Permissible exposure limits in the workplace

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Feb. 7, 2008

The Health Expert Advisory Committee (HEAC) for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) held their third meeting last week.  HEAC was formed to continue the development of Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) for Airborne Contaminants in the Workplace. In past meetings HEAC adopted new prioritization criteria and preliminarily ranked chemicals that are used in the workplace.

The recent meeting focused on DOSH’s review of the Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service (HESIS) report, "Occupational Health Hazard Risk Assessment Project for California."  HEAC had asked the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) to conduct the review of the current PEL setting process and provide recommendations.  The report, released in December 2007, contained several recommendations, many of which have already been implemented by DOSH.

Following the release of the report, HEAC is looking at it’s next steps.  There was a consensus among those present that HEAC should continue to work on the development of PELs and add a parallel track to evaluate the PEL setting process. DOSH was also tasked with comparing all lists of chemicals and evaluating which chemicals were being used in California.

The overall tone of the meeting was amicable and several points of consensus were reached. Nevertheless, Fran Schreiberg, a representative from Worksafe, re-emphasized the need to expedite the process and to give higher priority to substances with an existing OEHHA risk assessment.  Also of note, some HEAC members expressed frustration with the amount of volunteer time required to conduct a real review of each substance rather than voting up or down on a level recommended by an authoritative body.  
The most memorable accomplishment of the HEAC meeting was the agreement for a PEL recommendation for dichloroacetic acid.  The final determination will likely happen at the next meeting, after taking more comments.
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