Occupational Exposure Limits in Australia

Every country has its own legal system and within that system its own occupational safety laws. For people not familiar with these laws, finding the relevant occupational exposure limits (OELs) can be time consuming.  This blog recently provided an article with links for readers to find occupational exposure limits in Canada, and compared these to the US OSHA Limits. This article provides similar information for Australia.

Unlike the United States which has a strong federal government and relatively weak states, in Australia the opposite is true. The provinces are considered co-sovereign states with the federal government; and the territories (though under the eyes of the federal government), also create their own laws. However, all the six states and several territories collaborated through an organization called Safe Work Australia to develop a common set of OELs and a model occupational statute and associated regulations that the states and territories can adopt.

Occupational Exposure Limits

Safe Work has created an on-line database for occupational exposure limits, which allows chemicals to be searched by name or CAS number. The complete list of OELs is also available for download as a pdf. The OEL for some representative compounds are shown below and for the most part they are fairly similar to those used in the US.

                   Australia                    US-OSHA                ACGIH TLV
EtO          1 ppm (8 hr TWA)      1 ppm (8 hr TWA)      1 ppm (8 hr TWA)
Glut.         0.1 ppm peak              n/a                              0.05 ppm ceiling
H2O2       1 ppm (8 hr TWA)      1 ppm (8 hr TWA)      1 ppm (8 hr TWA)
Ozone      0.1 ppm                      0.1 ppm (8 hr TWA)   0.05 – 0.2 ppm

1) TWA = time weighted average, peak = ceiling = maximum permissible exposure at any time. EtO = ethylene oxide, H2O2 = hydrogen peroxide, Glut. = glutaraldehyde

2) Regulations are always subject to change and to the readers should verify that the above information is correct before relying on this information.

Work Safe has also developed a guide on the application of workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants (exposure standards) in the workplace. 


Occupational Safety Statutes and Regulations

The federal government and all of the states and territories, except for Victoria, have adopted the model statute and regulations. As with most common law countries, the legislature passes a broad act or statute that empowers a government agency to then develop more specific regulations. The statutes and regulations are listed below as a reference but will not discussed further in this article.

Work Health and Safety Act 2011

Model Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011

While Victoria’s statute is different from the other states, its occupational laws are generally compatible.

The Victoria Occupational Safety and Health Act of 2004

The Victoria – Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007