Several days ago a teenage grocery store worker was assigned to clean a refrigerated dairy box. When asking what he should use, a bakery worker told him to mix two chemicals together, and the youth complied.
Soon the dairy box was filled with fumes, later diagnosed as chlorine gas, necessitating medical treatment for four people, evacuation of the store and disposal of all items in the dairy box.That story comes from Neil Anderson, manager of education and consultation for the Utah Division of Occupational Health and Safety. Division officials held a public hearing Wednesday on some new standards for notification and training for employees who handle hazardous chemicals.
Doug McVey, division administrator, said the standards will become effective June 1. There will be a six-month implementation period between June 1 and Dec. 1, meaning that any violations of the standards could result in a citation, but there won't be any monetary penalty.
However, after Dec. 1, violations could result in a citation and a monetary penalty, depending upon the severity of the violation, McVey said. He encouraged employers to contact his office, and a UOSH employee will provide a free consultation if they have situations not exactly covered by the standards.
According to the bulletin issued by the division announcing Wednesday's hearing, it will cost employers $10.1 million initially to implement the standards and $202,908 annually thereafter. McVey said the $10.1 million includes the wages of the people being trained about the hazardous chemicals and the time involved with writing a hazard communication program and keeping the paperwork.
Anderson believes the standards, if they are followed, will result in fewer injuries to employees, lower workmen's compensation payments and higher morale because the employee knows his employer cares enough about his welfare because he is providing some training.
The standards discussed at Wednesday's hearing are an expansion of an existing standard that previously pertained to chemical manufacturers and importers. The new standard requires non-manufacturing employers to establish hazard communication programs to transmit information to their employees by means of labels on containers, material safety data sheets and training programs.
McVey said the new standard requires chemical manufacturers or importers to assess the hazards of chemicals they produce or import and send a material safety data sheet with chemical shipments so the information can be passed on to the employees.
The administrator and his staff have prepared a model written hazard communication program that is available to businesses implementing the new standards. "If employers will follow this model they will avoid violations," McVey said.
McVey said the new standards have been approved by the State Industrial Commission and the Utah Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Council, and both groups suggested he proceed with implementing the new hazardous chemical communication program.