Health Hazard Evaluation Report Demonstrates Importance of Wearing PPE During Training Exercises

A program from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) allows private sector employees and employers as well as federal, state, or local government workplaces concerned about a possible health hazard in a workplace to request a Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE). This was recently done by a fire department with concerns about the health effect of smoke stimulants used in training simulations.

Three trainers reported respiratory problems after tower training with smoke simulated aerosol mist using mineral oil, diethylene glycol, formaldehyde, and acrolein. Air testing in the training area during the HHE showed levels were above exposure limits. The evaluators also found levels outside the training room could exceed safe limits. Brief exposures could irritate eyes and lungs and cause serious lung damage. The mineral oil mist and diethylene glycol aerosol were small enough to deeply penetrate the lungs.

Departments that use similar training methods should review the HHE report and the listed recommendations, which mainly focused on proper and consistent use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically respirators with cartridges or canisters effective against oil-based aerosols and formaldehyde.

HHE reports are searchable, and there are many other reports focused on fire, public safety, 9-1-1, and other emergency services fields.

Safety during training should always be a priority, and is one of the focuses of this year’s International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week. Visit the Safety and Health Week web site at www.safetyandhealthweek.org for information on participating in the 2014 event, which takes place June 15-21.

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