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OSHA Establishes New NEP for Primary Metal Industries

OSHA is establishing a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) for the primary metals industries to better protect workers from hazardous exposures in workplaces that produce 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. These establishments include those that manufacture nails, insulated wires and cables, steel piping and copper and aluminum products.

“Workers who are not properly protected from the hazards of metals refining are at increased risk of serious, potentially deadly health effects,” said OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels. “OSHA’s new enforcement program will raise awareness of the dangers of exposure to metals and other chemicals, so that employers can correct hazards and comply with OSHA standards.”

The agency announced the new NEP on June 2 and said its goals include minimizing or eliminating exposure to chemical hazards and physical hazards, such as noise and heat; 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 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 also can lead to death.

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