The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has come up with a new chemical management strategy that can quickly and accurately assign chemicals into categories, or “bands,” in order to protect workers from potentially harmful substances in the workplace.

A vast number of chemical substances do not have occupational exposure limits (OELs) for the workplace.

Occupational exposure banding is a voluntary process that assigns each chemical to a category based on its toxicity and any negative health outcomes associated with exposure to that chemical. The strategy is available in new Technical Report – The NIOSH Occupational Exposure Banding Process for Chemical Management – that provides a process with easy procedures and clear rules for assignment and can be used in a broad spectrum of workplace settings. 

The banding process is not meant to replace quantitative occupational exposure limits (OELs); rather, it is a voluntary approach which provides a starting point to inform risk management decisions for controlling chemical substances that do not have OELs.

“NIOSH has devoted significant efforts to develop, assess, and validate the occupational exposure banding strategy with the overall goal of reducing safety and health risks for workers,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “In the absence of formalized OELs, the exposure banding approach serves to identify workplace hazards and helps employers implement control strategies that keep workers safe on the job.”

The long-awaited resource can serve as the foundation for making exposure-control decisions. Public health agencies, practicing occupational health and safety professionals, employers, trade associations, labor organizations, and state-level programs can use this process to protect workers from occupational exposures to chemicals.

The new Technical Report fully details the use and application of the NIOSH occupa­tional exposure banding process and provides a summary of efforts taken to evaluate its effective­ness and usability. It includes an E-tool as a supplemen­tary online application that provides users with an automated means to band chemical substances.

For more information on occupational exposure banding, please visit this site. For direct access to the technical report, please visit this site.

NIOSH is the federal institute that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths. For more information about NIOSH, visit