Earlier this summer, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the implementation of a National Emphasis Program (NEP) that will focus on the potential adverse effects from occupational exposure to isocyanates. This three–year program was launched with the intention of combining enforcement and outreach efforts to raise workplace awareness of the negative health effects associated with occupational exposure to isocyanates.

The agency’s announced goal is to reduce employee exposure to isocyanates that can potentially lead to work-related asthmatic symptoms. The program announcement identifies a significant number of specific industries that that will be looked at and, though the manufacturers of adhesives and sealants are not called out, many industries that use our products are clearly going to be reviewed. 

As a partner in the value chain, adhesive and sealant manufacturers with products containing isocyanate material at a minimum should consider notifying their customers of the existence of this new OSHA program. Many may want to go a step further in urging their customers to review their engineering controls or workplace and training practices to make sure that exposure and the possibility of employee sensitization is held to an absolute minimum.

OSHA made it clear in the program’s rollout that it would be targeting operations with a history of injuries and illnesses related to isocyanate exposures, including work-related cases of asthma. This might be the time to remind your customers that taking the precautions to have proper work practice controls in place now may preclude a visit from OSHA in the future.