Health Hazard Evaluation Program Needs Improvement

HRD-78-13: Published: May 18, 1978. Publicly Released: May 18, 1978.

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The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 established the health hazard evaluation program which requires the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) to determine, when properly requested by employers or employees, whether substances in workplaces are toxic. The program is administered by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and requires that employers and employees be advised of the results of health hazard evaluations as soon as possible.

Although NIOSH estimates that millions of workers are exposed to thousands of cancer causing and other dangerous substances in their workplaces, it had received only 892 requests for health hazard evaluations in about 6 years. NIOSH has done little to publicize and promote the program, and officials believe that most employees and employers are not aware of either NIOSH or its health hazard evaluation program. After making health hazard evaluations, NIOSH takes a long time to prepare comprehensive, technical reports that recipients may not understand. Hazards could be identified and corrected sooner and NIOSH personnel could be used more effectively if reports were issued soon after the evaluations were made. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration headquarters does not have a policy, and its area offices do not have a program or procedures, for using hazard evaluation reports to plan inspections.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary, HEW, should: (1) widely publicize the hazard evaluation program; (2) make reports more timely by simplifying and shortening them; (3) notify workers immediately when there appear to be toxic conditions; (4) reevaluate issued reports to determine if changes to exposure levels affected the toxicity determinations; (5) analyze evaluation reports to determine whether new or revised standards are needed; (6) establish a program for measuring program effectiveness; and (7) send reports to other companies and employee representatives of companies that may have similar conditions or substances. The Secretary of Labor should set a policy that area offices inspect work places where toxic conditions have been identified and direct its regional offices to be more responsive to HEW requests for information.

    Agency Affected:


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