NIOSH Project Update

Update on NIOSH sealcoating tests

The new sealcoating season marks the second year of the project run by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to collect data from sealcoat applicators. Like the similar study of asphalt paving crews conducted by NIOSH a decade ago, the sealcoat industry study is expected to yield useful data to help evaluate industry health and safety practices. When PCTC learned about NIOSH’s plan to study sealcoat applicators on-the-job, PCTC members recognized it as an opportunity to verify their experience and validate health and safety measures commonly used in the industry. To help ensure the success of the project, PCTC asked to be considered a “willing resource to draw on for information and assistance, including assistance in identifying and selecting companies and recruiting participants.” During the pilot phase of the study, PCTC facilitated participation from two different sealcoating companies in the NIOSH study. Samples collected and experience gained by NIOSH at these job sites are being used to evaluate sampling methods and laboratory analytical techniques. For example, one lesson learned is that samples collected during an applicator’s work day generally contain concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon compounds (PAHs) that are so low that they cannot be accurately measured by traditional portable chemical equipment and require the more sophisticated analytical capabilities only available in laboratories.

In 2017, PCTC’s goal is to help facilitate about 200 man-days of participation in field sample collection by NIOSH. Achieving the goal will help ensure that NIOSH has an overview of different working conditions in different parts of the country. An important aspect of PCTC’s participation is to ensure that the industry understands NIOSH’s goals, procedures, analytical methods, and its interpretation of monitoring results. Another aspect is to understand what companies and applicator crews can expect when volunteering to participate in the NIOSH study. PCTC has contracted with Dr. Mark Bookbinder, a scientist who has conducted similar studies on behalf of various industries, to help assist with both goals – understanding what to expect during the field phase of the study, as well as understanding the scientific procedures that will make the study reliable and informative.

 During the two pilot phase sampling events in 2016, NIOSH started by meeting with applicators and office personnel to explain the study. Each participant in the study must give his “informed consent” before being followed by NIOSH during work activities, wearing the equipment (such as the applicator in the photograph) and providing samples. Occupational studies such as these are governed by strict privacy rules, and NIOSH is required to keep any personal information confidential.

To move forward with reaching the goal of 200 man-days, NIOSH is looking for larger jobs. If your company would consider participation in the NIOSH study this year, please contact me at Before introducing you to NIOSH, PCTC will help educate you about what to expect.