An IH/OEHS professional interacts with occupational exposure banding (OEB) in situations where they must make health-based risk management decisions in the absence of occupational exposure limits (OELs). While OEBs are provisional, OELs are official, authoritative standards created by recognized occupational health and worker protection bodies to protect workers’ health.
How do OEBs affect me as an IH/OEHS professional?
The number of chemicals, solutions, and products on the market far exceeds available OELs. According to the EPA, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Substance Inventory contains over 85,000 chemicals commercially available in the U.S., but only about 1,000 of those have been assigned an authoritative OEL. This means that if you are managing chemical exposures in your IH/OEHS career, it is likely that you will have to make health-based risk management decisions quickly and in the absence of much information about a chemical. OEBs provide a starting point and framework for making these decisions when OELs are absent.
Occupational exposure banding provides a framework to help protect worker health from potential chemical exposures even when certain information on the chemical is lacking. Although an OEB is not a substitute for an OEL, creating an OEB is a step towards safeguarding workers from the chemical’s effects and may also help occupational health bodies prioritize the chemical in question for OEL development.
By going through this process, you are providing additional information for others to help them (and you!) make better-informed decisions in protecting your coworkers and communities from chemical hazards.
AIHA provides several resources to help you understand OEBs - no matter where you are in your professional journey - and the process to help you make informed, safe decisions in your risk assessments.