For nearly a year now, Worksafe has been at the forefront of advocates weighing in on proposed changes to California workers’ Right to Know about the chemicals they use on the job. As Worksafe Occupational Health Specialist Dorothy Wigmore wrote in a recent letter (PDF) to the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (“Standards Board”), “A meaningful [right to know] regulation is a long-standing and a key goal when we advocate for protective worker health and safety laws.”
These state-level changes were prompted by changes on the federal level, after OSHA adopted some of the international Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (or GHS) in 2012. Click here to read our previous post for more information on our fight for the Right to Know.Read more...
Keep California’s unique right-to-know protections and update the rules about chemical product hazards to better protect worker and public health!
That was the clear message workers’ advocates delivered in testimony and letters to the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board on October 17. (Click here to download the meeting agenda.) It is a message steeped in history and struggles for the human right to know about hazards at work.
The chemical industry was just as clear. Obscured in the fine print, and hidden behind code words like “harmonization," were their goals: roll back historic protections, safeguard private profits, and keep workers and downstream employers in the dark about the serious hazards they face.
The "Green Chemistry Regulations" are finally coming to town
The long-awaited - and fought for - Safer Consumer Product Regulations take effect on October 1. Often referred to as the “green chemistry regs”, they are the most innovative U.S. rules that aim to improve public health by getting rid of, and reducing the use of, toxic chemicals. And they start in the right place – examining the hazards of chemicals, to prevent harm to the health of people and their environments. The program applies to workplaces and jobs.
CalEPA's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) launched the program on September 26, 2013 completing a journey that started in 2008.
California’s informal green chemistry regulations, released in October 2011, are historic in several ways. That’s what members of the CHANGE Coalition (Californians for a Healthy and Green Economy), including Worksafe, told the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) in comments, submitted December 30, 2011.
In 2008, California passed AB 1879, the pivotal legislation that initiated California’s Green Chemistry Initiative. The regulations currently under development are supposed to spell out how we will effectively remove the most pervasive and hazardous chemicals from the market, promote the use of safer alternatives, and protect the health of workers and those most at risk.
What makes these regulations historic?
It still is in our workplaces, homes and consumer products. And people still ask: how low should we go?
That’s what Cal/OSHA is trying to decide about lead, given that the existing standards are based on science that has not been updated in over 30 years. Recent studies (PDF) provide strong evidence that the metal harms people at the current legal exposure levels. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recommends lowering how much lead can be in workplace air, and workers’ blood and bones. They also want workers removed from lead-contaminated work areas based on the level of lead in their blood, not how much is in the air. Looking at blood lead levels provides a better picture of how people are being affected.Read more...
For years, Worksafe has actively pushed the OSH Standards Board to lower permissible exposure limits (PELs) for chemicals in the workplace as new evidence reveals the damage to workers from currently allowable exposure levels.
In December 2007, California EPA published a report (PDF) that identified over 100 under-regulated workplace chemicals that cause cancer and reproductive and/or developmental harm. Worksafe has been working steadily with health experts to fast-track the setting of standards for these chemicals, using available science developed by Cal/EPA and the California Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service (HESIS).Read more...
Governments at the state, federal, and international levels are fundamentally redefining how chemicals are tested, registered, and approved for use. There is a growing consensus that we need to identify, remove, and substitute toxic chemicals with safer alternatives.
When we eliminate toxic chemicals during the production process, we reduce the amount that enters our communities through air and water emissions or as part of consumer products.
On Sept. 29, 2008 Governor Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1879 and its companion Senate Bill (SB 509), kick-starting what is known as the Green Chemistry Initiative (GCI).Read more...