OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reopening the 1997 methylene chloride standard for 30 days to receive comments on proposed changes.
The United Auto Workers, the Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance, Inc., and other individual employers who had filed various lawsuits challenging the standard in 1997 collaborated on the proposed changes and have agreed to withdraw their lawsuits if the changes are adopted.
One proposed modification would be to add temporary medical removal protection benefits (pay and other benefits for up to six months) for employees who are temporarily removed or transferred to another job because of a medical determination that exposure to methylene chloride may aggravate or contribute to the employee's existing skin, heart, liver or neurological disease.
Another modification involves startup dates for installation of engineering controls. The standard currently requires employers with fewer than 20 employees to complete installation of engineering controls by April 10, 2000, and larger employers to do so by earlier dates.
The petitioners asked that the final April 10, 2000, startup date for engineering controls also be applied to employers with 20-49 employees in the following application groups: furniture refinishing; general aviation aircraft stripping; formulation of products containing methylene chloride; boat building and repair; recreational vehicle manufacture; van conversion; upholstery; use of methylene chloride in construction work for restoration and preservation of buildings, painting and paint removal, cabinet making and/or floor refinishing and resurfacing. They also asked for the same startup date for polyurethane foam fabricators with 20-149 employees.
In addition, they requested shorter extensions of the existing engineering control startup dates for larger employers as follows: polyurethane foam manufacturers with 50 or more employees, Oct. 10, 1999; foam fabricators with 150 or more employees, April 10, 1999; and remaining employers in the application groups in the paragraph above, April 10, 1999. Most of these changes allow employers approximately six to nine months more time than was given in the published standard. (The number of employees refers to the total number of workers employed by that employer, not the number who work at a particular facility or the number that use methylene chloride in their work.)
Another modification for employers covered by the motion would not require respirator use to achieve the permissible exposure limit (PEL) before the engineering control startup dates. The PEL is 25 parts of methylene chloride per million parts of air (25 ppm) as an 8-hour time-weighted average. Employers must still meet the short-term exposure limit (STEL) of 125 ppm over a 15-minute period and comply with certain work practices to lower levels further in the interim.
OSHA decided to consider relaxing the respirator requirement because the only respirators effective against methylene chloride are expensive air-lines. They may cost more to install than the engineering controls and OSHA wants smaller employers to spend their scarce funds on permanent solutions such as engineering controls.
Comments on the proposed changes must be postmarked or submitted by fax on or before June 3, 1998. Comments should be submitted in quadruplicate to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No H-71, Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20210, telephone (202) 219-7894. Comments of 10 pages or fewer may be transmitted by fax to (202) 219-5046, provided the original and three copies are later sent to the Docket Office. Hours of the Docket Office are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Notice of the proposed changes is in the Monday, May 4, 1998, Federal Register.
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