fences to catch sediment prior to discharge from the property.

Best management practices should be implemented and updated as needed. If current best management practices are not effective in reducing the level of pollutants in the stormwater runoff, additional best management practices will need to be considered.

Sources

Golding, Steven. “Suggested Practices to Reduce Zinc Concentrations in Industrial Stormwater Discharges.” Department of Ecology – State of Washington, June 2008, fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/publications

Refrigerant Management: The Scientific Basis to the Current Regulation

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) have historically been used in a variety of refrigeration applications in manufacturing, from large process chillers to small office air conditioning units. Sections 608 of the Clean Air Act and subsequent federal regulations under 40 CFR 82 regulate these refrigerants to minimize detrimental atmospheric changes caused by releases. As recent regulations have changed, it is important to understand the mechanisms by which the refrigerants can cause atmospheric changes and how to manage facility use.

Understanding Ozone

Ozone is a highly reactive compound comprised of three oxygen molecules, represented by the chemical formula O3. Most atmospheric ozone is concentrated as a layer in the stratosphere and is formed naturally through a photochemical reaction between molecular oxygen and solar ultraviolet radiation. Stratospheric ozone is essential to protecting life on earth as it absorbs biologically harmful ultraviolet B (UV-B) radiation, preventing it from reaching the Earth’s surface in harmful quantities.

Stratospheric ozone is different from tropospheric, or ground-level ozone, which is primarily formed through photochemical reactions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds emitted from man-made sources (fossil fuel combustion, industrial activities). Tropospheric ozone is a primary constituent of photochemical smog.

Stratospheric ozone is often referred to as “good” ozone due to its important role in absorbing UV-B radiation. Tropospheric ozone is often referred to as “bad” ozone as it causes respiratory issues in animals and negatively affects plant photosynthesis and respiration.

Figure 1: Stratospheric ozone vs. tropospheric ozone. Source: NASA

Mechanism of Ozone Depletion

The primary cause of stratospheric ozone depletion results from the introduction of manufactured halocarbons into the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Sources of halocarbon emissions at the Earth’s surface include refrigeration leaks, solvent use, the manufacturing of certain foam products, and propellants. Once emitted, the halocarbon molecules are transported to the stratosphere through turbulent mixing in the troposphere, the atmospheric layer that extends from the Earth’s surface to the stratosphere. The halocarbon molecules undergo a photochemical reaction in the stratosphere that results in the release of halogen ions, which subsequently act as catalysts to the dissociation of ozone molecules into oxygen molecules:

CFCl3 + ultraviolet light → Cl + CFCl2

Cl + O3 → ClO + O2

ClO + O3 → Cl + 2O2

These reactions can reoccur over 100,000 times with a single halogen ion before the ion is removed from the stratosphere. Halocarbons, particularly chlorine, accelerate the depletion of stratospheric ozone at a faster rate than it can naturally regenerate.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) also contribute to ozone depletion, but at a much smaller scale than CFCs and HCFCs. The primary cause of atmospheric changes by HFC emissions is through the absorption of heat in the stratosphere by HFC molecules, which increases stratospheric and tropospheric temperatures. CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs are all heat-trapping gases, with global warming potentials 100 to 10,000 times greater than carbon dioxide (CO2).

Refrigeration Management Regulations

In 1990, Title VI of the Clean Air Act was enacted by the U.S. Congress to add provisions for protecting stratospheric ozone. This provided a regulatory basis to implement the Montreal Protocol. Title VI, Section 608, and the resulting federal regulations set timelines for the phaseout of CFCs, HCFCs, and other ozone-depleting substances (ODS). It also established requirements for proper management of ODS to prevent or mitigate releases. A November 2016 amendment to Section 608 and 40 CFR 82 enacted the regulation of HFCs in the same manner as ODS, and reduced leak rate thresholds that trigger repair, retrofit, or replacement requirements. Industry groups challenged the EPA’s authority to extend regulations on ODS to non-ozone-depleting substitute refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP). As a result, the November 2016 amendment was rescinded and replaced in February 2020. The current federal rule requirements are summarized below.

For appliances with 50 or more pounds of ODS per individual circuit:

  • Maintain annualized leak rate tracking;
  • Repair or replace appliances that leak above the following leak rate thresholds:
  • 35% for Industrial Process and Commercial Refrigeration Units,
  • 15% for Comfort Cooling Equipment;
  • Conduct verification tests on repairs;
  • Periodically inspect for leaks;
  • Report chronically leaking appliances to the EPA;
  • Retrofit or retire appliances that are not repaired; and
  • Maintain related records.

For appliances with any amount of ODS or non-ODS high GWP replacement refrigerants (new with the 2020 rule):

  • Purchasers or handlers must be EPA/Section 608 certified;
  • Anyone removing refrigerant from a refrigeration appliance must evacuate refrigerant to a set level using certified refrigerant recovery equipment before servicing or disposing of the appliance;
  • The final disposer (such as scrap recyclers or landfills) must ensure and document that refrigerant is recovered; and
  • All used refrigerant must be reclaimed to industry purity standards before it can be sold to another appliance owner.

Sources

Vallero, D. Fundamentals of Air Pollution, 5th ed. 2014. pp. 69-72. Academic Press, Waltham, MA.

Schlesinger, W.H. Biogeochemistry – An Analysis of Global Change, 2nd edition 1997. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.

United States Environmental Protection Agency, Basic Ozone Layer Science.  https://www.epa.gov/ozone-layer-protection/basic-ozone-layer-science

United States Environmental Protection Agency, Understanding Global Warming Potentials https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/understanding-global-warming-potentials

SPCC Transformers: Am I Responsible?

It is becoming increasingly common to find electric transformers at large commercial, institutional and industrial facilities. Although the transformer is located on the facility’s property, it is sometimes unclear who actually owns the transformers and is responsible for the maintenance and spills. The transformer may be owned by the facility, typically seen on older properties or those that require multiple transformers with high voltage, or by the local power company.

Units that contain oil are called “wet” transformers as they contain various amounts of mineral-based oil typically referred to as transformer oil. It can also be common to find older wet transformers laced with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Although the use of PCBs in transformers has been phased out, the older transformers with PCBs can be problematic to clean up in the event of a spill. One of the biggest issues of not knowing who owns the transformers is determining the responsibility of cleaning up oil spills. Ultimately, for any transformer that contains oil, a plan should be in place for addressing a spill.

Example of a wet transformer

Dry vs Wet Transformer: Identifying Which Transformer Has Oil

For large commercial and industrial facilities, wet transformers are typically the type of electric unit used. Wet transformers are more efficient in cooling the coils in the systems, which leads to better overload capacity and a better life expectancy compared to dry transformers. So, how do you identify a wet transformer from a dry transformer? There are multiple ways to identify the difference between the two: facilities can either find a nameplate or manufacturer’s specification document that describes the system or, they can simply look at the structural components. In many cases, the transformer units lack the nameplates or documentation required to identify the model, so it is much easier and more convenient to evaluate the structure. When looking at a dry transformer, it will appear to be a square box with no attachments. With a wet transformer, there will be multiple attachments and it will have a main frame with another box welded to it. This additional welded piece is where the oil is stored. On bigger, higher voltage units, the additional attachment may have cooling fins instead of just being a box.

Who is Responsible for Oil-Filled Transformers?

It can be difficult to determine who owns the transformers if there is a lack of paperwork. For ownership determination, the facility should check property management documents, or the facility can call the local utility company. If the facility has an oil-filled transformer on the property, no matter who owns it, the facility has some level of responsibility. Remember, the goal is to prevent oil from reaching state waters and the facility would be the quickest to respond. If it is determined that the utility company owns the transformer, the facility is then granting permission to the utility company to place a transformer on their property. There is no regulation exemption for storing someone’s oil on the property. The owner or operator of a facility should coordinate with the utility company to determine who prevents and cleans up oil spills from the transformer. Although the responsibility will depend on state laws, the owner, or in this case, the utility company, is legally responsible for the transformer and preventing spills. The owner or operator of the facility needs to take into account that if a spill was to occur, the oil spilled could negatively impact the property and lead to further issues if the spilled material reaches navigable waters or leaches into the ground.

In situations where the amount of oil located at the facility is over the 1,320-gallon threshold, requiring an SPCC Plan can be tricky. According to the EPA’s SPCC Guidance for Regional Inspectors,

If a facility is regulated under the SPCC rule, it is the responsibility of the facility owner and operator to ensure that an SPCC Plan is prepared. A site may have multiple owners and/or operators, and therefore can have several facilities. Factors to consider in determining which owner or operator should prepare the Plan include who has control over day-to-day operations of the facility or particular containers and equipment, who trains the employee(s) involved in oil handling activities, who will conduct the required inspections and tests, and who will be responsible for responding to and cleaning up any discharge of oil. EPA expects that the owners and operators will cooperate to prepare one or more Plans, as appropriate. 

The key takeaway is that the EPA acknowledges that there may be multiple owners and/or operators in a facility. With the case of transformers, granting permission to have a utility-owned transformer onsite is identifying both the facility and the utility company as owners/operators, therefore both are responsible for the transformer. It is important to note that even though the facility may have some responsibility for the transformer, the facility is not required to include the utility-owned transformer unit in the facility’s SPCC Plan if they have one.

When to Include Transformers in a SPCC Plan

A facility is required to implement a SPCC plan if the facility stores more than 1,320-gallons of oil in containers greater than 55-gallons. If there is a transformer on-site and it is owned by the facility, the transformer must be included in the SPCC plan. There is a high probability that the transformer stores more than 55-gallons of oil, thus making it applicable under the SPCC rule. It can be challenging to determine the capacity of oil as transformers do not typically have the capacity written on the unit. If a facility lacks documentation of the unit and the unit does not have a nameplate, most likely there is a KVA rating stenciled on it. The KVA rating can be converted to gallons and although the conversion is not the most accurate, it can give the facility an idea of how much oil may be inside. If there is no stenciled KVA rating, the facility can measure the container attached to the main frame. This will give the facility a general idea of its capacity – without accurate numbers, the facility should overestimate rather than underestimate the capacity. If the transformer is owned by the local utility company, the facility should call and request the size capacity as the utility company will have a more accurate number.

Although facilities are not required to include utility-owned transformers in their SPCC plan, the utility company should be contacted to determine if there is already a spill plan in place. Often the utility companies do not have a spill plan in place and therefore, it is highly recommended to include the transformer in the facility’s SPCC plan. Since the owner/operator has some level of responsibility for a spill from the transformer, having the transformer incorporated into the plan shows that the facility actively participates in spill prevention. If a spill were to occur, the facility is going to have the quickest response in preventing the oil from reaching navigable waters.

If the facility does not have a SPCC plan in place and the transformer is owned by the utility company, the transformer should not be the determining factor to establish an unnecessary plan. For example, if a facility has 1,000 gallons of oil on-site and there is a 500-gallon transformer, the total oil capacity is now over the SPCC rule threshold of 1,320-gallons. Since the 500-gallon transformer is not legally their property, the facility would not be required to develop a SPCC plan. Even though the facility itself is technically under the 1,320-gallon threshold, it should still have some type of procedure in place to address a spill if it were to happen.

To summarize, transformers can be complicated when determining ownership responsibility, but ultimately, the goal for each owner and operator is to prevent oil spills from reaching navigable waters and groundwater.

 

Ozone Nonattainment: Impact to Air Permitting

Under the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment. Any city or county that does not meet a NAAQS is classified as a nonattainment area.

Ozone is one of the six criteria pollutants with NAAQS and is formed when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in the atmosphere in the presence of sunlight. The EPA set the 2008 ozone standard to 75 parts per billion (ppb) and required all areas of the country to meet this monitored concentration by July 20, 2018. Those areas that were not able to demonstrate compliance with this standard have now been classified as ozone nonattainment areas.

Moderate to Serious Nonattainment

The eight areas listed below were previously classified as Moderate nonattainment and failed to meet the 2008 ozone NAAQS by the attainment date. Therefore, they are now reclassified as Serious nonattainment. Each state has until July 20, 2021, to demonstrate that they have met the standard by implementing state permitting and emission control programs.

  1. Chicago-Naperville, IL-IN-WI;
  2. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX;
  3. Greater Connecticut, CT;
  4. Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, TX;
  5. Nevada County (Western part), CA;
  6. New York-N. New Jersey-Long Island, CT-NY-NJ;
  7. San Diego County, CA; and
  8. Denver Metro/North Front Range, CO.

Additional areas of the country were already classified as Serious or Severe and are operating under specific state programs. The following EPA map identifies the areas currently classified as ozone nonattainment.

Figure 1: Current 2008 Nonattainment Classification. Source: EPA Green Book

 

Impact to Air Permitting

The nonattainment classification has a direct impact on state air permitting programs and compliance for each individual facility in the noted areas.  Under the Clean Air Act, a Moderate nonattainment classification has a major source Title V permitting threshold of 100 tons per year for NOx and VOC; however, a Serious nonattainment classification reduces this threshold to 50 tons per year. Any facility in a Serious nonattainment area with VOC or NOx potential emissions greater than 50 tons per year will either be required to obtain a Federal Title V permit or request limits within a permit to avoid a major source classification.

Chicago, Illinois Area Example

Using the Chicago area as an example, any facility within the classified Serious nonattainment area with potential NOx or VOC emissions greater than 50 tons per year must submit an application to the Illinois EPA for a Title V permit or for a Federally Enforceable State Operating Permit (FESOP) by September 23, 2020.

If a facility has an existing FESOP, an application may be required to further limit the facility emission to less than 50 tons per year. A facility that currently has a Lifetime Operating Permit, a Registration of Smaller Sources (ROSS), or has been deemed exempt from permitting, must review and verify that unlimited potential NOx and VOC emissions remain below the 50 tons per year threshold, or a FESOP must be obtained.

Summary

Each state permitting program will set deadlines for obtaining the appropriate permit for each of the nonattainment areas impacted. A facility with the potential to emit regulated emissions must determine if NOx and VOC emissions exceed the 50 tons per year threshold or any other threshold set in the state permitting program. If required, an application must be filed with the state permitting board to obtain the required permit.

Hearing Conservation in the Workplace

The goal of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) hearing conservation standard (29 CFR 1910.95) is to protect the approximate 22 million workers that are exposed to hazardous levels of noise each year. Through the hearing conservation standard, employers are required to evaluate workplaces for employee exposures resulting in a personal time-weighted average (TWA) equal to or greater than 85 decibels (dBA). Results at or above this noise action level require the employer to develop a written Hearing Conservation Program, provide employees with protective devices, provide annual training, and conduct annual hearing tests to monitor hearing levels. Employees who experience a work-related hearing shift are required to be recorded on the facility’s OSHA 300 log.

Who is required to have a Hearing Conservation Program?

The first step in complying with the hearing conservation standard is to complete an evaluation of the facility noise levels. This assessment should be completed by taking personal time-weighted average (TWA) samples throughout the facility, even in areas that may not appear to be particularly noisy. Noise sampling should be completed every three to five years, or at any time there is a change in facility processes or equipment.

The hearing conservation standard sets two action levels: 85 dBA and 90dBA. Employees working in areas of exposure between 85-89dBA shall be provided hearing protectors, receive annual audiograms, and receive annual training. Employees exposed to TWAs of 90dBA or above shall also be required to wear hearing protectors, receive annual audiograms, and receive annual training. The main difference between the two action levels within the hearing conservation standard is that employees working within the range of 85-89dBA may choose whether or not to wear hearing protection, while employees working within ranges of 90dBA or greater must wear hearing protection. It is important to note that while employees exposed to less than 90dBA may choose not to wear hearing protectors, any hearing loss would still qualify as a recordable injury.

Hearing Conservation Program Requirements

  • When employees are exposed to noise levels at an 8-hour TWA of 85dBA or more, the employer must implement an audiometric testing program. This program must be provided at no cost to the employee and must consist of a baseline audiometric test and an annual audiometric test.
      • The baseline audiometric test must be completed within the first six months after the employees’ exposure to hazardous noise levels.
        • If a mobile van will be used to conduct the audiometric test, then the baseline test must be obtained within one year from the employees’ exposure to hazardous noise levels.
      • Audiometric testing must be completed annually after the baseline test. The results of the annual test are compared to the result of the baseline test to determine if the employee has experienced a standard threshold shift (STS).
  • A STS is a change in the hearing threshold of an average of 10 decibels or more at 2000, 3000, and 4000 hertz in one or both ears.
  • If an STS is identified, the employer has 30 days to retest the employee to determine if the STS was valid. If there is a confirmed STS, the employer must notify the employee of the finding in writing within 21 days.
  • After experiencing an STS, an employee is required to wear hearing protectors. Training, or retraining, must also be completed.
  • Employees exposed to hazardous levels of noise must be provided hearing protection and replacements at no cost. The employer is required to provide multiple suitable options of hearing protectors including one type of earplug and one type of earmuff. It would be preferable to include more options for employees to ensure comfort, proper fit, and usage.
  • Hearing protectors are required to decrease the employee noise exposure to at least an 8-hour time-weighted average of 90dBA. The noise reduction ratio (NRR) is the unit of measure to determine the effectiveness of hearing protectors. The higher the NRR, the higher potential for noise reduction. It is important to know that the NRR does not represent a direct reduction in decibels. To determine the noise reduction capability of a specific hearing protector, you must take the NRR in decibels, subtract seven, and then divide by two.
    • Ex. If you are exposed to noise levels of 95dba and are wearing hearing protectors with an NRR of 31, then you would be exposed to noise levels of 83dBA.

(31-7)/2=12

95-12=83dBA

  • Each employee exposed to hazardous noise levels must participate in an annual training program. The training must include:
    • The effects of noise on hearing
    • The purpose of hearing protection
  • Advantages and disadvantages of hearing protection
  • Attenuation of different types of hearing protection
  • Instructions on the selection, fit, use, and care of hearing protection
    • The purpose of audiometric testing and a description of testing procedures

In short, hazardous levels of noise in the workplace can create lasting, long-term injuries for employees. Ongoing noise monitoring and the subsequent actions required to reduce potentially harmful levels of noise through administrative and engineering controls, provision of proper PPE, and noise hazard employee training are an important part of any facility health and safety plan.

 

Interim Guidelines – Safe Mask Usage During COVID-19

Companies With a Pre-Existing Mandatory N95 FFR Respiratory Protection Program:

Because of the increased demand for N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) during the COVID-19 outbreak, and the resulting limitations on the availability of these respirators for use, OSHA has provided temporary compliance direction with 29 CFR 1910.134 (as it relates to mask selection and the associated requirements). First, if your company already has a mandatory respiratory protection program that requires N95 FFRs to be worn for protection against air contaminant exposure beyond OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs), then due to their limited supply, you should continue to try and secure those masks before moving on to alternatives.

In short, companies that have a pre-existing mandatory N95 FFR respiratory protection program should follow the revised OSHA enforcement guidelines when selecting alternative respirators (in order of priority):

  • Companies may consider the use of alternative classes of respirators that provide equal or greater protection compared to an N95 FFR, such as NIOSH-approved, non-disposable, elastomeric respirators or powered, air-purifying respirators (PAPRs). Other filtering facepiece respirators, such as N99, N100, R95, R99, R100, P95, P99, and P100, are also permissible alternatives for those who are unable to obtain N95 FFRs.
  • Implementing the hierarchy of controls in an effort to first eliminate workplace hazards, then use engineering controls, administrative controls, and safe work practices to prevent worker exposures to respiratory hazards.
  • Prioritizing efforts to acquire and use equipment (in the following order):
    • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-certified equipment; then
    • Equipment certified in accordance with standards of other countries or jurisdictions except the People’s Republic of China, unless equipment certified in accordance with standards of the People’s Republic of China is manufactured by a NIOSH certificate holder, in accordance with OSHA’s April 3, 2020, memo; then
    • Equipment certified in accordance with standards of the People’s Republic of China, the manufacturer of which is not a NIOSH certificate holder, in accordance with OSHA’s April 3, 2020, memo; then
    • Facemasks (e.g., medical masks, procedure masks).
  • Prioritizing efforts to acquire and use equipment that has not exceeded its manufacturer’s recommended shelf life.
  • Prioritizing efforts to use equipment that has not exceeded its intended service life (e.g., disposable FFRs used for the first time).
  • Using homemade masks or improvised mouth and nose covers only, as a last resort (i.e., when no respirators or facemasks are available). Improvised masks are not personal protective equipment and, ideally, should be used with a face shield to cover the front and sides of the face.

Note: NIOSH-approved FFRs that employers require in the workplace should incorporate a full respiratory protection program, including medical evaluations for wearers, fit-testing, proper maintenance/care of respirators, and training. During the COVID-19 outbreak, OSHA field offices will exercise enforcement discretion concerning the annual fit-testing requirements due to potential shortages of fit-testing kits and test solutions (e.g., Bitrex, isoamyl acetate), as long as companies have made good-faith efforts to comply with the requirements of the Respiratory Protection standard and to follow the guidelines outlined in this document.

Safety Guidelines for Extended Use or Reuse of FFRs (N95s)

OSHA has advised that N95 FFRs that are beyond their manufacturer’s recommended shelf life will provide greater protection than surgical masks (i.e., facemasks other than surgical N95s; see below) or non-NIOSH-approved masks (e.g., homemade masks or improvised mouth and nose covers, such as bandanas).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) believe the following products, despite being past their manufacturer-designated shelf life, should provide the expected level of protection to the user if the stockpile conditions have generally been in accordance with the manufacturer-recommended storage conditions and an OSHA-compliant respiratory protection program is used by employers. In alphabetical order, these models include the following:

  • 3M 1855
  • 3M 1860
  • 3M 1870
  • 3M 8210
  • 3M 9010
  • 3M 8000
  • Gerson 1730
  • Medline/Alpha Protech NON27501
  • Moldex 1512
  • Moldex 2201

In the event that the extended use or reuse of N95 FFRs becomes necessary, the same worker is permitted to extend the use of or reuse the respirator, as long as the respirator maintains its structural and functional integrity and the filter material is not physically damaged, soiled, or contaminated (e.g., with potentially infectious material, oil, paint). Companies need to address the circumstances under which a disposable respirator will be considered contaminated and not available for extended use or reuse in their written Respiratory Protection Programs. Extended use is preferred over reuse due to the contact transmission risk associated with donning/doffing during reuse. When respirators are being reused, employees must understand the following:

  • The respirator must only be used and reused by a single wearer.
  • Be aware of your personal health considerations prior to wearing a respirator.
  • Users should perform a user seal check each time they don a respirator and should not use a respirator on which they cannot perform a successful user seal check.
  • Employees must understand that if the structural and functional integrity of any part of the respirator is compromised, it should be discarded. Over time, components such as the straps, nose bridge, and nose foam material may degrade, which can affect the quality of the fit and seal.
  • If reuse of respirators is necessary, an appropriate sequence for donning/doffing procedures should be used to prevent contamination.
    • Consider the front of a mask/respirator as contaminated – avoid touching it.
    • If your hands get contaminated during mask/respirator removal, immediately wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Grasp bottom ties or elastics of the mask respirator, then the ones at the top, and remove without touching the front.
    • Discard in a waste container.
    • Immediately wash your hands after removing the mask/respirator.

Source: CDC’s PPE Sequence 

Safety Guidelines for Use of Expired FFRs (N95s)

N95 FFRs may be used beyond the manufacturer’s recommended shelf life if new N95s are not available. When expired respirators are being reused, employees must understand the following:

  • The respirator must only be used by a single wearer.
  • Be aware of your personal health considerations prior to wearing a respirator.
  • Use only previously NIOSH-certified expired N95 FFRs and be sure that employees understand that they are using expired N95s.
  • Purchasers and users of respirators should not co-mingle products that are past their manufacturer’s recommended shelf life with items that are within their shelf life.
  • Employees must understand that if the structural and functional integrity of any part of the respirator is compromised, it should be discarded.   

Companies Without a Pre-Existing Mandatory N95 FFR Respiratory Protection Program:

Companies without a mandatory use respiratory protection program have some options. These are typically companies that have current industrial hygiene testing data available that demonstrates that workplace air contaminant exposure levels do not exceed OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) and/or may have historically provided N95 FFRs for use on a strictly voluntary basis. During the current COVID-19 outbreak, certain states may also require that workplace employees wear a mask or face covering when they either cannot or, it is impractical to maintain 6 feet of physical distance between themselves and others.

  • NIOSH-approved N95 FFRs would be the best option for voluntary use, if they are available, as these are considered respirators that reduce the wearer’s exposure to airborne particles, from small particle aerosols to large droplets. N95 respirators are tight-fitting respirators that filter out at least 95% of particles in the air, including large and small particles.

Note: NIOSH-approved N95 FFRs do not require a full respiratory protection program if they are strictly for voluntary use. In this case, the primary requirement for companies is to provide a copy of Appendix D to 29 CFR 1910.134 for the wearers. Keep in mind that mandatory use of N95 FFRs would require several additional elements such as a written program, medical evaluation, training, and fit testing.

  • Surgical facemasks are another option if N95 FFRs are not available. However, unlike NIOSH-approved N95s, facemasks are technically not considered respirators. Facemasks are loose-fitting and provide only barrier protection against droplets, including large respiratory particles. Fit testing and user seal checks are not necessary with facemasks. Most facemasks do not effectively filter small particles from the air and do not prevent leakage around the edge of the mask when the user inhales. Nonetheless, they are an option during the COVID-19 outbreak due to the current shortage of N95 respirators.
  • Where surgical facemasks are not available, companies may permit the use of cloth masks (these are available through select companies) or homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) as a last resort. However, homemade masks are not considered PPE, since their capability for protection is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option.

General Safe Guidelines for Use/Reuse of Facemasks, Cloth or Homemade Masks

  • Must only be used and reused by a single wearer.
  • Be aware of your personal health considerations prior to wearing a mask.
  • Visually inspect the mask before use to ensure it remains in good shape. Masks should be removed and discarded if soiled, damaged, or if they are hard to breathe through.
  • Not all facemasks can be reused:
    • Facemasks that fasten to the provider via ties may not be able to be undone without tearing and should be considered only for extended use, rather than reuse.
    • Facemasks with elastic ear hooks may be more suitable for reuse.
  • Facemasks should be carefully folded so that the outer surface is held inward and against itself to reduce contact with the outer surface during storage. The folded mask can be stored between uses in a clean, sealable paper bag or breathable container. Masks should not be stored in pockets, plastic bags, or other confined areas.
  • To avoid contamination, avoid touching the insides of masks as well as the exterior of the masks upon removal
  • Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth when removing their face covering and wash hands immediately after removing.
  • Cloth masks or face coverings should be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to their shape.
  • Perform hand hygiene with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after touching a used mask.
  • Masks should be packed or stored so that the respirators do not become damaged or deformed.
  • Discard a mask if contaminated with blood, respiratory or nasal secretions, or other bodily fluids.
  • If homemade masks must be used as a last resort in a health care setting, they should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (extending to the chin or below) and sides of the face.
  • It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6 feet of social distance and vigilant handwashing remains important to slow the spread of the virus.

Training Requirements for N95 FFRs, Facemasks, Cloth or Homemade Masks

Employees must receive some level of training concerning the type of respirator or mask they will be wearing.

  • Companies must provide a copy of Appendix D to 29 CFR 1910.134 for wearers of NIOSH-approved N95 FFRs that are voluntarily worn.
  • NIOSH-approved N95 FFRs or other types of respirators that companies require their employees to wear require a full respiratory protection program – including the training component:
    • Why the respirator is necessary
    • Purpose of the medical evaluation
    • How to recognize health-related signs and symptoms during use
    • Limitations and capabilities of the respirators
    • How to use respirators effectively
    • How to inspect the respirator and protocol for replacement
    • The process for completing an assessment of comfort
    • How to put on and remove
    • How improper fit, usage, or maintenance can compromise the protective effect of the respirator
    • How to perform a user seal check each time the respirator is put on
    • Maintenance and storage procedures
    • Fit testing requirements

In addition, the following training topics should be included for any employees that are provided with FFRs, face coverings or cloth/homemade masks:

    • The types of masks available and the reason(s) they are provided or required
    • How to properly put on a mask or respirator and perform a seal check (if tight-fitting respirator):

Source: CDC’s PPE Sequence

  • Secure ties or elastic bands at the middle of head and neck
  • Fit flexible band to the nose bridge
  • Fit snug to face and below the chin
  • Fit check respirator (inhale – respirator should collapse around the face; exhale – check for leakage around the face)
    • Storage parameters and the importance of not co-mingling masks and respirators
    • Safe guidelines for extended use or reuse of N95s
    • Safe guidelines for use of expired N95 FFRs
    • General safe guidelines for use/reuse of facemasks, cloth, or homemade masks
    • Using homemade masks or improvised mouth and nose covers are used strictly as a last resort (i.e., when no respirators or facemasks are available). Improvised masks are not personal protective equipment and, ideally, should be used with a face shield to cover the front and sides of the face.

Temporary/Contingent Worker Safety

The staffing, recruiting, and workforce solutions industry makes a vital contribution to the U.S. economy every year. It provides outstanding job and career opportunities for approximately 16 million employees annually. In 2013, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched its Temporary Worker Initiative (TWI) focused on compliance with health and safety requirements for workers that are employed under the joint or dual employment of a staffing firm and host employer. According to OSHA, both host employers and staffing firms have roles in complying with workplace health and safety requirements and share a responsibility for ensuring worker protection and care.

Through the years, OSHA has responded to complaints and concerns that have resulted in the introduction of the TWI. Some of the key factors behind the new initiative were:

  • A lack of guidance on training responsibility and compliance obligations for temporary workers
  • Temporary workers being placed in a variety of jobs, including some of the most hazardous positions
  • Temporary workers being more vulnerable to workplace safety and health hazards than workers in traditional employment relationships
  • Temporary workers often being given inadequate health and safety training or explanations of their duties by either the temporary staffing agency or the host employer

The key message of the TWI is that staffing agencies and host employers are jointly responsible for maintaining a safe work environment for temporary workers. This means that both the staffing agency and host employer are responsible for fulfilling their obligations with OSHA-required recordkeeping and training requirements. If they do not, both the staffing agency and the host employer can be cited. Staffing agencies provide general health and safety training, but it frequently lacks information required by OSHA standards, such as task-specific hazards and control measures. The host employer must provide training that is tailored to the particular job and workplace or environment.

When determining which entity should provide the required training, OSHA specifies that “the party in the best position to control the means and manner of work has an obligation to protect the worker performing it.” This highlights the importance of identifying which entity is making decisions about the work and who is supervising it. These factors should be discussed prior to work commencing and should ideally be contractually outlined in staffing agencies’ contracts or terms of agreements.

Communication and Collaboration

Communication is imperative to ensure that the host employer and agency are providing a unified effort for the ultimate protection of the worker. Some key points host employers should consider:

  • Staffing agencies have a duty to inquire into the worksite safety conditions of their assigned workers.
  • Staffing agencies do not need to become experts on specific workplace hazards, but they should determine what conditions exist at the client’s worksite, what hazards may be encountered, and how best to ensure protection for the temporary workers who will be placed there.
  • The staffing agency has the duty to inquire and verify that the host employer has fulfilled its responsibilities for a safe workplace.
  • Most importantly, host employers must treat temporary workers like any other workers in terms of training, safety, and health protections. They cannot be given a quick or modified version of training if they are performing the same function/role as a host employer’s employee.

Qualified Candidates

One of the most critical components in ensuring temporary worker safety lies in the worker selection process. Host employers need to find workers who are dependable, reliable, capable of doing the required job, and not impaired or impeded from performing the required tasks. Worker selection criteria pertains to using all legally available methods to screen candidates and match them to jobs that they are capable of performing. The host employer should provide a detailed job description to the staffing agency so they can best source the appropriate candidate(s) for the task at hand.

An effective way for host employers to ensure this happens is to verify that their selected staffing agency has a written candidate screening policy and follows these established processes. Auditing staffing agencies ensures that they are following their own policies. A staffing agency that uses a methodical safety approach is one that collects information from or about candidates during the application process or post-conditional job offer (CJO) for purposes of candidate evaluation.

Prevent the Injury

When a staffing firm does not conduct due diligence in matching the physical demands and skills required for the job to a worker’s capabilities, it can lead to increased temporary worker injuries and higher workers’ compensation costs. Some of this can be handled in the screening process or can be discovered through additional medical screening, where permitted by law.

Here are a couple of best practices for host employers before onboarding temporary workers:

  • Ensure that the candidate(s) have been fully informed about the physical demands and essential job functions of each assignment.
  • Ensure there is a system in place for the worker to verify that what they were hired to do (staffing agency job description) matches the work actually being performed at the host employer’s site.

The table below clearly shows that the Injury-Risk Ratio (IRR) for temporary workers is considerably higher when compared to non-temporary workers. This ratio is particularly high for temporary workers in higher-risk industries than their non-temporary counterparts:

 

This table identifies an even higher risk ratio when specific injury types are taken into consideration from temporary to non-temporary employees:

Change in Worker Duties

It is not uncommon for temporary workers to be hired for one type of work and, then at the last minute, the host employer changes the requirements of the position and assignment. The main issue with a host employer changing work duties, equipment, and worksites is that training may have only been provided for the originally assigned job. Any time the host employer changes any of these conditions, additional training must be provided by the host employer. This would include a job transfer, working at a different worksite, operating a new piece of machinery or equipment, or the use of different Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

In short, remember that temporary/contingent labor is no different than a full-time overhead employee at a host employer’s site. They simply receive a paycheck that comes from a different source. Communication between the host employer and the staffing agency remains one of the most crucial elements for a safe and successful co-employment relationship. Both the host employer and the staffing agency should adopt the mindset of safety never being “good enough.” This will spur activities that will continually focus on the betterment of policies, practices, and business decisions while supporting both temporary workers and company personnel safety. It is this momentum to continuously improve that will set the staffing firm and the host employer apart from the competition.

PFAS – An Addition to TRI

Basic Information

PFAS are man-made, manufactured chemicals that are used in many industries around the world for a variety of consumer products (non-stick cookware, Teflon, dental floss, water-resistant clothing, paints, and many other commercial household products). Some of the more common PFAS chemicals include PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid), PFOS (Perfluorooctane Sulfonate), and GenX. PFOA and PFOS have been studied and manufactured the most in comparison to the rest of PFAS. These two chemicals can be found in the environment and within the human body because they do not break down but instead accumulate, resulting in adverse health effects on people (cancer, low infant birth weights, thyroid hormone disruption, increased cholesterol levels and overall negative effects on the immune system). The other common or well-known PFAS chemical, GenX, is used to make high-performance fluoropolymers (non-stick coatings) and is often found in surface and groundwater, drinking water, rainwater, and in air emissions. The EPA states that PFOS and PFOA are no longer being used in today’s industry as they have been “voluntarily phased out,” whereas GenX is still widely used in today’s economy.

Exposure

Though PFOA and PFOS have been phased out of the industry, these chemicals do not break down over time and are still found in the environment. With PFAS being used in food packaging and production facilities, the chemical can easily enter the human body if it hasn’t already through drinking water or through other consumption methods where PFAS is commonly found. According to David Andrews, Senior Scientist from EWG, it is estimated that more than 1,500 drinking water systems in the United States are contaminated with these chemicals, while additional tests show that 28% of water utilities around the nation contained PFAS chemicals at concentrations at or above 5 ppt. When the analysis was bumped down to 2.5 ppt, the percentage of samples that displayed PFAS contamination doubled, suggesting that up to 110 million Americans could have PFAS in their water.

More recently, EWG decided to conduct an additional study between May and December of 2019. In this study, they tested 44 areas around the United States and found only one location to not contain PFAS chemicals. There were 34 areas where EWG received water samples containing PFAS that the EPA had not reported publicly. Since PFAS was not being regulated, facilities or utility companies that tested independently did not have to report to the EPA or go public with their results. Below, Figure 1 displays the locations that PFAS was found in drinking water in the local Twin Cities area, and Figure 2 displays PFAS contamination locations for the entirety of the United States. Both images were gathered from EWG’s PFAS study and are current as of March 2020.

 

Figure 1: PFAS Contamination Locations in the Twin Cities Area

 

Figure 2: PFAS Contamination Locations in the United States

EPA TRI Regulation Information

With the recent and concerning information regarding PFAS and their adverse health effects, as well as their growing accumulation in the environment, the NDAA has added PFAS chemicals to the EPCRA Section 313 list of reportable toxic chemicals as of January 1, 2020. The NDAA identified 14 PFAS chemicals by name and/or CASRN (Chemical Abstract Service Registry Number) and recognized additional PFAS based on additional criteria.

The first criteria point is that the PFAS chemical must be listed as an active chemical in the TSCA Inventory Section 8 (b). Section 8 (b) of TSCA is a record or list of chemicals that are manufactured or processed in the United States. Manufacturing is defined as “the facility [producing] the chemical for distribution or to be used for another on-site process.” Processing is defined as “distributing a chemical into commerce either as a reactant in the manufacturing of another substance or through the chemical being added as a formulation component to a product which is then distributed into commerce.”

If the chemical is listed on the TSCA list of chemicals and the chemical was found listed in the four tables found in section 721.9582 of Title 40, then the chemical is counted as reportable by the NDAA. For example, if the chemical is included on the TSCA list of chemicals and the chemical is manufactured or processed for use as part of carpets or to treat carpets, then it would also be considered reportable. A carpet is defined as “a finished fabric or similar product intended to be used as a floor covering. This definition excludes resilient floor coverings such as linoleum and vinyl tile.” Details, including exemptions for chemicals found in the tables of Section 721.9582 and information on whether or not a chemical is manufactured or processed for use relating to carpets in Section 721.10536, are listed in the Title 40 PDF linked above.

With the considerations described above, 170 PFAS chemicals were identified. Furthermore, the NDAA specified 14 additional PFAS to add to the TRI list. Twelve of these 14 chemicals were among the 170 chemicals described above. With the addition of the other two, there are a total of 172 PFAS chemicals subject to the NDAA.

The NDAA requires that PFAS subject to a claim of protection from disclosure must be reviewed by an administrator. The administrator must review any claim of protection from disclosure and must reassert and substantiate that claim in accordance with Section 14(f) of the Toxic Substances Control Act. If the administrator determines that the chemical identity of a PFAS substance qualifies for protection from disclosure, the administrator will include the substance on the Toxics Release Inventory in a way that does not disclose any protected information.

Until the EPA completes this process, PFAS chemicals that are subject to a claim of protection will not be added to the EPCRA Section 313 toxic chemical list. As mentioned previously, when PFAS were not regulated, utilities were not reporting to the EPA and not sharing their PFAS test results and data. Now, with the addition of PFAS to the TRI list of chemicals, it is no longer acceptable to not disclose PFAS information and any data collected from an independent study. Facilities are now required to report and make the data available and accessible to the public.

Reports for PFAS chemicals will be due to the EPA by July 1, 2021, for reporting year 2020 data; this further requires that TRI-covered industry sector facilities start collecting and tracking PFAS chemical data during 2020. To track the use of PFAS chemicals, the use of GHS-compliant Safety Data Sheets will be paramount. Chemical manufacturing facilities are now regulated to supply SDSs that have all sections and information required by the new GHS regulation. The complete list of regulated PFAS chemicals can be found on the EPA’s website. PFAS chemicals will have a 100-pound reporting threshold for all manufacturing, processing and otherwise use of the chemical. Regarding TRI reporting requirements, all requirements also apply to PFAS, including TRI exemptions.

EPA Enforcement

If a facility does not report by July 1 or if they are found to be non-compliant, it is possible that the EPA may issue fines upwards of $57,317. The most recent non-compliant fine was in November of 2019 where a manufacturing facility in Connecticut was fined $75,000 for failing to file their 2019 TRI report. As we discuss the additions of PFAS chemicals to the 2021 TRI reports, it is imperative that we are reminded of the importance of facilities being correctly evaluated and that chemical usage and storage are not overlooked when it comes to assessing for TRI reporting.

Sources

“Addition of Certain PFAS to the TRI by the National Defense Authorization Act.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 4 Mar. 2020, www.epa.gov/toxics-release-inventory-tri-program/addition-certain-pfas-tri-national-defense-authorization-act.Andrews, David. “Up to 110 Million Americans Could Have PFAS-Contaminated Drinking Water, EPA Testing Data Kept Secret.” EWG, 22 May 2018, www.ewg.org/research/report-110-million-americans-could-have-pfas-contaminated-drinking-water#.W4lUuq3MxsM.

“Basic Information on PFAS.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 6 Dec. 2018, www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas.

“The Devil We Know.” Get the Facts – The Devil We Know, thedevilweknow.com/get-the-facts/.

Evans, Sydney, et al. “PFAS Contamination of Drinking Water Far More Prevalent Than Previously Reported.” EWG, 22 Jan. 2020, www.ewg.org/research/national-pfas-testing/.

“Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 13 Feb. 2019, www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/drinking-water-health-advisories-pfoa-and-pfos.

“Environmental Protection Agency Toxic Release Inventory Reporting Requirements.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, www3.epa.gov/enviro/triexplorer/triexplorertutorial/content/demo_transcript.htm#sectionIII.

“About the TSCA Chemical Substance Inventory.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 24 Sept. 2019, www.epa.gov/tsca-inventory/about-tsca-chemical-substance-inventory.

“Enforcement Policy, Guidance & Publications.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 20 Jan. 2020, www.epa.gov/enforcement/enforcement-policy-guidance-publications.

“EPA Settlement with Connecticut Electric Cable Facility Resolves Alleged Chemical Reporting Violations.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 20 Nov. 2019, www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-settlement-connecticut-electric-cable-facility-resolves-alleged-chemical-reporting.

Stormwater Sample Collection and Logistics

Industrial facilities with stormwater permit coverage typically must conduct periodic stormwater sampling during a rain event. The most common type of stormwater permit for industrial activities is a Multi-Sector General Stormwater Permit (MSGP). The stormwater sampling parameters and frequency are often state-specific and dependent on the type of industrial activity occurring onsite. State MSGPs require stormwater sampling to determine the water quality of the stormwater leaving the site and reflect the effectiveness of best management practices (BMPs). These BMPs are requirements mandated by the EPA to prevent stormwater pollution in the final body of water receiving the site’s stormwater runoff.

Sampling Collection and Location

A stormwater sample must be collected during a qualifying storm event (QSE). According to the EPA (40 CFR 122.21), a QSE is a rainfall event with greater than 0.1 inches of rainfall that takes place at least 72 hours from the previous measurable rain event. QSE classifications can be state-specific but are often classified using 40 CFR 122.21.

Stormwater samples are most commonly collected at points where rainwater leaves the facility’s property. These points are called outfalls (discharge locations) and collect stormwater from a drainage area, which is comprised of outdoor industrial activity and/or material. Common outfalls include ditches, swales adjacent to roadways, storm drains, culverts, retention ponds, and sometimes erosion patterns leading offsite. If a sampling location isn’t safe to sample from or isn’t reachable, an alternate location upstream or downstream may be warranted. In some cases, sampling locations are simply a location where sheet flow exits the property.

At a facility, samples should be collected from all outfalls that receive runoff from an industrial drainage area. If two outfalls have similar industrial activity occurring within their drainage area, they can often be classified as substantially similar or identical. If two outfalls are substantially similar, sampling only needs to occur at one of them.

Sampling Parameters and Frequency

Sampling parameters depend on a facility’s Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code (i.e. the type of industrial activity occurring onsite), state-specific benchmark limits, and the receipt of water impairment. All these details should be reviewed to determine sampling applicability:

  • SIC Code – A facility’s SIC code is often used to determine benchmark limits. General stormwater permits will typically assign subsectors (e.g. Chemical Manufacturing, Metals Manufacturing, etc.) to facilities based on their SIC code. From these subsectors, further benchmark limits can be established. Certain subsectors may not require sampling.
  • Benchmark Limits – These are derived from the state-specific or federal MSGP requirements, which are either applicable to all facilities with coverage or are SIC code-specific.
  • Impaired Water Requirements – Facilities that discharge to an impaired water body typically will have more stringent sampling requirements if they have the potential to discharge a pollutant in which the water is impaired by. If the impaired water has a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), the facility is often required to follow the associated BMPs and quantifiable discharge limits.

Sample collection frequency is dependent on the state’s stormwater permit requirements; frequency typically ranges between annual and quarterly. Commonly sampled analytes include Total Suspended Solids (TSS), pH, oil and grease, and metals (zinc, copper, iron, etc.). In lieu of analytical sampling, some states implement visual monitoring of stormwater for pollutants. Visual monitoring may take place for clarity, floatable solids, foam, and oil sheens.

Common Pitfalls and Solutions

Collecting a stormwater sample from a QSE in a timely and sufficient manner is a consistent challenge that facilities face. Sampling logistics, procedures, and timing can be overwhelming. Common pitfalls facilities face when attempting to collect a stormwater sample include:

  1. Missed Sampling Opportunity – Facilities often miss a sampling opportunity due to oversight or trained sampling personnel not being available. To mitigate missed sampling opportunities, ensure a sampling kit is onsite at the beginning of the monitoring period. Plan ahead, review weather forecasts and mark dates on the calendar as reminders to sample in case of rain. Additionally, facilities should consider assigning a second employee with sampling responsibilities in case the designated sample collector is unavailable.
  2. Sample Outside Shipping Temperature – Sampling kits received by analytical labs that are not within the temperature limits (0-6°C or 32-43°F) will be unrepresentative, and a recommendation to resample will be issued. To mitigate temperature non-conformance, the sampling kit should be packed so it is at least 1/3 full of ice. Once collected, samples should be pre-chilled in an ice bath prior to shipping. This reduces ice melting in transit. To further prevent ice melt, only natural ice should be used and it should be bagged to prevent water from leaking in the cooler. The cooler should be lined with a garbage bag to prevent further leaking in transit.
  3. Sample Outside Holding Time – Each sample bottle in the kit will be parameter-specific and have designated holding time requirements. Holding time is the amount of time from collection that a sample has until it needs to be analyzed. If a holding time is not met, the samples will become unrepresentative. To meet the holding time, samples should be shipped overnight and should arrive at the lab during operating hours. If your lab is closed on Saturdays, do not ship the samples on a Friday.
  4. Sampling Bottle Breaking in Transit – Improperly packaged sampling bottles have the potential to break or spill during delivery if not adequately packaged. To mitigate bottles breaking or spilling, the glass bottles should be individually bubble wrapped. Bottles should not be stacked or placed on their sides. Additionally, each bottle should be placed in a zip-lock bag. This prevents labels from becoming saturated and peeling off from ice melt. Bubble bags are the ideal packing material. When ready to ship, the sampling kit (cooler) should be taped multiple times with the tape going completely around the cooler.
  5. Improper Sampling Techniques – During the sample collection process, dirt, debris, and other non-stormwater material can contaminate sample bottles. This macroscopic material makes the sample non-representative of what is actually in the runoff. To prevent your stormwater sample from having excess material, use a separate bottle to collect the sample, visually inspect the stormwater for sediment, and, if clean, pour the sample in the sampling kit bottle.
  6. No QSE During Reporting Period – When no rainfall occurs during a reporting period, the covered facility can typically report “No-Flow” instead of submitting their stormwater analytical results. The state department may review local rain gauges to confirm that no QSE had occurred during regular business hours for the facility.
  7. Sheet Flow Collection – Sheet flow is commonly defined as stormwater runoff across a flat paved surface. If there aren’t any ideal outfalls onsite, a facility will have to collect from sheet flow exiting the site. Using sampling kit bottles to collect sheet flow is not feasible, so the stormwater needs to be collected in a different manner before being poured into bottles. For instance, a clean dustpan is a great way to collect sheet flow during heavy rain. For additional techniques, please refer to the instruction video links at the end of the article.

Conclusion 

Every state’s stormwater sampling and monitoring requirements are slightly different. That said, if your facility has MSGP coverage, you may be required to conduct periodic stormwater sampling and/or pollutant monitoring. For determining applicability, review your permit’s benchmark limits, subsector effluent limitations, and receiving water TMDL requirements. In summary, to avoid the pitfalls of stormwater sampling, please use the following recommendations:

  1. Review and understand your permit’s stormwater sampling requirements
  2. Review weather forecasts, plan ahead and designate an alternate sample collector
  3. Ensure sampling kits are packed with as much ice as possible (1/3 of cooler minimum)
  4. Ship samples overnight and make sure they arrive during lab operating days
  5. Use proper packaging techniques when shipping
  6. Try not to “scoop up” sediment when collecting a stormwater sample
  7. If there wasn’t a qualifying storm event, file a “No-Flow” report even though sampling did not occur
  8. Ensure you know where to collect a sample and the procedures involved

Additional Resources

WA Stormwater Sampling Techniques – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jOArnpBZpU

Collecting a Grab Sample (MPCA) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWKdonc9iDw

Collecting a Sheet Flow Sample (MPCA) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmEJUNp44aU

OSHA’s Top 10 for 2019

Introduction

Every year, OSHA publishes a list of the Top 10 Most Cited Violations from the fiscal year across general industry and construction standards. Even with increased attention to health and safety in the workplace, the Top 10 has many constants year after year. Complex standards lead to a direct relationship between the Top 10 Most Cited and the top 10 highest penalties from the year (ranging from $530,592 to $1.792 Million in FY 2019). As was the case in 2018, the 2019 list was split down the middle with five standards for construction and five standards for general industry. Whether you are a large scale operation or a small business, these standards may apply to you.

  1. In the number one spot with 7,014 violations, is the construction industry standard for Fall Protection (1926.501) – the corresponding general industry standard would be 1910.28. Though the citations fall primarily within the construction industry, the general industry standard could also be cited at your facility. Employers are responsible for the following:
    • Assessing their facilities to ensure employees are not exposed to unprotected open-sided floors, leading edges, floor holes or runways
    • Evaluating facility tasks to ensure employees are not exposed to a risk of falling when performing service at an elevation
    • Protecting employees from the risk of falling from surfaces above 48 inches (4 feet) in height through the use of approved guard rails where feasible
    • Incorporating the use of personal fall arrest systems when working at elevated heights outside of an approved railing or guard rail system
    • Training employees on the proper use and care of the personal fall arrest systems used at your facility
    • Inspecting all personal fall arrest systems prior to each use
  1. Second on the list – but first on the minds of many of our general industry partners and clients – is Hazard Communication (1910.1200). One of the older standards, Hazard Communication or HazCom/GHS/Right-to-Know/WHMIS (Canada), is how we communicate chemical and non-chemical hazards to our employees and visitors. As we think about Hazard Communication, we can envision a wagon wheel with spokes touching many other standards, including Personal Protective Equipment and Respiratory Protection. It is easy to see how important hazard communication can be. As a general industry employer, it is the employer’s job to:
    • Inform and train their employees on the hazardous chemicals in their area (1,087 violations)
    • Have a site-specific written program (1,521 violations)
    • Establish a labeling system (352 violations)
    • Ensure that safety data sheets (SDS, formerly MSDS) are accessible (740 violations)
  1. Closely related to the #1 most cited standard, the construction standard that is third on the list is Scaffolding with 2,813 violations. The general industry standard that is most closely related to the Scaffolding standard is the Walking-Working Surfaces Standard. Standard 1910.22 requires that the employer:
    • Ensure all places of employment are kept clean, orderly and in a sanitary condition
    • Ensure that walking-working surfaces are maintained free of hazards such as sharp or protruding objects, loose boards, corrosion, leaks, spill, snow, and ice
    • Ensure that walking-working surfaces can support the maximum intended load for that surface
    • Ensure that each means of access and egress to and from all walking-working surfaces are safe
    • Ensure that walking-working surfaces are inspected regularly and as necessary to maintain a safe condition
    • Ensure that hazardous conditions are corrected or repaired before an employee uses the walking-working surface again
    • Ensure that when any correction or repair involves the structural integrity of the walking-working surface, a qualified person performs or supervises the correction or repair
  1. Number four on the OSHA Top 10 of FY 2019 was Lockout/Tagout (1910.147), also known as the Control of Hazardous Energy. As one of the standards with the highest applicability across all of our clients, this standard had 2,606 violations. As an employer, you must do the following:
    • Formalize a Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) program for use when maintaining, cleaning, or adjusting machinery where unexpected equipment activation could cause injury (300 violations)
    • Develop machine-specific procedures (1,063 violations)
    • Complete periodic inspections of authorized employees (500 violations)
    • Provide initial and periodic training to their employees (572 violations)
  1. Dropping one spot from the FY 2017 and FY 2018 list is the Respiratory Protection standard (1910.134). With 2,450 companies failing to meet the requirements of this standard, it is a consistent pillar of the OSHA Top 10. With citations including failure to establish a program, failure to perform fit testing and medical evaluations, this standard requires you to complete the following:
    • Quantify the chemical concentration level to which employees are exposed
    • Implement engineering or administrative controls where air contaminant levels exceed required thresholds
    • Develop, implement and maintain a Respiratory Protection program where respirators are used (449 violations)
    • Provide annual training and fit testing (446 violations)
    • Provide a medical evaluation to determine an employee’s ability to use a respirator (518 violations)
  1. At 2,345 violations, Ladders take the 6th spot on the list of the Top 10 Most Cited Violations. While the specific standard reference is the construction standard, Ladders in general industry (1910.23), it is also included in the fall protection standard. Standard 1910.23 requires that employers in general industry:
    • Provide ladders and step stools that have uniformly spaced rungs, steps, and cleats that are parallel, level and uniformly spaced
    • Ensure ladders are inspected before initial use in each work shift and more frequently as necessary to identify any visible defects that could cause employee injury
    • Ensure any ladder with structural or other defects is immediately tagged “Dangerous: Do Not Use” or with similar language in accordance with 1910.145
  1. At number seven on the list, there were 2,093 companies in general industry that did not follow the standard requirements that govern one of the biggest pieces of equipment in their facility in both size and quantity – Powered Industrial Trucks (or forklifts). Standard 29 CFR 1910.178 requires that the employer completes the following:
    • Ensure that each operator has successfully completed operator training before operating a powered industrial truck on the job (592 violations)
    • Conduct pre-use inspections prior to every shift (357 violations)
    • Practice safe operations in accordance with 1910.178(l)(1)
  1. Not to be confused with the standards in the first, third, or sixth spot, the construction industry standard for Fall Protection (1926.503) comes in at number eight with 1,773 violations. Having moved up two spots from the 2017 and 2018 ranking, this portion of the fall protection standard from construction focuses specifically on the training requirements. One of the biggest groups out of the 1,773 violations was the failure to certify training in writing. Always remember – if it didn’t get documented, it didn’t happen.
  1. The last general industry standard within the Top 10 is OSHA’s Machine Guarding Standard (1910.212) with a total of 1,743 violations. Often tied in closely with its cousin in the number four spot, the machine guarding standard requires that employers:
    • Affix guards and secure them to machines that do not introduce a new hazard (1,880 violations)
    • Anchor fixed machinery to prevent walking or moving during operation (101 violations)
  1. Finally, rounding off the Top 10 is Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment for the construction side with a focus on eye and face protection. At 1,411 violations and in the same position as last year, employers were commonly cited for failure to provide eye protection with side protection and failure to provide protection from causative hazards, such as gases and vapors. A common misconception within general industry when dealing with tasks like grinding and working with chemicals like battery acid is the idea that once an employee has safety glasses on, they are fully protected. That couldn’t be further from the truth. PPE only works if you’re wearing it and wearing the correct type. Safety glasses by themselves do not prevent acid splash or flying projectiles from hitting an employee’s mouth, forehead or ear.

Conclusion

The OSHA Top 10 list is a helpful guide for understanding just how adept businesses are in complying with the basic rules of workplace safety. By being able to take these items and apply them to your facilities, you can move your company in the right direction towards compliance and safety.   Some starting points to consider are to take these topics and ensure that you have developed site-specific programs. You will also want to complete authorized and awareness level training, making sure to document it and begin implementing these changes on your plant floor. We also recommend reviewing your programs on a regular basis; due to the ever-changing environment of a manufacturing facility, you need to make sure our safety programs are current and accurate. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out our blog on OSHA Inspection protocols and ensure your employees know what to do when OSHA comes knocking!