Cal/OSHA Standards Board Votes Against Lowering Permissible Wood Dust Exposure Limit

By John Forbes, NWFA

On December 18, 2009, The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) added wood dust to its list of approximately 800 natural and synthetic chemicals known to cause cancer. The Cal/OSHA Standards Board has been debating lowering the existing permissible exposure limit (PEL) for wood dust for the last several years from five milligrams per cubic meter to one milligram per cubic meter. NWFA is part of a small coalition of wood products trade associations that has opposed the proposal.

“Cal/OSHA staff had not generated sufficient information to claim the one milligram per cubic meter level was feasible to achieve. A PEL of anything less than two would force many workers to wear respirators, contrary to the hierarchy of controls,” said American Wood Council (AWC) Chief Scientist Stewart Holm, who represented the coalition at a recent Cal/OSHA Standards Board Meeting.

In the end, the Standards Board agreed with the coalition and voted against lowering the PEL. Cal/OSHA will need to go back to the drawing board and restart the rulemaking process if they choose to continue to press the issue.

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