New Workplace exposure limits (WEL) to apply from 1 December 2026

Work health and safety (WHS) ministers have agreed to the new WEL list and a harmonised transition period ending on 30 November 2026. This change comes after extensive work and consultation to revise the Workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants (WES). 

The WEL will replace the current WES. 

WHS ministers agreed to rename the Workplace exposure standards (WES) as Workplace exposure limits (WEL) to make it clear that these are a limit that should not be exceeded, and for Australia to align with terms used internationally. 

When will the changes happen?

From 1 December 2026, and following implementation into the WHS laws of the Commonwealth, states and territories, the Workplace exposure limits for airborne contaminants (WEL list) will be adopted throughout Australia. 

Until 1 December 2026, persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) must continue to ensure no person is exposed to an airborne concentration of an airborne contaminant higher than its exposure standard listed in the WES List.

What’s changing?

While most exposure limits remained unchanged, the WES Review did result in some changes, including reductions and increases in limits for certain chemicals and the removal or introduction of new limits for others. For more information on what has changed, see our webpage on the changes between the WES and WEL

What are the next steps?

Following the WES Review, Safe Work Australia is undertaking additional work:

  • New guidance is being developed to assist PCBUs with the transition to the WEL. These resources will be published throughout the transition period and beyond. 
  • WHS ministers have requested additional impact analysis on the proposed changes to the exposure standards for the following chemicals/substances before their WEL limit will be updated in the WEL: 
    • respirable crystalline silica, 
    • formaldehyde,
    • benzene,
    • chlorine,
    • copper (fumes, dusts and mists), 
    • hydrogen cyanide, 
    • hydrogen sulphide, 
    • nitrogen dioxide, 
    • titanium dioxide.
  • Determining how to best regulate under the model WHS laws 33 airborne contaminants that are non-threshold genotoxic carcinogens (NTGCs), and do not have a safe exposure limit. For more information on these NTGCs, see our webpage on the changes between the WES and WEL. PCBUs must continue to comply with the exposure standards set out for these airborne contaminants in the WES List until 1 December 2026. 

Where do I find out more?

You can find out more information on the WEL list on the Safe Work Australia website and subscribe to the ‘Exposure standards for airborne contaminants’ emailing list for:

  • updates on the transition to WEL, 
  • alerts to new and updated guidance, and 
  • further updates on the additional impact analysis and NTGCs.