There are a series of steps involved in setting OELs.
Firstly, the European Commission decides which substances need occupational exposure limits. The decisions on priority substances are discussed in the tripartite Working Party on Chemicals with Commission representatives, experts from Member States and representatives of employer and worker organisations.
Secondly, DG EMPL requests ECHA to provide a scientific opinion on the specific substances (Steps 1-2 in the process chart).
Following the request from DG EMPL, ECHA prepares a scientific report for its Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) based on the available scientific data and any relevant information collected through a 90-day call for evidence.
The scientific report is subject to a 60-day open consultation. RAC then develops its opinion based on a review of ECHA’s scientific report and the information provided during the consultation. ECHA’s scientific report becomes an integral part of RAC’s opinion and forms an annex to the opinion. The adopted final RAC opinion is then forwarded to DG EMPL.
European Commission’s role
DG EMPL will discuss RAC’s report in the tripartite Working Party on Chemicals. This working party prepares a draft opinion on the proposed occupational exposure limit, which is then presented to the tripartite Advisory Committee on Safety and Health for adoption (Step 3).
In the end, the Commission adopts a legislative proposal. For binding OELs, this happens through the ordinary legislative procedure for adoption by the Council and the European Parliament. For indicative OELs, it happens through a Commission directive.
Binding OELs under the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive or the Chemical Agents Directive provide a minimum level of protection for all workers in the EU. Member States must set a corresponding binding limit that does not exceed the EU value.
Indicative OELs under the Chemical Agents Directive are health-based limits. They are established for substances for which it is possible to set a level where there is no risk to workers’ health. Member States must establish a corresponding national OEL value in accordance with national legislation and practice, taking the EU value into account.
In addition, for certain policy initiatives, the Commission will consult with social partners at EU level in accordance with the social policy provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.