Hazardous Waste Incinerators:

EPA's and OSHA's Actions to Better Protect Health and Safety Not Complete

RCED-95-17: Published: Jan 25, 1995. Publicly Released: Feb 27, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed hazardous waste incinerators' compliance with federal health and safety regulations, focusing on the: (1) Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) efforts to protect workers' health and safety at hazardous waste incinerators; and (2) results of inspections and enforcement actions at 29 facilities.

GAO found that: (1) EPA and OSHA have fully implemented three task force recommendations to correct violations, educate the industry, and improve inspections; (2) EPA and the states have initiated enforcement actions and collected over $2 million in penalties for safety violations; (3) EPA and OSHA have conducted education outreach programs on the importance of health and safety compliance; (4) EPA has taken steps to educate its compliance officials, but it has not fully implemented recommendations to improve EPA inspection coverage, conduct research on the use of certain operating equipment, and revise facilities' incineration permits to limit the use of this equipment if necessary; (5) OSHA has not fully implemented recommendations on educating its compliance officials and improving its inspection coverage; (6) EPA and the states reinspected the incinerator facilities, but they did not detect the same pattern of violations that the task force found because the scope of their inspections differed; (7) OSHA did not reinspect the facilities because it believes that the relative risk of working at these incinerators is low; (8) EPA and OSHA have taken additional steps beyond the task force's recommendations to protect workers' health and safety at the incinerators; and (9) OSHA plans to require these facilities to have accredited training programs for workers handling hazardous wastes, but OSHA does not have a good plan to ensure that all facilities submit their programs for accreditation.

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