OSHA’s New Annotated Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs)-November 2013

Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety 

November 2013


IN THIS ISSUE: OSHA’s New Annotated Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs)

When OSHA was established in 1970, it adopted occupational standards that carry the weight of law. Since that time, new technology and scientific data have shown that these occupational limits are outdated. OSHA recognized this problem and recently published a number of documents related to chemical management informally known as the OSHA Toolkit. Most important among them are the PELs Annotated Tables

“Industrial hygienists have long recognized that the OSHA PELs don’t adequately protect workers from exposure to hazardous chemicals and other substances,” explains Gary R. Ticker, CIH, CSP. “These new annotated PELs address that directly.”

In addition to the OSHA standards, the annotated PELs provide the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) and Biological Exposure Indices (BEIs),the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limits (RELs), and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs). 

  • ACGIH is a private, not-for-profit, non-governmental organization. It develops recommendations or guidelines to assist in the control of occupational health hazards. They are health-based values and are not intended to be used as legal standards.
  • NIOSH is a Federal agency established to recommend standards to OSHA. The RELs are intended to limit exposure to hazardous substances in workplace air to protect worker health. It evaluates all available medical, biological, engineering, chemical, and trade information relevant to the hazard. It also does its own research and investigation and publishes resources such as the NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards.
  • Cal/OSHA has established an extensive list of PELs that are enforced in workplaces under its jurisdiction, and can provide information on acceptable levels of chemicals in the workplace. Cal/OSHA PELs are promulgated under statutory requirements for risk and feasibility that are no less protective than OSHA.

It is important to note that the PELs Annotated Tables do not provide all exposure limits of these alternative organizations, only those that match the OSHA PELs. There are hundreds of other chemicals and when evaluating specific hazards it may be necessary to go directly to the organization website to use or purchase their standards. In addition to these U.S. standards, the European Union, and other countries publish additional benchmarks.  

The congressional logjam and competing interests have made the prospect of new OSHA standards unlikely. Just recently a proposed new Silica standard was published. It has taken years to get to this stage in the process and few industrial hygienists believe it will be made law in the near future. In the meantime, safety professionals and employers should look at other standards and means of controlling chemical exposure to adequately protect their workers. For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or contact us at occusafe@occusafeinc.com

OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health.   OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.

This newsletter is published monthly by OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety Services, Inc. Feel free to forward it to friends and colleagues.

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