New OSHA Initiative Emphasizes Hazardous Chemical Safety

OSHA has announced a call for a national dialogue on ways to prevent workers from becoming ill or injured as a result of exposure to hazardous chemicals. With the stated goal of giving “stakeholders a forum to develop innovative, effective approaches to improve the health of workers in the United States,” the initiative requests input around the management of hazardous chemicals with an eye to possibly updating current permissible exposure limits (PELs).

OSHA notes that 95% of its current PELs have not been updated since they were first implemented over 40 years ago, and acknowledges that they are likely out of date. In January of 1989, OSHA attempted to update standards for over 350 of its PELS. However, the move was challenged in court several times and eventually vacated (i.e. voided) by the U.S. Court of Appeals. Since 1971, OSHA has only been able to successfully update PELs for about 30 chemicals.

“While we will continue to work on updating our workplace exposure limits, we are asking public health experts, chemical manufacturers, employers, unions and others committed to preventing workplace illnesses to help us identify new approaches to address chemical hazards,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels, in a prepared OSHA statement.

Announced late last week, the comment period for this new initiative will run for the next six months.

Clearly, OSHA wants employers to take chemical hazards seriously and to keep worker health and safety front of mind.

One way for companies to stay on top of evolving OSHA chemical hazard requirements is with MSDSonline’s suite of workplace trainings. Our regularly-updated training catalog includes safety modules specifically designed to keep employers and employees on the leading-edge of hazardous chemical safety. Representative courses include:

  • Laboratory Safety Overview—This module reviews general requirements of the Laboratory Safety Standard and Chemical Hygiene Plans, and covers OSHA safety guidelines for protecting against chemical exposure and other common laboratory hazards.
  • Process Safety Management Program—This module is designed to help workers recognize, prevent, and minimize the consequences of a catastrophic release of toxic, reactive, flammable, or explosive Highly Hazardous Chemicals (HHCs).
  • Toxicology—Covering toxicology basics and protection from chemical exposure, this module familiarizes workers with principles of chemical exposure limits, as well as factors that influence the effects of chemical exposure.

MSDSonline’s training library puts nearly 100 workplace training courses right at users’ fingertips, and is trusted by thousands of safety professionals to help satisfy state and federal training requirements. As OSHA seems poised to expand its list of requirements for hazardous chemical safety, you can be certain that solutions from MSDSonline will be there to help ensure employee knowledge and compliance.

If you’d like more information on submitting a comment for OSHA’s new dialogue on exposure to hazardous chemicals, you can visit the official OSHA Chemical Management Request for Information Web Page.

And for more information on MSDSonline’s suite of chemical hazard training solutions, you can access our library of workplace training courses here.