Occupational exposure explains contact with a potentially harmful physical, chemical, or biological agent as a result of one’s occupation. This exposure could result to several levels of dangers; majorly danger to health.
OCCUPATIONAL EXPOSURE EXAMPLES
|Occupation:||Hazardous agents exposed to:|
|Asbestos cement industry||Asbestos|
|Carpentry and joinery; Furniture and cabinet making||Wood dust|
|Paint stripping; Cleaning and degreasing||Dichloromethane (methylene chloride); 1,2,3-Trichloropropane|
|Petroleum refining and distribution||Acrylamide; PAHs; Benzene; Diesel fuel, marine; Fuel oils, residual (heavy); Gasoline|
|Pharmaceutical production||Dichloromethane (methylene chloride)|
Since it may be practically impossible to totally eliminate exposure to occupational agents, occupational limit has been set to regulate the exposure to these toxic and dangerous substances. These limits are termed “Occupational exposure limit (OEL)”
What are the occupational exposure limits?
Occupational exposure limit (OEL) represents the maximum airborne concentration of a toxic substance to which a worker can be exposed over a period of time without suffering any harmful consequences. Different organizations may use different terminology to express occupational exposure limit (OEL). For example, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) term for OEL is “Threshold Limit Value” (TLV)® while the NIOSH term is “Recommended Exposure Limits” (REL).
These limits are set out by occupational health regulators like,the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in the United States.
These occupational exposure limits are established based on the chemical properties of the substance, results from experimental studies on animals and humans, with toxicological and epidemiological data.
It is worthy of note that the OELs developed by the professional organizations are just guidelines and should not be viewed as a line between safe and unsafe.
Take for example, carcinogens are not usually defined by an exposure limit since it is difficult to say for certainty that if exposure is below a set point, the agent is not likely to cause harm. This could also apply to allergens and other agents
Hence, the best approach is to always keep exposures or the risk of a hazard as low as possible; the ALARP principle should always be applied.
ALARA, in practical terms, which means that exposure should be eliminated or reduced as much as possible.
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