E-Limit tool makes it easier to find exposure limits

The E-Limit tool gives workers, employers, and occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals easy access to exposure limits for B.C. 

Photo of Industrial welder with torch and protective helmet.

Photo credit: gettyimages.ca/Kerkez

An exposure limit is “the maximum allowed airborne concentration for a particular substance from which nearly all workers are believed to experience no adverse health effects over a working lifetime.” In other words, it’s the maximum limit for safe use.

Let’s say a B.C. company is considering a new brand of paint to use in a manufacturing process. The employer would likely ask the joint occupational health and safety committee to find out more information about the chemicals in it. The workers and managers on the joint committee start with the safety data sheet for the paint and look for the chemicals listed on it.

For each of these chemicals, there is an exposure limit. Knowing these limits is part of assessing risks and being sure workers are protected. (Read more in my post How much is too much chemical exposure at work?)

Getting this information is now a lot easier, thanks to WorkSafeBC’s E-Limit search tool. E-Limit is a searchable database of exposure limits in B.C. (Each province in Canada sets its own exposure limits.) The tool includes more than 800 substances that are provided in the Table of Exposure Limits for Chemical and Biological Substances.

To find out more about how the tool is being used, I spoke with Jeanette Campbell, a senior occupational hygienist with WorkSafeBC’s Risk Analysis Unit. Jeanette is part of the team that developed and tested E-Limit.

Find information about health hazards

Workers, employers and OHS consultants often want to know what the B.C. exposure limit is for substances. They also ask why the exposure limit is set where it is, and what the pertinent regulatory requirements are.

Before E-Limit, it was a complex process to find information for a chemical like carbon monoxide. You’d need to search a guideline online to find the exposure limit for carbon monoxide. If there were additional requirements, you would also need to know what sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation apply. Finding the health effects required a different resource altogether.

With the E-Limit tool, now you can find all that information in one location. See more information about exposure limits from WorkSafeBC.

In the past, Jeanette was a WorkSafeBC occupational hygiene officer. “From an officer’s perspective, it’s really handy when you’re talking to stakeholders about a particular substance. I can just type the chemical or its CAS Number into the tool and get the B.C. exposure limit and information that lets me know whether it may cause cancer, adverse reproductive effects, or is a sensitizer.”

The E-Limit tool has been publicly available since the Fall of 2021. Mark Teo, a WorkSafeBC senior policy advisor, leads the E-Limit tool project, and continues to make updates so that it better meets the needs of workers and employers.

Thanks to Jeanette for answering all my questions. Knowing exposure limits helps to maintain a safe work environment and can play an important part in preventing occupational disease.

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