Monday, December 11, 2017

LITE 2017 Is All About The Fundamentals, Future Environment Designs Develops An Online Course!

Future Environment Designs (FEDTC) would like to wish all of you a Merry Holiday and a Happy New Year!  We look forward to seeing all of you in the New Year.  In September, FEDTC attended the 2017 Leadership, Innovation, Technology, & Evolution (#LITE2017) annual conference in Edinburgh, Scotland.  We attended last year's #LITE2016 conference and wrote about our experience (see Future Environment Designs Attends the LITE 2016 Conference & Is Inspired!).  The conference is run by Administrate, which is the company now handling our training and customer administration.  As many of you know, we use Administrate to provide you digital access to our course manual.  Because of the information we learned this year, you now have access to the exam review slides we use in our classes.  We now offer a few Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) courses online (i.e., respirator users and asbestos awareness) and on adding more.  What attracted us to the LITE conference this year was our desire to delve deeper into the Administrate program and to learn best practices in managing our business.  This year the conference exceeded those goals.  This year there weren't as many inspiring speakers, but many of the speakers gave us fundamental knowledge of the Administrate program and its capabilities.

View from Administrate's Offices
Like last year, the conference followed two tracks Evolution and Innovation, which we mixed and matched the various presentations throughout both days.  All the presentations from the conference can be seen at Administrate's website.  It started with opening remarks from John Peebles the CEO of Administrate, filling us in on Administrate's growth in the United States (based out of Bozeman, Montana) and in the Middle East (based out of Beirut, Lebanon).  Followed by Mike McGrail (@Mike_McGrail, formerly of Administrate and now with Velocity Digital, no kilt this time), speaking on "Busting Modern Marketing Myths".  We then listened to Simon Greany, of Elucidat, discuss "Big Learning: 4 Strategies to Help You Unlock New Revenue Streams with Digital Learning."

Natasha Serafimovska Presentation on Financial Reporting
Many of the presentations afterwards were delving into the inner workings of  the Administrate programs.  These presentations helped us get the best out of the program or gave us ideas of how to improve the information we get from the program.  For example, the presentation by Siobhain Murdoch and our Account Rep Natasha Serafimovska, both from Administrate, discussed "Common Course Pricing Strategies for Training Companies."  From their presentation we learned about creating subscriptions, how training tokens work and how to offer them.   Siobhain Murdoch then joined together with Loki Lau, of Administrate, to discuss "A Deep Dive Into Course Templates," which taught us how to improve the course templates and in particular adding photos to the templates.  Gilles Bell's, of Administrate, presentation on "How to Communicate More Effectively With Students and Customers" provided some ideas we will be implementing with our communications moving forward (first changes will be with the Safety Suzy Newsletter coming out before the end of this month).  The second day started with a 1-2-1 session with our Account Rep Natasha Serafimovska to help us better understand the program and create several reports.  Mark Mullen & Jesse Vernon, both of Administrate, discussed "How to Improve Instructor Led Training (ILT) with eLearning" which made us realize we can significantly improve the materials we are providing you online. 

Ryan Cochrane's presentation on Creating Content That Converts to Leads
Based on the information we learned we have already made several improvements.  For all asbestos refresher courses the manual is online as many of you know already.  In addition, the review for all the asbestos refresher exams is now online, too.  We've created our first online course the respirator user course.  This course is required annually by anyone who uses a respirator.  This will allow you to take the respirator user course "At Your Convenience."  We plan on adding more courses and creating a separate landing page for the "Training At Your Convenience" service, that will include all the different ways we can train your employees, conveniently.  These improvements will help FEDTC continue to improve and offer more ways in meeting our goal of Keeping Your Employees Safe!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

NYS Department of Labor Publishes Two New Mold Fact Sheets

Since January 1, 2016, New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) was designated the responsibility of enforcing the New York State Mold Law, Article 32 "Licensing of Mold Inspection, Assessment, and Remediation Specialists and Minimum Work Standards."  Reading Article 32 is like reading stereo instructions (dating ourself on that one), somethings are very clear while others contradict each other, especially in the sections on the minimum work standards.  Many people in the industry have said NYSDOL needs to write a rule that will clarify the law.  We disagree, though the law is a little confusing, but it is very basic and simple.  There is a saying we love "Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it." (Knowing ourselves, I'm probably misquoting it, but you get the jist)  When regulators write rules they then have to go out for public comment and the next you know you get something that is really confusing and lengthy.  On November 18, 2017, NYSDOL published two new fact sheets:

These two fact sheets are very well written and are perfect for providing to your clients to educate them on what to expect regarding the mold inspection/remediation process in New York State.  Reviewing and discussing these fact sheets are one of the highlights of our mold refresher courses.

Moldy Wall in New Construction
The interesting fact sheet is the newest one, "What to Expect When You Hire a Mold Assessor and Mold Remediation Contractor".  This fact sheet, in our opinion, actually clarifies some of the confusion with Article 32.  The fact sheet was created and designed for the consumer.  However, since it was created and designed by NYSDOL, it gives you insight into what NYSDOL expects from the Mold Assessment and Remediation process.  These are some of the points we think the fact sheet clarifies:

  • The difference between a written passed clearance report and a final status report.
  • Can you write a passed clearance report if the underlying cause (if known) is not corrected?
  • The responsibilities of the mold assessor.
  • The responsibilities of the mold remediation contractor.
  • The use of disinfectants, biocides, and antimicrobial coatings.
  • What happens if a post-remediation assessment is not wanted?
Those of you who took our initial courses or attended one of our presentations at Professional Abatement Contractors of New York (PACNY) or at the Environmental Information Association (EIA), we discussed what we saw as potential liabilities in the law regarding the above issues.  This new fact sheet actually clarifies these points without writing any further rules.  It provides the mold industry with a guideline of what a client should expect when they hire a Mold Assessor or Mold Remediation Contractor.  We look forward to discussing this with you and seeing if you agree. 

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Revisit "Changes Are Coming", Did They? & Save The Dates For PACNY's 2018 Environmental Conference

It has been over six months since we did our presentation "Changes Are Coming" at the Professional Abatement Contractors of New York (PACNY) 2017 Environmental Conference.  We figured it would be a good time to see where we stand with the changes we discussed in our presentation.  Our PACNY presentation can be viewed here if you don't remember it or have not seen it yet:

 We started our presentation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the appointment of Scott Pruitt as the EPA Administrator.  Mr. Pruitt has been cutting agency staff and aggressive in reducing environmental regulations, all things that were expected once his appointment was announced.  The primary regulation we discussed, under EPA, was the reauthorized Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) and the potential for an asbestos ban.  Asbestos was listed by EPA as a top ten chemical listed for review.  However, in June 2017, the EPA released a series of limitations on TSCA, including how broadly the agency will review potentially hazardous substances.  It will be interesting to see how the Pruitt-led EPA will move this along.  It is also interesting that the US which was reducing imports of asbestos for many years (343 metric tons imported in 2015) all of sudden increased imports last year (705 metric tons).  Was the chloralkali and other asbestos using industries increasing inventories in anticipation of a ban?  Not the changes many people were hoping for. 
Brent Kynoch of EIA Presenting at the PACNY Conference
In our next section, we discussed the changes coming to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  Well probably the best description for what is going on there is delay and re-evaluate.  OSHA still does not have an Administrator to head the Agency.  The first regulation we talked about was the Respirable Crystalline Silica standard which was to take effect in the construction industry by June 23.  OSHA delayed that enforcement to September 23.  Then delayed that enforcement for employers making a good faith effort to comply for another 30 days (see the OSHA memorandum here).  The next standard, the Beryllium standard has been delayed by a proposed rule-making on June 27, 2017.  This rule-making would eliminate the ancillary provisions (determining whether other sections of the OSHA construction and shipyard standards provide adequate protection) but not the lowered permissible exposure limit (0.2 micrograms per cubic meter) and the short term exposure limit (STEL of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter, over a 15 minute sampling period).  OSHA has published a fact sheet (click here for the fact sheet) on the proposed rule-making.   The rule requiring companies to electronically submit injury and illness information was delayed from July 1, 2017 to December 1, 2017.  OSHA's Injury Tracking Application is now available and can be accessed here.  Remember establishments with 20-249 employees in certain high-risk industries (i.e., Construction, Services to Buildings & Dwellings, and Remediation & other waste management services) must submit information from its 2016 Form 300A by December 1, 2017.  Probably the most significant change at OSHA has been the elimination on OSHA's website of the ticker that listed the fatalities that have occurred daily across the country and the reduction of publishing employers who have been issued significant violations.

Thursday Night In the Vendor Hall

Our final section was reserved for New York State (NYS) regulations in particular the asbestos and mold state regulations.  Nothing has changed for the asbestos regulation, but our desire for Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) type clearance testing for all floor tile projects opened up a healthy debate (see our blogpost "Asbestos Floor Tile Debate Results" and our article in Healthy Indoors Magazine).  The NYS's Mold Law Article 32 still does not have regulations and so nothing has changed regarding the mold supervisor, how to pass clearance, if the underlying cause is not fixed, etc.  However, NYS Department of Labor did publish a renewal process.  To renew your license you will need to take a 4-hour mold refresher course and resubmit your paperwork with the appropriate fee (see our blogpost "Future Environment Designs Approved to Offer NYSDOL Mold Refresher Courses"). 

Friday's NYSDOL Roundtable
The 2018 PACNY Environmental Conference will be held from February 28 to March 3, 2018 at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York.  Its too early yet for the registration information and speakers, but you can expect Thursday Night in Vendor Hall and NYSDOL will probably be there on Friday, March 3.  We look forward to seeing you there.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

PACNY's 4th Annual Pro-Am Fishing Tournament, Quantity over Quality!

The theme for this year's annual fishing derby was definitely quantity.  On July 12, 2017 we attended the Professional Abatement Contractors of New York's (PACNY's) 4th Annual Pro-Am Fishing Tournament (Derby).  This year, Future Environment Designs had its own boat called "Catchin Hell" piloted by Captain Tom and First Mate Mike.  There were 10 boats that went out of Point Breeze at Oak Orchard Creek to fish Lake Ontario.  A big THANK YOU to PACNY and Darrin Yehl for again sponsoring this Tournament (Derby), giving us more opportunities to get together and network.  Here was this year's lineup of PACNY members and the boats they were on:

Sunrise at Point Breeze

Dival Safety on the Reel Excitement
Dival Safety #2 on the (Just 11) Get Hooked
Aramsco on the Runnin Rebel
Abscope on the Reflection
Future Environment Designs on the Catch'N'Hell
Rochester Environmental on the Irish Thunder
Cornerstone Training Institute on the Sunrise II
Paradigm Environmental on the Free Spirit
NRC on the Intimidator
Sessler on the Rusty Lure

Catch'N'Hell T-shirt on First Mate Mike
As usual, the day started out beautifully with a nice sunrise over Lake Ontario.  We started loading the boats around 5:50 in the morning.  PACNY's Darren Yehl organized the event and did a fantastic job.  Everybody was ready for the shotgun start at or about 6:30.  We stay out on the lake till around noon.  Then come to shore for the weigh-in, a catered buffet lunch at the Black North Inn (which is always fantastic), and awarding of the trophies/prizes. As many of you know, we are a beer enthusiast and the Scotch Ale, by Rohrbach Brewing Company, available at the Black North Inn is fantastic.  Definitely one of the pleasures of the catered buffet lunch (see our reviews of this beer on Untappd).  This year's winners were:

Dival for the Box & Big Fish
We had a great time and was entertained by social media's busting on us for the size of our catch compared with our wife's catch.  But all in all, we caught 8 King Salmon and 2 Rainbow Trout which was the most fish we've caught over the 4 years.  Though we were in last place for the box (3 largest fish) and the biggest fish, we came home with a lot of fish for curing and eating, so it was a successful and fun trip, again!  It was great having our own boat and we plan on hosting our own boat next year.  If you think you would be interested send us an email so we can start making plans.  The Tournament (derby) is always on a Wednesday and usually the second or third one in July.  We're already looking forward to next year's fishing!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Asbestos Floor Tile Debate Results

This debate regarding asbestos floor tiles started at the Professional Abatement Contractors of New York's (PACNY's) 2017 Environmental Conference.  At the conference, after our presentation, a member of the audience challenged our statement that asbestos floor tile removal should be cleared by the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) method (see the video of our presentation here, the challenge is at the end of the video).  In the video Mr. Chris Alonge, of Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) defends our call for TEM clearance for asbestos floor tiles and we had some additional people approach us after the presentation supporting our side of the debate.  As some of you know, we decided it would be neat to see if their are others who feel the same way.  We decided to use Survey Monkey to ask three simple questions regarding this issue.  These questions were:
  • When doing asbestos flooring removal, which method was used the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) 7400 Phase Contrast Microscope (PCM) method or AHERA TEM method for clearance? The answers we got was 47.1% used the NIOSH 7400 method; while 29.4% used both methods; and 23.5% only used the TEM method.
  • When using the AHERA method for clearance, what was the typical size of the fibers found?  The answers we got were 58.8% less than 5 micron; 29.4% both sizes were equal amounts; and 11.8% greater than 5 micron.
  • Have you ever encountered during asbestos flooring removal when utilizing both the NIOSH 7400 (PCM) & the AHERA (TEM) methods of analyses, that the NIOSH 7400 passed while the AHERA method failed?  The answers we got were 52.6% yes, 36.8% no, and 10.5 never used both.
Improperly Removed Floor Tiles
We would like to thank all of you who participated in our survey.  The results are interesting, the first question is not surprising since the NIOSH 7400 method is the cheapest method and both New York State (NYS) and New York City (NYC) require this method as the minimum method.  The second question is also not surprising since this is the reason for our call for clearance for floor tile jobs to be by the AHERA TEM method.  The final question proves the point we've been making.  If even one project can actually fail by AHERA TEM but pass using the NIOSH 7400, this should be a concern for any person who is concerned for the safety and health of the occupants who would occupy the space after clearance.
Another Improper Floor Tile Removal
As we mentioned in our presentation, we didn't come up with this idea out of the blue.  In 2003, Applied Occupational and Environmental Hygiene published a study called "Asbestos Release During Removal of Resilient Floor Covering Materials by Recommended Work Practices of the Resilient Floor Covering Institute" by Marion Glenn Williams, Jr. and Robert N. Crossman, Jr. from the University of Texas Health Center at Tyler, Tyler Texas.  You can find the study in our Future Environment Designs website under our Resource Page in the dropbox folder.

Some of the major points from this study were:
  • Asbestos used in flooring materials is Grade 7 - Shorts and Floats.  The dimensions of this material are very small and may not be resolvable by the Polarized Light Microscope (PLM).  Which is why in NYS we require floor tiles to be analyzed as a nonfriable organically bound (NOB) material (analysis by PLM and if negative result for asbestos then analysis by TEM).
  • Since the dimensions of these fibers used in the manufacture of floor tiles are so small, it would explain why we typically see very low personal exposure levels by phase contrast microscope (PCM) during floor tile removals.  Many ultrafine fibers are not counted due to resolution (0.2-0.25 um) and the count protocol, which provides that only fibers longer than 5 micron with a 3:1 or greater length-to-width ratio are counted.
  • Many research studies have found the preponderance of fibers at autopsy left in lung tissue, pleural plaques, and lymph nodes of persons who have occupational exposure to asbestos are shorter them 5 micron in length.
  • The NIOSH 7402 TEM method is flawed because it underreports the amount of asbestos in the samples because it ignores all fibers less than or equal to 5 micron and all those fibers longer than 5 micron but less than 0.25 micron in diameter.
  • AHERA TEM method counts for total asbestos structures per cubic centimeter averaged 22 times greater than the PCM fiber counts on the same filters.
  • AHERA TEM asbestos concentrations obtained during mastic removal with a commercial mastic remover averaged 11 times higher than those measured when removal used amended water.
  • The study also found that there was considerable amounts of asbestos dust settled on exposed surfaces during tile removal.  Indicating a need to thoroughly HEPA vacuum and wet clean surfaces or dust may remain that could be re-entrained by occupant activity.
  • The study also indicates that workers in these areas, would not have to wear respirators, so anyone in these areas would have inhaled asbestos fibers or structures of respirable dimensions.
  • The study suggests that for Resilient Flooring Removal clearance sampling should use aggressive methods, require a clearance level of less than 0.005 structures per cubic centimeter for each sample, and all samples analyzed by AHERA TEM protocol.  It also suggests a minimum number of samples for clearance should be one sample per 500 square feet, a volume of air of at least 1250 liters, and the use of 0.45 micron mixed cellulose ester filters in a 25 millimeter diameter conducting cassette with a 50 millimeter extension cowl.
As we said, we did not arrive at our decision lightly.  After reading this study it became apparent to us that asbestos containing flooring or mastic removal should be cleared using the AHERA TEM method to ensure the work area is actually free of asbestos fibers (we already do this in schools under AHERA for large asbestos projects, some schools require all asbestos projects ave to be cleared by AHERA TEM).  In addition, any negative exposure assessment for floor tile removal that does not include AHERA TEM analysis of some of the samples should not be accepted as definitive to allow workers to not use respirators during asbestos flooring removal.  As the study showed their could be significant exposure to workers from these respirable fibers/structures that the NIOSH 7400 method is not picking up.

We hope this information explains our position, and we look forward to a continuation of this debate. We intend to press the case for a requirement for AHERA TEM clearance for flooring removal, especially if New York State truly intends to move forward with an update of Industrial Code Rule 56.
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