OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.

October 26, 1998

Dr. Leroy J. Pletten
The Crime Prevention Group
8401 18 Mile Road #29
Sterling Heights, MI 48313-3042

Dear Dr. Pletten:

This is in response to your letter of August 14 to President Clinton concerning our disclosure in our letter to you of August 7, 1998, that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not regulate workers' exposure to their own tobacco smoke because the exposure is not work-related.

You contend we are wrong on our point about OSHA not regulating workers' exposure to their own tobacco smoke. One basis for your contention is a letter dated June 8, 1979, you received from Ms. Mary Fulmer, former Area Director of OSHA's former area office in Detroit, Michigan. In her letter Ms. Fulmer stated, "OSHA maximum allowable concentrations apply to substances in a worker's breathing zone, regardless of the source of the emission." Her statement is correct provided the worker's exposure is due to performing work for his or her employer. For example, if a worker must enter contaminated air in order to perform some work for his or her employer, the worker's exposure is due to performing work. Accordingly, OSHA permissible exposure limits (PELs) apply to the situation. It does not matter how the air became contaminated. What matters is that the worker had to enter contaminated air in order to perform work for his or her employer. A worker's exposure to his or her tobacco smoke is not due to performing work, but is due to his or her act of smoking. Therefore, OSHA PELs do not apply to a worker's exposure to his or her tobacco smoke.

Case law is the other basis for your contention that we are wrong on our point about OSHA not regulating workers' exposure to their own tobacco smoke. You indicate that it is judicially stated in case law that employers are responsible for all hazardous acts at the job site, whether or not the employer caused them. That statement does not suggest that employers are responsible for controlling workers' exposure to their own tobacco smoke. We interpret the statement to mean that employers are responsible for assuring that their employees conduct themselves in a safe manner around the machinery, equipment, chemicals, and other potentially hazardous items in their work environment. It also means that employers are responsible for assuring that their employees use the machinery, equipment, chemicals, and other potentially hazardous items in a safe manner.

We appreciate the opportunity to further clarify this matter for you. If you have some questions you may contact the OSHA Office of Health Compliance Assistance at (202) 219-8036.

Sincerely,

Richard E. Fairfax
Acting Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs

 

 

 


August 28, 1998

 

 

 

Mr. Leroy J. Pletten
8401 18 Mile Road #29
Sterling Heights, MI 48313

Dear Mr. Pletten:

This is in response to your letter of April 13 to President Clinton concerning our response to your February 28th letter urging the President to direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to regulate worker exposure to tobacco smoke by applying the OSHA air contaminants standard, 29 CFR 1910.1000.

You state that the 1964 Surgeon General Report disagrees with our experience that worker exposures to toxic ingredients in tobacco smoke rarely exceed permissible exposure limits (PELs). You explain that the Report cites numerous examples of tobacco smoke ingredients at the smoker's breathing zone being in excess of PELs.

The information we provided in our previous response to you was not the levels of toxic substances we find in a smoker's breathing zone. We do not dispute the information you provide about levels of toxic substances in a smoker's breathing zone. OSHA does not regulate the matter, however, because a smoker's exposure is not work-related. OSHA only regulates work-related hazards. Work-related hazards are hazards employees experience because of the work performed or because of the workplace conditions.

A work-related exposure to tobacco smoke would be an exposure a nonsmoking employee receives because tobacco smoke exists in the location where the employee is working. The information we intended to relate in our previous response to you is that in regard to work-related exposures to tobacco smoke, it has been OSHA's experience that the exposures to the carbon monoxide or the other toxic substances in the tobacco smoke rarely exceed current OSHA PELs.

We appreciate the opportunity to clarify this matter for you. If you have any questions or if we can be of any further assistance please contact Mr. Gail Brinkerhoff in OSHA's Office of Health Compliance Assistance, at (202) 219-8036.

Sincerely,

Mr. John B. Miles, Jr.
Director
Directorate of Compliance programs

 

 

 


April 7, 1998

 

 

 

Mr. Leroy J. Pletten
8401 18 Mile Road
Apartment #29
Sterling Heights, MI 48313

Dear Mr. Pletten:

This is in response to your letter of February 28, to President Clinton, concerning application of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) air contaminants standard, 29 CFR 1910.1000, to regulate worker exposure to tobacco smoke.

OSHA does attempt to regulate worker exposure to tobacco smoke by applying 29 CFR 1910.1000. However, we rarely find that worker exposures exceed the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for carbon monoxide or any other pertinent PEL in the standard.

Thank you for relating your suggestion for protecting workers from exposure to tobacco smoke.

Sincerely,

John B. Miles, Jr.
Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs