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Official downplays Osha role in US chemical regulation

Organisation - Osha

An official at the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha) has confirmed the EPA is consulting with it on worker safety issues as it reviews chemicals under the amended TSCA.

But William Perry, director of Osha's Directorate of Standards and Guidance, appeared to downplay the significance of the consultation. Instead, he hinted that industry officials hoping the EPA would defer to Osha on worker issues are likely to be disappointed.

Mr Perry told the American Chemistry Council's Global Chemical Regulations Conference (GlobalChem) that consultation has taken place regarding some chemical reviews. But, he said, he is "not sure how active it will be over the long run".

The EPA wouldn’t be expected to consult at all regarding straightforward issues, he said. "When you get to more serious effects" from chemicals – such as some for which, for example, the use of respirators could be argued – "that is when EPA would come to us and we'll give them whatever technical support we can," he said, but how often that will happen is "too hard to predict right now".

Argument to defer

The TSCA New Chemicals Coalition (NCC), a group of companies represented by the law firm Bergeson & Campbell, argued in December the EPA should avoid issuing orders to mitigate workplace risks associated with new chemicals and instead defer to Osha. The argument was made in a position statement published as commentary on the EPA's new chemical evaluation policy. It is based on a provision in the amended TSCA requiring the EPA to "consult" with Osha on workplace conditions.

Tim Serie of the law firm Beveridge & Diamond acknowledged at GlobalChem that the EPA does have the authority to regulate workplace chemical exposure, but "we think it is prudent for EPA to use that authority in a deliberate way and to coordinate with Osha."

However, he said, industry should not expect Osha to "serve as a roadblock" to EPA regulation, noting that Osha raised no objections when the EPA proposed employee-focused regulations of methylene chloride and trichloroethylene (TCE). Those regulations have essentially been abandoned under the Trump administration.

And, Mr Serie said, while the EPA has "looked to revise" the structure of significant new use rules (Snurs) "to align more closely with Osha standards," the prevalence of Snurs addressing worker exposure has not decreased.

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