Industry Proposes PELs Revision

The California Manufacturers Association is citing new evidence that workers' compensation costs in the state are increasing at an alarming rate.

A group led by Organization Resources Counselors (ORC) will meet with OSHA Administrator Charles Jeffress on Monday to present a process the agency can use to expedite the updating of 400 permissible exposure limits (PELs).

The group wants to establish a panel led by outside consultants, preferably one of the national laboratories, to help move the tedious PEL update process along. An attempt to update the entire list of over 400 PELs was blocked by a 1992 court decision, and the agency has been unable to move any PELs through since.

Jeffress said changing the regulatory process to better deal with PELs is a priority. He also said he may ask Congress to open the Occupational Safety and Health Act to help the agency speed up the regulatory process.

Industry is opposed to opening the OSH Act, and would likely challenge any attempt to tackle all 400 PELs at once, said Darrell Mattheis of ORC.

"It's never going to happen in this Congress, and there's very little industry support for it," said Mattheis. "We are suggesting OSHA begin by announcing in the Federal Register that they are considering updating PELs and asking for suggestions on which chemicals to begin with."

After that, the industry panel suggests the agency:

  • Develop a list of contaminates for revision and publish the list in the Federal Register;
  • Select a smaller list of high-priority substances;
  • Choose a primary contractor preferably a national laboratory to manage the collection of information that will be reviewed by the agency;
  • Assign staff members to act as liaisons to the committee.

Labor leaders are wary of the proposal because they fear industry would have too much control over the process.

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