The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) released two new web resources in October to help protect workers from hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Tens of thousands of workers become sick or die from harmful exposure to these chemicals. OSHA’s hazardous chemical exposure standards are out of date and don’t include the entire range of harmful chemicals.
The first resource will help employers identify safer chemicals that can be used in place of more hazardous chemicals. The online toolkit, Transitioning to Safer Chemicals, will take users through a step-by-step process of information, methods, tools and guidance to help employers and workers identify substitute materials in the workplace.
“We know that the most efficient and effective way to protect workers from hazardous chemicals is by eliminating or replacing those chemicals with safer alternatives whenever possible,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.
The second web resource developed by OSHA will enable employers to voluntarily adopt more protective workplace exposure limits. This resource entitled the Annotated Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs), updates OSHA’s mandatory PELs to limits that should better protect workers’ health. The mandatory PELs will continue to be enforced, however OSHA recognizes that these limits are outdated. The majority of these PELs were adopted over 40 years ago and, according to OSHA, “new scientific data, industrial experience and developments in technology clearly indicate that in many instances these mandatory limits are not sufficiently protective of workers’ health”.
The new tables will compare OSHA PELs with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health PELs, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommended exposure limits, and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienist threshold limit values.
“There is no question that many of OSHA’s chemical standards are not adequately protective,” Michaels said. “I advise employers, who want to ensure that their workplaces are safe, to utilize the occupational exposure limits on these annotated tables, since simply complying with OSHA’s antiquated PELs will not guarantee that workers will be safe.”