Styrene Targeted by Public Health Groups


One of the largest labor organizations in the US, a leading environmental advocacy group, and one of the top physicians in occupational medicine have filed legal papers aimed at making sure government can alert the American public to the potential dangers of styrene, a chemical used extensively in the manufacture of plastics, as well as boats, cars, bathtubs, and products made with rubber, such as tires and conveyer belts. The groups filed a motion to intervene, seeking to help defend the US Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) listing of styrene as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. The motion is in response to a chemical industry lawsuit attempting to force the agency to withdraw the styrene warning.

“This case is about the public’s right to have scientifically sound information on the link between styrene exposure and cancer,” said Marianne Engelman Lado, Earthjustice attorney representing the groups. “Styrene is a dangerous chemical that is all around us because of its widespread use in plastics manufacturing. It’s clear that industry is trying to prevent people from getting scientific information about this toxic chemical and we intend to make sure government can inform the public of the risk of styrene, as well as the potential dangers of other chemicals.”

Styrene has long been suspected of being harmful to human health. The listing of styrene by the HHS came after seven years of scientific review, vetting by multiple panels of experts, and numerous rounds of public comment. HHS is the US government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans.

In addition to the HHS listing, the EPA regulates styrene as a Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) and has described styrene to be, “a suspected toxin to the gastrointestinal tract, kidney, and respiratory system, among others,” and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and World Health Organization (WHO) have for years considered styrene to be possibly carcinogenic to humans. Styrene is used to manufacture many common household products such as plastic packaging and disposable cups, and is found in building insulation, automobile parts, floor waxes and polishes, and personal care products among other common items. It is also approved for use in containers and food-contact materials, and is an FDA-approved synthetic flavoring in ice cream and candy.

“Thousands of our members are exposed to styrene on the job,” said Michael Wright, Director of Health, Safety and Environment, United Steelworkers. “They have a right to know the truth—that our government has found that styrene exposures may lead to cancer in humans—and this listing makes it publicly known. It’s time for the chemical industry to stop denying that truth, and instead put its resources into ensuring that styrene and other toxic chemicals are used as safely as possible.”

Under the Public Health Service Act (PHSA), HHS has delegated the responsibility of publishing a biennial report on carcinogens to the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In its most recent Report on Carcinogens (ROC), released on June 10, 2011, NTP listed the chemical styrene as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on evidence from studies in both humans and animals.

Immediately following the listing, the Styrene Information and Research Center (SIRC), an industry association, and Dart Container Corporation, the world’s largest manufacturer of polystyrene cups, sued HHS, seeking to compel HHS to withdraw the styrene listing. SIRC member companies, which include Dart, are involved in the manufacturing and processing of styrene or in the fabrication of styrene-based products.

“Should this industry lawsuit be successful, it will prevent workers, consumers, and members of the public who may be exposed to styrene, as well as health professionals, from receiving authoritative information about styrene and its impacts on human health,” said Richard Denison, Senior Scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and an expert on chemical safety.” It could have a major chilling effect on the ability of government agencies to carry out their responsibilities to identify toxic chemicals and provide the public with potentially life-saving information about them.”

The motion, which was prepared by the public interest law firm Earthjustice, is filed on behalf of the United Steelworkers, which represents workers who are especially exposed to styrene at their workplaces, and EDF.

“We are compelled to take decisive action here to help the government vigorously defend its styrene listing,” said Earthjustice’s Marianne Engelman Lado. “The government must be able to continue its pursuit of sound science and disclose vital conclusions about the impacts of toxics on the public health. Workers, mothers, and their children, all of us have a right to know, so that we may make the most informed and healthy choices in our daily lives.”

Baltimore RCRA, DOT, and IATA/IMO Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in Baltimore, Maryland, from June 5–7 and save $100. Transportation of Dangerous Goods: Compliance with IATA and IMO Regulations will be offered in Baltimore on June 8. To take advantage of the discount offer for the Baltimore RCRA and DOT combination, or to register for any of the Baltimore training courses, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.

Baton Rouge RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, from June 12–14 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.

Chattanooga RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, from June 19–June 21 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.

How to Prepare for OSHA’s Globally Harmonized Hazard Communication Standard (GHS)

OSHA has issued a final rule revising its Hazard Communication Standard, aligning it with the United Nations’ globally harmonized system (GHS) for the classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals. This means that virtually every product label, MSDS (called “safety data sheet” or SDS under the new standard), and written hazard communication plan must be revised to meet the new standard. Worker training must be updated so that workers can recognize and understand the symbols and pictograms on the new labels as well as the new hazard statements and precautions on SDSs.

Environmental Resource Center is offering webcast training for you to learn how the new rule differs from current requirements, how to implement the changes, and when the changes must be implemented. Register for an upcoming webcast on How to Prepare for OSHA’s Globally Harmonized Hazard Communication Standard (GHS) offered on the following dates:

  • June 26
  • July 18
  • August 15
  • October 2

How to Author GHS Safety Data Sheets

OSHA has adopted the new Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for the classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals. A cornerstone of GHS is the adoption of a completely revised Safety Data Sheet (SDS). In Environmental Resource Center’s new, How to Author GHS Safety Data Sheets webcast, you will learn the differences between the MSDS and SDS, how to author SDSs that meet the latest OSHA standards, how to classify your products according to the 28 GHS hazard classes and 88 categories, what must be entered in each section of the SDS, essential references you can use to locate data for each section of the SDS, and how to handle trade secrets.

To learn what you must do to meet the new SDS requirements, register for an upcoming How to Author GHS Safety Data Sheets webcast offered on the following dates:

  • June 27
  • October 3

How to Label Hazardous Chemicals Using OSHA’s New GHS Hazcom Standard

Workplace and supplier hazard communication labels are being reinvented with OSHA’s adoption of the new Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for labeling hazardous chemicals. In a new, interactive Environmental Resource Center webcast, How to Label Hazardous Chemicals Using OSHA’s New GHS Hazcom Standard, you will learn the difference between workplace and supplier labels; what signal words, hazard statements, precautionary statements, and pictograms must be on your labels; essential references you can use to locate required label information; and how to label products with existing HMIS, NFPA, DOT, and CPSC labels.

The How to Label Hazardous Chemicals Using OSHA’s New GHS Hazcom Standard webcast will be offered on the following dates:

  • June 28
  • October 4

OSHA Issues Call to Action to New Jersey Construction Companies to Prevent Worker Falls

Following four recent construction incidents that took place in Northern New Jersey, OSHA is calling on construction companies to ensure that employees working above six feet have the proper equipment to protect themselves from falls on the job.

OSHA has opened investigations following a worker fall through a roof into a vat of acid in Clifton, New Jersey; a worker fall from the roof on a residential construction site in Bayonne, New Jersey; a worker fall while installing a steel frame in Madison, New Jersey; and a worker fall from an aerial lift in Secaucus, New Jersey.

There are a number of ways to protect workers from falls, including guardrail systems, safety net systems, and personal fall arrest systems, including properly anchored body harnesses and lanyards, as well as the use of safe work practices and thorough training.

“Whether working on a roof, a scaffold, or in an aerial lift, all workers must have and correctly use the proper equipment to prevent falls,” says Robert Kulick, OSHA regional administrator in New York.

In April, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced a new campaign to provide employers and workers with lifesaving information and educational materials about working safely from ladders, scaffolds, and roofs in an effort to prevent deadly falls in the construction industry. In 2010, more than 10,000 construction workers were injured as a result of falling while working from heights, and more than 250 workers were killed. OSHA’s Fall Prevention Campaign was developed in partnership with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and NIOSH’s National Occupational Research Agenda program.

Brooklyn Contractor Cited for Steel Erection and Fall Hazards Following Fatal Structural Collapse

OSHA has cited SP&K Construction, a Brooklyn contractor, for alleged safety violations in connection with a fatal structural collapse in Brighton Beach, New York. The contractor was erecting a multistory building on November 8, 2011, when the front bays of the third, fourth, and fifth floors collapsed as concrete was poured onto the fourth and third floors.

An inspection by OSHA’s Manhattan Area Office found that the structural stability of the floors was not maintained during the steel erection process and the exterior wall framing was not constructed to maintain structural stability during the erection process. Among other deficiencies, the structural frame was inadequately braced and secured, and was laterally unstable; the exterior walls were not plumbed and properly aligned; exterior stud walls were not properly connected to header members; all metal c–joists were not secured as required; and nails were used in place of screws to secure steel decking to c–joists in some locations.

Additionally, fall protection training was not provided to employees working on the scaffolds and on the unprotected edges of the third, fourth, and fifth floors, exposing them to falls of 10–40 feet. The scaffold had not been properly braced and had not been inspected for defects by a competent person with the knowledge to identify and authority to correct hazards.

SP&K received a citation for a willful violation involving the lack of structural stability; citations for eight serious violations involving the lack of fall protection, training, and competent person inspections; and citations for two other-than-serious violations involving an incomplete injury and illness log. The citations carry $77,880 in proposed penalties.

A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

Rich Products Corp. Cited for Slip and Fall, Amputation Hazards

OSHA has cited Rich Products Corp., for 23 safety violations following an inspection prompted by complaints about the frozen food manufacturing facility in Brunswick, Georgia. Proposed penalties total $80,385.

The company was cited with 20 serious violations for exposing workers to slipping hazards due to wet floors, fall hazards due to holes in the floor around equipment on elevated platforms, workplace entry and exit hazards due to missing signs, an unsafe ammonia refrigeration system due to incomplete process safety information, and amputation and electrical hazards from not completely guarding process equipment. Additional violations involve a failure to ensure workers were using personal protective equipment, including goggles, face shields, and gloves while working with corrosive chemicals; audit the process safety management program; lockout/tagout procedures completely isolated energy sources; post warning signs; permit partial hindrance to exit routes; and protect workers from hot piping and missing guardrails on elevated platforms.

Three other-than-serious violations were also cited with no monetary penalty. They were failing to correctly document the current implemented safeguards; determine the severity of consequences on the process hazard analysis checklist for the ammonia refrigeration system; and annually certify the current and accurate status of operating procedures throughout the ammonia refrigeration system, so that it does not use fixed wiring for the recirculation vessel.

Rich Products Corp., operates 18 food-processing facilities throughout the US and is a leading supplier of nondairy and frozen food to food-service, in-store bakeries, retail, and industrial marketplaces.

Bear Ridge Machine & Fabrication Cited for Respiratory Protection, Lack of Hazard Communication Program

OSHA has cited Bear Ridge Machine & Fabrication for 31 serious safety and health violations at their hope in Frackville, Pennsylvania. An inspection was initiated in November as part of OSHA’s Site-Specific Targeting Program for industries with high injury and illness rates. Proposed penalties total $70,000.

The serious violations involve electrical hazards and a failure to implement a respiratory protection and hazard communication program; keep workplaces clean and sanitary; make exits clearly visible and marked; conduct a workplace hazard assessment; conduct fit testing and medical evaluations for respirator users; provide personal protective equipment for welders; provide machine guarding; provide fire extinguisher and hazard communication training; ensure proper cleansing of respirators; and remove defective power industrial trucks from service.

Bear Ridge Machine & Fabrication employs 28 workers at its Frackville shop and specializes in expedited repair and replacement of parts or production fabrications.

Scrap Metal Recycler Cited for Lack of Personal Protective Equipment, Hazard Communication Program

OSHA has cited Park Stein Inc., doing business as Parkway Iron and Metal, for three repeat and 16 serious violations at the company’s Clifton, New Jersey, facility. OSHA opened an inspection in response to a complaint alleging hazards. Proposed penalties total $77,770.

The repeat violations include the company’s failure to provide proper personal protective equipment, conduct a hazard assessment of the workplace, and provide hazard communication training. The citations carry $21,560 in penalties. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule, or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. The company was cited for the same violations in March 2010.

The serious violations involve the lack of a hearing conservation program, inadequate personal protective equipment, improper storage of gas cylinders, an inoperable alarm on a front-end loader, floor holes, missing platform handrails, a blocked fire exit, the removal of valves on compressed gas cylinders, the lack of lockout/tagout procedures to control machines’ energy sources, powered industrial trucks left unattended, the lack of valve caps on compressed gas cylinders, and various electrical hazards. These citations carry $56,210 in penalties.

Parkway Iron and Metal is a scrap metal recycling facility that employs 36 workers.

Contractor Cited, Fined $56,000 for Asbestos Hazards

OSHA has cited Aria Contracting Corp., an Orchard Park, New York, asbestos removal contractor, for eight alleged serious violations of workplace safety standards at a Buffalo worksite. An inspection by OSHA’s Buffalo Area Office found that Aria Contracting employees removing asbestos and asbestos-containing materials from a former warehouse were working in ripped and torn protective suits, and were not wearing respiratory protection.

OSHA also found the employees had not been adequately trained on asbestos hazards, the employer had not conducted initial exposure monitoring to accurately determine the airborne concentrations of asbestos to which the workers were exposed, barriers had not been placed over all openings to the area where the work was being performed, and a competent person had not ensured all proper safeguards were followed.

In addition to the asbestos hazards, an employee was exposed to a 30-foot fall while climbing from the elevated basket of a scissors lift into an opening on the building’s third floor. Finally, the employer failed to make all required records available to OSHA for review.

OSHA has proposed a total of $56,000 in fines against Aria Contracting.

Detailed information on asbestos hazards and safeguards is available online at and

Pallet Repair Services Cited for Exposing Employees to Amputation Hazards

OSHA has cited Pallet Repair Services S.A. Inc., with 13 serious and three other-than-serious violations for exposing workers to amputation hazards and other safety violations at its facility in Converse, Texas. Proposed penalties total $48,900.

OSHA’s San Antonio Area Office began an investigation on February 2 at the company’s Interstate Highway 10 location as part of its Site-Specific Targeting Program. Workers were engaged in the manufacturer of wood pallets without adequate protection from rotating machine parts, electrical hazards, and other dangers.

Serious violations include failing to provide machine guarding to prevent amputations while working with rotating blades; provide guarding over rotating shafts on trim saws; implement fall protection safeguards, such as guardrails that are useful in elevated areas; keep areas around electrical equipment clear of debris; ensure unused openings on electrical distribution panels were closed properly; and provide a hearing conservation program when noise levels in work areas exceed 85 decibels.

The other-than-serious violations include failing to properly record occupational injuries and illnesses on the OSHA 300 log and to annually certify the log.

The company employs about 37 workers.

Cal/OSHA Cites Southern California Recycling Company after Complaint Triggers Investigation

The California Department of Industrial Relations’ (DIR) Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has issued 36 citations totaling $38,895 in penalties to American Reclamation, Inc., a solid waste company in Los Angeles, California, its recycling subsidiary, South Coast Fibers, Inc., and their staffing agency, Steno Employment Services, Inc.

Cal/OSHA’s investigation was triggered last November by a complaint from a Southern California advocacy group about unsafe conditions workers had reported.

One of the citations issued to American Reclamation, Inc., and two to South Coast Fibers, Inc., were for violations of Cal/OSHA standards on confined space entry procedures. Cal/OSHA has a special focus on confined space hazards this year to prevent worker deaths and serious injuries. Last year, seven workers died in California workplaces, succumbing when they entered confined spaces without an appropriate written plan, adequate training, and supervision.

Cal/OSHA issued five serious violations, including: a failure to follow a written program to prevent workers’ entry into machinery before the energy is shut off, an unsafe work platform raised on a fork lift, and various unguarded pieces of machinery that could lead to amputations and other serious injuries.

The investigation also revealed multiple violations for the three employers which included no permit-required confined space entry programs, no heat illness prevention training, no drinking water for drivers and helpers in the field, and an inadequate injury and illness prevention program.

American Reclamation, Inc., is a solid waste company headquartered in Los Angeles that operates refuse collection trucks and delivers the waste to landfills. South Coast Fibers, Inc., purchases, processes, and markets all recyclables such as cardboard boxes, glass, metal, plastic, and paper. Steno Employment Services, Inc., provides workers’ compensation insurance and payroll services to both companies.

Cal/OSHA has posted extensive information about confined space hazards on its website at For more information on Cal/OSHA’s heat illness prevention requirements and training materials, please visit Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention Campaign or the Water Rest Shade Campaign.

OSHA Identifies 30 Safety and Health Violations at Veterans Affairs Health Care Facilities

OSHA has issued 30 notices of unsafe and unhealthful working conditions for violations found during inspections of four US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities. OSHA began the inspections during November 2011 at the VA hospital in Mather, California, and at outpatient clinics in Martinez, Fairfield, and Oakland, California. All are part of the VA’s Northern California Health Care System.

OSHA issued notices for 25 serious violations involving blocked emergency exit doors and routes, multiple electrical hazards, a lack of proper machine guarding, and exposure to contaminated needles.

A notice also has been issued for a repeat violation involving the improper storage of biological hazardous waste. A notice for a similar violation at the Mather hospital was issued in 2007.

OSHA also has issued notices for four other-than-serious violations involving an incomplete written hazard communication program and failing to identify exit doors.

Under Executive Order 12196, federal agencies must comply with the same safety and health standards as private sector employers. The federal agency equivalent to a private sector citation is the Notice of Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions. The OSHA notice is used to inform establishment officials of violations of OSHA standards, alternate standards, and 29 CFR citable program elements. OSHA cannot propose monetary penalties against another federal agency for failure to comply with OSHA standards.

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