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National Emphasis Program | Reducing exposure to Iscoyanates

isocyanate hazards in the workplace

Reduction in occupational exposure to isocyanates implemented by OSHA.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)  has implemented a National Emphasis Program to identify and reduce health hazards related to occupational exposure to isocyanates. The program is designed to raise awareness of the serious health effects of isocyanate exposure. Exposure to these chemicals occur in many different occupations, including the manufacturing of polyurethane foam, insulation materials, furniture, car seats, carpet padding, polyurethane rubber and adhesives, shoes, packaging materials, and laminated fabrics. Workers can also be exposed to isocyanates while painting or blowing foam insulation.

There are many serious health effects associated with occupational exposure to isocyanates. Adverse effects range from skin irritation, to irritation of mucous membranes, difficulty breathing and chest tightness, as well as asthma. These chemicals also are known to cause cancer in animals. Fifteen percent of adult onset asthma cases in the United States are caused by occupational exposure to these substances.

The emphasis program will used a combination of enforcement and outreach to raise awareness to the hazards and how to reduce or prevent them. The program is designed to reach workers, their employers, safety professionals, and health professionals. The program will continue for three years. Outreach will be directed to general industry, the construction industry, and the maritime industry, as exposure to isocyanates occurs in all of these.

OSHA will identify which facilities are most likely to have occurrences of overexposure to isocyanates and will target them for inspections. Inspections schedules will be random. Sites found to have violations will have follow-up inspections to determine if the hazards have been eliminated.

Both OSHA and the National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) have developed resources with information about isocyanates, the effects of exposure on health, and safety procedures and standards to reduce or eliminate overexposure to these compounds. OSHA’s Isocyanates Safety and Health Topics Page provides access to resources on this topic. Related informational resources available on the OSHA website include: Safety and Health Topics Pages on Occupational Asthma, Hazard Communication, Personal Protective Equipment, Respiratory Protection, Spray Operations, and Ventilation.

NIOSH resources also include a Workplace Safety and Health Topics Page on Isocyanates, as well as Safety and Health Topics Page on Asthma and Allergies, and a print publication entitled Preventing Asthma & Death from MDI Exposure During Spray-on Truck Bed Liner and Related Applications.

For a detailed explanation of the National Emphasis Program on Occupational Exposure to Isocyanates you can view the directive issued on the program at: https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/Directive_pdf/CPL_03-00-017.pdf.