Wednesday, September 29, 2010


So this morning I had a radical idea on how to deal with our PELs.  Everyone on the planet knows our PELS are horribly out of date, they're from 1968 or 1970 (general industry vs construction) and many don't take into account health effects that may occur at lower exposures.  So here's the idea:
Withdraw the standards, both 1910.1000 and 1926.55.
Totally insane isn't it?  When it first occurred to me I actually laughed out loud, you can imagine the looks.  But why not?  We already cite 5(a)(1) for chemicals that don't have exposure limits and we can cite 5(a)(1) when there is a PEL, if people exhibit health effects not covered by the original TLV documentation and we can show the employer knew.  Even though we can do this, we almost never do because we're either too busy or too lazy.  So why not go 5(a)(1) for everything?

It would take a little more work, but it would also allow us to enforce based on current science, not 40 year old science.  Business probably wouldn't like it very much, they would be afraid that enforcement would be too inconsistent and they wouldn't know to what level they would need to protect their employees.  And they would probably be right, at least partially.  This would very likely lead to the call for a return of the PEL tables, which might be enough for Congress to give us a special dispensation to adopt new PELs, which would then allow us to update the PELs to appropriate levels.  Even the threat of doing this might be enough to bring about the changes that are needed.

It's a radically insane idea that might or might not work, but it doesn't really matter since no one has the stones to try it.


  1. You are a madman! But I like it! Not necessarily the potential positive and likely certain negative implications of implementation, but at least you are thinking outside the OSHA box! Keep it up.

  2. You are way behind the curve. I suggested over 15 years ago to replace ALL of our standards 1910, 1926, etc. and use Section 5(a)(1). We eliminate the entire standards development section in Wash DC. No worries on always updating our standards(i.e crane standards, latest electrical, etc) just use current state of the art knowledge. That has got to save at least 50 million of the OSHA budget. People who work in standards development would not be happy to lose their jobs. I want my percentage of this cost reduction idea for my retirement. Again you are way behind the curve on this idea.

  3. It's hard enough already for companies to comply with the PEL standards. I think most companies are stuck between having enough IH stuff that it takes a good portion of a Safety Professional's time and not having enough to justify bringing on a full time CIH.

    Make it simple. Require a qualitative analysis by a CIH. Then quantitative for any potential exposures. If there is an exposure and it is below the current PELs, give employees the option to voluntarily wear PPE at no cost to the employee. Extend the medical monitoring for any of the programs to include everyone exposed, not just those above the PEL or Action Level.

    My company is not in the lead program, but we do have lead exposures. We have had several engineering controls installed in the past 10 years that have taken us below the Action Level.

    We still require certain employees to wear respirators and do blood-lead levels. Not because there is an overexposure, but because it is the right thing to do. Additionally, we make it optional for everyone else to enter the respiratory program and get additional respiratory protection if they so choose. Works great. Allows for concerned employees to take action themselves to get additional protection if they so choose. This is assuming your Respiratory Program is adequate.

    If a company can show they are below all PELs and Action Levels the exposures can almost all be lowered to levels that are below what any new proposed PELS would be simply by utilizing PPE.

  4. Jeffry - The problem isn't thinking outside the box, it's getting anyone to listen.

    Anon @ 10:09 Sept 30 - I'm way ahead of the curve, just ask my mom.

    Anon @ 11:59 Sept 30 - I'm envious, I wish there were more companies that were as responsible as yours, if there were then there would be no need for OSHA (don't bother anti-OSHAns out there, look at the poll, you already lost).