Yesterday, we focused on OSHA’s safer chemicals toolkit. Today, we turn to its annotated PEL tables.
OSHA recognizes that many of its permissible exposure limits (PELs) are outdated and inadequate for ensuring protection of worker health. Most of OSHA’s PELs were issued shortly after adoption of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970, and have not been updated since that time.
Industrial experience, new developments in technology, and scientific data, says OSHA, clearly indicate that in many instances these adopted limits are not sufficiently protective of worker health. This has been demonstrated by the reduction in allowable exposure limits recommended by many technical, professional, industrial, and government organizations, both inside and outside the United States.
Many large industrial organizations have felt obligated to supplement the existing OSHA PELs with their own internal corporate guidelines.
Furthermore, OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard (1910.1200 Appendix D) requires that safety data sheets list not only the relevant OSHA PEL but also the ACGIH® TLV® and any other exposure limit used or recommended by the chemical manufacturer, importer, or employer preparing the safety data sheet.
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To provide employers, workers, and other interested parties with a list of alternate occupational exposure limits that may serve to better protect workers, OSHA has annotated the existing Z-Tables with other selected occupational exposure limits. OSHA has chosen to present a side-by-side table with the Cal/OSHA PELs, the NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limits (RELs) and the ACGIH® TLVs®s. The tables list air concentration limits, but do not include notations for skin absorption or sensitization.
OSHA’s mandatory PELs in the Z-Tables remain in effect. However, OSHA recommends that employers consider using the alternative occupational exposure limits because the agency believes that exposures above some of these alternative occupational exposure limits may be hazardous to workers, even when the exposure levels are in compliance with the relevant PELs.
Cal/OSHA, NIOSH, and ACGIH have occupational exposure limits (OELs) in addition to those listed in the annotated tables. The annotated tables contain links to the complete OEL lists from Cal/OSHA and NIOSH. TLVs® are not publicly available, but can be purchased on ACGIH®’s website (www.acgih.org).
For the most current OELs and information on notations such as skin absorption, users should consult complete listings and explanations from Cal/OSHA, NIOSH, and ACGIH®.
Each of the alternative lists of exposure limits is accompanied by extensive explanatory language on their source websites. These include averaging periods, size selective measures, and similar information. In particular, ACGIH® provides an explanation of the use of TLVs® and access to documentation. For more information and documentation, consult with these organizations.
For more information about OSHA’s annotated PEL tables, click here.
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Keep Workers Safe from Hazardous Chemical Exposures
Permissible exposure limits and other safety and health information about hazardous chemicals is important for any employee who works with or around hazardous chemicals. Of course this includes hazardous waste workers. They must be trained to recognize hazards and take proper precautions to avoid harmful exposures.
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