New OSHA Alliances Protect Workers From Grain Handling, Chemical Hazards

The two new alliances with the National Grain and Feed Association and the American Chemistry Council will focus on preventing exposure dangers associated with the grain handling and polyurethane industries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has formed two new alliances with the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) with the goal of protecting the safety and health of workers who handle grain and isocyanates in their workplaces.

Through its Alliance Program, OSHA works with unions, consulates, trade and professional organizations, faith- and community-based organizations, businesses, and educational institutions to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. The purpose of each alliance is to develop compliance assistance tools and resources to educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities.

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The two-year alliance with ACC will raise awareness of how workers are exposed to diisocyantes, and promote safe practices for their use in the polyurethane industry. Isocyanates are raw materials used to make polyurethane products, such as insulation, car seats, foam mattresses, shoes, and adhesives. Exposure to isocyanates can cause irritation of the skin and mucous membranes, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing. More serious health effects include asthma and other lung problems.

The alliance calls for the creation of a web-based training program on the safe use of chemicals and the potential routes of exposure to users. It will also develop guidance on medical surveillance and clinical evaluation techniques for employers and workers using the chemicals. The agreement also calls for best practices seminars on health and safety procedures for OSHA, On-Site Consultation, and State Plan staff.

“OSHA’s new alliance with ACC will help ensure that employers and employees who work with the identified chemicals better understand the health hazards associated with these potentially hazardous chemicals, and the methods to control employee exposures,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt.

The ACC comprises the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI), and the Diisocyanates and Aliphatic Diisocyanates panels. Members of these groups include manufacturers and distributors of chemicals and equipment used to make polyurethane. CPI serves as the voice of the polyurethanes industry, covering more than 220,000 workers nationwide.

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The two-year alliance with NGFA will focus on preventing exposure to hazards associated with grain bin entry, machine guarding, respiratory protection, falls, heat exposure exposures, combustible dust, struck-by equipment, and lockout/tagout. Alliance participants will share recommended practices or effective approaches for recognizing and preventing grain handling hazards with OSHA staff, and industry safety and health professionals. Participants also plan to support and promote events such as the Grain Industry Stand-Up, which focuses on engulfment prevention.

“Grain handling operations pose numerous hazards that can cause serious, sometimes fatal injuries,” said Sweatt. “We look forward to working with NGFA to find ways to reduce exposures to hazards and promote workplace safety and health.”

Founded in 1896, the NGFA is a non-profit trade association that represents and provides services for grain, feed, and related commercial businesses. The association has more than 1,000 member companies, which handle more than 70 percent of all U.S. grains and oilseeds used in domestic and export markets. Its activities focus on enhancing the growth and economic performance of U.S. agriculture.