In a speech that called for a national dialogue with stakeholders on ways to prevent work-related illness caused by exposure to hazardous substances, OSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels said the current chemical exposure standards set by the agency are “dangerously out of date and do not protect workers.”

The dialogue will center on OSHA’s PELs – the regulatory limits on the amount or concentration of a substance in the air – meant to protect workers against the adverse health effects of exposure to hazardous substances.

OSHA has said that 95 percent of its current PELs have not been updated since they were adopted in 1971. The agency’s current PELs cover fewer than 500 chemicals out of the tens of thousands used in commerce, many of which are suspected of being harmful.

Michaels said that the first step in the dialogue is the publication of a Request for Information in the Federal Register.

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