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New OSHA Resource: Annotated Permissible Exposure Limits Tables

Posted: November 15, 2013

OSHA has created a new web resource, the Annotated Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) Tables, which are designed to enable employers to voluntarily adopt newer, more protective workplace exposure limits.

While OSHA will continue to enforce mandatory permissible exposure limits, as established in the OSHA standards and regulations, such as formaldehyde, OSHA recognizes that the majority of its PELs are more than 40 years old and, "in many instances the mandatory limits are not sufficiently protective of employee health."

These tables do not change the present OSHA formaldehyde exposure limit of .75ppm for an eight-hour time weighted average, or the short term exposure limit of 2ppm for 15 minutes, which is the current formaldehyde standard governing allowable exposure in funeral home preparation rooms.

The Annotated PEL Tables provide a side by side comparison of OSHA PELs for general industry to the

  1. California Division of Occupational Safety and Health permissible exposure limits
  2. The National Institute for OSHA Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended exposure limits
  3. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Values

An explanation of this resource is available free on the OSHA website at

Formaldehyde is included in Table Z-1 of chemicals. In this entry, the OSHA and the California/OSHA permissible exposure limits are the same at 0.75ppm for an eight-hour time weighted average, and a short term exposure limit of 2 ppm for 15 minutes. The NIOSH recommended exposure limit given is .016ppm for a 10-hour time weighted average, with a 15 minute ceiling limit of 0.1 ppm. The ACGIH limit is given as a ceiling limit of 0.3 ppm for an eight-hour time weighted average, based solely on health factors.

If you have questions about the new PEL tables and are a member of NFDA, you may call the free NFDA OSHA Hotline for advice. Experts answering the NFDA OSHA Hotline can questions about compliance with federal and state OSHA regulations.

OSHA-related legal questions regarding PEL tables can be addressed to Edward M. Ranier, Esquire, NFDA OSHA and labor legal counsel, at 410-967-1812 or