The composites industry in the United States includes three manufacturing areas: polymers, metals, and ceramics. This Safety and Health Topics section deals with that segment of the industry known as polymer matrix composites.
A composite is a material composed of a reinforcing fiber and a resin matrix. Composites are classified according to their matrix phase (the material which surrounds the fiber). Composite products range from skateboards to components of the space shuttle. Materials within the composites industry are often called "advanced" if they combine the properties of high strength and high stiffness, low weight, corrosion resistance, and in some cases special electrical properties. Several of the manufacturing processes and potential hazards are common to both polymer matrix composites and advanced polymer matrix composites.
There are currently no substance specific health standards for composites. However, employees' exposure to chemicals used in the manufacture of composites or generated as byproducts of the manufacturing processes, are covered under 29 CFR 1910, Subpart Z.
Workers have a right to a safe workplace. The law requires employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces. The OSHA law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the law (including the right to raise a health and safety concern or report an injury). For more information see www.whistleblowers.gov or worker rights.
OSHA can help answer questions or concerns from employers and workers. To reach your regional or area OSHA office, go to OSHA's Regional & Area Offices webpage or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).
Small businesses may contact OSHA's free on-site consultation services funded by OSHA to help determine whether there are hazards at their worksites. To contact free consultation services, go to OSHA's On-site Consultation web page or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) and press number 4.
Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards. Workers can file a complaint with OSHA by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), online via eCompliant Form, or by printing the complaint form and mailing or faxing it to the local OSHA area office. Complaints that are signed by an worker are more likely to result in an inspection.
If you think your job is unsafe or if you have questions, contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). Your contact will be kept confidential. We can help. For other valuable worker protection information, such as Workers' Rights, Employer Responsibilities, and other services OSHA offers, visit OSHA's Workers' page.
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