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Policy

Improving Industrial Worker Safety

by Cheryl Hogue
November 4, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 44

A new OSHA initiative offers guidance to businesses about substituting safer substances for more hazardous substances and setting voluntary exposure limits for hazardous chemicals to levels lower than federal standards. By taking such action, the agency says, companies will reduce worker illness and death that could result from OSHA’s outdated permissible exposure limits (PELs) for chemicals. Most of those federal limits are unchanged from when they were put in place in the 1970s. “Simply complying with OSHA’s antiquated PELs will not guarantee that workers will be safe,” says David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. OSHA unveiled a new website to help businesses make improved decisions about switching away from hazardous substances. A second website was also rolled out with guidance to employers opting to voluntarily set workplace exposure standards that are tighter than federal PELs.

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