HSC Proposes Changes to the Occupational Exposure Limit Framework

The UK Health and Safety Commission wants to modernize and streamline the process of setting occupational exposure limits and is offering ideas for linking exposure limits to advice on good practice.

The UK Health and Safety Commission (HSC) wants to modernize and streamline the process of setting occupational exposure limits and is offering ideas for linking exposure limits to advice on good practice.

Members of the Working Group of the Health and Safety Commission''s Advisory Committee on Toxic Substances (ACTS), which includes representatives from industry, trade unions and independent experts, discussed options ranging from minor changes to the present system to more radical options. The changes have been proposed to help ensure that occupational exposure limits effectively contribute to worker protection. The group is asking for comments on its proposals.

"We want this review to start a debate on what everyone wants from occupational exposure limits," said Sandra Caldwell, chair of ACTS and director of Health Directorate. "For example, should we link occupational exposure limits to good practice advice that helps firms decide how to control chemicals? Should we change the way we set occupational exposure limits? Would firms use a free Internet database containing a list of occupational exposure limits and linked to more information?"

She added she hopes the debate will help HSC set up a "robust system of limits that will help to control hazardous substances."

The Working Group will consider the responses to the proposals as well as other research on the operation of the current system, and will make formal proposals for changes to the occupational exposure limits framework. Subject to approval by HSC, these will be published in a formal consultation document in 2003. Any changes to the regulations would not occur until 2004.

Currently, regulations require employers to:

  • Assess the risks to health from exposure to hazardous substances;
  • Prevent or adequately control exposure;
  • Ensure that control measures are used, maintained, examined and tested;
  • In some instances, monitor exposure and carry out appropriate health surveillance; and
  • Inform, instruct and train employees.

Occupational exposure limits are a key means for determining the adequacy of control measures for airborne hazardous substances.

Comments on the proposals set out in the discussion document should be sent to Sara Wassell, Health Directorate, Chemical Policy Division, Health and Safety Executive, 6SW, Rose Court, 2 Southwark Bridge Road, London SE1 9HS or e-mail [email protected] Deadline for comments is July 31.

The full text of the discussion document can be viewed or downloaded on the HSE Web site at www.hse.gov.uk/condocs. Copies can also be obtained free of charge from HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 2WA; telephone: 01787 881165; or from www.hsebooks.co.uk

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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