Chemical, physical, biological and ergonomic hazards can cause occupational illnesses - ranging from dermatitis and musculoskeletal disorders…to lung disease and various forms of cancer. In addition to endangering workers and the public at-large, these hazards can lead to regulatory scrutiny and fines…insurance claims and litigation…and increased pressure on a company's bottom line.
Through our experienced staff - with advanced scientific degrees and Industrial Hygiene certification - Hydro-Environmental Technologies, Inc. (HETI) is uniquely qualified to help clients recognize and control hazardous exposures in the workplace which may lead to occupational illness among workers or adverse health effects to the public.
Backed by multi-disciplinary experience - in such areas as chemicals, particulates and radiation hazards; toxicology, medicine and epidemiology; analytical chemistry; engineering; ventilation, noise and ergonomics; lead, asbestos and microbial/mold exposure; sampling and other scientific principles - HETI professionals provide a wide range of expert industrial hygiene consulting services, including:
Our goal is to help our clients identify, evaluate and mitigate occupational and environmental health hazards…and to minimize future hazards through the development, implementation and monitoring of effective training, health and safety, and risk management programs.
Representative Projects *
Occupational Health & Safety Survey/OSHA Compliance Audit, Food Producer/Manufacturer (Florida) – The country’s largest producer of sugar cane and refined cane sugar contracted HETI to provide assistance with an unannounced OSHA wall-to-wall inspection. The company operates two large raw sugar mills, a sugar refinery, a municipal water plant, and support facilities. The company’s production facilities operate 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week during the harvest season and have approximately 900 employees. HETI responded to the client’s request to accompany three OSHA Compliance Health and Safety Officers on a comprehensive inspection of the production/manufacturing facilities early the next morning. Over the course of 11 consecutive days, including two weekends, HETI conducted: occupational health and safety audits of the facilities; occupational exposure monitoring to assess production workers’ exposure to metal fumes, and total and respirable dust and silica within the processing facility; and sound level surveys and noise dosimetry in various areas of the production facilities. HETI also accompanied company environmental/safety personnel and senior management as the OSHA Compliance Officers inspected the facilities. At the client’s request, HETI responded to questions and concerns during the inspection, performed parallel sampling with the OSHA Certified Industrial Hygienist, and provided general assistance to regulatory agency personnel throughout the inspections.
Only one occupational health citation, with no penalties, resulted from the inspections – due to the lack of eye wash facilities in three areas in the production areas. The client received several safety citations, which were quickly mitigated with the assistance of HETI, thus reducing the OSHA penalties.
Occupational Exposure Assessment, Geosynthetic Products Manufacturer (South Dakota) – HETI was retained by a large insurance carrier to conduct occupational exposure monitoring at an insured’s geosynthetic products manufacturing facility. The purpose of the monitoring was to assess potential occupational exposures to respirable dust and crystalline silica while applying bentonite to geomembranes used in the manufacturing of geo-composite plastic liners. In addition, HETI conducted noise dosimetry and a sound level survey at the facility to measure time-weighted average occupational noise exposures to production employees in the manufacturing facility and determine if employees engaged in noise-monitored operations should be included in a hearing conservation program; and to identify dominant noise sources and quantify sound level exposures. Personal occupational exposure sampling of six workers and a full-shift noise dosimetry were conducted by HETI on two separate days on two distinct process lines.
The sampling results indicated that the manufacturing operations were controlled adequately to limit potential occupational exposures to respirable dust and crystalline silica to within the applicable OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs). However, two employees were potentially exposed to levels of respirable dust, containing crystalline silica, that exceeded the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) crystalline silica Threshold Limit Value (TLV®) on one of the manufacturing process lines. Engineering control methods based on accepted industry “best practices” were provided to reduce exposure to silica for the two employees. In addition, the results of the noise monitoring confirmed that potential occupational noise exposures were within the OSHA Occupational Noise Exposure Limits. The data obtained during the sound level survey were used to develop a sound level contour map for the manufacturing facility.
Aldehyde Exposure Monitoring, Hospital (Florida) - A large hospital has contracted with HETI to perform annual exposure monitoring for glutaraldehyde and formaldehyde used in various applications throughout the healthcare facility. The scope of work was to quantify and determine the extent of human exposure to these substances under various conditions…and to ascertain compliance with Federal OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) and Short Term Exposure Limits (STELs).
HETI developed a sampling strategy and collected samples representative of worker exposure. After sampling, results were compared with occupational exposure limits and the nature and magnitude of human risk were characterized. Based on this analysis, HETI made a determination as to whether airborne concentrations of formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde could produce adverse health effects (irritation of the eyes, skin, nose and throat; flu-like symptoms; respiratory problems; etc.) in exposed workers…and developed and recommended control methods to reduce hazardous exposures to staff in several areas of the hospital, where high airborne concentrations had been identified.
Ergonomic Evaluation, Insurance Company (Florida) - A property/casualty insurance company retained HETI to conduct an ergonomic evaluation of computer workstations in their corporate office, after receiving multiple complaints of worker discomfort. The purpose of the evaluation was to reduce employee exposure to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) related to the implementation of computer software imaging systems. HETI's evaluation included a comprehensive visual observation of thirty-two workstations, where there had been employee complaints of discomfort and/or symptomatic conditions indicative of work related MSDs. In addition, an ergonomic survey was performed of several employee workstations that were outside the 95th percentile anthropometric data distributions for stature, necessitating special design requirements. The total work environment - including job demands, cognitive skills required, and physical factors such as noise, lighting, temperature, humidity, air flow and vibration - was considered in the evaluation.
HETI made adjustments on-site to alleviate worker discomfort; developed workstation-specific recommendations to reduce exposure to musculoskeletal disorders; and provided information on proper computer workstation design features and a training tool to help the company better manage workstation ergonomic issues in other regional offices. HETI consulted with senior management on general approaches to improve office ergonomics on a company-wide basis and increase worker efficiency by finding more comfortable, easier ways to perform job tasks. After the company made recommended adjustments and design modifications at the workstations, there was a dramatic reduction in the number of employees reporting MSD symptoms associated with computer use. The interventions have also reduced worker fatigue, errors and unsafe acts… and contributed to the comfort and productivity of the employees.
Occupational Exposure Assessment, Parking Garage (Florida) - HETI performed an occupational exposure assessment at a parking garage of a high rise commercial office building - to determine the existence and extent of chemical, physical and/or biological air contaminants suspected to be causing health concerns to a parking garage attendant. The worker reported that she was admitted to the hospital for an unknown pulmonary-related ailment, suspected to be related to nonspecific exposures in the parking garage. HETI inspected the facility to identify potential air contaminants and pollutant pathways…and interviewed the affected employee to evaluate adverse health effects and time and spatial factors associated with the workplace. Volatile organic compounds, diesel range hydrocarbons and diesel particulate samples were collected within the parking garage; and carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide levels were measured.
Based on the exposure assessment and observations made during the site inspection, HETI ascertained several sources associated with the adverse health effects noted by the employee: (1) Exhaust fumes released by a nearby diesel fuel generator during a weekly test run, in combination with prevailing winds from the north and west, placed the parking attendant's booth in the direct pathway of the exhaust fumes. (2) The HVAC system providing climate control to the attendant's booth was inappropriate for the structure. Standing water, organic slime and microbial growth were observed on top of the booth, indicating that the compressor unit was not working properly. (3) Pigeons were found roosting in or around the parking garage and pigeon excrement was found near the booth. The employee presented symptoms similar to Histoplasmosis, a fungal disease resulting from exposure to pigeons and their excrement.
HETI recommended that the diesel fuel generator be tested on nights or weekends (when the parking garage attendant is not present) and the installation of a baffle plate on the end of the exhaust vent pipe to deflect fumes to the ground. HETI also recommended the replacement of the HVAC compressor for the attendant's booth, a thorough cleaning of the interior and exterior of the booth, and pigeon control measures to keep them away from the parking garage.
Since it was determined that concentrations of the chemical compounds did not exceed risk-based criteria based on airborne sampling, HETI concluded that there was not an association between the adverse health effects experienced by the claimant and the occupational exposure incident. HETI provided the information from the assessment to the insurance carrier to assist in resolving the claim.
Occupational Exposure Assessment, Food Producer/Manufacturer (Florida) – HETI was hired by the country’s largest producer of sugar cane and refined cane sugar to conduct an exposure assessment on railroad conductors and engineers. The company farms sugar cane and citrus on approximately 200,000 acres in South Florida, and owns an internal railroad with over 120 miles of track and 1,000 railcars linking the sugar cane fields with two large raw sugar mills. Railroad employees, through their labor union, had expressed concerns about potential occupational exposures to particulates and residual pesticides from roadbed dust, located along railroad tracks near harvesting/loading elevators in sugar cane cultivation fields. HETI accompanied two railroad crews for five full workdays to evaluate health and safety exposures, visited the railroad sugar cane cultivation transportation sites, and conducted personal air sampling of particulates and pesticides on railroad conductors and engineers.
The results of the exposure assessment identified low airborne concentrations of particulates and residual pesticides that were below applicable risk-based standards for occupational exposures. HETI communicated the results of the assessment to the company, and recommended control methods to mitigate recognized safety hazards – including daily wetting of roadbed surfaces near loading elevators for dust control to improve visibility of railroad crews by agricultural equipment and vehicles at the sugar cane cultivation transportation sites.
* This is a brief description of selected Industrial Hygiene projects completed by HETI. For a more complete discussion of our capabilities, please contact us for a copy of our Statement of Qualifications.