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Proposals to introduce a new occupational exposure limits (OEL) framework

Consultation ended: 31 December 2003



Can you imagine any aspect of modern life that does not involve chemicals? Without them we would not have mobile phones, cars, freezers - commodities we all take for granted. Society wants the benefits from chemicals, but some, both man made and naturally occurring, may harm human health. It is HSE's responsibility to provide a legal framework and advice so that employers can protect their workers from these harmful effects. Workers may be exposed to chemicals during manufacturing processes or from using products such as resins and paints.

To help employers protect their workers from chemicals, the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) publishes, for some widely used chemicals, limits on the amount of chemical allowed in the workplace air. They are known as Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs). They form part of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations. Research shows many employers, particularly in small firms, do not know about OELs and, of those that do, very few understand how to work out whether the chemicals in the air at their workplace are above or below OELs. These results, and other work on the needs of small firms, convinced us that a new approach was necessary.

This consultative document gives proposals for a simplified system of OELs that should be much easier for small firms to understand and use. The aim is to help the wide spectrum of firms using chemicals to properly protect their workers.

Updated 2009-05-28