The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates workplace chemical safety, in part, through Personal Exposure Levels (PEL) that specify the amount of a chemical that a worker is allowed to encounter at work. Those levels often exceed the amounts or concentrations that are considered safe for a person in their life outside work. OSHA must go through a rule-making process for each chemical PEL. The OSHA staff has actually declined in the last 30 years, a time span in which the Environmental Protection Agency has grown by 24 percent. Since OSHA was formed only one chemical has been added to the list for which workplace PELs exist and a court barred an attempt to add 164 chemicals to that list.


The National Safety Council has recommended that industrial exposure to chemicals should be guided by stricter standards of industry groups, safety professionals, and state government regulators such as the State of California’s occupational safety agency. These limits, along with industry best practices, are typically lower that the exposure limits set by OSHA. Also, the narrower list of chemicals used by OSHA leaves workplace exposure to some potentially hazardous chemicals unregulated at the federal level.


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