OSHA Seeks Input on Updating Chemical Exposure Standards

If you work with or manufacture potentially hazardous chemicals, OSHA wants to hear from you.

OSHA has recently launched a national dialogue in an effort to increase the prevention of work-related illness caused by chemicals and hazardous substances. In a YouTube video introducing the initiative, Dr. David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, commented that “[m]any of our chemical exposure standards are dangerously out of date and do not adequately protect workers.” Dr. Michaels further stated that the process by which these standards are created or updated is “broken” and must be fixed.

As part of this dialogue, OSHA has invited public health experts, employers, unions, and chemical manufacturers to provide feedback on updating “permissible exposure limits” or “PELs”. PELs are regulatory limits on the permissible amount or concentration of a substance in the air. They exist to protect workers from potential adverse health effects resulting from exposure to hazardous substances. OSHA notes that 95% of their current limits have not been updated since their adoption in 1971. The current limits only cover a small fraction of the tens of thousands of chemicals regularly found in many workplaces. Many of these chemicals are suspected of being harmful. OSHA states that the goal of this dialogue is to streamline PEL rulemaking and to create alternative approaches to chemical management.

The comment period will close on April 8, 2015. During the comment period OSHA will be announcing additional ways for the public to provide commentary and participate in the initiative. For instructions on how to submit comments, please see the Federal Register, Docket No. OSHA-2012-0023. For further information on the initiative, please visit the OSHA Chemical Management Request for Information Web page.

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