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Find Occupational Exposure Limits: Free Research Tool

Written by: Rob Hallsworth

Published on: 29 November 2023

Worker spraying cleaning solution.

A new Occupational Exposure Limits Research Tool from SDS RiskAssist makes it easy for safety professionals, engineers, and occupational and industrial hygienists to find occupational exposure limit information to prevent occupational disease. 

Workplace health and safety pros can now instantly get occupational exposure limit (OEL) information for any safety data sheet. Our new OEL research tool also gives you compliance data for ingredients such as designated substances

What are occupational exposure limits?

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety defines occupational exposure limits (OELs)  as “the level of admissible exposure, for a length of time (usually 8 hours), to a chemical or physical hazard that is not likely to affect the health of a worker…The OELs for chemical substances are established based on the chemical properties of the substance, experimental studies on animals and humans, toxicological and epidemiological data.” 

OELs are set by professional organizations around the world.

How occupational exposure limits protect workers

Many more workers die annually from occupational disease than traumatic injury. Knowing occupational exposure limits and putting appropriate chemical safety protocols in place to protect workers is one way to help break the cycle of occupational disease. 

The average workplace uses 70 hazardous chemical products. Before the advent of the SDS RiskAssist SDS management platform and our free OEL tool, the only way to know if a particular product contained a hazardous substance with an OEL was to read each safety data sheet yourself. Then you needed to research the associated regulations for those ingredients to put the appropriate safety protocols in place. Note that while some suppliers include OELs in the SDS, we have found that they are not always complete and they do not always identify designated substances or exceptions.

Even routine, everyday tasks can involve OEL risks

Consider a routine task such as having summer students spray paint municipal garbage cans before they are distributed throughout the parks in the spring.

Spray paint often contains ingredients like xylene, toluene, butane, traces of ethyl benzene and propane, all of which have occupational exposure limits in Ontario and most jurisdictions. The WHMIS hazards associated with the product can include extreme flammability, carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, reproductive toxicant, irritant, cause drowsiness and dizziness, organ damage and more.

Spray paint can contain hazards such as the following:

SDS RiskAssist SafetySnap summary for Tremclad Rustoleum Spray Paint

Remember, spray painting for an eight-hour workday has much higher exposure to the associated harmful ingredients than doing a small project at home. 

OEL for ototoxic products

Ototoxic chemical products are another example: you must research the exposure limits and then make decisions to ensure workers are protected. Ototoxic chemicals are found in products like paint,  gasoline, solvents, floor sealers and more. 

Once you know the OELs, you can make health and safety decisions to reduce exposures, such as:

  • eliminating a product where possible
  • finding a safer substitute, or
  • implementing safety handling procedures. 

Learn more about safe management of ototoxic substances.

Try the SDS RiskAssist OEL research tool now:

OEL research tool image




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SDS RiskAssist an Ontario-based company that uses the power of technology to give employers control and understanding over the otherwise pervasive and worrisome use of chemicals. SDS RiskAssist enables workers to know why chemicals are being used, what their benefits and hazards are and how to use them safely! Workers can access this knowledge via mobile or desktop SafetySnaps™, from anywhere in the world. SDS RiskAssist is the winner for 5 years running, of Readers’ Choice Awards by Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine (2018-2022); the 2019 Innovation Guelph Startup of the Year Award; the 2019 Quinte Business Achievement Award (Trailblazer category) and The Ottawa Network’s 2020 Bootstrap Award (SaaS category). We support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, working with our clients to take action for a sustainable planet.