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By Nabila Al Hasan, Regulatory Compliance Specialist

Occupational exposure limits (OELs) are values, determined by various health regulatory bodies, that indicate safe levels of human exposure to hazardous chemicals. Available research information and recent data on hazardous substances, especially concerning acute toxicity, carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, and toxicity to reproduction, are used to set these limits.


The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) requires chemical manufacturers to list OELs for all hazardous constituents of a product in section 8 of the safety data sheet (SDS). While OELs are generally specified for constituent chemicals that can be inhaled as vapors, mists, or dust – the requirement to list them is independent of the physical state of the overall product. For example, an SDS for a product in paste form must still include OELs for its hazardous constituents in vapor, mist, and dust form. 

Implications for SDSs

An SDS must enable employers and users to determine the presence of hazardous chemicals in the workplace arising from all types of uses of the product. These exposure limits allow an employer to implement control measures to limit and protect workers from possible occupational exposure while working with these chemicals. These control measures include appropriate engineering controls, such as the use of local exhaust ventilation or use only in an enclosed system. Or this could entail recommendations for personal protective equipment and specific hygiene measures to prevent serious illness or injury. 

GSM is committed to helping you navigate safety data sheets and stay compliant. Please contact GSM to find out how we can help.