OSHA's current chemical exposure limits out of date

OSHA has launched two new Web resources to assist companies with keeping their workers safe from exposure to hazardous chemicals.

While many chemicals are suspected of being harmful, OSHA's exposure standards are out-of-date and inadequately protective for the small number of chemicals that are regulated in the workplace.

The first resource OSHA has created is a toolkit to identify safer chemicals that can be used in place of more hazardous ones. This toolkit walks employers and workers step-by-step through information, methods, tools, and guidance to either eliminate hazardous chemicals or make informed substitution decisions in the workplace by finding a safer chemical, material, product, or process.

OSHA has also created the Annotated Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) tables, which will enable employers to voluntarily adopt newer, more protective workplace exposure limits. OSHA's PELs set mandatory limits on the amount or concentration of a substance in the air to protect workers against the health effects of certain hazardous chemicals. OSHA will continue to enforce those mandatory PELs.

Since OSHA's adoption of the majority of its PELs more than 40 years ago, new scientific data, industrial experience, and developments in technology clearly indicate that in many instances, these mandatory limits are not sufficiently protective of workers' health.

The annotated PEL tables provide a side-by-side comparison of OSHA PELs for general industry to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health PELs, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommended exposure limits, and American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienist threshold limit values.