OSHA plans to conduct programmed health inspections at Nebraska funeral homes, chemical and product manufacturing plants, printing facilities, and outpatient care centers in launching a local emphasis program to educate employers and workers about highly hazardous chemicals.

Local emphasis programs are enforcement strategies designed and implemented at the regional or area office levels. They are intended to address hazards in industries that pose a particular risk to workers in the area covered by the OSHA unit. Often, these initiatives are accompanied by outreach intended to raise employer awareness of the program and of the hazards it is designed to reduce or eliminate.

"This local emphasis program will allow OSHA to use its resources efficiently by focusing on industries that are known to use these types of highly hazardous chemicals," said OSHA official Bonita Winingham, area director for OSHA in Omaha, referring to formaldehyde and methylene chloride. "Through this program, OSHA will improve education for company management and strengthen worker protections."

Due to their toxicity, formaldehyde and methylene chloride are among a select few subject to specific OSHA health standards. These standards set exposure limits and mandate air monitoring. Industry sectors were selected for inspection based on recorded violations of these health standards and the frequency of inspection in 2013, the agency said in its announcement.

Formaldehyde, which OSHA considers a potential occupational carcinogen, has a variety of uses, including as a preservative in medical laboratories, an embalming fluid, and a sterilizer. It is used to produce resins in foam insulations, as adhesives in the production of particle board and plywood, and in textile treatments. The industrial uses of methylene chloride include paint removal, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and metal cleaning and degreasing.