By James L. Curtis and Craig B. Simonsen

OSHA has just released a new Instruction for its Field Operations Manual that describes policies and procedures for implementing a National Emphasis Program to identify and reduce or eliminate the incidence of adverse health effects associated with occupational exposure to isocyanates.

The Instruction, National Emphasis Program – Occupational Exposure to Isocyanates, CPL 03-00-017, is intended to combine “enforcement and outreach efforts to raise awareness of employers, workers, and safety and health professionals” of the health effects associated with occupational exposure to isocyanates. According to OSHA, “workers in a wide range of industries and occupations are exposed to at least one of the numerous isocyanates known to be associated with work-related asthma.”

Employers that are now under scrutiny by this new National Emphasis Program include:

  • Manufactures and handlers of polyurethane products, including polyurethane foam, insulation materials, surface coatings, car seats, furniture, foam mattresses, under-carpet padding, packaging materials, shoes, laminated fabrics, polyurethane rubber, and adhesives.

The Instruction provides a “site selection system” that targets multiple industries and will focus on evaluating inhalation, dermal, and other routes of occupational exposure to isocyanates. Appendix A provides the following industry list “where isocyanate exposures are known or likely to occur.”

Appendix A

Industries Where Isocyanate Exposures are Known or Likely Occur

  • Automotive – paints, glues, insulation, sealant and fiber bonding, truck bed lining
  • Casting – foundry cores
  • Building and construction – sealants, glues, insulation material, fillers
  • Electricity and electronics – cable insulation, PUR coated circuit boards
  • Mechanical engineering – insulation material
  • Paints – lacquers
  • Plastics – soft and hard plastics, plastic foam and cellular plastic
  • Printing – inks and lacquers
  • Timber and furniture – adhesives, lacquers, upholstery stuffing and fabric
  • Textiles – synthetic textile fibers
  • Medical care – PUR casts
  • Mining – sealants and insulating materials
  • Food industry – packaging materials and lacquers


Employers in these industry groups should look carefully at their current policies, procedures, and training programs to ensure compliance — or put themselves at risk of an OSHA citation.