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News Archive

January 2011

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The 39th MEDICHEM meeting, MEDICHEM 2011, will be held from June 2-5, 2011 in Heidelberg, Germany

MEDICHEM is the Scientific Committee on Occupational Health in the Chemical Industry of ICOH (International Commission on Occupational Health). This is a well established and high quality international meeting, with presentations in English.

A high level program of presentations with an A-list of invited speakers, the world famous city of Heidelberg and an attractive social program in the early summer of 2011 - these are some of the attractions waiting for you at the MEDICHEM-Community at the 39th MEDICHEM Congress from 2 - 5 June 2011 in Heidelberg, Germany.

A reduced fee of 250 € hopefully meets the desires of our retired colleagues to meet all the old members of their MEDICHEM-Family - Prof. Thiess as honorary president and founder of MEDICHEM will not be the only one who will be very happy to find himself among a great gathering of friends of the last century, including those who were unable to join the congresses in recent years.

The early bird rate for those active in working life is 590 € and is valid until March 15, 2011. Both the retiree and currently employed Congress fees include everything - the scientific program with lunch and coffee breaks throughout the whole congress; an invitation to an excursion of the cradle of MEDICHEM - BASF SE - in Ludwigshafen on Thursday, June 2nd in the morning; the Opening Ceremony, framed by music, with a cold and warm buffet reception on Thursday evening; an organ concert in the Church of the Holy Spirit in the heart of Heidelberg's famous Old Town and the reception by the Mayor of Heidelberg at the Town Hall just opposite the church on Friday, the 3rd; as well as the Champagne reception at the Castle Gallery, the Gala Dinner in the Castle, and the Giant Firework display on Saturday, the 4th of June, 2011.

So if you have an interest in the chemical industry, toxicology, or attending a meeting in Germany this summer, you should consider registering.

Comprehensive information about the meeting is available at:

Bob Orford, MD, ICOH National Secretary for USA

Essential occupational health and safety information source! OSH UPDATE is here to help - easy to use and very subscription friendly - why pay more?

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Health and safety and the Health and Safety Executive: What the spending cuts will mean (published 10 Dec 2010)

The UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health Report and recommendations...

The effect of the cuts

The All-Party Parliamentary Group is clear that it will not be possible for the HSE to maintain its current level of operations with a cut of 35 per cent in its government grant as charges can only fund regulation and overheads that relate to those charges. At the same time as spending on hazardous industries, such as the nuclear industry, is likely to increase to reflect the need for effective regulation, HSE activity elsewhere would fall even in industries such as construction, which have a high level of inherent risk.

The government has indicated that much of the cuts can be achieved through "administrative savings". While an element of cost reductions will always be possible, it is unclear how the HSE will be able to achieve significant savings without reducing its ability to operate as a regulator.

The HSE unions, FDA, Prospect and PCS estimate that the cuts could remove up to 750 posts: even if all frontline posts were protected, the time spent on inspection would drop significantly as inspectors were diverted into performing more administrative tasks.

Many of the very high expenditure areas, such as PFI costs of £29 million, cannot be altered. There is also a considerable expenditure on accommodation costs. Over the past four years the HSE has been seeking to reduce these. It recently closed its main London headquarters and has closed several area offices. All other properties are reviewed every five years when their lease expires or there is a lease-break. This is commended by the All-Party Group, but it is concerned about the effect on both staff and industry of reducing the HSE regional presence. In addition, accelerating this programme and closing offices while there is still a valid lease and there is little chance of sub-letting to another tenant would be a false economy.

Further details:

Helical CT Scans and Lung Cancer Screening Blog from US NIOSH

Lung cancer is the foremost cause of death from cancer in the United States, leading to nearly 160,000 deaths in 2006 (USCS). Annually, nearly 200,000 people have a new diagnosis of lung cancer (See related blog on new Surgeon General Report).

Efforts to develop methods to detect the cancer early enough to improve survival of the diagnosed persons have been largely unsuccessful. A recent study of a relatively new form of screening using helical computerized tomography (CT) demonstrated fewer lung cancer deaths among individuals at high risk of lung cancer who received this screening than among a similar group screened with chest radiography (chest x-rays or CXRs). There is great interest in this finding, and there is hope that this might provide new approaches to cancer screening among workers with increased risk for lung cancer because of past occupational exposures.

US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researchers are in contact with the investigators who conducted the study and will learn more from them when the findings are published in the spring of 2011. This blog provides some background information on the study and describes the approach that NIOSH will take in considering what the findings mean for worker screening.

ECHA Received 3.1 Million Classification and Labelling Notifications

By 3 January 2011, ECHA received 3 114 835 notifications of 24 529 substances for the Classification and Labelling Inventory. By this deadline, industry had to notify the classification and labelling of all chemical substances that are hazardous or subject to registration under the REACH regulation and placed on the EU market.

Geert Dancet, Executive Director of ECHA, said "This is a perfect start for the International Year of Chemistry. The Classification and Labelling Inventory, which will be publicly available later this year, will significantly improve safety by providing up-to-date information on all the hazardous substances that are on the EU market today."

The Classification, Labelling and Packaging regulation relates to chemical substances and mixtures. It introduces into the EU the criteria of the United Nations' Globally Harmonised System for classifying and labelling chemicals. One of the aims of the CLP regulation is to improve the protection of human health and the environment by providing criteria for defining when a substance or mixture displays properties that lead to its classification as hazardous.

CLP applies to manufacturers, importers, users or distributors of chemical substances or mixtures. They must classify, label and package any substance or mixture, regardless of its annual tonnage, in accordance with the Regulation.

The largest number of the notifications, over 800 000, came from Germany. Over 500 000 notifications were submitted from the United Kingdom and nearly 300 000 from France. All together over 6 600 companies notified at least one substance.

Further Information:

KAS Recommendations on advancing the Safety Culture - lessons learnt from Texas City: Report (English Translation 2010) (Original German 2008)

The KAS (Kommission für Anlagensicherheit, Commission on Process Safety) has produced an English language copy of its 2008 report on Process Safety Culture. This represents the viewpoint of the KAS working party on the Texas City incident.

The report recommends practices for maintaining safety culture in a changing environment, advice adding to the recommendations of the Baker Report. There is specific advice on topics of management systems, safety indicators, preservation of key skills, and process safety auditing.

US NIOSH Docket Number 215 - Guideline: Application of Digital Radiography for the Detection and Classification of Pneumoconiosis

Monitoring the health of individuals involved in dusty work is intended to provide assurance to the worker that ongoing exposure controls are adequate. Recognition of minor health abnormalities serves as an early warning to both workers and managers when there is need for more effective measures to prevent work-related impairment and disability. Since 1970, NIOSH and other organizations have successfully applied traditional film screen chest radiography, interpreted using the ILO International Classification of Radiographs of Pneumoconiosis, toward these objectives. Imaging of interstitial lung diseases such as the pneumoconiosis represents one of the most difficult challenges in diagnostic radiology, and comprehensive attention to technological, methodological, and human factors is required to assure that the image quality and interpretation are satisfactory for achieving early disease detection.

This NIOSH Guideline is based upon accepted contemporary professional recommendations, and provides technical and operational guidance for radiographic facilities and physician readers who obtain digital chest radiographs for the evaluation of pneumoconiosis. The intent is to assure that the recognition of pneumoconiosis using digitally-acquired chest radiographs is at least as safe and effective as traditional film screen radiography. The Guideline should not be considered a mandate for medical practice; however participating practitioners and facilities who deviate from the specifications should have a sound medical rationale for alternative approaches.

NIOSH is Seeking Comment from Stakeholders

Interested persons or organizations are invited to participate in this process by submitting written views, recommendations, and data. Written comments on the document will be accepted through March 4, 2011 in accordance with the instructions below. All material submitted to NIOSH should reference Docket Number NIOSH-215. All electronic comments should be formatted as Microsoft Word and make reference to docket number NIOSH-215.

Comments will be accepted until 5:00 p.m. EDT on March 4, 2011

IOSH 2011 Conference and Exhibition - 15-16 March 2011

ExCel, London, UK

Contact: Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, Wigston, Leics, UK |

The increasing use of portable computing and communication devices and its impact on the health of European Union (EU) workers

The European Commission, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Unit F.4 has published a report on Portable computing and communication devices that are widely used by workers in different occupations and their use is steadily increasing. Working with portable devices and systems differs markedly from the work with visual display units at workstations which is regulated by the European visual display units (VDU) Directive. While still regarded by many as 'executive toys', these systems are increasingly used by salespersons, technical support workers, delivery persons, and restaurant and maintenance staff.

This report addresses the many challenges that the use of mobile devices poses to occupational safety and health (OSH) and gives recommendations for policy and practice. The sources of information that have been reviewed and analysed are - survey results, sales data, manufacturers' and service providers' information, published scientific research, market research, data from national authorities, and expert opinions. The study gives an overview of the technology and its use, the various types of portable computing and communication systems, the tasks they are used for, and the extent to which portable systems are used, the types of workers, and the specific risks they may be exposed to.

It also addresses work organisational risks and highlights the need for the user-centred design of mobile devices which are compatible with the cognitive load during mobile work. Important stressors that were found are, for example, the blurring of boundaries between work and family life, the extension of the working day, difficulties in supervising mobile employees at work and the feeling that mobile employees have of being insufficiently involved in company decisions and having poorer career prospects.

The increasing use of portable computing and communication devices and its impact on the health of European Union (EU) workers
The European Commission, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Unit F.4, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2010, 124 pages, ISBN 9789279153990