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Permissible Exposure Limits

Clean air is critical for a healthy work environment. Basic guidelines are in place to determine safe levels of exposure to harmful substances in the air, so workers can stay in good health. Permissible Exposure Limits, sometimes referred to simply as PELs, are one such set of guidelines. Their intent is to protect people from the adverse health effects of dangerous chemicals.

Permissible Exposure Limits & Indoor Air Quality  

The PELs are a set of legal limits for exposure of an employee to a chemical substance in a work setting. It was created to protect workers who operate in hazardous environments. Most PELs are for air contaminants that may be inhaled by workers or absorbed through the skin. By maintaining air quality that falls within standards of PELs, employers mitigate negative effects of indoor workplace air contaminants.

Permissible exposure limits outline the following:

  • Recommended exposure limits to nearly 500 harmful substances
  • Formulas on how to accurately calculate exposure limits to a mixture of substances
  • Maximum daily exposure to a specific substance allowed in the air over 8 hours

Who sets the standards for PELs?

PELs were created by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 1971 in the United States. The calculation standards are originally based on research from the 1950's and 1960's. Recent data indicates that these calculations need to be updated to meet more modern standards. For example, there are thousands of chemicals in the workplace that may not be covered in the PELs.

Why Do PELs Matter?

If an employee is not sufficiently protected from chemicals or damaging air pollutants at work, the long-term consequences can be severe. By using the PELs as a starting point, employers should be able to make reasonable decisions about the amount of exposure that’s acceptable on their worksites.

It all boils down to the same thing — air quality and your safety. By learning these guidelines and understanding their value, you become familiar with the universal language of safety.

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