We recently received the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) final Health Hazard Evaluation Report for Just Coffee’s roasting facility and office space. The report confirms that we had some levels above the NIOSH recommended exposure limit (5 parts per billion)– the highest measure in our building was 8.4 parts per billion. We are happy to have worked with NIOSH on this issue and proud of the fact that we were the first specialty coffee roaster to invite them into a roasting facility for testing and analysis. Even though OSHA has not issued regulations on exposure to these compounds, we thought that it was important to engage so that we could make sure that our employees are safe. Now that we have the final report we can make the changes necessary to make absolutely sure that our people are safe and healthy in their work here.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (MJS) recently published an article that discusses worker safety at Just Coffee. With that in mind, I think it is important to put employee safety in our facility in perspective with data from the report that the MJS chose not to use. The highest level of diacetyl and 2,3 pentanedione detected in our facility was over the NIOSH recommended threshold and therefore it is too high. That said, when we asked about NIOSH’s confidence level in the safety of our facility, after doing extensive testing in our space and medical exams of employees, they pointed us to page 22 of the report. On that page it states that at our highest exposure level (8.4 parts per billion) “less than 2 in 1000 workers would develop reduced lung function” if they worked in that specific environment for 45 years at 40 hours per week. This is a very low risk to workers here and these numbers should be stated for the record. The report also states that any lower respiratory issues observed “did not have a work-related pattern” and “are not specific to a particular respiratory problem or disease”.
Even at this low risk, our intention is to make Just Coffee a “zero risk” environment and we are already following the remediation advice of NIOSH putting new systems in place and planning others. Part of our mission and mandate at JCC is to provide our workers with a healthy work environment. We urge other roasters to contact NIOSH about testing their own facilities to make sure they are not at risk. We are proud to be out in front in the specialty coffee industry in the fight for worker safety.