OSHA to Address Hazardous Chemical Exposures

Last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the launch of a national dialogue concerning hazardous substances and exposures to these substances that result in work-related illnesses. OSHA has stated that the first stage consists of gathering information on the management of hazardous chemical exposures and strategies for updating permissible exposure limits (PELs).

PELs are regulatory exposure limits on the amount or concentration of a substance in the air. The purpose is to protect workers against health effects that may occur when exposed to hazardous substances. Because the overwhelming majority of these PELs were adopted in 1971 and have not been updated since, revisions are necessary. Additionally, less than 500 chemicals have PELs; a small fraction of the tens of thousands of chemicals used in commerce presently.

“Many of our chemical exposure standards are dangerously out of date and do not adequately protect workers,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “While we will continue to work on updating our workplace exposure limits, we are asking public health experts, chemical manufacturers, employers, unions and others committed to preventing workplace illnesses to help us identify new approaches to address chemical hazards.”

OSHA is seeking public comment on the following specific topics:

  • Possible streamlined approaches for risk assessment and feasibility analyses and
  • Alternative approaches for managing chemical exposures, including control banding, task-based approaches and informed substitution.

The Request for Information (RFI) will remain open for 180 days. Instructions for submitting comments can be found in the Federal Register, Docket No. OSHA-2012-0023.

For more information on safer chemical management, click here. If you or your facility needs help determining if your operations are within the current exposure limits, feel free to contact us at EES and we can assist.

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