In response to a request from a representative of the United Rubber Workers's Union concerning chemical exposures, heat stress, and ergonomic problems occurring during the manufacture of coated rubber fuel cells by workers at the American Fuel Cell and Coated Fabrics Company (SIC-3069), Magnolia, Arkansas, an investigation was undertaken by NIOSH. The company manufactured fuel bladders for aircraft. Ergonomic assessments were performed in six areas; factors investigated included repetitive tasks, awkward postures, manual force requirements, and exposure to hand/arm vibration. Exposures to methyl-ethyl-ketone (78933) (MEK) ranged as high as 421 parts per million (ppm), exceeding the 300ppm NIOSH short term exposure limit. Concentrations of 1,1,1-trichloroethane (71556) ranged from 293 to 878ppm (NIOSH limit 350ppm). Local exhaust systems were either absent or ineffective. The authors conclude that multiple health hazards existed at this facility, including overexposures to 1,1,1-trichloroethane and MEK, inadequate confined space entry program, ergonomic hazards, and inadequate personal protection. Mechanical and chemical trauma to the skin could occur in workers handling organic solvents, rubber adhesive, and rubber stock. The authors recommend measures for reducing solvent exposures, ergonomic problems, and heat stress, and for improving local exhaust ventilation, respirator selection, and personal protection.
Hazard Evaluations and Technical Assistance Branch, NIOSH, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Cincinnati, Ohio, Report No. HETA-90-246-2314, 69 pages, 26 references