The Austrian system recognises two types of occupational exposure limits:
A MAK value represents the maximum allowable concentration in the workplace of a working material in the form of a gas, vapour, or airborne matter. MAK values are specified for healthy people of working age. According to current knowledge, employees are not exposed to unacceptable nuisance, nor are their health impaired, if the MAK values are observed. Under certain circumstances, however, such as those of pregnant or breastfeeding employees, unacceptable nuisance or health impairments cannot be ruled out even where the MAK values are observed.
A TRK value represents the concentration of a dangerous working material in the form of a gas, vapour, or airborne matter in the workplace atmosphere which can be achieved by means of state-of-the-art technology. TRK values are specified only for dangerous substances for which health-based MAK values cannot be specified. Compliance with TRK values reduces the risk of adverse health effects but cannot exclude them.
Occupational exposure limit values are published in the Austrian OEL Regulation (“Grenzwerteverordnung”). They are legally binding. Infringements can be punished.
The Austrian Occupational Safety Advisory Council (“Arbeitnehmerschutzbeirat”) advises the Austrian Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection on questions of health and safety at work, and therefore also OEL issues. Among the Council's members are representatives of the Social Partners, the Compensation Board, the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection (i.e. Labour Inspection), and other ministries concerned with the issues discussed.
The Occupational Safety Advisory Council has established a “Subcommittee on OELs”, which recommends revised/new occupational exposure limit values.
Members are nominated by various interest groups, including employers and the trade unions. The committee consults experts in the field of occupational safety and health, occupational hygienists, epidemiologists, occupational physicians, etc.
Revised/new OELs, including those implementing EU IOELVs, are proposed by either the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection, social partners, or members of the subcommittee itself. The Central Labour Inspectorate (“Zentral-Arbeitsinspektorat”) chairs the meetings.
The committee can take case-by-case decisions after having evaluated existing criteria documents from partner organisations, e.g. the German “MAK Commission” or the AGS (Ausschuss für Gefahrstoffe), the Nordic Expert Group and the SCOEL. It also advises on implementation of EU IOELVs. Socio-economic aspects including technical feasibility in practice are also taken into consideration.
Based upon the discussions, a draft Regulation on OELVs is formulated and presented to the Occupational Safety Advisory Council. The recommendation of the Occupational Safety Advisory Council, i.e. a revised draft regulation, is presented for public consultation by the Ministry. Social partners, ministries, official institutions and interest groups can submit final comments, which in most cases the ministry takes into account. Finally, the revised regulation is published in the Federal Law Gazette of the Republic of Austria (“Bundesgesetzblatt für die Republik Österreich”).
Püringer, J.: Luftgrenzwerte für chemische Arbeitsstoffe. In: Chocholous, J.; Hinger, A.; Winker, N. (Eds.): Ausbildung zur Sicherheitsfachkraft. Vol. 3. Bohmann Druck und Verlag Gesellschaft, Vienna (2006), pp. 333-357
Walters, G.; Grotzki, K.; Walters, S.: The role of occupational exposure limits in the health and safety systems of the EU Member States. HSE Research Report 172, London (2003)