Week of January 15, 1999

Effective visual communication can help keep your workers safe and your program free of OSHA citations.

Coalition to Fight Safety and Health Program Rule

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has formed a coalition to fight OSHA"s proposed Safety and Health Program rule, expected to be released in March. The rule, which would require employers to identify and assess workplace hazards and establish formal safety and health programs, has been criticized as being too broad-based and vague. "This ill-defined regulation is the worst of both worlds," said Randel K. Johnson, U.S. Chamber vice president for labor policy. "It requires employers to identify and address workplace hazards on a continuous basis, while not providing any benchmark standards of compliance." Johnson warend that the proposal would "provide OSHA agents with blanket protection to regulate and fine employers at will." The coalition held two organizational meetings in December and expects to adopt a name and map out a formal strategy at a meeting later this month. The coalition will consist of representatives from both small and large companies.

EPA Extends Chemical Disclosure

EPA has proposed that power plants, pulp and paper mills, and industrial plants disclose emissions of persistent bioaccumulative chemicals (PBTs). PBTs are chemicals that build up in the food chain, causing a variety of health hazards for people. Under the proposal, eight PBT chemicals will be added to the list of toxic substances subject to annual public reporting. Facilities presently are not required to report PBT releases to the air, water and land unless they manufacture or process more than 25,000 pounds annually, or use more than 10,000 pounds annually, of the chemical. The EPA proposal lowers the threshold to 100 pounds and 10 pounds, respectively. Companies would be required to report releases of dioxins, mercury, PCBs, aldrin and heptachlor. All are known to cause a variety of health hazards at low doses, including reproductive disorders and cancer. "This proposal will give the public more information about substances such as mercury and dioxin that are particularly worrisome because they persist so long in the environment," said Vice President Al Gore. "Armed with this data, citizens can make informed decisions about how best to protect the health of their families."

Stress-Reduction Tips From NIOSH

Job stress can cause physical problems such as cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal and psychological disorders, and workplace injury. In its new publication, "Stress at Work" [DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 99-101], the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) offers practical advice about how employers can recognize job stress and combat it. The agency suggests employers:

  • Ensure workload is in line with workers" capabilities and resources;
  • Design stimulating, meaningful jobs;
  • Define workers" roles and responsibilities clearly;
  • Give workers opportunities to participate in decisions about their jobs;
  • Improve communication with employees;
  • Provide opportunities for social interactions among employees; and
  • Establish work schedules that are compatible with demands and responsibilities outside the job.

For further information, call NIOSH at (800)-35-NIOSH.

EPA Widens Landfill Cleanup Net

On Jan. 12, EPA announced that it reached a $25 million settlement with 327 companies which allegedly disposed of waste at the Operating Industries Inc. Landfill Superfund site. The companies contributed between 4,200 and 110,000 gallons of waste to the site, which EPA reports were relatively small amounts of waste. The companies which contributed the most waste to the landfill have spent or committed almost $300 million toward cleanup. According to EPA, the total estimated cost of cleanup will exceed $600 million. The land surrounding the 190-acre landfill, located in Monterey Park, Calif., is zoned residential and light industrial; 53,000 homes are located within three miles of the site. Waste stored at the landfill included household and inorganic refuse, scrap metal, non-decomposable inert solids and liquid hazardous wastes. The primary contaminants of concern to EPA include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and metals. Cleanup began in 1984, and includes construction of a leachate treatment system, a landfill gas collection system and a landfill cover, which is still under construction.

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