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OSHA releases web tools for limiting chemical exposures

David Michaels

David Michaels; photo: Department of Labor

Washington – Calling current permissible exposure limits “antiquated” and “dangerously out of date,” OSHA administrator David Michaels unveiled two web-based resources he said will help companies keep workers safer around chemicals.

Tens of thousands of workers become ill or die from occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals every year, and most of OSHA’s PELs have not been updated in 40 years, Michaels said during an Oct. 24 press conference.

Because OSHA’s rulemaking process is lengthy and the agency is not legally allowed to update more than one substance at a time, the agency created the resources so it can more quickly provide worker protection information to employers. A toolkit offers a step-by-step guide on transitioning to safer chemical substitutes, while an annotated PEL table lists voluntary limits from other organizations, including NIOSH’s recommended exposure limits and American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists’ threshold limit values. These limits are often lower than OSHA’s.

“We will continue to update PELs, but workers and employers can’t wait,” Michaels said “They need to get the best information and the newest information to ensure workers are protected. And this is a way to begin to do that.”