Respiratory Hazards & Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs)

Respiratory Hazards and PELs

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in addition to regulating worker exposure to chemicals through the Hazard Communication Standard, requires employers to identify and evaluate the respiratory hazards in their workplaces. OSHA sets limits for air contaminants to protect workers against the health effects of exposure to hazardous substances, including limits on the airborne concentration of hazardous chemicals in the air. These limits are known as Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs). Approximately 500 PELs have been established.

Most of OSHA's PELs for General Industry are contained in 1910.1000 – Air Contaminants, and are listed by chemical name in Tables Z-1Z-2, and Z-3. The standards for Marine Terminals and Longshoring both incorporate the General Industry standards (1910 Subpart Z).

Most of OSHA's PELs for Shipyard Employment are contained in 1915.1000 – Toxic and Hazardous Substances, and are listed by chemical name.

Most of OSHA's PELs for Construction are contained in 1926.55 – Gases, Vapors, Fumes, Dusts, and Mists, and are listed by chemical name.

Note: Employers should note that, according to OSHA, many of these limits are outdated. Also, there are many substances for which OSHA does not have workplace exposure limits. To provide employers, workers, and other interested parties with a list of alternate occupational exposure limits that may serve to better protect workers, OSHA has annotated the existing Z-Tables with additional selected occupational exposure limits. OSHA has chosen to present a side-by-side table with the California/OSHA PELs, the NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limits (RELs) and the ACGIH® TLVs®. The tables list air concentration limits, but do not include notations for skin injury, absorption or sensitization.

California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs)

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