November 8, 1999

U.S. Department of Labor (S-2315) DOL/OSHA
Attn: Mr. Charles Jeffress, Assistant Secretary of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (S-2315)
200 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20210


Assistant Secretary Jeffress:

The purpose of the letter from the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is to provide comment on the recent industry/trade association press release proposing to: Create an Advisory Committee to move forward an industry proposal to create an advisory panel to help the Agency revise hundreds of workplace air contaminant exposure limits. The press release appears to make the claim that the Agency might be in support of this initiative, and we would like to offer the following comments on the proposal:

  • ASSE is in agreement that many substances should be reviewed for possible updating since some contaminant Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) have not been revised since before 1971. The core mission of ASSE since 1911, is the protection of people, property, and the environment. We see such an effort as being consistent with our organizational mission, and believe this is potentially good public policy. We are convinced that there is enough good science and sound technology to move forward. We are also in agreement that if something is not done to update the current PELs, the result could be, as the press release indicates, inadequate guidance for employers, and most important, deteriorating protection for American workers. ASSE supports such a partnership in concept, and is in complete agreement that something needs to be done to update the current PELs.

  • If such an Advisory Committee is established, it is imperative that contaminants also be reviewed that might not yet even have a PEL. New technology is creating compounds that have not even been yet fully tested as to their impact on human beings. It would make sense to extend the Advisory Committee's charter to review newly developed chemicals and compounds being used in American business/industry, and not just only those in need of revision.

  • We see PELs as being only one component of the air contaminant issue. If PELs are going to be revised, ASSE recommends that the Advisory Committee would also need to review the potential of incorporating TLVs (Threshold Limit Values) for reference by citation on a more frequent basis as part of the PEL updating process. Our search on the OSHA website indicated that more than 1,200 documents and standards/regulations address TLVs, and it would make sense to review them for citation by reference. Our anecdotal experience indicates that many safety and health professionals have more faith in the data and research used for establishing TLVs over that of PELs. Many safety and health professionals, on occasion, have advised their respective employer to use TLVs as a basis for compliance over a PEL, if the TLV is more conservative. We do not know if it is possible to separate PELs and TLVs in today's litigious society. In the strict sense it may be legally possible, however, we are never sure how such an issue will be resolved in the courts.

  • There is no mention of the American Council of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) in the press release. On 9/21/99, Dr. Lisa M. Brosseau, from the University of Minnesota, gave a presentation to the OSHA National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) on the ACGIH TLV standard setting process/procedure. While the Society does not speak in any capacity for ACGIH, we believe that if such an advisory committee initiative is to be launched, ACGIH should be included as a potential key stakeholder.

  • ASSE has been a long-time supporter of using voluntary national consensus standards, and based on what we heard at the 9/99 NACOSH meeting, the Agency is going to make an enhanced effort to be consistent with the intent of the provisions in the Morella Amendment to the Technology Transfer Act (Public Law 104-113) and OMB Circular A-119. The ACGIH was specifically cited in the meeting as a voluntary national consensus standards developing organization

  • The industry/trade coalition mentions a cooperative partnership of labor, trade groups, and government representatives. We urge that if such a proposal goes forward, it is important that there be participation from the professional safety and health associations/societies. In the 9/99 NACOSH statement made by ASSE Deputy Executive Director Tom Bresnahan, the Society urged that a place be found on such Advisory and Neg/Reg Committees for safety professionals. We would be reticent to support such an initiative moving forward that would impact large numbers of our members, and with ASSE having no voice in it. If such an Advisory Committee is to be established, ASSE would expect to be named to the panel, as we represent almost 33,000 safety and health professionals who would be directly impacted by PEL revisions.

We thank you for your attention to this matter, and if you should have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact the Society.

Sincerely Yours,

Frank H. Perry, CSP, PE
Society President, 1999-2000

Copy To: ASSE Board of Directors
                  ASSE Council on Professional Affairs
                  ASSE Governmental Affairs Committee
                  ASSE Contact List

PEL Coalition


Click here to go back to the ASSE Correspondance, Statement, and Testimony page.