OSHA started a national emphasis program (NEP) in June of 2013 to ensure employers were doing their due diligence to protect workers from the hazards of isocyanate exposure. The following is a recap of the Department of Labor's executive summary on this harmful substance:
This NEP was developed to focus OSHA resources on the workplace health issue of occupational exposure to isocyanates. The health effects of occupational exposure to isocyanates include occupational asthma, irritation of the skin (dermatitis) and mucous membranes (eyes, nose, and throat), hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and chest tightness. Isocyanates include compounds also classified as potential human carcinogens and known to cause cancer in animals. 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. Occupational factors are associated with at least 15 percent of all adult onset asthma cases in the United States. Occupational asthma is an illness characterized by intermittent breathing difficulty including chest tightness, wheezing, cough and shortness of breath. It is frequently serious and sometimes fatal.
Jobs that may involve exposure to isocyanates include painting, blowing foam insulation, and the manufacture and thermal degradation of many polyurethane products such as polyurethane foam, insulation materials, surface coatings, car seats, furniture, foam mattresses, under-carpet padding, packaging materials, shoes, laminated fabrics, polyurethane rubber, and adhesives.
This enforcement program sets forth a site selection system that targets multiple industries and will focus on evaluating inhalation, dermal and other routes of occupational exposure to isocyanates.