US launches safer chemicals web sites

24 October 2013 19:09  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--Federal workplace safety regulators on Thursday launched a programme to encourage employers and workers to find safer chemicals for use at worksites instead of more hazardous substances.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said it was launching a web-based toolkit that will assist workplace managers and employees “in identifying and substituting safer chemicals to use”.

OSHA, part of the US Department of Labor (DOL), said that its own workplace exposure standards for thousands of chemicals that workers come into contact with “are out of date or inadequately protective”.

As a consequence, the administration said, “Each year tens of thousands of workers are made sick or die from occupational exposures to hazardous chemicals".

In addition to the chemicals substitution toolkit, OSHA said it is launching an annotated occupational exposure limits table, also online, that “provides accurate and up-to-date chemical information to employers who want to voluntarily adopt newer, more protective workplace exposure limits”.

OSHA assistant secretary David Michaels said that in providing these two information tools to employers, the administration is not issuing any new rules. Use of the two sites is voluntary, he said.

Michaels also said that whether or not a given employer makes use of these information sites will have no bearing if OSHA should bring an enforcement action against the firm for workplace exposure violations under existing rules.

He said that OSHA hopes that companies will use “informed substitution” when considering alternative chemicals, substances or processes.

“Employers need to find an alternative that is safer, but their decision also must be protective of their bottom line,” he said.

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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