A federal appeals court yesterday directed the Labor Department to consider more stringent asbestos standards where technologically "feasible" among industrial users of the dangerous fiber.

Judge Stephen F. Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals here, writing an opinion for the three-judge panel, said that studies indicate stricter regulations can be achieved for most industrial users of asbestos, known to cause lung cancer and other lung diseases.

The ruling most directly affects 540,000 workers of the nation's automotive brake and clutch repair industry, which maintains asbestos levels at half of the "permissible exposure level" set by the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 1984.

Williams called on OSHA to consider more selective regulation of industrial users "to afford workers the benefits of more stringent standards in areas where they are feasible."

The effect of more lenient standards, said the judge, "is to deny OSHA protection to those in the automotive repair sector who work in shops with higher-than-average exposure levels. We see no basis for this in the {OSHA} act."

OSHA spokesman Terry Mikelson said no decision has been made on whether to appeal the ruling. He said the decree could drastically alter the practice of setting regulations for all industrial users of a hazardous material. A more selective approach, he said, could significantly delay regulations and create a backlog.

The ruling was hailed by the AFL-CIO, which had petitioned the court for a more stringent standard.

Timothy Hardy, an attorney representing trade groups of industrial users, said industry does not oppose selective regulations, but that opinions vary on feasibility.