NAIMA’s Health and Safety Partnership Program

Angus E. Crane

October 1, 1999

OSHA and industry….partners?! There are many who would say the two just don’t mix. However, a new worker safety program developed by the insulation industry to maximize protection for workers who use synthetic vitreous fiber (SVF) products was recently adopted by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Called the Health and Safety Partnership Program (HSPP), this new program is a voluntary work practice partnership between industry and government that consolidates long-standing work practice initiatives under a single umbrella with government participation.

The HSPP was developed by the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA) in cooperation with OSHA officials and staff, the leadership of NIA and the Insulation Contractors Association of America (ICAA) and other organizations representing insulation contractors and other workers. The program makes specific and detailed job site work recommendations for the proper and safe handling of insulation materials and provides a comprehensive education and training program for workers involved in the manufacture, fabrication and installation of SVF, rock wool and slag wool products.


OSHA’s adoption of the comprehensive program has satisfactorily resolved the issues that originally prompted the Agency to list SVFs as a priority workplace issue.

To facilitate the increased cooperation of industry in the regulatory process, OSHA developed a list of issues that the Agency deemed in need of attention either because of the seriousness of the topic or the number of workers potentially exposed. In particular, OSHA was interested in identifying such issues for which it had not yet devoted significant regulatory attention and resources.

The preparation of that priority list came to fruition in late 1995. In December 1995, OSHA officially announced a list of 18 work related issues, which the Agency viewed as priorities for either rulemaking or voluntary intervention by the private sector. More precisely, in making this announcement, OSHA admitted that the Agency lacked the resources to conduct formal rulemaking on all 18 substances because any regulatory rulemaking consumes a tremendous amount of time and significantly reduces available monies. Therefore, OSHA agreed that 13 of those 18 substances should develop a voluntary standard without the burden of a formal rulemaking. In explaining this approach, OSHA explained that the Agency intended “to address the issues emerging from the Priority Planning Process through a combination of rulemaking and other intervention tools. Only a small number of the new priorities listed below have been chosen for rulemaking at this time.

OSHA Designates SVFs a Priority Workplace Issue

OSHA announced that SVFs were a priority for either formal rulemaking or voluntary intervention by the private sector. Priority status was based on the high number of workers, currently 225,000, who are exposed to SVFs and the projected increase in that number in the future.

OSHA admitted, however, that it lacked the resources necessary to conduct formal rulemaking and suggested the development of a voluntary standard without the burden of a formal rulemaking. The HSPP is industry’s response to the OSHA directive.

Training: A Key Element of HSPP

The HSPP imposes no obligation upon contractors or unions to conduct training on the various elements of the HSPP. NAIMA and its member companies assume responsibility for promoting and explaining the HSPP. Therefore, the only training requirements that may be applicable to contractors are those already mandated by OSHA.

As part of its commitment under the HSPP, NAIMA will conduct training seminars on a yearly basis in different parts of the country. Training seminars will also be held at trade shows, conventions and other events that contractors and their employees are likely to attend. Once training schedules have been finalized, details will be made available through the NAIMA web site, direct mail, and advertising. In addition to the training activities, NAIMA is preparing literature that explains and illustrates the various work practices and the respiratory protection program. An entertaining and informative video providing helpful information on working with synthetic vitreous fiber products is also being produced. The literature and highlights of the video will also be featured on the NAIMA web site,

HSPP Will Promote Greater Worker Protection

NAIMA believes that a commitment from a contractor to follow the HSPP will assure greater worker protection. By taking advantage of the training opportunities and informational literature provided through HSPP’s implementation efforts, NIA members will benefit from an educated and knowledgeable work force. It will provide further benefits to contractors such as promoting the image of good corporate citizenship, reducing worker complaints and worker compensation claims, and helping to protect against any legal liability or government enforcement action.

Elements of the HSPP:

Voluntary Permissible Exposure Limit

Perhaps the most significant element of the Program is the establishment of a voluntary permissible exposure limit (PEL). This provision is important for several reasons. First, OSHA itself cited the absence of a formally recognized PEL for SVFs as one of the deficiencies under OSHA’s current regulations. Adoption of a voluntary one fiber-per-cubic-centimeter (1f/cc)PEL simply reaffirms the exposure limit that has been recommended by industry and government for several years.

NAIMA’s Respiratory Protection Program follows the requirements of OSHA’s recently adopted Respiratory Protection Standard. In the preamble to that Standard, OSHA indicates that in most cases, disposable respirators provide adequate protection and are allowed. NAIMA is recommending a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Certified N95 half piece mask for most applications faced by contractors. Unique applications or unusual circumstances may require a different respirator.

In addition, the HSPP commits NAIMA members to use product design, engineering controls, work practices, respiratory protection, or a combination of any or all of these measures to bring fiber exposure to the voluntary 1 f/cc PEL. To strengthen these control measures, the HSPP proscribes comprehensive work practices for those working with SVFs.

Exposure Database

With the establishment of a voluntary 1 f/cc PEL averaged over an 8-hour workday, NIA members will need to know if their workers are exposed to fibers in an amount above or below the recommended PEL.

The HSPP provides a mechanism that exempts contractors from the expense and time of exposure testing. That mechanism is an SVF exposure database, which NAIMA is committed to developing, maintaining and updating. If contractors wish to ascertain the normal exposure levels for particular work tasks or settings, they can contact NAIMA and obtain representative exposure levels for that situation from the database.

NAIMA’s exposure database will not only help contractors follow the HSPP, it will also help them comply with the OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard, and in most cases, eliminate the need to conduct exposure monitoring. In the Respiratory Protection Standard preamble, OSHA has stated that contractors can rely on such a database:

“…data from industry-wide surveys by trade associations for use by their members, as well as from stewardship programs operated by manufacturers for their customers, are often useful in assisting employers, particularly small business owners, to obtain information on employee exposures in their workplace.” (63 Federal Register 1152, 1199 (January 8, 1998).

To update the database, NAIMA’s member companies are committed to contributing exposure-monitoring results obtained from manufacturing, fabrication, and installation activities. NAIMA will be the depository for the exposure database. Information may be extracted from the database simply by contacting NAIMA in writing or by telephone for the specific type of information needed and that information will be sent to NIA and its members.

Recommendations Sought From a Wide Range of Sources

In creating a voluntary health and safety program, NAIMA consulted the recommendations for a safe work environment offered by individual manufacturers belonging to NAIMA. In addition, NAIMA consulted labor organizations, international regulatory bodies, government entities in the United States, professional organizations promoting voluntary guidelines, foreign manufacturers of SVF products, and trade associations throughout the world that are connected with the SVF industry.

Consolidation of Industry Recommended

Work Practices

Previously, NAIMA’s recommended work practices focused on rather broad worker safety guidelines. While they provided helpful tips on protecting workers against irritation and excessive exposure to fibers, the enhanced work practices in the HSPP also provide specific suggestions. Specific recommendations address how to minimize dust generation, when and how to obtain proper ventilation, the selection of appropriate work clothing, the proper use of personal protective equipment, and how to remove fibers from the skin and eyes.

In addition, the work practices outline safe work practices for different applications of SVFs. For example, task specific recommendations are provided for blown SVF in attics, cavity fill insulation, boiler and pipe insulation, and removal activities.

HSPP Enhanced Work Practices

Show When and How to:

  • Minimize dust generation
  • Obtain proper ventilation
  • Select appropriate work clothing
  • Use personal protective equipment
  • Remove fibers from the skin and eyes

Enhanced Stewardship Program

In addition to establishing a database that allows assessment of exposure conditions, trends and specific controls, NAIMA will also conduct ten geographically diverse worker-training sessions and an additional 20 worker-training sessions within the first three years of the implementation phase of the HSPP.

NAIMA also will hold training sessions and distribute literature and a video highlighting the work practices at trade shows, conventions and other events where contractors and their employees are likely to congregate.

NAIMA has also committed to conduct studies with respirator manufacturers to measure the efficacy of various respiratory protection devices in limiting potential exposure to SVFs.

Timing for Full Implementation of the HSPP

Implementation of the HSPP will begin immediately and will be phased in over a three-year period. During the three-year implementation phase and the first five years of compliance, NAIMA will submit annual reports to OSHA on the program’s performance. This same time frame applies to NIA’s voluntary adoption of a Contractor Health and Safety Partnership Program.


The HSPP voluntary initiative not only provides a thorough and comprehensive health and safety program, it has satisfactorily resolved the issues that prompted OSHA to list SVFs as a priority. OSHA recently stated that it “does not, at this time consider SVF a regulatory priority. We will not list it on our regulatory agenda for action.”The HSPP was brought to fruition through the association of diverse interests. In order to implement all components of the Program, the same spirit of cooperation will be necessary to steer the HSPP’s course during the next eight years. With NAIMA and NIA at the helm, the successful realization of the HSPP’s objective seems certain.

Angus E. Crane is general Counsel and Secretary to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA) headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. Prior to joining NAIMA, Crane was an environmental lawyer with the Washington, D.C. law firm Dickstein, Shapiro &am; Morin. He is a Truman Scholar and graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School. You can reach him at (703) 684-0084.

NIA’s Role in Developing and Implementing HSPP

NIA played a critical leadership role in assisting NAIMA in negotiating and maintaining a practical approach to the voluntary HSPP. To demonstrate their support and endorsement for the HSPP, NIA adopted a Contractor Health and Safety Partnership Program (CHSPP) which mirrors the components of the HSPP. CHSPP, like the HSPP, is designed to further protect and safeguard workers while conserving regulatory resources. In a letter to OSHA, NIA expressed its commitment to fully implement the CHSPP and work as a partner with OSHA, NAIMA, ICAA and other interested parties to promote safe work practices for workers handling SVFs.

According to NIA Health and Safety Committee Chairman Ted Brodie, “The HSPP is a major accomplishment for our industry, for the government and for our workers. The voluntary program allows our association’s members to work with manufacturers toward achieving the highest level of safety and worker protection when using SVF products.”