By Caroline Miller, CIH, CSP
An agreement between the European Commission and European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has been reached for ECHA to regularly review occupational exposure limits (OELs) and provide recommendations on four to five chemicals a year, starting in 2020. The responsibility for OEL review will move from the Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits (SCOEL) to ECHA’s Risk Assessment Committee (RAC). The objective of this change is to improve consistency by having one resource addressing worker health and safety. This is a result of a REACH Review proposed action point to enhance the integration between REACH and OSH legislation. OELs are a key component in protection of workers from hazardous chemicals in the workplace. The change supports ECHA’s strategy “to provide integrated proposals to the Commission on how to regulate risks posed by chemicals to European citizens, workers and the environment.”
The Commission will begin to immediately assign chemicals for OEL review to RAC, with lead being a priority. RAC will prepare scientific dossiers with OEL recommendations for chemicals. They will propose the OELS under the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive and the Chemical Agents Directive. The recommendations by RAC will be provided to the Commission for decision making. The first recommendations are expected by the end of 2020. ECHA may also support the Commission with socio-economic evaluations with regard to proposing the OELs.
A pilot project was conducted in 2017 and 2018 and RAC provided five OEL recommendations to the Commission, which currently are in the decision-making process. Two carcinogens, 4′-methylenebis[2-chloroaniline] (MOCA), and arsenic and its inorganic salts, were the first chemicals RAC adopted scientific opinions for OELs. In March 2018, RAC recommended OELs for benzene, acrylonitrile, and nickel, including its compounds, which are genotoxic compounds.
RAC has increased its expertise in occupational safety and health by inviting new committee members to work on the OELs.
ECHA to provide recommendations for occupational exposure limits: https://echa.europa.eu/-/echa-to-provide-recommendations-for-occupational-exposure-limits
Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC): https://echa.europa.eu/about-us/who-we-are/committee-for-risk-assessment
Directive on Carcinogens or Mutagens at Work (2004/37/EC): https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:02004L0037-20180116
Directive on Risks Related to Chemical Agents at Work (98/24/EC): https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:01998L0024-20140325
ECHA, OELs, chemical safety, SCOEL, RAC