OSHA Focusing on Microwave Popcorn Hazards

Poor Orville Redinbocker......

Three months after announcing it would do so, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration July 27 published policies and procedures for implementing a national emphasis program focused on microwave popcorn manufacturing.

The directive is effective for one year upon publication.

OSHA announced April 24 that it planned to initiate an emphasis program to address hazards in the microwave popcorn industry associated with butter flavorings containing diacetyl, which has been associated with bronchiolitis obliterans, a potentially fatal lung condition (37 OSHR 365, 4/26/07 a0b4h7e8v2).

The emphasis program will include targeted inspections, direction on how to control chemical hazards, and extensive compliance assistance, the directive says.

All workplaces under federal jurisdiction where butter flavored microwave popcorn is manufactured will be inspected, according to the directive. OSHA previously had said this will mean inspections at some 40 work sites under the emphasis program (37 OSHR 574, 6/28/07 a0b4r8e2h9).

While the program's inspections will be limited to butter-flavoring chemical hazards under the directive, OSHA inspectors may expand the scope of the inspection if other safety and health hazards or violations are observed. Additionally, the agency said, if the facility also has potential exposures to other flavoring chemicals containing diacetyl--such as cheddar cheese or almond flavorings--the inspection will be expanded to address these related exposures as well.

Inspection Focus

During the inspections, OSHA staff will specifically look for compliance with the hazard assessment and equipment selection sections of its personal protective equipment standards, the hazard determination sections of its hazard communication standard, and evaluations conducted under its respiratory protection standard, according to the directive.

Because studies by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have demonstrated a link between inhalation of butter flavorings and occupational lung disease, OSHA said, "employers in the microwave popcorn manufacturing industries that use butter flavoring ingredients must conduct the evaluation required by ... the Respiratory Protection standard."

During the inspections, OSHA added, material safety data sheets for flavoring chemicals will be thoroughly reviewed to ensure compliance.

OSHA inspectors will also review employer injury and illness records to identify employees with illnesses or symptoms associated with diacetyl or other flavorings exposure. Because bronchiolitis obliterans is a rare disease that can be misdiagnosed, inspectors will investigate all log entries on asthma, respiratory abnormalities, toxic effects, and other similar notations.

OSHA inspectors will interview all employees whose names are recorded on the logs, as well as employees working in areas where exposure to flavoring chemicals might occur.

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