OSHA’s new directive establishing a National Emphasis Program (NEP) for the Primary Metal Industries went into effect on May 19, 2011. The purpose of the NEP is to identify and reduce or eliminate worker exposures to harmful chemical and physical hazards in establishments producing metal products.
Establishments in the primary metals industries are involved in extracting and refining metals from rocks containing iron, lead, nickel and tin, among other elements. Among these establishments are those that manufacture nails, insulated wires and cables, steel piping, and copper and aluminum products.
According to the OSHA press release, the primary metals industries became a concern during OSHA's review of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Previous OSHA inspections of establishments in this industry revealed that workers were exposed to metal dusts and fumes, carbon monoxide, lead and silica, among other substances. Inspections also showed that workers were exposed to noise and heat hazards. OSHA developed this program because of the seriousness and frequency of these problems.
Workers exposed to various substances found in these industries can suffer damage to the eyes, nose, throat and skin and can experience difficulty breathing and chest and joint pain. Overexposures can also lead to death. The 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.
OSHA also has National Emphasis Programs for Hexavalent Chromium*, Lead* and Crystalline Silica.
Scott Madar, Mercer (formerly ORC Worldwide Consulting)