More than 85,000 chemicals are used in commerce, yet only a fraction of them—about 1,000—have been assigned an occupational exposure limit that helps users know how to work safely with these substances.

However, a process known as occupational exposure banding is a way to assess chemicals that lack an OEL, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

Occupational exposure bands. Source: NIOSH Occupational Exposure Banding Process for Chemical Risk Management.

Many chemicals used in the workplace have the potential to harm workers who handle, transport, or come in contact with them.

NIOSH recently produced a report on using occupational exposure banding to assess workplace chemical hazards.

The process assigns chemicals to bands based on potency and potential danger to health, enabling employers, workers, and safety and health professionals to improve workplace safety.

Workers using the NIOSH occupational exposure banding process follow a detailed plan to assigned a chemical to one of five bands.

Starting Point

One major benefit of occupational exposure banding is that the amount of time and data required to categorize a chemical substance into an OEB is far less than that required to develop an OEL

An OEB is not meant to replace an OEL; rather, it serves as a starting point to inform risk management decisions when an OEL is not available.

An OEB can also assist with prioritizing chemical substances for which an OEL should be developed and can guide users, including enterprises of all sizes, in setting internal OEBs or ranges for controlling exposures to specific chemical substances. 

Banding is a voluntary process to help guide risk management for chemicals that lack an OEL.

They range from A, the least-potent, highest exposure band indicated, to E, the most potent and lowest exposure band.

Banding is a voluntary process to help guide risk management for chemicals that lack an OEL.

Exposure Ranges

The bands give exposure ranges that are expected to protect worker health, can show potential health effects and organs that may be affected, as well as health risks that workers should know.

The bands help workers in a variety of ways, including making preparedness plans, and provide critical information on chemical toxicity.

NIOSH has also launched the Occupational Exposure Banding e-Tool that automates the occupational exposure banding process.

The e-Tool serves as a supplementary application that provides users with an automated means to band chemical substances. 

For more information, contact CBIA's Phillip Montgomery (860.244.1982).