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OSHA announces its National Emphasis Program for chemical facility safety

On November 30, 2011, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its new National Emphasis Program (NEP), which aims to protect chemical facility workers from catastrophic releases of highly hazardous chemicals.

"Far too many workers are injured and killed in preventable incidents at chemical facilities around the country," said assistant secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "This program will enable OSHA inspectors to cover chemical facilities nationwide to ensure that all required measures are taken to protect workers."

The new document replaces OSHA's pilot NEP, which was drafted in 2009, but many of the same safety-related problems uncovered during the refinery industry NEP were noted. OSHA chose to expand the program to a national level to increase awareness of chemical danger so that employers will more effectively prevent the release of highly hazardous chemicals.

The new guidance is a part of OSHA's Process Safety Management (PSM), which provides information for general industry and construction on how to develop a process hazard analysis and requirements for preventing hazardous chemicals from being released.

When working around chemicals, OSHA requires the use of safety products such as respiratory protection, gloves, protective clothing and safety goggles to reduce employee exposure to hazards.  

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