By James L. CurtisJeryl L. Olson, and Craig B. Simonsen

OSHA has recently announced a new local emphasis program for health inspections of facilities known to have reported the use and “release” of chemicals defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) Section 313 as “toxic chemicals”.

Under EPCRA section 313 facilities must report the use and release of toxic chemicals under the EPA’s Toxic Chemical Release Inventory (TRI) “Form R” reporting rules. According to Marcia Drumm, Acting Regional Administrator for OSHA, the purpose of the OSHA emphasis program is to focus on industrial sites that are known to have reported large releases of  TRI chemicals (known as  “hazardous chemicals” by OSHA, but otherwise known as “toxic chemicals” under EPA rules).  The Regional news release indicates that the Agency will target facilities that have reported releases of Section 313 toxic chemicals in quantities equal to or exceeding 100,000 pounds.

This is a very tangible example of OSHA and EPA coordinating enforcement efforts (if not definitions) under the current administration. In addition, this is consistent with OSHA’s efforts to target process safety management facilities under the OSHA standard.

While this emphasis program is currently restricted to OSHA’s Region 7, industries across the country in this targeted group should take note of this precedent. If your facility has reported large volumes of use/releases of toxic chemicals under EPA’s Section 313 Form R reporting requirements, now would be a good time to consider whether your processes, policies, and training programs would pass an OSHA inspection. In the event your facility has reported large volumes of toxic chemicals on its Form R reports, anticipate that OSHA will be inspecting your facility.