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Is OSHA Now Enforcing EPA’s Laws? OSHA to Use TRI Release Data for Targeted Inspections

On November 12, 2013, OSHA Region 7 announced a new Local Emphasis Program applicable in the states of Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri, that will specifically target companies for OSHA inspections based on their Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) submissions to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to OSHA’s November 12 Press Release, “Industries will be selected for inspection based on site-specific chemical release data from the EPA’s TRI Explorer database, which lists industry establishments that have released chemical quantities equal to or exceeding 100,000 pounds.” TRI is a reporting requirement under Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) that requires annual reporting for more than 650 chemicals if the manufacturing, processing, or use of those chemicals exceed the regulatory thresholds.

OSHA’s Local Emphasis Program is an enforcement strategy implemented by the various OSHA regional offices. As of November 24, the agency has not yet published a formal Directive on the OSHA’s LEP website outlining the contours of the program.

Because the formal Directive is not yet available, it is unclear whether OSHA will be focusing primarily on large emitters of TRI chemicals, or if the agency is focusing only on certain industries that emit certain toxic chemicals. In the agency’s Press Release, OSHA identified the following chemicals “ammonia; barium, chromium and copper compounds; hydrochloric acid; hydrogen fluoride; lead and manganese compounds; N-hexane; styrene; sulfuric acid; and nitrate, vanadium and zinc compounds.”

Companies with operations in the affected OSHA Region 7 states (Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri) should pay particular attention to their TRI submissions and accuracy given the new additional scrutiny that another federal agency will be paying to the data. And for those companies that are TRI-submitters, recognize that OSHA inspectors may be knocking on your door before too long.