Update: changes to workplace exposure limits (WELs)

risk-assessments

Employers must have COSHH assessments in place for the hazardous substances they work with. Your assessment should identify who can be harmed, how they can be harmed and what control measures you need to have in place to make sure anyone exposed to hazardous substances is protected.

There are legal limits set for the maximum concentration of certain airborne substances, known as Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs). For those substances assigned a WEL you will need to make sure exposure is kept below this limit.

A new EU directive comes into force in 2020 which will result in some changes to the Occupational Exposure Limit Value (OELVs) and classification of some substances. In the UK, OELVs are translated into the COSHH regulations as Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs).

While it’s possible that Brexit may lead to changes in legislation in the future, currently the new WELs are set to come into force on 17th January 2020 and will already have been translated into UK legislation by that date.

The HSE will be releasing the updated document EH40, however, we’d like to highlight in particular:

Respirable Crystalline Silica – (RCS)

The WEL for RCS will remain at 0.1mg/m3 however as RCS will be classified as a carcinogenic the HSE will expect you to reduce exposure as low as reasonably practicable.

Hardwood dusts

Hardwood dusts will change from 5mg/m3 to 3mg/m3 on 17th January 2020. They will then be lowered further to 2mg/m3 in 2023.

If your employees are already exposed to wood dust, then their exposure should already be monitored and controlled. Although the reduction in the WEL is small, if your monitoring shows exposure is above the new WEL then you will need to ensure that exposure is reduced further.

Because it’s very common for workers to be exposed to different species of wood, if hardwood dusts are mixed with other wood dusts, the new WEL will apply to all wood dusts present in that mixture.

Chromium (VI) Compounds

The WEL will reduce from 0.05mg/m3 to 0.010 mg/m3 (non-process-generated) and 0.025mg/m3 (process generated). In January 2025 the WEL for both will reduce to 0.005mg/m3.

If your employees are already exposed to Chromium (VI) Compounds, their exposure should already be monitored and controlled. If your monitoring shows exposure is above the new WEL then you will need to ensure that exposure is reduced further.

Understand your responsibilities with Citation’s help…

We’ve updated our factsheets and example COSHH assessments, which are available through Atlas. And remember, our Health & Safety advice line is available 24/7, 365 days a year. Just call on 0345 844 4848 where one of our expert team can talk you through how to comply with the new limits.

Not yet a Citation client? Simply fill in the form on this page or give our team a call on 0345 844 1111.

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