OSHA's National Emphasis Program: Isocyantes

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) monitors industries with specific hazards by developing National Emphasis Programs or NEPs.  These programs are developed based upon injury and illnesses data, specific type of industry or hazard (i.e. lead, hexavalent chromium, combustible dust, etc.).  These programs guide the OSHA compliance officers in identifying non-compliance issues as well as help employers to identify and evaluate such hazards within their companies.  Today, we are going to talk about isocyantes.

Isocyantes is a chemical present in polyurethane paints and products, varnishes, fiber bonding, insulation material, plastics, adhesives, and inks.   This chemical could also be used in the manufacturing of textile goods, furniture, plastics, stone products, window frame and door manufacturing, aircraft parts, boat building, trailers and automotive repair.

Exposure to isocyantes can produce irritation of the eyes and the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract producing an asthma-like syndrome.  It also may produce dermatitis, chemical bronchitis with bronchospasm, pulmonary edema, headaches and insomnia.  Isocyantes can enter the body through inhalation and the skin.  Employees exposed to some type of isocyantes can become sensitized and develop allergic reactions.

The NEP for isocyantes is applicable to the general industry, construction, and maritime industries.  During an inspection under this NEP, the compliance officer could review the chemical inventory list and Safety Data Sheets (formally called MSDS) to confirm if isocyantes are used.  Remember that hazard communication training should be chemical specific.  If isocyantes are used within your facility, ensure employees are trained regarding the hazards of isocyantes, specific procedures, personal protective equipment to be used, and detection methods.

The OSHA 300 logs will be reviewed to verify if there have been work-related cases of asthma.  It is important to have documentation available of all incidents that occur in your facility.  Air sampling might also be conducted unless the employer has recent sampling data (internal, 21(d) Consultation programs and or third party); in which case, OSHA will determine if additional sampling is needed.  OSHA will verify there is no contamination (i.e. visible foam or coatings) on surfaces, tools, and in areas where contamination is not expected such as water fountains or lunchrooms.  Dermal sampling may also be performed.  Compliance officers could request the facility’s personal protective equipment (PPE) assessment to ensure that worksites using isocyantes are using the adequate PPE as well as evaluate the respiratory protection program.  Lastly, housekeeping practices could be evaluated during the visit.

For more detailed information regarding this National Emphasis Program, you can download it here