Permissible Exposure Limits: What you need to know


This analysis covers the OSHA general industry standards for permissible exposure limits (PELs) to airborne hazardous substances, including excessive noise, that determine how long a worker may be exposed in the workplace to a threshold amount of a substance or noise without adverse effects on health. The standards are predominantly concerned with inhalation and skin absorption hazards. Specifically, the analysis covers PELs for general air contaminants and PELs and action levels for carcinogens, and it briefly discusses hazardous chemicals in laboratories.

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Employers must use the mathematical formulas promulgated in the regulations to compute exposure to a single substance and to mixtures of substances. OSHA recommends that employers consider using the alternative occupational exposure limits because the Agency believes that exposures above some of these alternative occupational exposure limits may be hazardous to workers, even when the exposure levels are in compliance with the relevant PELs.

The administrative and engineering controls to achieve compliance with the PELs, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE), are discussed.

Three worksheets and a checklist are included to help employers compare workplace exposures with the PELs and to check an employee’s exposure situation.

29 CFR 1910.1000 and 29 CFR 1910.1200 Appendix D

Existing PELs are contained in the air contaminants standard. Most are listed in Table Z-1 of the standard. Table Z-2 contains PELs for various other chemicals, and Table Z-3 contains PELs for exposure to mineral dusts, including silica (crystalline and amorphous).

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has developed hundreds of exposure limits, ...

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