February 4, 2020
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Last year we reported how the EU was in the process of introducing new lower workplace exposure for certain substances that have been identified as being either carcinogenic or mutagenic (capable of causing permanent change in an organism’s genes). EU member states were given until 17th January 2020 to implement these changes into national legislation.

Exposure limits are based on the amount of a hazardous substance present in the air that people breathe, averaged over a specified reference period. Two periods are used a long-term exposure limit (8 hours) and a short-term exposure limit (15 minutes).

In the UK workplace exposure limits are set for various hazardous substances under the Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations. The list of UK exposure limits is set out in the HSE’s publication EH40/2005. This publication has now been updated to include the new limits and requirements. This can be downloaded from the HSE’s website at:

In summary there are new or amended entries for the following substances:

Hardwood dusts (including mixed dusts), Chromium (VI) compounds, Refractory ceramic fibres, Respirable crystalline silica, Vinyl chloride monomer, Ethylene oxide, 1,2-Epoxypropane, Acrylamide, 2-Nitropropane, O-Toluidine, 1,3-Butadiene, Hydrazine, Bromoethylene.

All employers have a duty to identify any hazardous substances employees are exposed to at work and to take action to prevent or minimise that exposure. In some cases it may be practical to substitute a harmful substance for a less harmful one, other cases may require more specific controls measures such as controlling work processes, providing extraction systems or personal protective equipment.

Our specialists can help you to manage harmful substances in your workplace. Please speak to your normal PIB Risk management contact or get in touch using [email protected]  if you have any questions about the control of substances hazardous to health in your workplace.