The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a request for information (RFI) regarding chemical management methods and permissible exposure limits (PELs). According to a notice to be published in the October 10 edition of the Federal Register, the agency is "reviewing its overall approach to managing chemical exposures in the workplace and seeks stakeholder input about more effective and efficient approaches that addresses challenges found with the current regulatory approach." 

As part of this process, the agency will examine possible updates to existing chemical PELs, as well as other potential means of addressing worker chemical safety. The Federal Register notice includes a discussion of court decisions addressing OSHA's approach to chemical safety management to provide context for stakeholders, and outlines possible changes to "existing processes, along with potential new sources of data and alternative approaches the Agency may consider. The Agency is particularly interested in information about how it may take advantage of newer approaches, given its legal requirements." 

OSHA is looking at, among other things, instituting a tiered approach to risk assessment in support of updating PELs for chemical substances; using one or more chemical grouping approaches to expedite the risk assessment process; using systems biology and other emerging test data in calculating risk; finding alternative approaches to formulating health standards to better judge their economic and technical feasibility; and seeking opportunities to incorporate non-regulatory "informed substitution" – i.e., replacing the use of hazardous chemicals with safer substances or non-chemical alternatives – as part of workplace chemical management. 

Comments on this proposal are not due until Wednesday, April 8, 2015 – 180 days after the RFI's Oct. 10 publication in the Federal Register. Comments may be submitted electronically through the federal eRulemaking portal, www.regulations.gov; via fax if no longer than 10 pages to the OSHA Docket Office at (202) 693-1648; or by mail or hand delivery to Department of Labor, Room N-2625, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20210. Written comments must be submitted in triplicate. All comments must include the agency name and OSHA docket number: OSHA-2012-0023.