OSHA isn’t the only federal safety and health agency that can come into your workplace to perform an investigation. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) can enter a facility to investigate threats against employee health and safety.
NIOSH can’t issue fines. According to its Web site, NIOSH “is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness.”
In its efforts to research the health impact on workers who deal with the food flavoring diacetyl, NIOSH conducted an investigation at Sensient Flavors International in Indianapolis at the request of the local Teamsters union representing the plant’s workers. Diacetyl has killed several and sickened hundreds of food plant workers.
The Teamsters told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s senior correspondent Andrew Schneider that Sensient had altered its production process while NIOSH was inspecting and taking air samples. The union claims NIOSH didn’t get an accurate look at normal conditions at the plant.
NIOSH uncovered “pulmonary abnormalities” in its first inspection and demanded a second look to gather more information.
Sensient is fighting NIOSH’s request, saying that the agency is “attempting to use Sensient’s facility as its own personal laboratory.” It says the agency can look once, but not twice.
The case is now in federal court.
OSHA is considering a regulation on diacetyl and food flavorings.