Toxic And Hazardous Substances

Toxic And Hazardous Substances

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes that toxic and hazardous substances pose significant health risks for workers. One of the primary tools that OSHA uses to protect workers is the hazard communication standard OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard.

The hazard communication standard ensures that employees understand the risks and health hazards presented by the use of hazardous substances in the workplace. Another primary tool that OSHA uses are permissible exposure limits (PELs)Permissible Exposure Limit. PELs are exposure limits for workers exposed to toxic and hazardous substances.

Other substances, such as asbestos, lead, and chromium (VI), have additional requirements to protect employees exposed from exposure to hazardous substances.

Importance of implementing an active regulatory watch on toxic and hazardous substances

OSHA is in the process of harmonizing its hazard communication standard with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).
OSHA and Canada have also signed a memorandum of understanding that will harmonize their respective GHS regulations to simplify cross-border trade.

Many of OSHA’s PELs were established in the 1970s and have not been updated. OSHA recognizes these standards are outdated, as new science has emerged indicating that many PELs should be significantly lower. As a result, OSHA published a request for information, seeking comments on ways in which to more easily revise its PELs.

OSHA has signaled its intent to provide lower limits, so it is important to ensure that you are aware of any PEL changes.

Definitions

What is the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals?

GHS is published by the United Nations as a voluntary guide to classifying chemical hazards and labeling chemicals to warn of their hazards. Countries may choose to implement this system to help simplify international trade and also enhance employee safety and health by instituting a universal safety and health language for chemicals and hazardous substances.

What is a permissible exposure limit?

A PEL is a limit that specifies the maximum concentration of a chemical or hazardous substance an employee may be exposed.


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