Posts Tagged 'Occupational health'

Why We Do Hexavalent Chromium Testing

Guest Blog by Bennett Ghormley, Chief Safety Officer, AltairStrickland Group

A viewpoint from a leading company that includes hexavalent chromium testing as part of its company’s safety program.

From the moment in 2006 that the Department of Labor/OSHA issued a final standard addressing occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium, our company realized that we must take prompt action because our employees work around chromium dust caused by welding, grinding and gouging on stainless steel and other alloy metals.

 The standard revealed the facts that our welders and others in the welding area could be exposed to the hazards of chromium from the metallurgy.  In addition to use of engineering controls, workplace controls, PPE, and respirator selection and use, the company safety specialists knew that education would be the key to control and elimination of hazards that could expose employees.

 By 2007, AltairStrickland had developed and implemented the hexavalent chromium policy, employee training, field action plan and employee medical evaluations.  Without them all, the program would not have been as successful.  Because the company is proactive, hundreds of employees have remained risk-free from the hazards of chromium dust.

 Environmental and laboratory specialists from ExperTox were instrumental in aiding our company in developing the program and prior to the OSHA effective date, assisted AltairStrickland in field testing of welding setups.  The creation of dispersion studies on an actual jobsite helped the company know how to plan for future welding both in confined spaces and in outside fabrication areas.  The studies conducted early-on are still helping the company today.


Lessons learned—No new program is without hiccups.  Even with the best of intentions, our program had some learning curves, such as:

  • Demonstrating to all employees the seriousness of the program
  • Assuring training for all employees and subcontractors
  • Ventilation planning and engineering studies
  • Conducting employee health baselines and medical surveillance


 Thanks to ExperTox, AltairStrickland’s safety for alloy and hexavalent chromium welding is assured.

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Monitor Your Blood Pressure for Heart Health Month

In support of the American Heart Association’s Heart Health and Go Red Month.

February is National Heart Health Awareness month. One of the simplest ways to monitor your heart health is by getting a regular blood pressure check.  Most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms at all.  There are no specific warning signs.  Some people may feel more tired than usual, get hot or sweaty easier, have difficulty sleeping or even feel more emotional.  These things are part of every day life and most folks just ignore the symptoms.  The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure or hypertension is by regular monitoring.

Blood pressure is the force exerted on the walls of your blood vessels or arteries as blood flows through them.  Your heart is a pump.  When it contracts or beats, it sends a surge of blood through the blood vessels and pressure increases.  This is the top number in a blood pressure reading or the systolic number.  When your heart relaxes between beats the blood pressure decreases.  This is the bottom number or diastolic pressure.

Normal blood pressure falls within a range – it’s not one set of numbers.  An adult should have a reading less than 140/90.  If you have another disease such as diabetes, kidney problems, or heart disease your doctor may want it no higher that 130/85.  I f your blood pressure stays above this threshold you have hypertension.

Hypertension adds to the workload of the heart and arteries.  The heart must pump with more force, and the arteries must carry blood that is moving under greater pressure.  If high blood pressure continues untreated for a long time the heart and arteries may not function as well as they should and other body organs may be affected.  There is greater chance of damage to the lungs and kidneys in particular. There is increased risk of stroke, heart failure, heart attacks, and kidney failure.

Since this month is heart month, I would like to encourage everyone to take some time and do a daily check of your blood pressure.  Try to take it at the same time every day as well as the same arm.  Make sure you are sitting down in approximately the same position.  Keep a record of the readings.  If you see that your blood pressure consistently reads over 140/90 for a week, take this information to your doctor for a discussion.

Keep in mind that your blood pressure changes constantly.  Blood pressure fluctuates from day to day and minute to minute according to your body’s needs.  If you exercise or are angry and check your blood pressure, it will be higher.  If you are relaxing or check it when you first wake up, it will be lower.  Note by your readings what your activity was at the time for the doctor.

The Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection and Treatment of High Blood Pressure has a general guideline.  Blood pressure also depends on our age, morbidity and several other factors.  CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN TO DETERMINE YOUR NORMAL BLOOD PRESSURE.  Normal blood pressure is normally classified as 120/80.  Pre-Hypertension is defined as 120-139 systolic and 80-89 diastolic. Stage 1 Hypertension is defined as 140-159 systolic and 90-99 diastolic.  Stage 2 Hypertension is defined as greater than 160 systolic and greater than 100 diastolic.

If you have high blood pressure, you can do a lot to reduce it.  Work with your doctor to determine the best treatment for you.  It may include a low fat or low salt diet, and changes to your lifestyle such as quitting smoking, losing weight, and getting more exercise.  Reducing your alcohol intake may be recommended.  Many medicines can also reduce and control high blood pressure. Your doctor will decide whether you need medicine in addition to dietary and lifestyle changes.

High blood pressure is a lifelong disease.  It can be controlled but not cured.  Once you begin to manage it and start a treatment program, maintaining a lower blood pressure is easier.  By controlling your high blood pressure, you’ll lower your risk of diseases like stroke, heart attack and kidney disease.

Lou Ann Enis, Occupational Health Supervisor and Registered Nurse

Looking for a Job… Are You Fit for Duty?

ExperTox supports our local Houston-area community by offering occupational health services, in conjunction with drug testing, alcohol testing and occupational exposure testing.  It is our job to ensure that prospective employees are fit for duty. We are making a judgment on cardiopulmonary fitness based on pulmonary function testing (PFT), blood pressure and heart rate checks.

 Checking blood pressure and heart rate may seem unimportant, but it is the basis for all our testing.  A client must have a systolic (top number) no greater that 160 and diastolic (bottom number) no higher than 100 prior to doing any other testing. Doing a pulmonary function test puts a great strain on the heart and lungs.  Performing this test with an elevated blood pressure could harm someone.   Wearing a respirator for 8-16 hours a day while performing hard physical labor can also cause stress to the heart and lungs.  The workers that we see generally are shiftworkers who work long hours with very few days off.  All of these factors cause stress to the body.  They sleep badly, eat poorly and get very little cardiovascular exercise.   Further complicating this issue is that the jobs these people perform could also compromise the safety of other workers as well as the public if they had a sudden loss of consciousness or an acute cardiac event.

 For us, elevated blood pressure is a very big deal.  In this economy when jobs are so hard to come by it is difficult to turn someone down for a job based on one factor.  Even though we explain to people that it’s hard to get a paycheck if you have a stroke, heart attack or worse… die. People have families to take of and bills to pay.  A lot of our clients have been out of work and have no insurance or money to get medical attention.

 We work with people and our client companies to give them more time to get their blood pressure down.  We give them tips and educational materials to help them.  It takes time to get an elevated blood pressure under control and sometimes companies cannot wait and have to hire someone else for the job.  It’s a real problem.  We have some people take someone else’s medicine to try to get their blood pressure down.  That is so dangerous.  These are the extremes people will go to for a job.

 If you are in a position to promote cardiovascular fitness in the workplace, we strongly encourage you to do it! Lunch time safety meetings, handouts, or training sessions are excellent ways to get the word out.  Any way you can reach people and educate them about hypertension could save a life and it promotes healthier employees in the workplace.  There are a lot educational materials available for free from the American Heart AssociationAmerican Lung Association and the  National Hypertension Association to name a few.

 Lou Ann Enis, RN

Supv. Occupational Health

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