OEL stands for Occupational Exposure Limit. This is a term used to describe the maximum concentration of any specific hazardous substance that is allowed in the workplace. This references the concentration that is in the air. These limits can apply to any workplace but are most used in environments where hazardous gasses, chemicals, fumes, and other things are common. This could include, for example, mines where certain gasses are either naturally found or are produced by equipment. The OELs change from country to country based on the limits set by various governmental agencies. In the United States, OELs are called threshold limit values (TLV).

If you work in, own, or manage any type of workplace that may have some type of hazardous items in the air, it is important to understand what the exposure limit is. Not only is this critical for the safety of the facility, but it is also necessary for avoiding any type of fines or penalties that may be issued.

It is important to understand that these limits are often set quite low because the hazards from the fumes can be cumulative. Even if a particular gas in the air does not cause any harmful reactions immediately, for example, it may result in increased risks of cancer or other problems. In addition, the concentration of some gasses in the air can cause the risk of a fire or explosion to rise significantly. It is for this reason that being aware of the OEL for anything that may be found in the air is extremely important.

If your facility has gasses that enter the air and you are concerned that you may reach the OEL, it is your responsibility to monitor the levels consistently. This will typically mean setting up a system of monitors for the types of gasses or other things in the air that will test the air regularly and alert someone when the safe limits are being reached. For companies that regularly experience dangerous levels of contaminants in the air, it can be necessary to install exhaust fans or other things to help provide a steady supply of fresh safe air.

OSHA Safety Signs Guide
OSHA Label and Sign Color Chart
HazCom Guide
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