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OSHA Clarifies Policy on Respiratory Hazards

OSHA has recently issued a memorandum that clarifies its existing policy for developing citations under section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (also known as the general duty clause) for respiratory hazards from exposure to an air contaminant that is not covered by an OSHA permissible exposure limit (PEL).

The following elements must be established for OSHA to prove a violation of the general duty clause:
  1. The employer failed to keep the workplace free of a hazard to which employees of that employer were exposed;
  2. The hazard was recognized;
  3. The hazard was causing or was likely to cause death or serious physical harm; and,
  4. There was a feasible and useful method to correct the hazard.
The memorandum states that unless the case file evidence proves all four of the above elements, the OSHA Area Office should issue a hazard alert letter (HAL) instead of a citation. If there is sufficient proof of the four elements, the Area Office should issue a citation for a general duty clause violation. The memorandum provides additional guidance for developing evidence for each of the four general duty clause elements when specifically applied to respiratory hazards.

For questions, contact Kevin McKenney at more

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