OSHA, NIOSH to cooperate in updating permissible exposure limits
In a joint appearance at the American Industrial Hygiene Association and American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists annual conference in Denver, the heads of OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health agreed on many workplace health and safety issues, including the need to update OSHA's Permissible Exposure Limits. Discussing his agency's efforts to ensure the relevance and quality of its research, NIOSH Director John Howard indicated that his agency's science should provide a sound basis for OSHA regulations.
"It's important for us to generate the science that can inform good policy," he said, adding that NIOSH is "very anxious to support" OSHA's regulatory agenda.
David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, said his agency relies on NIOSH for information about emerging workplace hazards and that he will try to eliminate the duplication of risk assessments at the agencies. Both Michaels and Howard support the formation of a federal clearinghouse for all studies of workplace risks conducted by various agencies.
Michaels' response to questions about the need to update OSHA PELs drew applause from those in attendance.
"OSHA has not taken leadership on this issue, and we need to," Michaels said.
Michaels said that OSHA recently named an independent task force to study options for updating PELs. Howard indicated that NIOSH would be willing to help OSHA decide which PELs are most in need of updating. Michaels, however, said that requiring companies to institute injury and illness prevention programs is a more pressing issue than PELs.
"We believe it should be required for employers to assess and abate hazards in their workplaces," he said.
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August 19, 2010
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