Historically, legal and administrative exposure levels were set by the Dutch government (see history below). However, new Dutch occupational health & safety legislation was enacted at the end of 2006 in order to “stimulate” and intensify employers’ and employees’ responsibility for occupational health & safety policies. An additional goal was to reduce and simplify existing legislation. This is in line with other legislative developments (e.g. REACH), where responsibility likewise shifts from government to industry. The changes in the Dutch law on labour conditions are effective as of 1st January 2007.
As a result, employers and employees can now set most of the occupational exposure limits (OELs) themselves. Only 150 legal (public) OEL values remain. For these 150 OELs, the “Subcommissie MAC-waarden” and the “Commissie Arbeidsomstandigheden” of the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER) have provided their general advice with regard to the choices of substances for which a legal (public) limit value will be determined, and to the actual limit value itself. Currently, emphasis is placed upon the private limit values, and additional legal (public) limit values are set if necessary. The starting points are the health-based limit values.
To assist employers and employees in meeting these new obligations, the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER) has asked a consortium to develop a guideline which directs companies to options for the safe handling of chemicals in their specific situations (Leidraad).
In the Netherlands, two types of OELs existed in the past, with differing bases and status:
The legally binding OELs are based upon a health-based recommended occupational exposure level, but also take account of the socio-economic feasibility of that value. The OELs are levels which, in order for workers to be protected, must be observed at all times. The Labour Inspectorate is responsible for monitoring.
A standard programme consisting of three steps (the “three-step” procedure) sets legally binding OELs:
An annual work agenda is set out by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment for substances to be entered in the "three-step" procedure for the setting of limit values.
Administrative OELs are not legally binding. They are regulated in a policy rule based on the working condition regulations. The values are an interpretation of the legal requirement for workers to be protected against harm to their health. The Labour Inspectorate therefore considers these values to be levels that should in any case not be exceeded.
Following a broad check by the MAC values sub-commission, these OELs are adopted from other Member States of the European Union or are TLVs from the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH, USA). Should any doubt exist concerning the quality of the health basis of the value, the substance can be placed on the working programme for the “three-step” procedure.
Limit values/The Netherlands: Dutch Legal Public Limit Values (Nationale wettelijke publieke grenswaarden). Dutch Law on Labour conditions (incl. latest amendments as of 28th December 2006); Official Journal (Staatscourant) 28 December 2006, No. 252/p. 23