ASSE Concerned with the Potential Impact of Industry Litigation on Commuicating Chemical Risks to Workers
Des Plaines, IL (December 18, 2006) — The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) today expressed concern over the recent lawsuit filed by industry groups challenging the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) use of threshold limit values (TLVs) used to communicate the risk of exposure limits to chemical hazards through OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom).
ASSE is concerned that if successful this suit could prevent workers from obtaining the best available information on chemical exposure limits from employers under the HazCom standard by preventing the inclusion of TLVs on material safety data sheets (MSDSs), a practice that has existed for 25 years.
“The issue of setting appropriate exposure limits for dangerous chemicals being used in the workplace is a difficult one that calls for cooperative efforts,” said ASSE President Donald S. Jones, Sr., P.E., CSP. “We feel OSHA is trying to ensure that employees have the best scientific data available on exposure limits to certain hazardous chemicals. 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.”
TLVs are developed by the American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). OSHA has long required inclusion of available ACGIH TLVs on MSDSs. 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 long standing practice of referencing ACGIH’s TLVs could deny workers and industry of critical data on exposure limits for a variety of hazardous chemicals. This cannot be in the best interest of workers, businesses and the public.”
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.
Founded in 1911, ASSE is the oldest and largest professional safety society and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. It’s more than 30,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor and education. For more information please go to www.asse.org.