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.

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