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News + Events

The Galson Blog

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Caroline Hudson


Kindling a Better Understanding of Combustible Dust

Under the right conditions, just about anything can be dangerous, including dust. Materials that are not themselves combustible in solid form can become explosible given the right conditions. OSHA’s webpage on combustible dust states that:


“A wide variety of materials that can be explosible in dust form exist in many industries. Some industry examples include: food (e.g., candy, sugar, spice, starch, flour, feed), grain, tobacco, plastics, wood, paper, pulp, rubber, furniture, textiles, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, dyes, coal, metals (e.g., aluminum, chromium, iron, magnesium, and zinc), and fossil fuel power generation.”


The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) completed a study that identified 281 combustible dust incidents from 1980 to 2005, which includes 119 deaths as well as injury to another 718 workers. As a result of this study, OSHA has commenced rulemaking. In March 2008, OSHA implemented a Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP) to assist in developing a combustible dust standard for general industry


This month, OSHA released the booklet “Firefighting Precautions at Facilities with Combustible Dust.” The booklet aims at raising awareness of first responders in an effort to reduce the numbers of injuries and fatalities in flash fires produced from combustible dust. It outlines what to look for in a pre-incident survey (including housekeeping issues to prevent build-up of combustible dust on surfaces, even elevated structural surfaces) and touches on precautions to be taken during a response. The booklet is a jumping off point for local first responders and industry to partner in order to work toward safer incident response until a standardized approach can be legislated.

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Caroline Hudson


En"vision" a Culture of Safety

As we all continue to strive for overall workplace safety, let’s take this month to focus on the health, safety, and protection of one of our most dear assets: our eyes. March has been dubbed Workplace Eye Wellness Month in order to draw attention to this often under-considered but important topic. Eye injuries not only affect vision, but also indirectly affect the overall quality of life enjoyed by all workers.

Common causes of eye injury include tool malfunctions or misuse, chemicals (vapor or splatter), flying objects (such as metal or glass bits), and airborne particles.

OSHA 1910:133 states that “The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.”

Employers interested in minimizing the potential for eye injury should first identify the possible hazards, and then work to eliminate those hazards from the workplace (these are, after all, the fundamental building blocks of industrial hygiene). Ensuring that tools are in good working order and employees are properly trained can lessen the potential for injury from them. Chemicals in the workplace should be contained in such a way as to minimize exposure, not only to eyes but to workers as a whole. Waste and debris from metal working and glass crushing operations should also be contained in order to minimize eye injuries from flying bits of metal and glass. Where possible, efforts should also be made to lessen airborne particulates including that from dust and debris in or near workplace environments.

The use of protective eye lenses and splash guards should be considered the last line of defense, and is often the most frustrating for workers. As someone who has had to use such PPE in a workplace, I know all too well that the selection of the proper type of guard or lens for the intended application is important. Trust me, standard safety glasses are not always effective outdoors in 100-degree (F) weather with 95% humidity and no cloud cover. Manufacturers offer multiple specialty options including anti-fog, foam-padded, polarized, tinted, and over-prescription safety glasses, not to mention splash guards, goggles, side shields, and even pink camouflage varieties for the discerning consumer. There are also safety glasses for specific applications, including driving, ballistics, military, and medical, the use of computers, and many more.

So take this month of March to think about eye safety and identify possible workplace hazards that could cause eye injury to you or fellow coworkers. And when you leave the office to do any field work, be sure to take the proper eyewear with you; after all, it could end up saving your vision!

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Caroline Hudson


It’s Not Easy Being Green

The growing trend of “going green” has gained a foothold in the modern construction industry, leading to the development of such organizations as the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) which has multiple initiativesto develop safer structures for people to live and work in.  ASHRAE also creates standards on design and practice to promote energy efficiency and indoor air quality.

“Going green” sounds great in theory but what does it actually do for you? Well, green buildings have increased energy efficiency. Increased energy efficiency leads to decreasing the exchange of air between the interior and exterior of a building.  This is good for maintaining a comfortable temperature indoors, but bad for people being exposed to indoor air pollutants that can be trapped inside, such as mold, asbestos, and chemicals including carcinogens.  The health effects of the various indoor pollutants remain the topic research studies across the country.

Benjamin Franklin has famously said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  While his home almost certainly was not energy efficient, this proclamation can be applied to the problem of poor indoor air quality.  Preventing pollutants from being introduced into the indoor environment not only solves the issue while maintaining energy efficiency, but can also propel the home or office environment even further into “green” territory. 

Choosing different materials to use throughout your home or workplace including non-toxic alternatives to traditional cleaning agents is one way to prevent indoor air pollutants from causing health problems. Many household cleaners can be made using non-toxic items stocked in nearly every pantry. Give them a try J.

Another solution is to fix water leaks or poorly ventilated bathrooms in order to prevent mold growth.  Also, older homes that are remodeled to be more energy efficient may still contain some asbestos containing materials.  If these materials are kept in good condition, the asbestos will not become airborne and therefore will pose little to no threat to indoor air quality.

Ventilation is also a viable solution to indoor air pollution where prevention is not sufficient.   There are ventilation systems commercially available to cycle the air in a building at various speeds depending on the application.  Ventilation guidelines are available for buildings ranging from single family dwellings up to large commercial buildings by ASHRAE.  When all else fails, open a window or call Galson Laboratories for help with your IAQ needs!


Win a free Galson giveaway!  Likeour Facebook page and submit your favorite non-toxic alternatives on the thread we start! The winner will be announced Friday February 15, 2013.

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Caroline Hudson


Bringing Industrial Hygiene to Your Baby’s Crib

Parents have heard the warnings from pediatricians for years to avoid unsafe conditions for babies: cover your wall outlets, put up baby gates, don’t leave babies unattended on elevated surfaces, always test the temperature of bottles before giving them to baby, etc.  The list of safety precautions and the industry of child safety products seem to grow annually.  A recent recall on the Fisher-Price® Newborn Rock ’n Play Sleepers™ urges parents to inspect the product for possible mold growth which can develop between a removable cushion and hard plastic frame of the sleeper due to the presence of moisture.  The Mattel website has an 18-page PDF document explaining how to clean the sleepers.

The AIHA defines Industrial Hygiene as “Science and art devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, prevention, and control of those environmental factors or stresses arising in or from the workplace which may cause sickness, impaired health and well being, or significant discomfort among workers or among citizens of the community.”

 It could be argued that the home is a full-time workplace for parents so perhaps there is a little industrial hygienist in every parent.  Ensuring the environment surrounding our babies is free from contaminants is just part of the territory.  Cleaning potential mold off of baby equipment and installing CO monitors and smoke detectors are examples of how parents serve as industrial hygienists of the home.  Consultation fees in the workplace of the home are usually paid in giggles and adorable mischief, and most parents surely find that pay structure acceptable.

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