NIOSH Releases Technical Report on the Occupational Exposure Banding Process

Posted on: July 17, 2019

by Caroline Miller, CIH, CSP

photo of a man using safety precautions around chemicals - NIOSH Releases Technical Report on the Occupational Exposure Banding ProcessThe National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released Technical Report: The NIOSH Occupational Exposure Banding Process for Chemical Risk Management.  The technical report is the result of years of work, including gathering public input, by NIOSH. It is intended to allow users to readily and precisely designate chemicals into the occupational exposure bands (OEBs) to reduce chemical exposure to workers.  It is not meant to supplant current occupational exposure limit setting processes.

Currently, there are thousands of chemicals that do not have occupational exposure limits (OELs) established.  It is not practical to assign OELs to every chemical or material that exists today.  It is also not cost effective to assign OELs to research and development materials that may never be produced in a large quantity.  Although OELs may not exist, employees’ exposures to these materials must be considered and appropriate protective measures must be implemented.  Where OELs do not currently exist, chemicals can be placed into categories or OEBs based upon actual or estimated health effects.  There are five OEBs (A through E), with the lowest toxicity in Band A and the highest toxicity in Band E.  The OEBs would then be used to target controls for protecting workers’ health.

The NIOSH method includes a three-tiered system that is based on the following:

  1. data availability;
  2. data quality and;
  3. user training and proficiency.

Tier 1 uses hazard classifications and hazard codes from the Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).  It is intended that Tier 1 evaluations can be performed with little information and training.  However, it should be determined whether the evaluation should move up to a Tier 2 (requires a review of toxicological information) or Tier 3 (necessitates expert judgement).

The document describes the history, provides reasoning, and outlines procedures to assign chemicals to OEBs.  NIOSH has included an E-tool to provide users with an automated means of assigning bands to chemicals as an additional resource.

Recommended Action Items:

  • Assess your chemical inventory to determine which chemicals employees are exposed to that do not have OELs.
  • Use the NIOSH guidance to assign those chemicals without OELs into OEBs.
  • Use the chemical OEBs to implement controls to protect worker exposure to chemicals.


Federal Register Notice:

Press Release:

NIOSH Technical report: The NIOSH occupational exposure banding process for chemical risk management. By Lentz TJ, Seaton M, Rane P, Gilbert SJ, McKernan LT, Whittaker C. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2019-132,


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NIOSH, Occupational Exposure Banding, chemicals, occupational exposure limits, OELs, control banding, hazard banding


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