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Can OSHA Authoritatively Ban The Use Of Hazardous Substance Or Not?

OSHA has announced its incapability of Congressional authority to stop the use of hazardous substance. OSHA has given this statement in a letter of interpretation, which is published on the website of agency in response to a question which is mainly related to OSHA’s authority to ban the hexavalent chromium in the workplace. According to OSHA, the best solution to avoid the hazards from using hexavalent chromium is “product substitution”. However, the agency still rejects the notion that it can ban the use of hexavalent chromium or any other hazardous substance. According to the agency to ban the use of any hazardous materials are delegated to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The agency of OSHA has the authority to mandate employer’s adherence to safe practices which are provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. This Act does not mainly allow OSHA to ban the use of any hazardous substances; the agency has always taken a comprehensive view of its regulatory authority. If banning of hazardous substances are were reasonably necessary and appropriate to provide safe work environment, then it could be argued that OSHA would have the authority to implement the workplace ban. But with the latest statement of agency, it has foreclosed the prior argument.

OSHA’s position is not only of theatrical interests. It might be very major in upcoming OSHA regulatory actions. For example, the agency is making a proposal to regulate silica exposure effectively in the workplace. Many of the stakeholders have asked OSHA to stop the use of silica in abrasive blasting operations. The latest announcement from the agency would possibly take the regulatory approach off the table. It could also be important in OSHA’s rule making, where substitution of production is an important issue.