Criteria documents for foreign occupational exposure limits

Project No. BIA 7002


completed 05/1999


On suggestion of the German Committee for Hazardous Substances (AGS) a number of 155 foreign exposure limit values had been included in the German regulations relating to hazardous substances (TRGS 900) between 1996 and 1997. These limit values stem from countries where the level of safety and health protection at work is known to be high. Within the framework of the present research project origin, rationale and scientific background of these limit values were to be investigated. The available criteria documents illustrating the occupational medical and toxicological data had to be compiled.


The list of exposure limits published in the Federal Labour Gazette (Bundesarbeitsblatt) include references to the different countries of origin. On the basis of this information, foreign occupational health and safety organisations, in charge of setting exposure limits, were asked for the criteria documents. To ease future evaluation, the received documents - when available in English - were prepared for computer processing.


Out of the total number 155 exposure limit values included in the German regulation between 1996 and 1997, 91 stem from the United States, 89 of them from the American Conference of Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). This top position is followed by Denmark with 26 exposure limits, Sweden with 14, the Netherlands with twelve, Great Britain with five, Finland with four and eventually Japan with three limit values. For more than 80 % of the foreign limit values, criteria documents could be compiled which illustrate the occupational medical and toxicological data; these documents vary in terms of quality and quantity. The foreign exposure limits require a critical follow-up from the German side (especially by the German Committee for Hazardous Substances AGS) in the light of up- to-date scientific findings. Two publications were issued (c.v. "publications") which contain suggestions as to the completion and future updating of the list of foreign exposure limit values for the purpose of efficient workers protection. It can be shown that the many existing international entwinements between regulatory bodies in the field of occupational health and safety have already lead to a harmonisation of quality standards at high level. Nevertheless, world-wide co-operation in this domain must be improved and strengthened. The literature references of the criteria documents will be included in a BIA-bibliography; the latter contains the place and date of appearance of all scientific documents relating to exposure limit values and substance classifications applicable in Germany. It is planned to publish and regularly update this list to support the research work of medical experts and toxicologists involved in occupational health and safety, and of officials in charge of occupational disease matters and other interested parties.

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Financed by:
  • Berufsgenossenschaftliches Institut für Arbeitssicherheit - BIA
Research institution(s):
  • Fraunhofer-Institut für Toxikologie und Aerosolforschung
  • Hannover
  • Berufsgenossenschaftliches Institut für Arbeitssicherheit - BIA

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

Gefahrstoffe, Arbeitsbedingte Gesundheitsgefahren


Chemische Arbeitsstoffe, Grenzwert, Toxikologie

Description, key words:

TRGS 900, origin of foreign occupational exposure limit values in Germany, rationale for establishing exposure limits, criteria documents, German Commission for Hazardous Substances (AGS)