Workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants
Workplace exposure standards are airborne concentrations of a particular chemical or substance in the workers’ breathing zone that should not cause adverse health effects or cause undue discomfort to nearly all workers. Exposure standards are legal concentration limits that must be adhered to.
A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure that a worker is not exposed to airborne contaminants above the workplace exposure standard. The official list of workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants is contained within the publication Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants. Workplace exposure standards are also available within the Hazardous Substances Information System database here. This database contains additional information and guidance for many substances.
The publication Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants contains key information about how exposure standards are applied and interpreted under the WHS Regulations. Further guidance on their interpretation is available in the Guidance on the Interpretation of Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants, as well as through links for individual chemicals in the HSIS database.
To comply with the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations, monitoring of workplace contaminant levels for chemicals with exposure standards may n eed to be carried out if:
- there is an uncertainty whether or not the exposure standard has been or may be exceeded, or
- it is necessary to determine whether there is a risk to health.
Records of air monitoring for airborne contaminants must be kept for a minimum of 30 years, and must be available to workers who are exposed.
In November/December 2015, Safe Work Australia held a public consultation process to examine the role of exposure standards and how they could be reviewed and maintained.
This consultation process closed on 18 December and will help inform policy options for the regulation of exposure standards.
Key Exposure Standards documents
- Guidance on the Interpretation of Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants
- Hazardous Substances Information System (HSIS) Database
- Tool for calculating workplace exposure standards for extended work shifts
- History of changes to workplace exposure standards (under development)
- Frequently Asked Questions
Exposure Standards of Other Countries
- GESTIS – International limit values for chemical agents. This database is provided by IFA—an institute for research and testing of the German Social Accident Insurance in Germany.