REACH is the European Community Regulation on chemicals and their safe use. It deals with the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances. The law entered into force on 1 June 2007. The aim of REACH is to improve the protection of human health and the environment through the better and earlier identification of the intrinsic properties of chemical substances. At the same time, REACH aims to enhance innovation and competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry.
The directives on the collection and recycling of electrical and electronic equipment and on the restriction of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment – the so-called WEEE and RoHS directives – have been in force since 2004. In December 2008 the European Commission proposed a revision of the directives, which final approval by the European Parliament and the Council is expected for the second half of 2011.
ELV - End of Life Vehicle
In 1997, the European Commission adopted a Proposal for a Directive which aims at making vehicle dismantling and recycling more environmentally friendly, sets clear quantified targets for reuse, recycling and recovery of vehicles and their components and pushes producers to manufacture new vehicles also with a view to their recyclability. This legislation was officially adopted by the European Parliament and Council in September 2000.
Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (CMD)
The European Commission is proposing changes to the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (2004/37/EC) to limit exposure to 13 cancer-causing chemicals at the workplace, including 'respirable crystalline silica' (RCS).
Cancer is estimated to account for more than half of work-related deaths in the EU, totalling around 102,000 deaths per year.
Introducing these limit values will lead to fewer cases of occupational cancer and improve legal protection of exposed workers, especially in the construction sector. By reducing the differences between Member States in terms of workers' health protection, this proposal will encourage more cross-border employment, because workers can be reassured that minimum standards and levels of protection of their health will be guaranteed in all Member States
OELs help to control exposure to dangerous substances in the workplace, by setting the maximum amount of (air) concentration of a substance that can safely be allowed. Limit values are laid down throughout the EU, but each Member State establishes its own national OELs, often going beyond EU legislation. OELs are set by competent national authorities and other relevant institutions. OELs can be binding (meaning that they must be met), or indicative (giving an idea of what should be achieved), and they can apply both to marketed products and to waste and by-products resulting from production processes.
EU Member Countries
The Austrian Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) list is based on international and national sources such as the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH – see under USA for more details) and the German MAK-Commission. The Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Arbeit, or BMWA (Ministry of the Economy and Labour) fixes these limit values.
The Austrian list is published in the Austrian Governmental Journal as an ordinance entitled “Grenzwerte für Arbeitsstoffe und über krebserzeugende Arbeitsstoffe” (Grenzwerteverordnung 2001 – GVK 2001) and on the Austrian pages of the European Agency. The “Sektion III – Zentral-Arbeitsinspektorat” (Central Labour Inspectorate) control their implementation.
Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Arbeit, (BMWA) http://www.bmwa.gv.at/
Austrian Pages of the European Agency Network http://at.osha.europa.eu
Verordnung des Bundesministers für Wirtschaft und Arbeit über Grenzwerte und über krebserzeugende Arbeitsstoffe, Grenzwerteverordnung 2001, published in the Austrian Governmental Journal (Bundesgesetzblatt) from July 27, 2001.
In Belgium, Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs) are known as “Valeurs Limites d’Exposition Professionnelle” (VLEP) / or “Grenswaarden voor Beroepsmatige Blootstelling (GWBB).
Following the Royal decree of 10 August 1998 (Statute Paper of 12 September 1998), some of the Belgian OELs were changes to adapt to the European Union Guidelines, but the source of many OELs in Belgium is still the ACGIH (USA) TLV list. These OELs were fixed by the Ministry of Employment and Work. The Royal Decree of 3 May 1999 (Statute Paper of 7 December 1999) added a last column “C” for carcinogenic to relevant substances (Royal Decree of 2 December 1993, Statute Paper of 29 December 1993, with updates including carcinogenic substances of EC categories 1 and 2, labelled with Risk Phrases R45 or R49).
About 700 substances or groups of substances have one (TWA – 8h) or two (TWA – 8h and STEL – 15 minutes) binding and compulsory OELs in the appendix of the Royal Decree of 10 September 1998. It is in Appendix II of the “Règlement Général pour la Protection du Travail (RGPT)” or “Algemeen Reglement voor de Arbeidsbescherming (ARAB)”. In the last column of this table can be found three other letter codes:
• M – for “Moment” or ceiling OEL that should not be exceeded during any part of working exposure • D – for “Dermal” for where skin and/or eye absorption is an important issue • A – for “Asphyxiant” or oxygen replacing agent.
Finally, the Royal Decree of 7 November 1998 (Statute Paper of 22 November 1988) introduces the atmospheric and biological limit values of metallic lead (Pb) and its compounds on the basis of the European Directive 82/605/EEC (RGPT, art. 148 decies 2).
The Belgian Ministry of Employment and Labour http://www.meta.fgov.be
VLEP/GWBB List http://www.emis.vito.be
Belgian Pages of the European Agency Network http://www.beswic.be
In Germany, there are two kinds of Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs) for air in the workplace:
TRKs (Technische Richtkonzentrationen), which are technical guidance concentrations, and MAKs (Maximale Arbeitsplatzkonzentrationen), which give the maximum concentration of a chemical substance in the workplace.
The MAK-values are daily 8-hour time-weighed average values and apply to healthy adults. Substance-specific acceptable peak concentrations, including the highest possible duration of such peaks, are defined. If the substance can be taken up through the skin, this is indicated.
The TRK is the concentration of a chemical substance in the air within a working area, which may be reached in accordance with the best available technology (state of the art). This type of limit value is usually applied to substances that are in carcinogenic category 1 or 2. In some cases, the Committee on Hazardous Substances proposes technical-based MAK-Values which are based on the TRK-concept (TRGS 102). These type of limit values usually apply to substances which are carcinogenic or mutagenic category 3 (substances suspected of having a carcinogenic or mutagenic potential) and to important industrial substances for which no harmless minimum concentration can be determined (e.g. Cobalt, metal working fluids).
In addition to these, there are special rules for individual substances or substance groups such as hydrocarbon mixtures, diesel engine emissions, or different types of fibres and dust. The Biologische Arbeitsstofftoleranzwerte, or BAT (Biological Tolerance Values) gives limits for the concentration of some substances in the human body from workplace exposure.
The limit values for hazardous substances are documented in Technical Rules for Hazardous Substances (TRGS). The TRGS describe the substances with respect to the current status of knowledge about the health hazards, typical industrial use and safety and hygiene requirements. They are based on the Hazardous Substances Ordinance (GefStoffV) which is derived from the Chemicals Act (ChemG). All exposure limit values are consistent national values based on common national legislation. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs publishes new or revised limit values half-yearly. The MAK and TRK values are published in TRGS 900 (Limit Values in the Air at the Workplace) and the BAT are covered in TRGS 903.
The Ausschuss für Gefahrstoffe (AGS), or Committee on Hazardous Substances establishes the Technical Rules. This Committee consists of members from all concerned groups. The authorities are represented by:
Delegates of the labour inspections from the Länder (Federal States); Institutions for statutory accident insurance and prevention (BG, HVBG) National institutions such as: The Hazardous Substances Division of the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA); The Federal Environmental Agency (UBA); The Federal Institute for Health Consumer Protection and Veterinary Medicine (BgVV); and The Federal Institute for Material Research and Testing (BAM. The employers, the producers and sellers of chemicals, the trade unions and the consumers are also represented.
Limit values are developed and proposed by national scientific sources. For example:
The DFG Senate Commission for the Investigation of Health Hazards of Chemical Compounds in the Work area – the MAK Commission; The Committee on Hazardous Substances Scientific departments of the chemical industry
International scientific proposals or official values from other States may also be included in the list.
For health based OELs of “threshold substances”, recommendations of the MAK-Commission and other sources are discussed by the Beraterkreis Toxikologie (Advisory Group on Toxicology), of AGS, the Committee on Hazardous Substances. This Committee recommends a health-based OEL to the AGS, where in exceptional cases socio-economic and feasibility aspects may be taken into account. Thereafter the AGS recommends the OEL to the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs who include it in the Technical Rules TRGS 900.
Technical Rules can be obtained from BAuA http://www.baua.de/prax/index.htm
Air limit values can be found from BAuA at the above link or from HVBG on the link below http://www.hvbg.de/d/bia/pub/rep/rep.htm
German Pages of the European Agency Network http://de.osha.europa.eu
In the Danish OSH system, the Grænseværdier for stoffer og materialer (limit values for substances and materials), are administrative instructions that are enforced under the Working Environment Act. The Ministry of Labour sets up the regulation on these limit values and the Arbejdstilsynet (Labour Inspectorate) publish the Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) list and supervise their execution. In the sphere of the Act, employers are obliged to keep the exposure as low as reasonably possible and the limit values should never be exceeded.
The Arbejdstilsynet decides on the OELs after consulting with employer and employee representatives on the technical and economical feasibility of the proposed limit value level. The scientific background is studied by the OEL setting committee acting under the Arbejdsmiljørådet (Council on Working Environment). This committee refers to the OEL criteria documentation provided by:
The SCOEL (EU), ACGIH, OSHA, and NIOSH (USA), MAK (Germany), DECOS (The Netherlands), the Nordic Expert Group (NEG), and the experience of the Inspectorate within the Danish workplaces. Usually, the committee gives a proposal for a limit value and a preferred safety factor (1, 2, 5, 10, 20…) for the substance.
In Denmark, most of the OEL values are TWA – 8h. For lead, there is also set a Biologisk eksponeringsværdi (biological exposure limit) for concentration in blood. An “H” (“Huden”) in the tables annotates substances that can be taken into body via the skin. The allergic potential is not marked, but it is tentatively taken into account when setting the limit value level. For acutely toxic substances, like strong irritants, there is annotation L (“Loftværdi”) on the limit value tables. The limit value for this substance must not be exceeded even for a short (less than 15 minutes) time. For acutely neurotoxic substances, the limit value should not be exceeded even for 5 minutes.
For specific hazardous substances, the Limit Values for Substances and Materials list the substances that are considered human carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) or by the EU Commission. These substances are regulated by a specific order set by the Ministry of Labour. These substances are also annotated by “K” (kræftfremdkaldende, carcinogenic) on the OEL value tales. In addition, organic solvents are given a specific list of limit values, as they have to be particularly considered at workplaces.
The Labour Inspectorate (Arbejdstilsynet) http://www.at.dk
Danish Pages of the European Agency Network http://dk.osha.europa.eu
The legal framework for limit values for hazardous substances (in Spanish: VLA = Valore Límite Ambientales) is under reconstruction. Beside the European Directive-based legislation, based for example on EC Directive 98/24/CE – the Chemical Agents Directive, two Spanish regulations exist.
Since 1961, a national ordinance about health impairing and dangerous activities at work places is in force entitled Reglamento de Actividades Molestas, Insalubres, Nocivas y Peligrosas. This ordinance did not include single Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs). When OELs were needed in practice the ACGIH’s (USA) limit values were used. Since 1998 the (Instituto Nacional de Seguridad e Higiene en el Trabajo, or INSHT (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) has published a guide including a list of more than 500 OELs and instructions for the use and application of these values.
The OELs published by INSHT are developed by a working group of the Comisión Nacional de Seguridad y Salud en el Trabajo (National Commission of Safety and Health at Work). Their work is based on the Spanish law about the prevention of risk at the work places from November 1995 and the Royal Decree 39/1997. All limit values for hazardous substances are recommendations. They become legally binding when they are used by the Labour Inspectorate or other authorities in orders or instructions for companies. The “Límites de exposición profesional para agentes químicos en España” (Current OELs) are published in Spanish on the Internet and on paper and are renewed yearly by the INSHT.
The limit values for air-concentrations of carcinogenic and mutagenic substances are published in different special regulations. The list of OELs includes remarks about the mutagenic, carcinogenic and genotoxic potential of a substance. Substances with possible skin penetration are marked with “v.d.” (vía dérmica).
The INSHT defines three different types of TLVs:
VLA-ED (Valor Límite Ambiental Exposición Diaria), the limit for the daily average concentration. For 30 minutes period, an employee’s exposure can be three times the VLA-ED. The exposure should never exceed the level of five times the VLA-ED. VLA-EC (Valor Límite Ambiental Exposición de Corta Duración) is the limit for short-term exposure concentration. The VLA-EC should not be exceeded during any part of the working exposure. It may be used as an OEL for highest 15 minutes per day. VLB (Valor Límite Biológico) is a limit value for the content of the substance in biological media (i.e. blood, urine). VLBs have been defined for dozens of substances.
Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales http://www.mtas.es
Occupational Exposure Limits 2003 http://www.mtas.es/insht/practice/vlas.htm
Spanish Pages of the European Agency Network http://es.osha.europa.eu
In France, the Occupational (Air) Exposure Limits (OELs) are called “Valeurs limites d’exposition professionnelle aux agents chimiques en France” (VL). These VL are defined as the concentration of an agent in the air of the working area that a person can inhale for a defined duration without a risk of changes to his or her health. Furthermore, the VL should be seen as a minimum requirement. The VLs are fixed by the Ministère de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité (Ministry of Employment and Solidarity). Some values are also recommended by the National Illness Insurance Fund (CNAM). There are currently two types of OELs:
Statutory and compulsory OELs for certain extremely hazardous substances; and recommended OELs for the remaining substances.
Two types of OEL value exist in France:
Short-term exposure limit values (valeurs limites d’exposition à court terme) are ceiling values for measured over one duration of maximum 15 minutes; and average exposure limit values (valeurs limites de moyenne d’exposition) are measured or estimated over the duration of 8 hours.
The OELs are established and revised by the Comité Scientifique pour la Surveillance des Atmosphères de Travail (Scientific Committee for Surveillance of the Workplace), working under the High Council for the Prevention of Occupational Hazards Environment. The committee is made up of experts, scientists and industrialists involved with chemicals. The OELs are based on the review on the international scientific literature and studies undertaken by the regional authorities in France. Then the technical and economical feasibility of the proposed health-based OEL is studied mostly by the industry participating in the limit setting and reviewing. After endorsement the OELs are published in the French Official Journal, Official Bulletin and in the publications of the Institut National de Recherche et de Sécurité, INRS (National Institute of Safety Research). The INRS publishes parts of the VL on the Internet.
The Ministry of Employment and Solidarity (Ministère de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité) http://www.travail.gouv.fr
INRS publishes parts of the VL on the Internet. French Pages of the European Agency Network http://fr.osha.europa.eu
The Finnish Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) system can be divided into legally enforcing binding limit values (sitovat raja-arvot) and more orientating concentrations known to be harmful (haitalliseksi tunnetut pitoisuudet, HTP -arvot). Both of these are connected to the Labour Protection Act, which oblige the employer to provide the employee healthy and safe working conditions. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health publishes the OEL list in English, Swedish, and Finnish in paper form. The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health publishes the list in Finnish and English on its website.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health decides on Occupational Exposure Limits according to the proposal of the Advisory Committee for Occupational Health and Safety on Chemicals. The Council of State nominates the Advisory Committee for Occupational Health and Safety on Chemicals that operates under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The Committee together with the Ministry’s Occupational Safety and Health Department prepares the list of harmful concentrations. The Committee selects a Subcommittee of Exposure Limits, which does the actual preparatory work. The four subcommittee members represent:
The Ministry, the chemical industry, employers’ organisations, and the trade unions.
The subcommittee has three secretaries, who prepare documentation with a specific emphasis on the dose-effect relationships. The exposure limit is recommended after identifying the critical effect and reviewing the related literature.
All air limit values define two basic influence factors:
The concentration – in mg/m3 or ppm, and the average exposure time in minutes or hours.
The exposure times are averaged for 15 minutes and eight hours, and some substances have momentary limit values, which should never be exceeded. The possibility of skin penetration is remarked by “Skin” (Iho). This annotation does not take into account the possibly corrosion or irritation potential of the substance. The potency to cause allergy may be considered when setting the OEL, but it is not annotated on the OEL list.
The Ministry has set a binding limit value for lead concentration in blood. Several other substances have also been set limit values for concentration in biological samples such as blood, urine, or alveolar air to amend the air limit values and help to measure the actual exposure in workplaces. In addition, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health recommends reference limits for non-exposed and bio-monitoring action levels.
OELs are used in a number of other ways. For example:
Guidelines on medical surveillance of workers are linked to occupational exposure limits. A certain fraction of the OEL exposure level can be a prerequisite for the need of periodical examinations. Defined fractions of occupational exposure limits are used to decide when special leave for pregnant workers is required when exposed to reprotoxic chemicals and their groups. Plant ventilation engineers also use OELs in their calculations.
OEL list published by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in English at: http://www.occuphealth.fi/ttl/projekti/htp/english/index.htm
In Finnish at: http://www.occuphealth.fi/ttl/projekti/htp/Htparvot2000.pdf
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health http://www.stm.fi
Finnish Pages of the European Agency Network http://fi.osha.europa.eu
The general law on ‘health and safety for workers’ and several ensuing presidential decrees have achieved harmonisation to European Union legislation. Among the topics addressed in this legislation (e.g. occupational factors, working conditions) are provisions on enforceable occupational exposure limits for nearly 600 chemicals.
Most of the Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs) reported are equivalent to the threshold limit values (TLV-TWA) published by the ACGIH (USA).
Greek Pages of the European Agency Network http://gr.osha.europa.eu
Bazas, 2001: Occupational Health Practice in Greece. J. of Occupational Health 43: 165-167; Hellenic Institute for Occupational Health and safety, 1999, Handbook of the Occupational Health and Safety Legislation, CD-ROM. Athens).
The Italian exposure limits are identical with the TLVs established by the ACGIH (USA). The list exists as paper version.
An updated list of the Italian laws concerning dangerous substances is available on the Internet at the URL of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Prevention (ISPESL).
The laws on the risks arising from exposure to chemical, physical and biological agents are also explained on the comprehensive ISPESL site, at
Italian Pages of the European Agency Network http://it.osha.europa.eu
In Ireland, the Occupational (Air) Exposure Limits (OELs) are defined as the maximum permissible concentration of a chemical agent in the air at the workplace to which workers may be exposed in relation to an 8-hour or a 15-minute reference period. These limits are set out in Schedule 1 to 1999 Code of Practice for the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Chemicals Agents) Regulations, 1994 (S.I. No. 445 of 1994). The 1999 Code of practice can be obtained as a priced publication from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA). The establishment of OELs in Ireland is based on the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Chemical Agents) Regulations, 1994 (S.I. No. 445 Of 1994).
Health and Safety Authority http://www.hsa.ie
Statutory Instrument 1994 No.445 can be obtained from the Health and Safety Authority site at the address below
Irish Pages of the European Agency Network http://ie.osha.europa.eu
The exposure limits in Luxembourg are adopted from various international health and safety agencies. The exposure limits in Luxembourg are based on the regulation of 19 July 1991. Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs) used in Luxembourg are the same as used in Germany, unless specific OELs are provided.
The legislation can be found on the Internet on the web site of the Inspection du Travail et des Mines (Inspectorate for Labour and Mines) of the Ministère du Travail et de l’Emploi (Ministry of Labour and Employment).
Inspection du Travail et des Mines http://www.itm.etat.lu
Ministère du Travail et de l’Emploi http://www.mt.etat.lu
Luxembourg Pages of the European Agency Network http://lu.osha.europa.eu
In the Netherlands, there are two types of Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs) with differing bases and status:
Legally binding OELs, and administrative OELs.
They both have a different basis and a different status.
Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs) are called MAC-values (Maximaal Aanvaarde Concentraties). The MAC is defined as the maximum allowed concentration of a gas, vapour, mist or dusty agent in the air of the working area.
In the Netherlands, the OEL values are set for 8-hours time-weighted maximum allowed concentration (8-hour TWA) and for 15-minutes average concentration (15-minutes TWA). Additionally, there is also MAC-C, a ceiling value, which should not be exceeded at any time. MAC-values can be found on the Internet. They are also available on the “Nationale MAC-lijst that is published in hard copy every year by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment in The Hague.
The legally binding OELs are based upon the health-based recommended occupational exposure level provided by the Dutch Expert Committee on Occupational Standards (DECOS) of the Health Council, but also taking into account the socio-economic feasibility of that value. The legal status is based on the Dutch Occupational Law and the Labour Inspectorate controls the implementation. A yearly working programme is made by the Ministery of Social Affairs and Employment for substances to be entered in the “three-steps” programme for setting limit values.
The DECOS prepares an evaluation report based on literature study. The draft report is made public (also on the Web site of the DECOS) and interested parties are invited to comment the draft report. After incorporation of comment, the final version is published by the Health Council and presented to the State Secretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. The health-based value is then evaluated by the Subcommission MAC-values of the socio-economic Council for social and economical aspects and the technical feasibility. Finally, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment derives the legally binding OEL based on both reports. The value is then published in the State Courant. A press release is used to make the new OEL known to the public.
Administrative OELs are not legally binding. They are regulated in a policy rule based on the working condition regulations. The Labour Inspectorate considers these values as levels that should in any case not be exceeded to protect workers. Mostly these from other Member States of the European Union or are TLVs from ACGIH (USA).
MAC-values can be found on the Internet at http://www.dohsbase.nl
The Dutch Expert Committee on Occupational Standards (DECOS) of the Health Council http://www.gr.nl
Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment http://www.minszw.nl
Socio-Economic Council http://www.sev.nl
Dutch Pages of the European Agency Network http://nl.osha.europa.eu
In Portugal, the Occupational Exposure Limits for dangerous substances are published in the Portuguese Standard 1796 of 1988. The publisher is the Portuguese Institute of Quality. The Standard 1796 is currently being reviewed. The VLEs (OELs) reported in this Standard as well as in the new Standard are equivalent to the limit values published by ACGIH (USA).
In the future Portuguese Standard should contain time-weighted average for 8hrs (TLV-TWA), ceiling values (TLV-C) and the short-term exposure limits (STEL).
Exposure limits have been legislated in the decree-law 274/89 for lead and its compounds (transposing Council Directive 82/605/EEC) and in the decree-law 273/89 for monomerous vinyl chloride (transposing Council Directive 78/610/EEC).
Portuguese Institute of Quality http://www.ipq.pt
Direcção de Serviços de Prevenção de Riscos Profissionais, Instituto de Desenvolvimento e Inspecção das Condições de Trabalho, Lisboa http://www.idict.gov.pt
Portuguese Pages of the European Agency Network http://pt.osha.europa.eu
This information has been submitted by the Direcção de Servios de Prevenção de Riscos Profissionais, Instituto de Desenvolvimento e Inspecção das Condições de Trabalho, Lisboa.
The “Hygienic limit values and measures for air pollutants” (Hygieniska gränsvärden och åtgärder mot luftföronreningar, Arbetarskyddsstyrelsens författningssamling; AFS 2000: 3) is an instruction given by the Swedish Work Environment Authority (Arbetsmiljöverket) with the empowerment of the Work Environment Ordinance (Arbetsmiljöförordningen; SFS 1977: 1166). These regulations are based on the Work Environment Act (Arbetsmiljölagen; SFS 1977: 1160) and the limit values are a starting point of the chemical risk management. According to the national regulations, the employer is obliged to keep the exposure level as far below the limit value as possible.
The scientific background documentation is prepared by the Kriterigruppen för hygieniska gränsvärde, Arbetslivsinstitutet (Criteria Group of the National Institute of Working Life). The Group drafts a consensus report after reviewing the scientific literature on toxicological grounds. These reports are published in the “Arbete och Hälsa” series. The Arbetarskydsstyrelsen (National Board of Occupational Safety and Health) proposes an Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) according to the consensus report for the Labour Market Parties. After the communication, the directorate of the National Board gives a new ordinance on Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) Values. The Arbetsmiljöinspektionen (Work Environment Inspection) controls the execution of the OEL ordinance.
Most of the OELs are maximal values of air concentrations in workplace air. The concentration limits are averaged over certain time periods, which are generally eight hours (“maximal limit value”, or nivågränsvärde) and 15 minutes (“short-term limit”, kortidsvärde). The ceiling values (takgränsvärde) are momentary limit values and the reference time can be as short as 5 minutes.
In the OEL lists, “K” (Cancerframkallande, Grupp C), annotates carcinogenic substances, “S” (Sensibiliserande, Grupp D), annotates sensitisers and “R” (Reproduktionsstörande, Grupp E), indicates substances toxic to reproduction. In addition, the “Hygienic limit values and measures for air pollutants” includes lists of substances, which are banned (Grupp A) or subject to license (Grupp B).
Isocyanates, which are included on the OEL list, are regulated also by specific instructions on “Hard plastics” (Härdplaster; AFS 1996:4). H” (“Huden”) annotates substances with the capability of skin penetration on the OEL lists. The allergic potential is considered when setting the limit value.
Biological monitoring can provide information on the exposure for many substances. For lead and cadmium, The Arbetarskydsstyrelsen has set exposure limit values, which oblige the employer. Regulations concerning these are defined in “Medical control on cadmium work” (Medicinsk kontroll vid kadmiumarbete; AFS 2000:7) and “Lead” (Bly – Ändrigen av AFS 1992:17; AFS 2000:13)
Swedish Pages of the European Agency Network http://se.osha.europa.eu
National Institute of Working Life (NIWL) http://www.niwl.se
Occupational exposure limits in the UK function under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) and its mirror legislation in Northern Ireland. The COSHH regulations require the employer to ensure that the employee’s exposure to substances hazardous to health is either prevented or if not practically possible, adequately controlled. OELs in the UK can be divided in Maximum Exposure Limits (MELs) and Occupational Exposure Standards (OESs). Exposure should be reduced as far below an MEL as possible, while reduction to the substance specific level OES is considered adequate. The list of exposure limits is known as EH40 and is available from HSE Direct.
All legally enforceable OELs in UK are air limit values. The maximum admissible or accepted concentration varies from substance to substance according to its toxicity. There are some OELs for multi-substance exposure prescribing process emissions like welding fumes. Biological monitoring results may be used as indicators of exposure, although they have not got legal status. The Biological Monitoring Guidance Values (BMGV) are provided also in the HSE series EH40.
The exposure times are averaged for eight hours (8-hour TWA) and 15 minutes (short-term exposure limit STEL). For some substances, a brief exposure is considered so critical that they are set only a STEL, which should not be exceeded even for a shorter time. The potency to penetrate through skin is annotated in the OEL list by remark “Skin”. Carcinogenicity, reproduction toxicity, and irritation and sensitation potential are considered when preparing a proposal for an OEL according to the present scientific knowledge. The OELs do not cover some hazardous substances that have their own specific legislation, most notably asbestos and lead.
Health and Safety Commission’s Advisory Committee on Toxic Substances (ACTS) recommends new OELs or revision on a current OEL value. The Working Group on the Assessment of Toxic Chemicals (WATCH) is a technical sub-committee of ACTS, which considers the evidence on the occupational exposure and health effects of substances, including whether a MEL or OES would be appropriate by the agreed indicative criteria, and if an OES, its value. After the ACTS (constituting of representatives of employers, workers, government and environmental and consumer experts) has approved a MEL or OES it is endorsed by the Health and Safety Commission (HSC).
UK Pages of the European Agency Network http://uk.osha.europa.eu
The Health and Safety Executive http://www.hse.gov.uk