Testing and Monitoring update - January 2020

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New and revised exposure limits published

HSE guidance EH40/2005 (Workplace exposure limits) has been updated to include the 13 new and revised workplace exposure limits (WELs) as introduced by the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (EU) 2017/2398 amending Directive (2004/37/EC).

There are reductions to existing limits for hardwood dusts (including mixed dusts), chromium (VI) compounds, refractory ceramic fibres, vinyl chloride monomer, ethylene oxide, 1,2-epoxypropane, acrylamide, 2-nitropropane, o-toluidine, 1,3-butadiene and hydrazine.  

In addition, ethylene oxide has been assigned a skin notation. The limit for respirable crystalline silica remains at 0.1 mg/m3 but it is now listed as a carcinogen where generated as a result of a work process. A new exposure limit (1 ppm, 8h time-weighted average) for the carcinogen bromoethylene has been introduced.

Where substances are listed as carcinogens then exposures should be controlled to as low as reasonably practicable.

These revised limits may mean that you need to re-evaluate your control measures or working practices.

HSE can assist with your monitoring requirements, advise you on ventilation specifications and provide occupational hygiene consultancy to help you manage exposure to these substances.

We can also provide biological monitoring for substances such as chromium and acrylamide, in cases where multiple routes of exposure may occur.

Urine BM

Biological monitoring for isocyanates

Biological monitoring for isocyanates is one of our most frequently requested assays.

Despite significant progress in the motor vehicle repair sector (due to an HSE awareness-raising intervention), isocyanates remain one of the leading causes of occupational asthma in Great Britain.

Biological monitoring is a simple way to check that exposure controls and working practices are effective. To explain the process, Kate Jones of the Biological Monitoring team at HSE has published a “How To Do It” article in Occupational Medicine.

In the article, Kate talks through the practicalities of undertaking sampling as well as providing case studies.

Test Chamber

Peracetic acid

Last year a case report published in ‘Occupational Medicine’ linked occupational asthma to the use of peracetic acid (PAA) in combination with hydrogen peroxide (HP) in the disinfection of endoscopes. 

The use of these agents has increased as hospitals seek to move away from aldehyde-based disinfectants, which were a significant cause of respiratory sensitisation. Such PAA-HP combinations can also be found in some airborne disinfection (fogging) products for room treatments. 

Given this new case report, evaluation of exposures during disinfection processes may be prudent.

HSE can provide occupational hygiene consultancy to help you manage worker exposure to these substances. We can also provide determination of airborne peracetic acid concentrations and have also evaluated a real-time device for PAA measurement.

Additionally our microbiological services can assess the biocidal efficacy of  fumigation systems.


Protecting Welder's Health - New Breathe Freely Seminar

Following the recent reclassification of all welding fume as carcinogenic, HSE has issued a safety alert about the change in enforcement expectations for mild steel welding.

The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) is to run a Breathe Freely in Manufacturing seminar on 19th February in Birmingham.

HSE have been significantly involved in the BOHS campaign to raise awareness, including developing the Welding Control Selector Tool, designed to provide guidance on welding fume control for common welding tasks. Other events are planned in Manchester (19 March 2020), Durham (13 May 2020) and Bristol (18 June 2020).

HSE provides a wealth of resources relating to welding, including research into effective control and on-gun extraction, and our additional solutions can provide welding fume monitoring and consultancy on exposure control and extraction.

Relevant HSE training courses booking now:


HSE Inspectors' Guide to Risk Assessment - 12 February 2020

LEV - Practical Management of Local Exhaust Ventilation Control Systems - 20 February 2020

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) - 25 - 26 February 2020

Asbestos - Managing asbestos in domestic* and non-domestic premises - 11 March 2020

COSHH Training - Practical Assessment and Control - 18-19 March 2020

HSE Inspectors' Guide to Risk Assessment - 25 March 2020


Where to find us in 2020!


Health and Wellbeing Show Birmingham NEC, 10-11 March

Health and Safety Event Birmingham NEC, 28-30 April

Safety and Health Expo ExCel London, 19-21 May



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