Lead Standard to be revised by September 2020

On June 27, 2019, Governor Newson approved Senate Bill 83. This is a budget bill which contained a provision setting a September 30, 2020 deadline for Cal/OSHA to adopt a revised lead standard.  The bill requires Cal/OSHA to “revise the lead standards for general industry and construction”.  In April I discussed in a blog the proposed Assembly Bill (AB) 457 which would have required Cal/OSHA to establish a revised permissible exposure limit (PEL) for lead.  AB 457 is now “inactive”, presumably superseded by the signing of SB 83. SB 83 requires “Cal-OSHA to submit to the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board a rulemaking proposal to revise the lead standards for purposes of general industry safety orders and construction safety orders, consistent with scientific research and findings. The bill requires the Board to vote on the proposed changes by September 30, 2020.”  The bill’s objective is to ensure the standard “protects the health and safety of employees who engage in lead-related construction work and meets all requirements imposed by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.” AB 457 would had required Cal/OSHA to complete regulation changes to the PEL by February 2020. However, industry groups opposed AB 457 arguing that the February 2020 deadline was unrealistic considering the Standardized Regulatory Impact Analysis (SRIA) has not been finalized.

Discussion regarding changes to the lead standard date back to 2013, when the California Department of Public Health sent recommendations to Cal/OSHA to revise the PEL, medical surveillance (blood lead levels), medical removal protection, protective clothing, hygiene, training and warning sign requirements.  Cal/OSHA has been working on revisions for the past few years. The last draft was revised in November 2016.  Cal/OSHA is likely to propose a reduction to the Action Level (AL) from 30 ug/m3 (current level) to 2 ug/mg3 and a reduction to the PEL from 50 ug/m3 to 20 ug/m3.  Cal/OSHA plans to submit the revised standards package to the Cal/OSH Standards Board shortly.  The change to the Al/PEL is significant. The potential impact on industry is likely to make for a lively rulemaking process.