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How Should Hazardous Chemicals be Managed on Job Sites?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says it needs to update regulations that are supposed to protect workers from hazardous substances, and it's asking employers and others with a stake in workplace safety for input.

Permissible exposure limits (PELs) are at issue. OSHA sets PELs that limit the amount or concentration of a substance in the air. They may also have a skin designation. These limits are intended to protect workers against health problems caused by exposure to hazardous substances.

The problem, according to OSHA, is its PELs are not extensive enough and have not been updated. The agency says the current PELs cover fewer than 500 chemicals, though tens of thousands of chemicals are used in the workplace. The PELs have not been updated since they were adopted in 1971.

OSHA says that it requires substantial resources to create new exposure limits or update existing limits because of the complex analysis required for each new PEL. As a result, it's reaching out to employers, unions, manufacturers and health experts on other strategies to update the limits and manage chemical exposure. Specifically, OSHA is seeking streamlined approaches for risk assessment and alternative approaches to manage chemical exposures.

The comment period for OSHA's Request for Information lasts 180 days. You can comment on the rule using Docket # OSHA - 2012 - 0023 at http://www.regulations.gov.

Employers have a responsibility to ensure that they protect the health and safety of workers, partly through following OSHA safety regulations. Our law firm advises employers on compliance with OSHA regulations as well as representation during OSHA inspections and when citations have been issued.

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