Biological monitoring under OSHA

OSHA (abbreviation for ‘Occupational Safety and Health Administration’, and part of the US Department of Labor), has the responsibility of stipulating workplace safety regulations under the framework established by the US Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Under the “Right to Know” legal principle, every American citizen is entitled to know the chemicals and hazardous materials that they may be exposed to in workplace environment; as well as their potential harmful effects and the preventive measures that should be taken. OSHA mandates that this information is easily made available by the employer; through the Hazard Communications Standards 1985. The same legal framework is also now extended to include communities.

OSHA Information Requirements

While chemical composition of hazardous materials is the most easily available information, variety of other information is also relevant to accurately understand and assess the safety and health conditions of a workplace. Other information like the worker injury and illness records, investigation reports of any accidents that may have occurred, claim records of workers, chemical inventories, records of workers’ exposure to such chemicals, inspection reports and job safety analysis papers are also to be maintained under the OSHA mandate.
What is Biological Monitoring?

There are three main methods of gathering and monitoring information required under OSHA. This can be through biological monitoring, ambient monitoring or health surveillance. By definition, biological monitoring ascertains the health risks of industrial chemicals by observing an organism’s internal exposure and reaction to these chemicals. Since the primary and ultimate objective of the “Right to Know” principle is to have access to information – so as to take sufficient preventive measures for avoiding health impairments resulting from chemical exposure, not only access to information but active biological measurement technique may also be mandated as a mechanism to closely monitor the health conditions of workers.

Classification of Biological Monitoring Methods

The key basis of biological monitoring is to observe chemical molecules as they get absorbed by the system and eventually affect the target molecules of the organism. Biological monitoring may however be implemented in a variety of ways. It could be done by determining the chemicals and metabolites in the biological media (which could be blood, urine, exhaled air. excreta or even hair and skin). Other methods of monitoring include quantification of non-adverse biological effect or direct measurement of the chemical interaction with the target molecules.

Biologically Monitored Chemicals under OSHA

A variety of industrial and hazardous chemicals and materials are biologically monitored. The most common materials that are monitored are cadmium and lead.


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