In the beginning of October 2014, OSHA announced their launch of a national dialogue with stakeholders on ways to prevent exposure to hazardous substances resulting in work-related illnesses. OSHA published a Request for Information (RFI) on the management of hazardous chemical exposures and strategies for updating permissible exposure limits (PELs).
PELs are the regulatory limits on the amount or concentration of a substance in the air, and are based on an 8-hour time weighted average exposure. Some PELs also contain a skin designation. PELs have been established to protect workers against adverse health effects resulting from exposure to hazardous substances. The PELs currently established by OSHA cover fewer than 500 chemicals, and 95% of them have not been updated since their inception in 1971. This means that the current PELs only cover a small percentage of the thousands of chemicals used in workplaces.
OSHA has specifically requested suggestions on streamlined approaches for risk assessment and feasibility analyses, and alternative approaches for managing chemical exposures; including control banding, task based approaches and informed substitutions.
The comment period for the RFI will last for 180 days, with an end date of April 8, 2015. More information can be found on OSHA’s Chemical Management Request for Information webpage at https://www.osha.gov/chemicalmanagement/index.html. OSHA plans on announcing additional ways members of the public can participate in the dialogue in the coming months. Participation is essential to the developing effective methods to improve worker safety.