PEL Reform Moves Forward in Oregon

Oregon OSHA — Oregon’s state OSHA plan — announced that it will update between four and six PELs in 2016. In the December/January issue of the Health and Safety Resource — the Oregon OSHA newsletter — Administrator Michael Wood announced that his agency would work to tackle “that problem using two distinct, but interrelated approaches.”  Specifically, Wood said that Oregon OSHA would 1.) “encourage employers to consider more up-to-date and protective reference levels” and, 2.) “Tackle four to six of the most significant and outdated PELs on a state level [through rulemaking]” with the help of “toxicologists, industrial hygienists, and others.”

In his message, Mr. Wood appeared to cite federal OSHA’s slow pace of PEL reform as the impetus for Oregon’s commitment to action at the state-level, stating: “It is clear that federal OSHA will never be able to keep the [PEL] regulatory levels sufficiently up to date, at least until a completely new approach is developed and adopted.”

Despite this strong language, federal OSHA seemed to welcome the move. Dr. David Michaels praised the approach in OSHA’s QuickTakes newsletter, saying “OSHA's state counterparts have always been sources of innovations in worker health and safety. Oregon OSHA's initiative to update Permissible Exposure Limits shows how adaptable and effective State Plans can be in addressing safety and health issues.”