36 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 11.14
Chemical exposure standards set by
the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
are "dangerously out of date and do not pro
tect workers," according to OSHA's assistant
secretary of labor, Dr. David Michaels.
For the next six months, OSHA will accept
comments on the best ways to protect work
ers from illnesses caused by exposure to haz-
ardous substances. The agency is asking stake-
holders, including businesses, for specifc
suggestions on how to streamline risk assess
ment and develop alternatives to updating per-
missible exposure limits (PELs) for chemicals.
Thousands of chemicals are used in work
places, but OSHA has PELs for fewer than 500.
"We're struggling to keep pace with the
potential hazards," Michaels told a group of
reporters in early October, adding that man
ufacturing frms currently have their own
standards that on paper are stronger than the
Michaels added that the majority of
the agency's PELs were adopted more than
40 years ago, and that new scientifc data, in
dustrial experience and developments in tech-
nology indicate that, in many instances, these
mandatory limits are not suffciently protective.
Efforts in recent years to update the limits, Mi
chaels stated, have been "largely unsuccessful."
According to news reports, Michaels said
that a major problem was the vast amount of
scientifc and economic research needed to
change the limits. The regulation of a single
chemical could require hundreds or even thou
sands of pages of documentation and years of
work by staff, he said. So the agency is looking
for new ways to streamline the process.
"We can't go chemical by chemical, because
it would take centuries to address all the chemi
cals that are out there," Michaels told reporters.
One approach OSHA is interested in
looking at is "control banding" — basically
treating chemicals with similar qualities the
same — instead of developing PELs for every
single chemical, said one news account.
A year ago, OSHA launched two new Web
resources that aimed to safeguard workers from
exposure to hazardous chemicals in response to
its own out-of-date standards. OSHA created
a toolkit, called Transitioning to Safer Chem
icals, to identify safer chemicals that can be
used in place of more hazardous ones. This
toolkit can be found at www.osha.gov/dsg/
OSHA also developed the Annotated
Permissible Exposure Limits, or annotated
PEL tables to enable employers to voluntarily
adopt newer, more protective workplace expo
sure limits. The annotated PEL tables can be
found at www.osha.gov/dsg/;annotated-pels/
Public comments may be made at
Information for this column was gathered from various
news sources, including Environmental Leader
( www.environmentalleader.com ) and The Business Journals
( www.bizjournals.com ).
OSHA: Chemical exposure
standards 'out of date'
For the next six
months, OSHA will
on the best ways
to protect workers
caused by exposure
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