This month, OSHA released a National Emphasis Program (NEP) directed at reducing injuries and illness rates for workers at metal foundries, furnaces and smelters. The agency claims these workers are exposed to carbon monoxide, metals dust, silica, lead, fumes, heat and noise. Those employers under Standard Industrial Code (SIC) “Major Group 33”are covered by this NEP. For example, the following SIC codes are covered: 3312 – Steel Works, Blast Furnaces (including Coke Ovens) and Rolling Mills, 3334 – Primary Production of Aluminum, 3365 – Aluminum Foundries and 2266 – Copper Foundries.

According to a June 2, 2011 OSHA news release, “[t]he goals of the NEP include minimizing or eliminating exposure to chemical hazards and physical hazards such as noise and heat. Other goals include inspecting facilities that manufacture primary metals and metal products, and conducting follow-up site visits to ensure that there has been a reduction or elimination of exposures.”

The NEP requires that each area office, both federal and state, inspect at least three metal plants a year. During the inspections, compliance officers will review MSDSs and recordkeeping documents and conduct exposure monitoring to determine whether employees are exposed above permissible limits for substances listed in 29 C.F.R. § 1910.1000, and whether engineering and work practices are in place, respirator programs are in place and respirators and personal protective equipment are being used. A copy of the Directive can be found here.