OSHA Steps Up Chemical Safety

Unfortunately, thousands of U.S. workers continue to get sick or die from occupational exposures to the many chemicals used in the work place each and every year. Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched two new web resources that are directly aimed at reducing these figures by assisting companies with keeping their employees safe.

Chemical Safety Gets A Boost

The new tools from OSHA are designed to help employers in every industry sector select safer, alternative chemicals to substances they currently use, as well as adopt more protective exposure limits.

We know that the most efficient way to protect workers from hazardous chemicals is by eliminating or replacing those chemicals with safer alternatives whenever possible.

-Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Chemical safety Both tools were announced during a brief news conference on Oct. 24 by Dr. David Michaels. The first being a toolkit for employers to identify safer chemicals that can be used in place of more hazardous ones. This toolkit will walk employers step-by-step through information, methods, tools and guidance to either eliminate hazardous chemicals, or make informed substitution decisions in the workplace by finding a safer chemical, material, product or process according to OSHA’s press release.

The new toolkit for identifying safer chemicals can be found here.

The other online tool OSHA announced is a resource; the Annotated Permissible Exposure Limits, or annotated PEL tables. This will enable employers to voluntarily adopt newer, more protective workplace exposure limits. The PELs set mandatory limits on the amount or concentration of a substance in the air to protect workers against the health effects of certain hazardous chemicals.

Since 1971, when OSHA was first formed, many of their PELs have not been changed or updated. The administration admits that with new scientific data, industrial experience and developments in technology have proven that the current mandatory limits where not sufficient enough to adequately protect the workers’ health.

There is no question that many of OSHA’s chemical standards are not adequately protective. 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.

-Dr. David Michaels

The annotated PEL tables are available here.

The tables will offer a side-by-side comparison of OSHA PELs for general industry to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health PELs, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommended exposure limits, and American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienist threshold limit values.

Additional Resources