OSHA is Failing At protecting Workers from Chemical Exposure

The job of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is to provide protection for workers from on-the-job hazards. OSHA does this through inspections of worksites and through promulgating rules and regulations that apply to employers and that impose minimum safety requirements. Unfortunately, while OSHA has passed a number of different rules on things like fall safety and air quality, one area where OSHA is really letting workers down is in the regulation of chemicals. chemicals-506057-m.jpg

When a worker is exposed to a chemical on-the-job and he gets sick, he or she should be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to prove that an illness was caused by workplace exposure to toxins. An Anderson, SC workers’ compensation lawyer can protect the rights of injured employees.

OSHA Not Doing Nearly Enough to Prevent Exposure to Dangerous Chemicals

Exposure to chemicals and toxins can be a major source of illness, but OSHA has set workplace exposure limits for just 300 chemicals out of thousands of substances that exist. Unfortunately, OSHA established this list of chemicals back in 1971 and it has not been updated since. This means that both the types of chemicals restricted and the permissible limits were set based on science from the 1950s and the 1960s. This is a disaster for workers since there are thousands of potentially dangerous chemicals that have come into common use since then.

Bloomberg BNA recently reported that OSHA is “trying” to regulate more chemicals. Unfortunately, the effort that the agency is making doesn’t seem very likely to actually have an impact on improving worker safety. Instead, it appears to be nothing more than a bureaucratic push for more funding.

OSHA’s new “effort” to stop workers from being exposed to dangerous chemicals involves asking the White House to approve a request for the agency to gather information on ways that it can address chemical exposure. In other words, OSHA wants permission even to consider different ways that the agency is handling one of the most dangerous aspects of many work environments. Even this inconsequential and minor step forward may not end up being approved, because it has to be reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Bloomberg suggests that the reason OSHA hasn’t acted is because when it tried to change the permissible limits and add to the regulated chemicals back in 1989, its rules ended up being over-turned by an Appeals Court in 1992. The Court said that the problem was OSHA had not done feasibility studies or provided justification for the new rules.

OSHA conducted a feasibility study of four chemicals, narrowed down from a list of 20 in response to the decision but the agency still did nothing. It has now been more than two decades since the appeals court decision was made and OSHA doesn’t appear to have made progress in protecting workers from chemical exposure. With the agency’s inaction, it should come as no surprise that chemicals remain an ongoing danger to South Carolina workers.

If you have suffered a work injury, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

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New Chemical Safety Provisions From OSHA Pending, March 27, 2014, Spartanburg Injury Lawyer Blog

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