OSHA Examines Death of Worker from Methylene Chloride Exposure
OSHA investigators determined that the July 2015 death of a 30-year-old worker from acute exposure to methylene chloride while deglazing a bathtub in a public housing complex in Cleveland, Ohio, could have been avoided. According to investigators, the worker who died was using a paint remover containing 85 to 90 percent methylene chloride with the bathroom door closed to “prevent fumes from filling the living area.” His only ventilation was the bathroom window, which was kept open with a can of shaving cream. The worker was found unresponsive, and the investigation found that his exposure to methylene chloride “far exceeded permissible exposure limits.” OSHA’s current permissible exposure limit (PEL) for methylene chloride is 25 ppm over an 8-hour time-weighted average; the agency’s short-term exposure limit (STEL) for the chemical is 125 ppm over any 15-minute period. OSHA and NIOSH have identified at least 14 deaths of workers related to bathtub refinishing using paint removers containing methylene chloride since 2000. In 2013, the agencies released a hazard alert warning employers and others of the hazards of methylene chloride-based stripping agents. According to OSHA, employers must provide workers with adequate ventilation, respiratory protection, protective clothing, and proper equipment when using products containing methylene chloride. Employers must also train workers to protect themselves while working with this toxic chemical.