Recently, OSHA opened up their virtual doors and allowed experts across the US to express their concerns about the shortcomings of the organization’s current permissible exposure limits (PELs). For two weeks at the end of last month, the OSHA website provided a forum for people to “help the Agency identify the chemicals of concern on which (OSHA) can focus (their) initial efforts…” The website called for the nomination of chemicals that have a “particularly inadequate” PEL or none at all, and that “are putting workers at risk for occupational illness.” The nominating website is still up at http://www.osha.gov/pelforum.html, but it is unclear if OSHA will accept late entries.
What is so interesting about this step by OSHA is the fact that the agency explicitly recognizes that their standards are not adequate in some cases. As the website states:
“Unfortunately, most of OSHA's PELs that were adopted when the Agency was first created have remained unchanged. Meanwhile, science has moved forward and health data indicate hazards below the levels permitted by many OSHA PELs. Like the occupational health community at large, OSHA realizes the inadequacy of many of its PELs and is seeking creative solutions, both long term and short term, to address this inadequacy.”
This statement from OSHA clearly refutes the common misconception of many employers who think that if there is not a PEL for a given chemical there is no need to monitor it or take other precautions because OSHA does not think it is a threat to worker safety. It is perfectly clear now more than ever that simply because OSHA does not have standards for certain chemicals does not mean that they are safe. With the help of chemical experts across the country, OSHA standards are beginning to catch up to modern technology and data, and workplaces are becoming safer than ever.
ChemDAQ’s own Dr. Richard Warburton submitted recommendations for Peracetic Acid, Glutaraldehyde, and Ortho-phthalaldehyde on the site.
While we are certainly aware that these processes take time, it is encouraging to see OSHA take the initiative in leading the way for updated PELs to keep workers safe.