The obligation to establish national occupational exposure limits, imposed by Council Directive 98/24/EC on EU Member States, led to the creation in 1995 of an Occupational Exposure Limits Work Group by the National Institute of Safety and Hygiene at Work (in Spanish: Instituto Nacional de Seguridad e Higiene en el Trabajo – INSHT). This work group issued a first document which was published in 1999 and has been followed by annual updates.
The transposition of this Directive into Spanish law by Royal Decree 374/2001 takes those values published by the INSHT as the appropriate reference values for those chemical agents that do not have regulatory limit values. In reality, this constitutes a mandate for the Institute to continue with this task, regularly updating the limits in order to adapt them to scientific and technical progress.
This working group reviews series of documents issued by the Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits (SCOEL), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), the Dutch Expert Committee for Occupational Standards (DECOS), the MAK Commission of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), and other appropriate scientific sources.
The findings of the working group are sent for review and approval to the National Commission for Health and Safety at Work (Comisión Nacional de Seguridad y Salud en el Trabajo – CNSST), a professional body that advises public administrations on the formulation of preventive policies. The CNSST is made up of the state government administration, the Autonomous Region government administrations and the most representative trade union and business organizations, which constitute its four representative groups.
The Spanish OEL list contains time-weighted average values for a whole work shift (valores límite ambientales para la exposición diaria – VLA-ED) as well as short-time excursion limits (valores límite ambientales para la exposición de corta duración – VLA-EC) and biological exposure limits (valores límite biológicos – VLB). Moreover, several toxicological criteria documents have been published in this context.
All the Spanish OELs published and annually updated by INSHT serve as technical references for the assessment of occupational exposure and are obligatory under Spanish legislation on chemical agents (Royal Decree 374/2001 transposing Directive 98/24/EC).