Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA

Green Job Hazards: Biofuels - Toxicity Hazards

Biofuels and the chemicals used in their manufacture present toxic exposure hazards that need to be carefully controlled to protect workers. MSDSs should be consulted to determine the potential for toxic exposures to feedstocks, products, and other chemicals used in biofuel processes, including, but not limited to, methanol, caustic, sulfuric acid, ethanol, and biodiesel, as well as hydrocarbons used for blending and alcohol denaturing.

Engineering and administrative controls should be used to control hazards, including, but not limited to, good engineering, design, fabrication, and maintenance practices to prevent releases, ventilation and drainage to reduce exposures, and appropriate use of personal protective equipment, when needed.

There are a number of OSHA standards that address these potential hazards, including:

Facilities handling certain threshold quantities of certain toxic materials may be covered by 29 CFR 1910.119, Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals (PSM) standard. This standard is described in OSHA publication 3132. Additionally, OSHA's Process Safety Management web page has useful information and links on preventing catastrophic incidents, including those involving toxic chemicals.

Hazards, including toxic hazards, that are not addressed by specific OSHA standards still need to be controlled. Under Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act – the “General Duty Clause”, employers are required to provide workers with a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.

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