OSHA Cracking Down on Body Shops Over Isocyanate Exposure
||By Jason Stahl
4/23/2014 2:26:13 PM
A representative of GMG Envirosafe warned attendees of the Collision Industry Conference held April 9-10 that OSHA is cracking down on body shops to ensure workers are protected from isocyanate exposure.
Brandon Thomas, chief operations officer of GMG, a company that offers OSHA, EPA and DOT compliance solutions, said a study done by OSHA’s counterpart in Britain found that painters in a body shop environment have 80 times the risk of occupational asthma from isocyanates than industrial workers. It’s precisely for that reason, Thomas said, that OSHA is targeting the collision industry more aggressively than others.
According to Thomas, OSHA has fined body shops $1.6 million over the last three years. OSHA’s enforcement division has increased inspections 25 percent over the last four years because they have a bigger budget, and there is an average of 4.33 citations per inspection.
OSHA’s goal, Thomas said, is to eliminate isocyanate exposure altogether in two ways: engineering controls (spraybooth, mixing rooms, ventilation, gun washers, etc.) and administrative controls (PPE training and processes).
What Are Isocyanates?
According to Thomas, isocyanates are highly reactive chemicals found mostly in clearcoats but also in some primers, sealers and basecoats that have been tied to respiratory disease in workers for the last 60 years. They are not currently known to cause cancer in humans, but Thomas said there are “potential links” and are known to cause cancer in animals.
“Isocyanates are powerful irritants to the respiratory tract and mucous membranes and can lead to long-term respiratory disease and chronic bronchitis,” said Thomas. “You will see symptoms such as allergies, rashes, itching, hives, convulsions and shortness of breath – and that’s known as isocyanate sensitization.”
Thomas said anyone who has fixed a car or painted a car previously or been around these chemicals for a long time may have isocyanate sensitization.
“Initially, the body develops an allergic reaction to these chemicals, but with repeated exposure, the threshold gets lower and lower,” he explained. “So before it might have taken a significant amount of exposure for a person to have a physical reaction, but 10 years later that person may not be able to walk into a shop anymore without having a severe bodily reaction.”
Isocyanate exposure can occur in two ways: a large dose hitting a person in a short amount of time via spills, spraying continuously without any respirator protection or – most common – low levels of exposure over a period of time. An example of this is a painter not changing out their respirator cartridges frequently enough and therefore breathing in a little dose of isocyanates every day until they change the cartridge.
Gun cleaning also subjects painters to high levels of exposure, too.
“Imagine a painter who has been spraying all day who goes to lunch, takes off his personal protection equipment (PPE), hangs his respirator in the mixing room or puts it in a bag, and goes to wash his gun with no PPE on,” Thomas said. “He is now handling that liquid paint that has uncured isocyanates. Second, if he’s using some type of spray or nozzle, it could be atomized and breathed in.”
One thing that concerns OSHA, Thomas said, is that these chemicals cannot be washed off your skin or clothing.
“If you get something in your eye, you can go to the eye wash station,” said Thomas. “If you get isocyanates on your person, there is no good solution to eliminate this health hazard.”
One misconception Thomas hears about often from collision personnel is that having a downdraft booth eliminates their exposure to isocyanates.
“When the painter is spraying, they’re looking at the color coming out of the gun and onto the panel in front of them and thinking, ‘OK, the chemicals are mixed in with that paint, so as long as I don’t come out of the booth with paint all over me, the chemicals never actually enter my person,’” said Thomas.
But smoke tests his company conducted revealed that isocyanates do not get sucked up the booth exhaust immediately but actually linger and do not get cleared instantaneously.
Misconception No. 2, said Thomas, is that a half-faced respirator and supplied air and the booth all combine to protect painters from isocyanates because, with that protection, they can’t smell or taste anything. There are two problems with that logic, however, he said.
“If there was any issue, they’re likely not going to smell or taste anything (because isocyanates are odorless and tasteless). Second, those isocyanates circulating in that vortex can be absorbed through the bloodstream, so if it’s a hot day in Texas and you’re wearing jean shorts and a t-shirt and no protection on the top of your head or back of your neck, isocyanates can be absorbed at those points as well.”
Thomas explained how the OSHA inspections work. Each area office will pull any business that has an SIC code tied to collision repair that has one or more employee, put them in a spreadsheet, pull them at random and go knock on doors.
There will be an opening conference with the owner where they’ll want to see their chemical inventory. After that, they’ll want to look at the hazard assessment that the business owner has conducted and what PPE, processes, training and documentation go along with that assessment.
Thomas said shops should be documenting injuries and occupational illnesses that have occurred over the last 12 months via OSHA 300 logs, keeping it on file for five years and posting it from Feb. 1 to April 30 in a common workplace area so employees can see it.
“If you don’t have one of these, that’s a serious citation,” Thomas said. “If you do have one and they think there are unreported illnesses, they make look at employee medical records and interview employees themselves.”
Sample questions they might ask include:
• What PPE do you use when working? (Respirators, suits, gloves, eye protection, etc.) Not just when you’re in the booth but when you’re masking, buffing, mixing, cleaning guns, sanding primer, etc.?
• Do any of these symptoms (shown on a grid) occur when you’re working? "A person may say yes, I cough because I smoke, but they will ask, 'Do these ever get better when you’re on vacation or at home?'" Thomas says.
After the interview and review of paperwork, they will look at the engineering and administrative controls of the shop – booth, mixing room, ventilation, equipment, air movement, PPE, processes, work operations, layout, etc. They’ll take a sample of the air to determine the isocyanate exposure level and how it compares to the threshold. They’ll also do wipe sampling on toolboxes, gloves and even forearms and hands. They will check out lockers, break rooms, bathrooms, offices, etc., because of the fact that isocyanates can’t be washed from clothing.
“An example is a painter who has sprayed all day who leaves the paint department, goes to the break room, opens the fridge, gets his lunch out, grabs the remote, puts on his favorite soap opera and puts his feet up on the table,” said Thomas. “Now we have other employees from other departments exposed.”
According to Thomas, if a shop is inspected, it’s subject to up to two years of follow-up inspections depending on how it performed.
“If the shop performs well, they might just get a hazard alert letter. The scrutiny will stop once the documentation of whatever corrective action has occurred verifies that workers are no longer exposed to isocyanates in the workplace.”
“Serious” citations include if the exposure is higher than the limit, if you don’t have engineering controls in place, improper personal hygiene and not using or misusing PPE.
The average cost of a serious citation is $5,000, Thomas said. And it’s not per event or per facility but per occurrence. For example, if you’re a large shop with four painters and OSHA sees them all spraying without protection, it’s a fine for each that is cumulative.
“Once they assess the fine, it’s a negotiation, and you may or may not pay that amount, but it’s not, ‘Oh, this one thing happened, here’s your penalty.’ It’s how many times did I see it, and how serious is it? And how many people aren’t following it?”
Some states have programs where shops with a certain number of employees can ask OSHA to come in and do a free audit and consultation. But even this, Thomas says, may not guarantee shops won't run into trouble.
“There was a shop that participated in this program for 15 years, and every three years, the inspector would do a free audit and consultation and the shop never had any issues, But then that inspector retired and a new one came in and gave the shop a 30-day cease-and-desist order because they didn’t have sprinklers in their mixing room booths. They had to spend $40,000 to correct it so they wouldn’t be shut down. So every shop has to decide whether they want to invite that kind of scrutiny.”
PUdaily, Shanghai-Wanhua Chemical, the largest methyl di-p-phenylene isocyanate (MDI) maker in the world, said its first quarter earnings increased by 7.54% year-on-year to 5.1 billion yuan (CNY). The net profit was CNY 750 million, posting an increase of 1.46% year-on- year and earnings per share was 0.35 yuan, according to Wanhua Q1 report.
The company’s cash flow from operation activities for the period increased by 35% and that from investment and financing surged by 67% compared with the same period in last year, offering good support for later investment and construction of Bajiao Industrial Park, located in Yantai, Shandong province.
The trend of MDI price is expected to be stable and the price in Q1 was probably the lowest level in 2014 considering the coming peak season when demand of MDI will be stronger.
In addition, according to Chinese market, Hungary’s BorsodChem which was acquired by Wanhua Chemical in 2011, has gradually decreased losses for the past three years and gained €9 million earnings in the first quarter. While in Feb., 2014, Wanhua Industrial stated that it would merge Wanhua Chemical and BorsodChem when BorsodChem begins to make sufficient profit. Now the merger is likely to be carried out within 18 months since BorsodChem’s operation condition is obviously improved.
At present, Wanhua has two TDI production lines in Yantai and Ningbo with a capacity of 200 ktpa and 1200 ktpa respectively. Besides, it plans to start up its newly-built 800 ktpa facilities in Yantai, Shandong province in 2014. By that time of the startup, its old plant with capacity of 200 ktpa will be closed.
Turning to Slide 11, in Polyurethanes and Dow Formulated Systems we are seeing signs of recovery in Europe particularly as a result of higher furniture and bedding demand as well as increased consumer confidence in the region. In the first quarter, demand in industrial and energy efficiency markets also improved globally. Overall, we are well positioned to improve profitability as a result of our increased emphasis on higher value market sectors together with business specific productivity efforts, including the six asset shutdowns completed to-date.
As we look ahead, we expect market demand to grow in the second quarter from increased construction activity in North America and EMEA while we anticipate Asia Pacific will benefit from the typical peak season in footwear. Severe cold temperatures impacted first quarter demand in North America across the Specialty Chemicals businesses. However, fundamentals remain healthy, as favorable trends in homecare products are driving growth for Dow Technologies aligned to this key end market.
P.J. Juvekar - Citi
Yes. Secondly in performance in materials, you talked about improving polyurethanes, can you also just talk about isocyanates like MDI and then in epoxies do you think you are seeing some kind of a rebound?
Andrew Liveris - Chairman, President and CEO
Definitely in epoxies to answer that first the Chinese are going to shut capacity but they are not going to shut epoxies. They have chosen their path to fundamentally glove the market with epichlorohydrin and before that caustic soda. We believe it's a structural change in the entire market. Some of the value added epoxies will earn money in the niche application but we don't have scale there. We are mostly are LER, liquid epoxy resin provider of intermediate to end use. We don't believe it's a good use of Dow capital to do the value-add. So therefore we made our announcements.
We are improving the business. We are running it very lean and mean. So it can actually be on sold to someone who can see value in completing the entire value chain but it's a value chain that we are voting on as you have seen in our announcements.
Look, MDI is different, MDI is the restructural of over capacity especially in Asia but the growth fundamentals are much, much more sound for isocyanates especially the platform called polyurethane formulation systems in rigid polyols in particular. Without new facilities in Sadara, we will be a grower of how isocyanates position especially in the emerging markets. And over time, we look at the competitiveness of our assets use in United States and Europe. But right now, PU is a business that we believe is on a solid rebound as witnessed by the Q1 results.
Our next question comes from David Begleiter with Deutsche Bank.
David Begleiter - Deutsche Bank
Thank you. Andrew, in performance materials given the severe weather in Q1, how should we think about the normal decline in Q2 versus Q1 given maybe some bounce back in Q2?
Andrew Liveris - Chairman, President and CEO
Well, I mean at the end of the day, performance materials and polyurethanes within performance materials and some of the specialty chemicals until PDH comes on, we are going to see volatility in their numbers quarter-to-quarter because of propylene. The unfortunate situation is being in the last many years propylene dynamic between U.S. and the rest of the world changed dramatic especially to Asia. And this propylene arbitrage it was on one of my slides that was solving for PDH is the game changer in less volatility quarter-to-quarter. While we get the acolyte value effect on less and less propylene coming out of U.S. refineries, you are going to see chemical grade propylene bouncing around a lot. We are the elastic demand to the inelastic demand on the transportation side as you get summer driving, the winter heat-cooling or summer heating, summer cooling, winter heating, you are going to get these effects. So we think that's a normal pattern that you are going to see a repeat of in Q2. Bill do you want to add to me?
John Roberts - UBS
I'm looking at Slide 19 on the polyurethanes business, I remember the last bubble chart we saw I think headed at 7% or around 7% EBITDA margin. So it would seem to you need multiples of that 200 bps improvement to get this to your targets?
Andrew Liveris - Chairman, President and CEO
Well, yes. And I have talked to exactly one of those big multiples right which is the PDH. So that's as I said that's why we gave you a lot of color on PDH on this call is that this time next year, we are in the throws of getting that ready to start up. And so that's a big part of the polyurethanes rehab story to make your observation act.
The other thing that's going on, in the early question, is it some market rebound, which is suits our type of polyurethanes especially with Europe coming back remember with a long and exposed in Europe and last but not least is the cost controls and the way Glenn Wright and his team are managing that business very focused on execution against cost and cash. And all those things and the CFO and I spend a lot of time on this business, how to take it away from a yellow into a green.
John Roberts - UBS
Okay. And then as a follow-up on the chlorine carve out, have you set the chlorine cost of contract terms yet for your internal needs longer term?
Andrew Liveris - Chairman, President and CEO
Bill Weideman - CFO, EVP, Finance, Dow AgroSciences, and Corporate Strategic Development
No. Looking into a detailed negotiation going forward as Andrew mentioned in his prepared comments to tell you where we are at. We are targeting how to carve out completed this quarter and then we will get into detailed discussions in the third quarter. So we get into the discussions in the third quarter that's when we will start getting into those detail discussions.
Hassan Ahmed - Alembic Global Advisors
Fair enough. And as a follow-up, you highlighted obviously in the presentation the polyurethane side of the business and you are talking about things call it cycling up. There is obviously a fair bit of capacity coming on line over the next couple of years. Could you speak a bit about the supply/demand dynamic did you see over the next two, three years?
Andrew Liveris - Chairman, President and CEO
Oh, yes. I mean this part of the question it came early on isocyanates. There is going to be length in isocyanates and MDI and that's going to have to be consumed. The good news is, this ubiquitous market needs for polyurethanes especially those by isocyanates and MDI in particular and this growth is going to be above GDP. And so if you got the low cost position which we believe our unit in Sadara is low cost. We are going to be able to grow above at or above market for our polyurethanes franchise.
The other bigger name of course the polyols positioned here in North America gets enhanced by PDH. But on isocyanates, I think this is all about moving to higher value markets as I said on the call. And the team has done a very good job of getting out of the low end markets and fine tuning where we point the low cost assets too. The value-add piece here distinguishes it from the Epoxy business.
Singapore (Platts)--23Apr2014/827 am EDT/1227 GMT
Asian benzene prices dropped $19.50/mt Wednesday, pulled lower by a tumble in US benzene Tuesday, but the magnitude of the fall in US prices has nearly closed the arbitrage window from South Korea to the US, according to sources.
Spot Asian benzene was assessed at $1,253/mt FOB Korea Wednesday, down from $1,272.50/mt Tuesday.
May and June US benzene prices both dove 14 cents/gal ($41.86/mt) Tuesday to be assessed at $4.46/gal ($1,333.54/mt) FOB US Gulf and $4.42/gal ($1,321.58/mt) FOB USG.
US sources attributed the decline in that region to an increase in supply as shipments from Asia arrive. There are unsold cargoes currently on the water, US sources said.
The difference between Wednesday's FOB Korea assessment and Tuesday's May US benzene assessment was at $80.54/mt, and the difference between Wednesday's FOB Korea assessment and Tuesday's June US benzene assessment narrowed to $68.58/mt. With freight assessed at $63-$68/mt between South Korea and the US, the arbitrage window for May remained open, but for June, the arbitrage was close to shutting on paper.
An Asia-based source said working the arbitrage depends on people's view for the future US price.
The arbitrage window between South Korea and the US has been open since mid-December.
The company reported a profit of $1.05 billion, or 79 cents a share, up from $635 million, or 46 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding restructuring-related impacts, debt-extinguishment charges and other items, year-earlier adjusted earnings were 69 cents. Revenue edged up 0.5% $14.46 billion.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected per-share profit of 71 cents and revenue of $14.72 billion.
Sales growth in the first quarter was led by Dow's performance plastics segment, which rose 3% thanks to price increases. Excluding the impact of divestitures, the growth was 6%. Research-and-development expenses fell 10%. Gross margin rose to 18.9% from 18.6%.
In the latest quarter, the company "achieved margin expansion in all of our key business operating segments, despite a series of weather- and transport-related issues in North America," Chairman and Chief Executive Andrew N. Liveris said.
Mr. Liveris last month said the company plans to shed an additional $1.5 billion to $2 billion of assets during 2014 as part of its strategy to focus on higher-margin businesses. On Wednesday, Mr. Liveris said the company's target for its overall divestiture effort "remains $4.5 billion to $6 billion of proceeds, to be completed by the end of 2015."
Activist investor Daniel Loeb of Third Point has been pushing Dow to go even further and split off its petrochemicals business from segments that make specialty chemicals for agriculture, food, pharmaceuticals and electronics. However, Dow has maintained that breaking up the company would hurt overall operations and shareholder value.
Dear Valued Customer,
Effective May 15, 2014, or as contracts allow, BASF Corporation is raising the price for all
Lupranate® MDI products by $0.08 per pound, Lupranate® TDI products by $0.06 per pound,
and all Pluracol® polyol products by $0.06 per pound. This increase is driven by increased
energy and transportation costs as well as strong demand and limited supply.
Your BASF Account Manager will provide further details of this announced increase and is
available to answer any questions you may have. We appreciate your continued support for
BASF Urethane Chemicals.
Title: VISCOELASTIC POLYURETHANE FOAM
Publication date: 17-04-2014
“Gist”: Using TDI, two high MW and high EO polyether triols, hydrolizable PDMS and DELA results in a flexible foam with a low Tg ánd a low resilience.
Why it is interesting: While viscoelastic or “memory” foams are popular in the furniture industry they are currently not used in e.g. car seats because of their limited use temperature. Typically these foams become too stiff at lowish temperatures and often too soft and resilient at higher temperatures. The current invention is about viscoelastic foams which are useful for transport applications because they show constant properties over a wide temperature range. This is accomplished by reacting TDI with a (about) 4000 MW, 75% EO triol, an EO-capped 6500 MW, 75% EO triol, quite some diethanolamine (DELA), and quite some (2.5 pdw in the examples) hydrolyzable polydimethylsiloxane copolymer (PDMS), together with water and catalysts. The foams show two Tg’s one at about -20°C and a minor one at about -55°C (probably due to a seperate PDMS phase) which keeps the foams resilient at low temperatures. The -20°C polyether phase is probably mixed with the DELA-TDI phase resulting in a wide transition reaching to over 0°C. This results in a resilience of about 30% which is quite high for a typical ‘memory’ foam.