Sporadic Workplace Inspections for Lethal and Other Serious Health Hazards

HRD-77-143: Published: Apr 5, 1978. Publicly Released: Apr 5, 1978.

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The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was designed to assure, as far as possible, safe and healthful working conditions for every worker in the Nation. A review was conducted to determine how well the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is managing industrial hygienists' efforts to deal with cancer-causing chemicals and other health hazards in industrial settings.

Thousands of workplaces have not yet been inspected by Federal or State industrial hygienists for health hazards. Of those that have been inspected, only 26 percent were where one or more carcinogens, suspected carcinogens, or other substances posing high risks were detected. Aggressive action is needed to require OSHA and the States to inspect workplaces with high-risk health hazards. Without a plan that considers what can be done to enforce standards on high-risk health hazards, OSHA management has little control over health hygienists. The ability of OSHA to emphasize certain high-risk substances may be significantly hindered by the lack of qualified personnel, problems with equipment, sampling procedures, and laboratory analysis methods. Industrial hygienists' inspections frequently have not provided convincing evidence that employers provided the protection required.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should direct OSHA to establish a basic health standards enforcement plan that considers: the relative severity of the health risks posed by toxic substances and other health hazards covered by the standards; the number and location of workplaces likely to have such hazards and the number of workers exposed to them; the ability of OSHA and States to make inspections with qualified personnel, reliable equipment, and proper procedures; and the degree of employers' compliance with the standards. Industrial hygienists should be required to: identify and record all high-risk substances at each workplace inspected, check for and document whether employers are in compliance with each requirement in the standards, record how the employer is complying with the standards for each high-risk substance, and perform followup inspections at all workplaces which violate the standards covering carcinogens and other suspect high-risk hazards.

    Agency Affected:


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