Some Progress Made on OSHA's PELs Update: AIHA's Trippler

Speaking with reporters at AIHce 2014, the association's government affairs director said two recent actions offer some hope for AIHA's top regulatory priority.

SAN ANTONIO -- Whether OSHA ever will update its permissible exposure limits (PELs) is debatable. The agency has tried before without success, and it agrees that these 40-year-old exposure limits are outdated and inadequate – so much so that it recommends that employers voluntarily adhere to NIOSH and ACGIH recommended limits and to Cal/OSHA's PELs list.

Updating the OSHA PELs has been AIHA's top regulatory priority for the past 20 years, AIHA Government Affairs Director Aaron Trippler said during a June 4 press briefing at the 2014 American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Expo. Trippler added that some progress has been made recently: The Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety & Health has recommended that OSHA ask President Obama to issue an executive order requiring federal departments to be guided by updated PELs, and OSHA has submitted to OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs a document that asks stakeholders to submit comments on how the OSHA PELs can be updated. (OIRA has to clear regulatory documents for publication.)

Crystalline silica -- OSHA published the proposed rule last September and held three weeks of hearings about it earlier this year -- and the PELs update are the only regulatory issues currently active at OSHA, and the agency has stopped working on an Injury and Illness Prevention Programs (I2P2) regulation, Trippler said. A proposed rule on occupational exposure to beryllium may be the only standard it will complete during the rest of the president's second term, he added. "I think that's the only thing that they may have a chance of moving on," he said.

As for I2P2, which OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels has described as his top priority in the past, "My personal opinion is that it became too complex," said Trippler. "It became very unworkable to industry and very confusing. It became very controversial."

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