The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued new rules for protecting an estimated 200,000 workers at active toxic waste dumps, and at Superfund cleanup sites. The regulations require periodic medical examinations, a minimum of 40 hours of safety and health training for workers at cleanup sites and active dumps, extensive monitoring of air at the sites, and provision of protective gear for employees.
Citizens who inquire should be able to get the monitoring data, and thus learn something about the chemicals that are wafting off-site into neighborhoods near dumps and Superfund cleanup sites. Citizens may also want to inquire about the nature of the medical studies conducted under these regulations, though the details of specific medical findings will be confidential and not available to the public. What medical problems do officials expect and look for? Citizens should be asking similar questions about their neighbors and themselves, if they live near a dump.
Under the new rules, employers must tell employees of expected exposures before they enter a dangerous
area and must develop emergency response and decontamination programs. OSHA estimates that more
than 30,000 workers are involved in Superfund cleanups; 137,000 workers are employed by operators of
hazardous waste dumps. Also covered indirectly are the 4,000 to 40,000 emergency fire, police and other
workers who might be exposed to spills of hazardous materials in accidents. The new "interim final" rules
are effective immediately. They appeared in the FEDERAL REGISTER Dec. 19, 1986, available at libraries or
from OSHA itself. The interim final OSHA rule is based on a 1985 document issued jointly by U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, OSHA, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health, entitled, "Occupational Safety and Health Guidance Manual for Hazardous Waste Site
Activities." To learn more about the latest OSHA rules, phone or write Chappell Pierce, OSHA, 200
Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20210; (202) 523-8017.
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.
Descriptor terms: osha; regulations; occupational safety and health; hazardous waste; landfilling; superfund; pollution; emergency response; remedial action; emergency response personnel; occupational safety and health guidance manual for hazardous waste site activities;