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OSHA Seeks to Update Chemical Exposure Standards

Oct. 17, 2014

Agency says current regulations "don't protect worker health".

With thousands of chemicals in use in U.S. workplaces and less than 500 subject to OSHA guidelines, the agency has published a Request for Information on how regulations on chemical management and permissible exposure limits (PELs) could be updated. The public request notes that over 90% of current regulations haven’t been changed since 1971, when the policies were adopted, and says most PELs are out of date.

As a result of the substantial resources and time needed to update PEL standards, OSHA is seeking ideas on new ways to streamline the rulemaking process. In support of this plan, the request notes a broad consensus among public health experts, chemical manufacturers, and labor and employer groups that PEL standards are outdated and don’t protect worker health. The request is also open to ideas for alternative approaches to chemical management to replace the PEL system, and includes a list of methods they’re already considering such as hazard banding, task-based approaches, and informed substitution.

“As a result [of outdated PEL standards] many workers are currently being exposed to levels of chemicals that are legal, but not safe. That’s why we need your help,” says David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. 

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