2020 Pilot Project Recipients

One-Handed Carrying on Flat and Inclined Surfaces
Duha Ali,(PhD student)/ Mark Schall PhD(Advisor)
Auburn University

Obesity has been strongly associated with work-related injuries. In particular, obese individuals have been identified as being more susceptible to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) caused by load-carrying when compared to healthy individuals. One-handed carrying is considered one of the most fatiguing and physically demanding methods of load carrying. Performing one-handed carrying tasks on inclined surfaces has not been adequately considered in previous research studies. In manual material handling jobs, employees must be able to perform tasks without excessive stress relative to their capability. Cardiorespiratory fitness is a measure of the body’s maximal ability to transport and use oxygen to perform physical work. Physiological measurements provide an objective scale on which to compare physical tasks with respect to the stress. The objective of this proposed study is to compare the physiological and psychophysical responses of obese and healthy individuals performing different one-handed carrying tasks on flat and inclined surfaces.

Occupational Exposure Assessment of Food Truck Environments: Aldehydes, Respirable particles, and Ventilation Performance
Jonghwa Oh, PhD, Assistant Professor
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Food truck environments are unique in that various thermal cooking appliances creating various degrees of thermal plume are used in a very limited space, often without periodic ventilation performance checks. Food truck industry in the U.S has rapidly expanded with an annual growth of 6.8 % in the past five years1. The work environment of this emerging occupation however has not been investigated by other researchers to date while cooking emissions can contain harmful contaminants such as fine/ultrafine particles, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and aldehydes. In our pilot study performed in two local food trucks (Evaluation of Aldehydes, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, and PM2.5 Levels in Food Trucks, in press as of March 19, 2020), several aldehydes and relatively high PM2.5 concentrations were found with inadequate ventilation performance while no PAHs were detected among analyzed air samples. Based on our findings and scientific literature, we propose to evaluate the food truck workers’ exposure by examining eight aldehydes, respirable particles, and ventilation performance and to implement controls where necessary and applicable.

Comparing nitrogen dioxide concentrations in homes using biomass stoves to homes using liquefied petroleum gas stoves as part of a multi-country cookstove study
Katherine Ann Kearns, PhD Student,
University of Georgia

Billions of people around the globe are impacted by household air pollution (HAP) through the use open fires inside their homes for heating and cooking, and these fires are fueled by inefficiently burning materials such as wood, crop residues, and coal (collectively referred to as “biomass”)1,2. The majority of people exposed to HAP in the form of biomass reside in lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs), but exposure disproportionately affects women and children, as they are the ones that typically spend the most time near the fire, with a child’s exposure often starting before birth3,4. Exposure to HAP is attributable to an estimated 4 billion premature deaths every year and is associated with many adverse health outcomes including low birth weight, respiratory infections, cancer, and pneumonia, which is a major killer in children under five years of age1-4. In addition to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is another pollutant of interest in HAP settings that is understudied. Consequently, investigators of the Household Air Pollution Intervention Network (HAPIN) wish to incorporate the personal and area assessment of NO2 concentrations in a subset of participants from the parent study. This ancillary NO2 study will inform on the efficacy of cleaner cookstoves to sufficiently reduce NO2 levels in accordance with health-based standards.

Understanding Secondary Traumatic Stress of Emergency Nurses & associated patient outcomes
Michael Callihan, PhD, Assistant Professor,
University of Alabama

In the fast-paced environment of the Emergency Department (ED), nurses are often tasked with caring for multiple patients at one time that easily decompensate and progress from sick or injured, to critically ill within a matter of minutes. The high stress placed on the nurse is suspected to perpetuate the missing of imperative clinical cues which could be mitigated early and prevent the patient from declining. This high-pressure environment, coupled with the missed cues and deterioration of patients is thought to cause traumatic experiences for the ED nurse progressing to burnout, compassion fatigue, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Secondary traumatic stress is associated with the emotions and behaviors of people who care for others that have experienced a traumatic event [1]. The emotional effects of the secondary exposure often mimics the effects seen in the individual who experienced the trauma directly. These emotional effects are experienced by ED nurses every day [2], and can have psychological effects leading to PTSD, burnout, and compassion fatigue [3-5]. While ED nurses never back away from the care of any patient, the question remains as to what we are doing to limit the exposure to this occupational risk. The Purpose of this pilot study is to explore the connection between the high-stress environments of the emergency department and missed clinical cues of patient deterioration to the development of secondary traumatic stress and PTSD among ED nurses.

Effect of Exoskeleton and Temperature Level on Construction Worker Fatigue
Chukwuma Aham Nnaji, Assistant Professor
University of Alabama

Construction workers are prone to musculoskeletal disorders from overexertion and working under extreme temperatures. One solution that has been identified by many, including the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), is the use of exoskeletons to reduce the impact of such activities and work conditions. Current work regarding exoskeletons, however, focuses primarily on rehabilitative rather than preventative uses leading to devices that exert too much force on the wearer, are impractical, uncomfortable, or unsafe for certain work-related applications. For an exoskeleton device to be designed most beneficially to the construction industry, it is crucial that it not only aid and protect the worker, but that it also responds to changing environments. Current exoskeleton research does not take into account the impact of critical environmental factors such as temperature change on exoskeleton performance. The work herein proposes to develop a method for assessing the effect of exoskeleton on physical demand in changing temperature – in a controlled environment and live field conditions. These assessments will rely on data obtained from monitoring parameters such as heart rate, skin temperature, core temperature, and electromyography (EMG). It is expected that an increase in temperature level will increase the level of physical demand when using the exoskeleton, leading to higher levels of discomfort. Work-related experiments focused on a small group of participants will generate data to test the methodology and the relationship between change in temperature and physical demand when using an exoskeleton. The data generated through this pilot work is expected to lead to future proposals through NIOSH and other funding mechanisms to expand the number of participants and include other factors that impact physical demand and worker fatigue.

Novel IR reflective coating onto textiles and fabrics for heat protection
Pillai R. Renjith, (Dr. Vinoy Thomas, Mentor)
University of Alabama at Birmingham

The atmospheric temperature shows a rapid increase in the recent years all around the world. The number of sunburn cases among workers is getting raised nowadays, i.e. Mainly because of the lack of proper aids to protect themselves from exposure to sun in the working hours. The focus is to promote productive workplaces without compromising the safety and health concerns. So, the predominant consideration should be given to their protection of workers from sun burn. The better way to protect workers is to modify the working dress with infrared reflective materials. The plasma processed nano surface is the best way for the same. The nano particle coating can be furnished aided with Cold Plasma technique. Plasma process can
in situ modify the surfaces with nanoparticles via plasma enhanced chemical vapour modification. The merit over cold plasma technique is that the temperature almost be in the range of 30˚C, that will help to keep the fabric safe and durable after the Cold Plasma Process and suitable to temperature sensitive materials too. The primary data proves that the plasma processed nano surface show more reflective nature towards infrared rays and is seems to be cooler than the unprocessed surface by approximately 11˚C. The size of particle produced by plasma technique can be confirmed with SEM and TEM and is seems to be in the range of 100-200nm, which will enhance the infrared reflection ability of the surface. The thermal and mechanical data also confirm the durability of fabric after Cold Plasma Process. All the preliminary data are promising in all aspects.