Permissible exposure limit
The permissible exposure limit (PEL or OSHA PEL) is a legal limit in the United States for exposure of an employee to a chemical substance or physical agent. For chemicals, the chemical regulation is usually expressed in parts per million (ppm), or sometimes in milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3). Units of measure for physical agents such as noise are specific to the agent. Permissible exposure limits are established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
A PEL is usually given as a time-weighted average (TWA), although some are short-term exposure limits (STEL) or ceiling limits. A TWA is the average exposure over a specified period of time, usually a nominal eight hours. This means that, for limited periods, a worker may be exposed to concentrations higher than the PEL, so long as the average concentration over eight hours remains lower.
A short-term exposure limit is one that addresses the average exposure over a 15-30 minute period of maximum exposure during a single work shift. A ceiling limit is one that may not be exceeded for any period of time, and is applied to irritants and other materials that have immediate effects.
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration
- Recommended exposure limit
- OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits site (includes list of PEL values, and legal references)
- 1988 OSHA PEL Project Documentation: List by Chemical Name Available from NIOSH
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