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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

OSHA News Release: [04/28/2010]
Contact Name: Diana Petterson or Jason Surbey
Phone Number: (202) 693-1898 or x4644
Release Number: 10-583-NAT

US Labor Departmentís OSHA releases data detailing worker exposure to toxic chemicals

Also issues directive on protecting non-English speaking workers from hazards

WASHINGTON — In keeping with the president's memorandum on open government, the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is releasing 15 years of data providing details of workplace exposure to toxic chemicals.

The data is comprised of measurements taken by OSHA compliance officers during the course of inspections. It includes exposure levels to hazardous chemicals including asbestos, benzene, beryllium, cadmium, lead, nickel, silica, and others. The data offers insights into the levels of toxic chemicals commonly found in workplaces, as well as insights into how chemical exposure levels to specific chemicals are distributed across industries, geographical areas and time.

"We believe this information, in the hands of informed, key stakeholders, will ultimately lead to a more robust and focused debate on what still needs to be done to protect workers in all sectors, especially in the chemical industry," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels.

With an understanding of these data and their limitations, it can be combined with other related data to target further research into occupational hazards and illness. In addition to this raw data, OSHA will soon make available an easy to use online search tool allowing easy public access to this information. For more information, go to: http://www.osha.gov/opengov/healthsamples.html.

Today, OSHA also issued an enforcement memorandum directed at protecting Latino and other non-English speaking workers from workplace hazards. It directs compliance officers to ensure they check and verify that workers are receiving OSHA required training in a language they understand.

"This directive conforms with Secretary Solis' clear and urgent goal of reducing injuries and illnesses among Latino and other vulnerable workers," said Dr. Michaels. "These workers represent an integral and essential part of the key industries that keep our country running every day."

OSHA requires that employers provide training to their workers on certain job hazards and safe methods for performing work. Investigators will now check and verify that training was provided in a language and vocabulary that the workers understand.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.