OSHA Endorses Voluntary Stewardship Program for Refractory Ceramic Fibers

OSHA is endorsing a voluntary product stewardship program designed to reduce workplace exposures to refractory ceramic fiber (RCF) products.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is endorsing a voluntary product stewardship program designed to reduce workplace exposures to refractory ceramic fiber (RCF) products.

During a formal exchange of letters between Henshaw and William Kelly, president of the Refractory Ceramic Fiber Coalition, Henshaw said workers and employers in all segments of the industry can benefit from the coalition's commitment to assure the safe handling of products containing the fibers, used mainly for high temperature insulation applications.

"This is an ambitious product stewardship effort and we're proud to support it," Henshaw said. "The program holds great promise for helping assure worker exposures are low and increasing the use of effective control measures in the RCF sector of the synthetic fiber industry. The coalition and its members are to be commended for their leadership and, on a voluntary basis, taking steps to help assure refractory ceramic fiber products are handled properly and workers are protected."

Some of the studies of workers exposed to RCF fibers have shown some evidence of decreased pulmonary functions and chronic respiratory disease. Also, animal studies have indicated that the fibers pose a potential risk of cancer.

The five-year program recommends voluntary exposure limits of 0.5 fiber per cubic centimeter (f/cc) over an eight-hour time-weighted average for RCF. It stresses the use of product design, engineering controls, work practices, respiratory protection or a combination of all to achieve exposure control for each worker.

The program ensures that appropriate respiratory protection is used where average airborne RCF concentrations are not reliably below the recommended exposure limit, and will incorporate all relevant requirements of OSHA's respiratory protection standard. The program proposes a communications program designed to promote and advertise training seminars and other training opportunities, and establishes voluntary reporting procedures for the program's progress. Reports will be submitted to OSHA and other interested parties, providing exposure and medical monitoring results and information on program performance.

The program also supports research to develop new and improved RCF product forms that will reduce the potential for worker exposure.

This stewardship program is similar to one adopted three years ago by three industry associations, and endorsed by OSHA, to protect employees involved in the manufacture and handling of fiberglass-containing products.

"We are very proud to work with the coalition for the benefit of worker protection," Henshaw said. "While we will continue to monitor and track RCF exposures and conduct inspections, we'll also continue to work with the participants of this stewardship program towards continuous improvement in the safe handling of RCF products."

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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