ASSE Speaks Out Against TLV Lawsuit

An industry lawsuit challenging the use of threshold limit values (TLVs) in OSHA standards has sparked the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) to express concern that a successful lawsuit would prevent workers from getting important safety information from employers under OSHA's hazard communication standard.

Some industry groups argue that TLVs – which were developed by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) – are crafted without wide participation from the public and then incorporated into OSHA standards.

ASSE President Donald Jones said TLVs help OSHA ensure that employees have essential scientific data available.

"The issue of setting appropriate exposure limits for dangerous chemicals being used in the workplace is a difficult one that calls for cooperative efforts," Jones said. " … The lawsuit against OSHA's use of TLVs in the hazcom standard reinforces the need for all stakeholders to address updating workplace exposure limits, an effort that may well require direction from Congress as well as leadership from OSHA."

Norwood Declared "War" Against TLVs

In response to the controversy, U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., in June introduced a new bill that would eradicate the use of non-consensus standards such as TLVs. When Norwood introduced the bill, he announced that he was declaring "war on federal bureaucrats attempting to write U.S. law."

OSHA has required inclusion of available ACGIH TLVs on MSDSs for the past 25 years. Last January, ACGIH announced that it had adopted TLVs for various substances including crystalline silica, iron oxide, propylene and propylene dichloride.

The lawsuit states that when ACGIH issued its revised TLVs, OSHA, by referencing them, wrongly amended its hazcom standard.

"Industry, safety, health and environmental professionals, worker organizations, OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and other stakeholders should work together to find a way to update exposure limits, instead of resorting to litigation," Jones said. "The merits of the lawsuit aside, banning OSHA's longstanding practice of referencing ACGIH's TLVs could deny workers and industry of critical data on exposure limits for a variety of hazardous chemicals."

Jones added: "This cannot be in the best interest of workers, businesses and the public."

ASSE: Negotiated Rulemaking a Must

Jones challenged the industry to join ASSE in urging Congress to pass legislation requiring OSHA to begin a negotiated rulemaking process to update exposure limits or provide legal protections against litigation so that private organizations can achieve updated limits through the voluntary consensus-building process of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Either mechanism, Jones said, would allow any and all stakeholders to participate in the updating process, thereby helping to avoid the rancor, litigation and lack of results that has plagued this issue for so many years and increasing workplace safety.

For more information on non-consensus standards and TLVs, read "Hearing Stirs Debate Over Non-Consensus Standards" and "Norwood Introduces Bill to Eradicate Use of Non-Consensus Standards."

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