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Evaluation of Legionnaires' disease risk and other health hazards at an offset printing company
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  • Description:
    The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health received a confidential request for a health hazard evaluation from employees at a commercial offset printing company. Employees described a malfunction in one of the company's air compressors on December 1, 2014 that released a mist into the air. A week after this event, one employee was diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease. NIOSH made a site visit to the facility in April 2015. During this visit, NIOSH staff informally interviewed 11 workers, toured the facility, and collected 20 samples for Legionella bacteria testing. Bulk liquid samples and swab samples were taken from several sites throughout the facility including the air compressor, printing presses, hot water tank, and employee restrooms. All bulk fluid and swab samples were negative for the presence of Legionella bacteria. As we did not evaluate all potential sources of Legionella in the facility, we recommend that the company develop an understanding of their building's water system, including identifying areas of water stagnation and low-flow. Interviewed employees reported no health problems during the compressor malfunction or in the days following the event. We reviewed repair records for the air compressor; however, we could not determine if the compressor malfunction was related to the one diagnosed case of Legionnaires' disease. We recommend that the company develop and implement a maintenance plan for the air compressors and printing presses which may include regular heat and flush or hyper-chlorination of water lines and condensation drains. During our tour of the facility, we observed many work areas and tasks with the potential for worker exposure to hazardous chemicals. There were many open containers of solvents and chemicals. Other than hearing protection, we did not see employees wearing personal protective equipment. We observed employees with bare hands in contact with chemicals and solvents while mixing inks and reaching into chemical tanks. We saw some hazard communication in different languages. However, pictures were not used in all hazard communication materials and not all hazard communication materials were in languages understood by all workers. We recommend proper storage, containment, and disposal of solvents and chemicals. Additionally, we advise that the facility provide personal protective equipment to all employees and provide education on when personal protective equipment is required. This includes a written respiratory protection plan for employees that meets all regulatory requirements. Signage should be provided in additional languages to communicate hazards to employees that do not speak English. We could not determine if the air compressor malfunction was related to the single case of Legionnaires’ disease. However, employees at this facility were potentially exposed to a number of chemicals and solvents. Although some controls were in place to reduce exposure to chemicals, we noted opportunities for exposure during our site visit that can be addressed through enhanced engineering controls, modified work practices, and improved use of personal protective equipment.

    Recommended citation for this report:

    NIOSH [2016]. Health hazard evaluation report: evaluation of Legionnaires’ disease risk and other health hazards at an offset printing company. By Casey M, Hawley B. Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH HHE Report No. 2015-0065-3252.

    NIOSHTIC No 20048002

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