“OSHA Emphasizes Safety In The Primary Metal Industries”


On October 20, OSHA issued a National Emphasis Program (NEP) for Primary Metal Industries. The NEP is intended to identify and reduce or eliminate worker exposure to harmful chemical and physical health hazards in facilities in those industries.

OSHA says that individuals employed in the primary metal industries (smelting and refining of ferrous and nonferrous metals) are exposed to serious safety and health hazards on a daily basis including chemical exposures as well as physical stressors such as noise and heat.

In fact, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries showed that five of the top 20 industries with non-fatal occupational injury and illnesses cases were in these industries. In addition, previous inspections of primary metal establishments have resulted in citations for overexposure to a wide variety of health hazards including chemical exposures. Chemical exposures found in these facilities include carbon monoxide, lead, silica, metal dusts and fumes, and various other chemical substances.

Although OSHA describes the NEP as a new initiative, it replaces a three-year NEP that was in effect from May 19, 2011 to September 30, 2014. As of October 1, 2014, the new instruction will discontinue the required programmed inspection goals, but will retain the NEP’s inspection procedures, citation guidance, and outreach information for continued reference by Regional and Area Offices as a way to assure that inspections conducted under the NEP continue to address the health-related hazards of the primary metals industries.

Primary metals industries include iron foundries, establishments that manufacture nails, insulated wires and cables, steel piping, and copper and aluminum products to name a few.

Minor changes that apply include:

  • Revisions allowing Area Offices to determine the number of inspections at their discretion and to delete the NEP expiration date.
  • Revisions resulting from the HCS 2012 (Hazard Communication, Final Rule, Federal Register, Vol. 77, No. 58, March 26, 2012).
  • Changes to updated references, such as revised OSHA directives, the new OSHA Information System (OIS), and the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).

The purpose of the NEP, as identified by OSHA, includes four program goals:

To minimize and/or eliminate worker exposure to the hazards, both physical and chemical, which are known to be present in the primary metal industries. Reduction and/or elimination of chemical exposures will help to reduce and prevent the occurrence of skin and eye injuries as well as occupational lung injury and other illnesses. Reduction of worker exposures to physical hazards will help prevent adverse effects such as hearing loss.
2. To significantly reduce/eliminate worker overexposures to both chemical and physical stressors and, therefore, control the health hazards associated with such exposures. This goal will be accomplished by a combined effort of inspection targeting, outreach to employers, and compliance assistance.
Inspections will be directed to those facilities known to manufacture primary metals and metal products.
4. To ensure abatement and measure the effectiveness of this NEP, follow-up site visits often will be necessary where overexposures have been documented.

Find the new program at www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=DIRECTIVES&p_id=6042.

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