AB 553 - Streamlining and Making Less Costly the Process for Setting Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) for Substances to which Workers are Exposed
Introduced by Assembly Member Monning
sponsored by Worksafe

Workers are currently exposed to a number of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive, developmental or other serious physical harm. The current process for setting the levels for those chemicals – for determining how much of a chemical a worker may be exposed to – is very time consuming. Under existing law the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board is required to promulgate a standard “which most adequately assures, to the extent feasible, that no employee will suffer material impairment of health or functional capacity” even if he or she has regular exposure during his or her working life.

AB 553 amends the Labor Code to streamline the process for setting permissible exposure limits (PELs). The goal is to achieve worker protection from certain toxic substances, reduce the cost for issuing PELs, and avoid duplication of effort by utilizing information and findings developed by other California and national regulatory and research agencies regarding what is a protective health-based exposure level. This bill focuses on ensuring that workers will be protected against the effects of toxic substances that may cause cancer or reproductive, developmental or other serious physical harm when there already exists a quantitative risk assessment (QRA) for those particular toxic materials. A QRA is a scientific determination of what the risk of death and serious harm is when a person is exposed during a lifetime of work to particular amounts of a chemical.

This bill also requires the OSH Standards Board to start with the most protective health-based exposure level should there be differences among the agencies before it determines what adjustment needs to be made based on feasibility. The agencies to be relied upon are the California Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or the United States National Toxicology Program Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction.

It will also require that for chemicals that cause cancer, the PEL should protect workers so that there is not more than one excess cancer per 100,000 workers exposed to that carcinogen over a working lifetime. As well,when determining feasibility, the bill requires the most cost effective available approach, such as substituting an identified safer alternative or setting a reasonable phase-in period to achieve the most protective exposure level.

Click here for a brief Fact Sheet with more information. [pdf]

Click here for the original version of the bill.

This bill passed the Assembly Labor & Employment Committee on April 14, 2011 by a vote of 5 to 1 with 1 abstention. On May 4, 2011, the bill was sent to the suspense file in the Assembly Appropriation Committee and was unable to be removed from suspense because it had a fiscal impact; bills with costs were held due to budget constraints.

Click here for the Kazan letter to Assembly Member Fuentes in support of releasing AB 553 from the suspense file. The letter refers to amendments of the bill which will be submitted if the bill is reintroduced. Contact fschreiberg@kazanlaw.com for more information.

You may still write in support of this bill.
Click here for a model letter to be used by an organization. [MS Word]
Click here for a model letter to be used by an organization. [pdf]

Click here for a model letter to be used by an individual. [MS Word]
Click here for a model letter to be used by an individual.

Please also share with us a copy of any letter you submit by email to FSchreiberg@kazanlaw.com or fax at (510) 835-4913. Please also e-mail us if you are interested in receiving additional information about this bill if it is reintroduced in a future legislative session.

Worksafe is the sponsor of AB 553. Click here for a copy of their support letter.

Support for AB 553 (Partial List):

  • Asian Law Caucus
  • Asian Pacific American Legal Center
  • CA Conference Board of the Amalgamated Transit Union
  • CA Conference of Machinists
  • CA Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative
  • CA Labor Federation, AFL-CIO
  • CA Nurses Association
  • CA Official Court Reporters Association
  • CA Rural Legal Assistance Foundation
  • CA Teamsters Public Affairs Council
  • Clean Water Action
  • Communication Workers of America, Disctrict 9
  • Consumer Attorneys of California
  • Engineers and Scientists of California
  • Environment California
  • Golden Gate University Women’s Employment Rights Clinic
  • Health Officers Association of California
  • International Longshore and Warehouse Union
  • National Council for Occupational Safety and Health
  • National Lawyers Guild Labor & Employment Committee
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Northern California District Council—ILWU
  • Physicians for Social Responsibility           
  • Professional and Technical Engineers, Local 21
  • San Mateo County Central Labor Council
  • SCOPE, Laborers International Union of North America
  • Sierra Club California
  • Southern California Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health
  • TURN
  • United Food and Commercial Workers - Western States Conference
  • UNITE HERE, Local 2850
  • Utility Workers Union of America, Local 132
  • Working Partnerships USA