35 Years of OSHA and EPA Quantitative Risk Assessments: The Legacy of the Supreme Court's Benzene Decision Webinar Recording

Event Type: Webinars, AIHA Webinars

Earn 2 Contact Hours

Member $195 | Nonmember $225 | Student $25

2015 marked the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court case that first found a requirement for quantitative risk assessment (QRA) within the text of a statute that did not mention the term. The Benzene case required OSHA to conduct QRA in order to regulate workplace toxicants, and the Court set (vague) numerical bounds on what level of risk could be considered “significant.” The ripple effects from this decision are still being felt, and not only at OSHA. The four speakers in this Webinar will discuss questions including:

  • ​Does a QRA requirement inevitably weaken and slow OSHA and EPA regulations, or might it be a clear (but unused) path towards stronger protections?
  • Have OSHA and EPA foregone some of the benefits of setting technology-based (design) standards in their embrace of QRA?
  • Does QRA most greatly incentivize toxicologic, epidemiologic, or other research?​
  • Does the kind of QRA the Court intended require traditional cost-benefit balancing, or might it point instead to a rights-based approach to regulating?

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, participants will be able to:

  • Identify how the benzene decision fundamentally changed OSHA and EPA regulation promulgation
  • Explain how quantifying risk from a single end-point (i.e. cancer) can skew attention to health conditions which may not be that important as public health problems
  • Describe the three general approaches to setting health, safety, and environmental standards
  • Cite the difference between maximum individual risk and population incidence risk
  • Apply the “acceptable risk” paradigm to non-threshold pollutants


Adam Finkel, CIH is Executive Director of the Penn Program on Regulation, and Clinical Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. From 1995 to 2005, he was director of OSHA's rulemaking programs, and its Regional Administrator for the Rocky Mountain states.

Dr. Bernard Goldstein is Professor Emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School Of Public Health. He is the former Assistant Administrator of EPA ORD, and a member of the National Academy of Medicine. He is currently Visiting Professor at the University of Cologne comparing US and EU shale gas policies.

Gary Marchant, PhD. JD, MPP, is Regent’s Professor and the Lincoln Professor of Emerging Technologies, Law and Ethics at Arizona State University. He is also Director of the Program on Governance of Emerging Technologies at the ASU Center for Law, Science, and Innovation.

Dr. John Howard serves as the Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C. He served in this capacity from July 2002 to July 2008 and was re-appointed in September 2009. Prior to his appointment as Director of NIOSH, Howard served as Chief of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health in the California Department of Industrial Relations from 1991 through 2002.

Questions? Contact [email protected].