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ERC NY/NJ Trip 2013

ERC NY/NJ Trip 2013

University of Cincinnati ERC Blog

By Ifeanyi Nwaneshiudu/ Angela Wills


The ERC NY/NJ 2013 Historical Perspectives on Occupational Safety and Health Tour started on Sunday. We visited Lackawanna Coal Mine, Carrie Furnaces (Rivers of Steel Heritage), NIOSH PPTL, Ford River Rouge Factory, Materion Brush, and Love Canal.  UC students from Occupational Medicine and Occupational Safety and Ergonomics joined the interdisciplinary students and faculty from the NY/NJ ERC.

Day 1: Lackawana Coal Mine Tour 2013 (Scranton PA) (Angela)

The Coal Mine group (Ifeanyi and 3 others from NJ/NY) gave a brief but detailed presentation on the bus of the history of the Lackawana mines, the hazards associated with coal mining and the various ways of hazard prevention.  When we got to the mine, we descended into the mine in a trolley/cart, 300 feet below the surface.  The mine itself was a cold 54 degree compared to the outdoor surface temperature in the 80s.  We learned about room and pillar mining.  The guide also taught us about the different jobs that workers had, starting with 5 year old boys who helped moved the coal with the help of mules to the role of the mine safety manager.  We saw the severe conditions the miners had to endure in those days from, lack of adequate lighting to lack of personal protective equipment.  Miners were paid between $1.15 and $1.25 per car load of coal which was up to 5 tons.  Although at the end of the day, they had nothing to take home, as they had to purchase their tools and supplies, pay other workers for their help.  All together it was a good experience seeing how things were and how much things have changed.


Day 2: Carrie Furnaces/Homestead Steel and NIOSH PPTL ERC Tour 2013 (Pittsburg) (Ifeanyi)

Carrie Furnaces was a steel plant we visited to see the blast furnaces that produced iron. The Carrie Furnaces were built in 1884 and they operated until 1982.  We had two tour guides who previously worked at the plant who gave us an insight to how thing ran there.  We got to walk through the plant, saw the blast furnaces and the conveyor systems used during the iron production.  It was nice to hear the actual experience from people who worked in the plant when it was operational.

We then went to the NIOSH Personal Protective Technologies Lab. While there we broke up into small groups with two tour guides for each and we visited four labs to see the research NIOSH conducts on personal protective equipment.  These labs were a) Mine Rescue and Escape Training Laboratory (Virtual Reality) b)The Advanced Respirator Test Headform c) Fit Testing Labs d) Sweating Manikin.  The most interesting part of the lab was to see the manikin used to test the respirators; this was an advanced technological model (only one of its kind) which could be programmed to simulate facial expressions (grimacing, smiling etc), phonation and movement.  This was used to test how well the respirators fit.  The virtual reality show of the mine was also interesting to see; it gave a 3D view of an underground and went over the responses to different hazardous scenarios.


Day 3:  Ford River Rouge plant (Detroit) (Angela)

We then journeyed to Detroit MI to visit the Ford River Rouge plant to get a better understanding how cars are assembled. The tour starts with a video overview of the River Rouge plant, which opened in 1913, and the history of Ford Motor Corporation. The video shows how Henry Ford who started in a small garage type building developed the assembly line to increase productivity in the manufacturing of automobiles.  Henry Ford successfully reduced the time it took to make an automobile from 12 hours to around 90 minutes.  We then moved to another room where we were shown a multi-sensory video (felt sprinkles of water, wind during the video for effect).  This video showed the assembly process at the River Rouge Factory for the F150 trucks. We are able to walk above the assembly line and assess the types of work that workers perform during the assembly process, as well as how mechanized the process was. 


Day 4: Materion Beryllium plant (Toledo) (Ifeanyi)

From Detroit MI, we headed over to Toledo OH to visit the Materion Beryllium plant. The tour provided us with an opportunity to see how beryllium alloys are manufactured. The beryllium alloys are made into strip coils, wires, and rods, bars, and tubes.  These alloys are used in computers and cell phones, and in the oil and gas, and aerospace industries.  In general it was a good experience in the beryllium plant; we wore a PAPR respirator, which gave me a little insight to how workers felt with them on., I often do physicals for respirator clearance and this experience definitely helps. I was impressed with the plant employee safety programs i.e. workers involved in casting were given a break every 15 minutes in a cold room, with fluids, and ice to prevent heat-related illness.


Day 5: Love Canal (Niagra NY) (Angela)

We then embarked on a journey to NY. In the evening some of us got to walk into Canada to see the Niagara Falls.  The next day we went to the Love Canal site, Tour guides there presented an overview of the history of Love Canal, including how toxic wastes were dumped into the canal, development and design of the landfill, and control of the wastes that are buried on site. Many of the present environmental and health and safety regulations were made possible because of Love Canal, including Superfund and the creation of the National Priorities List (NPL) of hazardous waste sites. We proceeded to the water treatment section where we were told about some of the treatment process. Unfortunately it began to rain as we walked on the cap of the Love Canal site and the tour ended with a group picture.  We then got dropped off at the Buffalo airport to return back to Cincinnati.


Special Thanks to the NY/NJ ERC for the opportunity to tour with them of this trip and being able to interact with other ERC group members