Binding occupational exposure limit values (OELs) of the European Commission

The Bundesarbeitsblatt [Federal Labour Gazette] (2006) No. 4, p. 46, refers to binding European OELs. These are the air limit values for the five substances given in the table 1. The binding European OELs have to be adopted as minimum standards by the member states. The binding European OELs are not occupational exposure limit values under the terms of Art. 2, Sec. 8 of the Hazardous Substances Ordinance (GefStoffV), compliance with which generally excludes acute or chronically harmful effects on health, which is why they are not listed in TRGS 900.
Until the end of 2004, certain substances with a binding EC OEL in the then TRGS 900 were given lower limit values which could be usually achieved in accordance with the state of the art (see table 1).

Table 1: Substances with a binding EU OEL

Substance European Directive EU OEL 2004 Limit Value as in TRGS 900
Asbestos 2009/148/EG 100,000 F/m3 -
(Exposure ban)
Benzene 2004/37/EG 1 ml/m3 1 ml/m3
Lead and inorganic
98/24/EG 0.15 mg/m3 0.1 mg/m3
Hardwood dusts 2004/37/EG 5 mg/m3 2 mg/m3
Exceptional areas:
5 mg/m3
Vinyl chloride 2004/37/EG 3 ml/m3 2 ml/m3
Exceptional areas:
3 ml/m3

During the definition of measures including safety measures, consideration must however be given not only to the occupational exposure limit values, but to other regulations, such as the provisions and requirements of the substance-specific Technical Rules for Hazardous Substances (TRGS). In response to a proposal by the AGS Committee for Hazardous Substances, the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) issued concentrations for certain substances for which binding European occupational exposure limit values exist. These concentrations describe the state of the art, or their violation necessitates further measures (Table 2).

Table 2: Concentrations issued by the BMAS

Substance Source Concentrations
Asbestos TRGS 517, 519 10,000 F/m3
Benzene TRGS 910 0.06 ml/m3 acceptable concentration
0.6 ml/m3 tolerable concentration
Lead and inorganic lead compounds TRGS 505 0.1 mg/m3
Wood dust TRGS 553 2 mg/m3

No values of this kind have been published as yet for vinyl chloride. Since the exposure level achieved in Germany is already lower in many areas, the German social accident insurance institutions recommend - even where the binding EU OEL is already complied with - that up-to-date good practice be followed to reduce the risk and exposure as far as possible (Art. 9, Sec. 2, GefStoffV), and that the former limit value valid in 2004 be observed. Possible substitutes for the substance must also be considered.


Dr Wolfgang Pflaumbaum

Staff function Hazardous substances

Tel: +49 2241 231-2712
Fax: +49 2241 231-2234