WELs replace OELs in COSHH Regulations
Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) in Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations
From 6 April 2005 a single type of workplace exposure limit is being introduced, with Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) replacing Maximum Exposure Limits (MELs) and Occupational Exposure Standards (OESs) in the COSHH Regulations (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations).
The OESs for around 100 substances will be deleted as the substances are now banned, scarcely used or there is evidence to suggest adverse health effects close to the old limit value. Two new workplace exposure limits are being introduced for Refractory Ceramic Fibres and Subtilisins.
As the numerical values of the other workplace exposure limits being transferred to the new system are unchanged, suppliers may exhaust stocks of safety data sheets that refer to MELs and OESs before producing new ones that refer to WELs. Similarly, COSHH assessments can be updated as part of duty holders periodic reviews.
From 6 April 2005, the HSE advises that a new focus on good practice will help employers meet their duties under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH).
The existing requirements to follow good practice are being clarified and brought together by the introduction of eight principles, which will apply regardless of whether a substance has an Occupational Exposure Limit:
- Design and operate processes and activities to minimise emission, release and spread of substances hazardous to health.
- Take into account all relevant routes of exposure - inhalation, skin absorption and ingestion - when developing control measures.
- Control exposure by measures that are proportionate to the health risk.
- Choose the most effective and reliable control options which minimise the escape and spread of substances hazardous to health.
- Where adequate control of exposure cannot be achieved by other means, provide, in combination with other control measures, suitable personal protective equipment.
- Check and review regularly all elements of control measures for their continuing effectiveness.
- Inform and train all employees on the hazards and risks from the substances with which they work and the use of control measures developed to minimise the risks.
- Ensure that the introduction of control measures does not increase the overall risk to health and safety.
As of 6 April, adequate control of exposure will require employers to:
- apply the eight principles of good practice for the control of substances hazardous to health;
- ensure that the WEL is not exceeded; and
- ensure that exposure to substances that can cause occupational asthma; cancer; or damage to genes that can be passed from one generation to another; is reduced as low as is reasonably practicable.
Employers who currently comply with COSHH, will still be able to do so by continuing to apply good practice. Good practice advice on controlling chemicals is available at HSE’s COSHH Essentials website http://www.coshh-essentials.org.uk.
New versions of the COSHH Approved Code of Practice; EH40, the list of WELs (Workplace Exposure Limits); and the brief guide to COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations) leaflet will be published around the implementation date.
If you need assistance with carrying out COSHH Assessments or compliance with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations then please contact us Active Safety Associates here
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