Posts Tagged 'Safety'

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.

AltairStrickland Logo


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

How To Come In Under Budget, At Least In Your Department…

I work for a toxicology testing laboratory, and my job is to help companies improve the health, wellness and safety within their organizations by obtaining testing services that match their specific needs and drug-free workplace program guidelines.  I am also a bottom-line leader, recognizing that a little prevention and proactive effort leads to greater productivity, profitability and employee satisfaction.  Yes, I am a “salesperson”, a bad word to some.  I am not a fan of the “salesperson” stereotype.  Someone has to be the liaison between a person that needs help with a problem and the solution.  I’ve also had the experience of working with someone addicted to prescription medications, all the way through her accident on company business.  I can tell you stories about unhappy and lost customers, other employees who left because her behavior was not dealt with, constant absenteeism – the list goes on.

I don’t believe in selling just to make a sale, which leads me to this rant.  I have now met with multiple business owners and/or human resources personnel to discuss their drug, alcohol and other occupational health testing needs who have put a big question-mark over my head.  I ask what they want to accomplish through their defined program, the level of risk in their work environment or by specific position and so forth – learning how I can offer options that match what they want to accomplish.  I just don’t understand their responses, which boil down to “we just want to drug test our candidates enough to get them on the job.”  In other words, we want the least amount of testing you can do so we can get people to work quickly.  This is reinforced by notifying candidates that they will be drug tested in a few days, sometimes a week, giving them time to potentially “clear” their system by stopping drug use short-term.

This is a conundrum for me – I totally understand budget if that were the case.  I understand DOT regulations and their limitations to a DOT 5 panel drug test.  I even understand that the person I am working with may not be aware of the number of options available to them.  I don’t believe in doing a test to just say you did and putting your head in the sand because it’s easier to deal with than screening more candidates or having to deal with telling prospective employees they did not pass, ie. feelings of rejection.

In my opinion, if you are going to drug test just because you have a piece of paper with a policy on it or because everyone else in your industry does it, while supporting processes that encourage “passed” drug tests even though a person is not usually “clean”, then don’t waste your money.  Save your budget for things like high performance rewards, low turnover acknowledgements and zero-accident recognitions.  Oh…. I guess you’ve already saved the company money because those won’t happen within this type of company culture.

Terri McCulloch, Director of Sales & Marketing

One Source…Numerous Options…Differences That Matter!

ExperTox® is a recognized forensic toxicology laboratory, combining advanced technology and science with a human heart.

We use our scientific expertise to provide our customers answers to their substance abuse, use and exposure questions.

We focus our personal character on supporting, caring for and understanding what our clients are going through as they contemplate and proceed through the testing process.

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