12:00:37 pm, by Bill Walsh CIH | 112 views | 0 comments
On October 24th, OSHA released a statement acknowledging something virtually every IH professional already knew; namely that the Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) are outdated and in many cases can no longer be relied upon to provide a safe working environment. In my opinion, this woeful state of affairs is directly a result of the litigious nature of American business (and labor). The situation closely mirrors Congress, where anything the other side of the aisle does is EVIL, whether it actually is or not.
As a case in point, the proposed change in the silica PEL is estimated to have at least three to five years of lawsuits in front of it before anything is adopted. IHs in other countries simply cannot understand why this is the case. At any rate the United State’s inability to update exposure regulations based upon science has seriously undermined its reputation regarding worker safety and health. It’s hard to point a finger at overseas conditions when our own have not been updated in 40 years.
About 15 years ago OSHA tried to update its PELs by adopting the ACGIH TLVs. This resulted in lawsuits saying that OSHA circumvented its rulemaking process (true) and that the ACGIH was promoting de-facto regulations. OSHA withdrew the proposal and ACGIH almost went under due to the cost of defending itself.
The current attempt lists the OSHA PEL, the NIOSH REL, the ACGIH TLV, and the CalOSHA PEL for each substance. OSHA says it is doing so in order to educate employers regarding the current. However, it may have just loaded business’s lawsuit gun following a recent action it took.
According to the Thursday, November 21stedition of the Wall Street Journal, OSHA recently fined a company in Wisconsin $49,500 for overexposing workers to styrene under its “General Duty Clause”. This clause states “ (employers) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;”
The citation happened even though the company was maintaining exposures below the current PEL of 100 ppm. The annotated exposure limits listed by OSHA range from a 50ppm REL to a 20ppm TLV. The article did not mention the measured exposures in the plant, but two workers were taken to the hospital with symptoms attributed to styrene exposure by medical staff.
Needless to say, this is a cause for much consternation for the “we are meeting all legal limits” crowd. That noise you hear is an outpouring of angry hornets resembling lawyers resulting from OSHA kicking their hive.
Categories: Bill Walsh