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August 23, 2010

OSHA Hosting Internet Forum to Identify Hazardous Chemicals That Warrant Exposure Reduction Strategies

Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is hosting an Internet forum that began on August 16 and runs through August 27 to seek stakeholder input in identifying hazardous chemicals for which OSHA should develop exposure reduction strategies. The forum expressly solicits stakeholders’ views on “harmful chemicals” and reasons why OSHA should focus on them in reducing worker exposures.

The notice announcing the forum expresses OSHA’s recognition that many of the Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) currently in effect for workplace chemicals have remained unchanged for years. During its first two years of existence, OSHA established approximately 400 PELs, but has only developed 29 since then. OSHA said that it “realizes the inadequacy of many of its PELs and is seeking creative solutions, both long term and short term, to address this inadequacy.” The forum thus is OSHA’s initial step for addressing these “inadequacies.”

OSHA is soliciting input from the regulated community and other stakeholders to identify the chemicals of concern on which OSHA can focus its initial efforts beyond those which OSHA is already addressing through ongoing rulemaking. OSHA is asking interested parties to nominate those chemicals for which the existing PEL is particularly inadequate or for which OSHA has no standard at all, and “that are putting workers at risk for occupational illness.”

Interested parties are asked to complete a nomination form onlineNominations will be accepted until August 27. OSHA asks that when nominating a particular chemical, parties should include the criteria used for selecting that chemical for nomination (e.g., the OSHA PEL is inadequate, there is widespread use of the chemical and potential worker exposure).

This forum is a significant and innovative step in the revision of existing PELs or creation of new PELs, and reflects the Administration’s commitment to diminishing worker exposure to chemicals that has been so evident in measures related to reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) (see online). Through this forum, OSHA is asking interested parties to, at least in part, help set its regulatory agenda. OSHA intends to use the chemicals nominated through this Internet forum as its list of chemicals upon which it will prioritize its actions. Clients and friends should monitor the forum closely, paying particular attention to the nomination of chemicals that are routinely used in the workplace or otherwise of interest.