Council Comments on OSHA’s Proposed Standard on Lead

by Council on Wage and Price Stability on March 15, 1977
by Council on Wage and Price Stability

The Council on Wage and Price Stability today urged the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to modify its proposed standard for exposure to lead in the workplace. OSHA’s proposal would require smelters, battery manufacturers, and other firms to install engineering controls that reduce the maximum exposure level from its present 200 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air to 100 micrograms.

In its filing before OSHA, the Council supported the goal of improving worker health and supported regulations that achieve this objective in the most cost-effective and efficient manner. The Council noted that while the proposed standard could cost the industries affected and ultimately consumers over $300 million per year, OSHA has not shown that less costly alternatives would be any less effective in reducing illness and mortality. Therefore, the Council urged that OSHA consider alternative measures to protect workers from overexposure to lead. In particular, the Council urged that OSHA not require engineering controls but instead allow employers to meet any promulgated standard by using the least costly means. The Council also urged greater reliance on a health performance standard based on biological monitoring to detect and correct situations which might lead to overexposure. Were such an alternative measure adopted, the Council emphasized that OSHA should not allow employers to merely rotate workers in and out of high-exposure areas without correcting the underlying exposure situation.

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