Safety and health inspectors are combing Hill Air Force Base for violations of federal standards designed to protect workers - and first indications are that they think Hill is doing a good job.
"Their comment after the first few days is that they were very favorably impressed with the Air Force approach to occupational health and safety in the workplace," said Col. William P. Miller, chief of safety at the Ogden Air Logistics Center.Safety concerns at the sprawling base near Ogden have been the target of numerous complaints and investigations. Solvents used to degrease aircraft are of special concern, since the chemicals are suspected carcinogens.
The three inspectors examining Hill are from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration office in Salt Lake City. They arrived at the base a week ago and are expected to stay another week.
Safety and health inspections are generally done on a two- to three-year cycle, and Hill has known this one was coming for the past six months.
"They're doing spot inspections," Miller said. "Their method of operation is to inspect for compliance with OSHA standards and to interview supervisors and employees for safety awareness."
The team's focus is on industrialized areas such as Hill's aircraft overhaul facilities, supply distribution facilities and civil engineering offices.
"If they find non-compliance areas, they issue a report," he said.
The inspectors are concentrating on safety in the workplace, not disposal practices. The issue of questionable disposal is in the purview of the Environmental Protection Agency.
But in a press conference Monday, Gov. Norm Bangerter and Utah Attorney Gen. Paul Van Dam said the EPA can't issue criminal citations to officers responsible for unsafe practices because the U.S. Department of Justice doesn't want to sue a sister agency.
Kenneth Alkema, director of the Utah Division of Environmental Health, said in the press conference that at least 13 areas at Hill need to be cleaned up, and there may be more. Van Dam said nearby underground water supplies may be threatened with contamination. Meanwhile, Hill officials have announced they are posting information about hazardous material at the base. Material Safety Data Sheets will be available at the workplace. Information about 50,000 hazardous materials is available on microfiche, at five buildings on the base.