EPA’s action comes less than two months before the inauguration of President-­elect Donald Trump

Published November 29, 2016

 

Associated Press

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday released a list of toxic chemicals that will be the first reviewed under a recently enacted law that gives regulators increased authority to ban substances shown to endanger human health.

 

EPA’s move comes after a key revision to the Toxic Substances Control Act that passed Congress earlier this year with broad bipartisan support. The list includes such common chemicals as asbestos and trichloroethylene that have for decades been known to cause cancer, yet EPA lacked the legal authority necessary to ban their use.

Over the next three years EPA will study whether the listed chemicals present an “unreasonable risk to humans and the environment.” The agency will then have another two years to mitigate that risk through new regulations, which could include banning the chemicals from use in the United States.

Once EPA completes its review of the initial 10 chemicals, studies will begin on dozens of other suspect chemicals. With tens of thousands of chemicals manufactured each year within the U.S. or imported from other countries, EPA is prioritizing those that are the most dangerous and widely used.

“Under the new law, we now have the power to require safety reviews of all chemicals in the marketplace,” said Jim Jones, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “We can ensure the public that we will deliver on the promise to better protect public health and the environment.”

Valued for its resistance to heat and corrosion, asbestos was widely used for decades in such products as building materials, pipe insulation and floor tiles before studies linked it to lung cancer and other diseases. EPA first tried to ban the use of asbestos in 1989, but its decision was struck down two years later by a federal appeals court that ruled the agency had exceeded its authority. Though most domestic manufacturers voluntarily stopped using asbestos in commercial products, it can sometimes still be found in imported products such as automotive brake pads.

EPA’s action comes less than two months before the inauguration of President­elect Donald Trump, a frequent critic of EPA regulations that might negatively impact business profits. Overseeing Trump’s transition team for the agency is Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank funded by corporate interests.

The institute runs a website that promotes the “life­enhancing value of chemicals” while sowing doubt about “fear­mongering” scientific studies that show risks to human health and the environment from pesticides and other products. Earlier this year, CEI issued an opinion article criticizing the expansion of EPA’s authority to regulate toxic chemicals and questioning the need for an asbestos ban.

Environmental and consumer safety advocacy groups on Tuesday praised the EPA’s move, but also expressed concern about whether the incoming administration will embrace the process.

“Today’s historic action by the EPA will finally begin the process of restricting the remaining sources of asbestos, which is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans,” said Sonya Lunder of the Environmental Working Group Action Fund, which studies toxic substances. “We expect the incoming Trump administration to uphold the EPA’s commitment and honor the past, current and future victims of asbestos­triggered diseases.”

AN EMPLOYERS RESPONSIBILITY:

When it comes to keeping your employees safe there has never been a time when it is more important than today. Sometimes it is a daunting task to keep track of them or even know what these responsibilities are. Have you ever wondered what your responsibilities as an employer are? There is an article on the OSHA website where these responsibilities are talked about and we thought it would be very helpful to pass this on to our customers. It is valuable information.

Ever wonder “What are my responsibilities as an employer?”

  • Provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards and comply with standards, rules and regulations issued under the OSH Act.
  • Examine workplace conditions to make sure they conform to applicableOSHA Standards.
  • Make sure employees have and use safe tools and equipment and properly maintain this equipment.
  • Use color codes, posters, labels or signs to warn employees of potential hazards.
  • Establish or update operating procedures and communicate them so that employees follow safety and health requirements.
  • Employers must provide safety training in a language and vocabulary workers can understand.
  • Employers with hazardous chemicals in the workplace must develop and implement a written hazard communication program and train employees on the hazards they are exposed to and proper precautions (and a copy of safety data sheets must be readily available). See the OSHA page on Hazard Communication.
  • Provide medical examinations and training when required by OSHA Standards.
  • Post, at a prominent location within the workplace, the OSHA Poster(or the state-plan equivalent) informing employees of their rights and responsibilities.
  • Report to the nearestOSHA Office all work-related fatalities within 8 hours, and all work-related inpatient hospitalizations, all amputations and all losses of an eye within 24 hours. Call our toll-free number: 1-800-321-OSHA (6742); TTY 1-877-889-5627. [Employers under federal OSHA’s jurisdiction were required to begin reporting by Jan. 1, 2015. Establishments in a state with a state-run OSHA program should contact their state plan for the implementation date].
  • Keep recordsof work-related injuries and illnesses. (Note: Employers with 10 or fewer employees and employers in certain low-hazard industries are exempt from this requirement.
  • Provide employees, former employees and their representatives access to the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300). On February 1, and for three months, covered employers must post the summary of the OSHA log of injuries and illnesses (OSHA Form 300A).
  • Provide access to employee medical records and exposure records to employees or their authorized representatives.
  • Provide to the OSHA compliance officer the names of authorized employee representatives who may be asked to accompany the compliance officer during an inspection.
  • Not discriminate against employees who exercise their rights under the Act. See our “Whistleblower Protection” webpage.
  • Post OSHA citations at or near the work area involved. Each citation must remain posted until the violation has been corrected, or for three working days, whichever is longer. Post abatement verification documents or tags.
  • Correct cited violations by the deadline set in the OSHA citation and submit required abatement verification documentation.
  • OSHA encourages all employers to adopt an Injury and Illness Prevention Program. Injury and Illness Prevention Programs, known by a variety of names, are universal interventions that can substantially reduce the number and severity of workplace injuries and alleviate the associated financial burdens on U.S. workplaces. Many states have requirements or voluntary guidelines for workplace Injury and Illness Prevention Programs. Also, numerous employers in the United States already manage safety using Injury and Illness Prevention Programs, and we believe that all employers can and should do the same. Most successful Injury and Illness Prevention Programs are based on a common set of key elements. These include: management leadership, worker participation, hazard identification, hazard prevention and control, education and training, and program evaluation and improvement. OSHA’s Injury and Illness Prevention Programs topics page contains more information including examples of programs and systems that have reduced workplace injuries and illnesses.

This information can be found at https://www.osha.gov/as/opa/worker/employer-responsibility.html