Comparison of South African occupational exposure limits for hazardous chemical substances with those of other countries
Various hazardous chemical substances are used daily as part of manufacturing and processing. Exposure to these hazardous chemical substances (HCSs) can cause adverse health effects in the exposed workers. Occupational exposure limits (OELs) are used to control exposure to these HCSs and thereby protect workers from the adverse effects that exposure may induce. The aim of this study was to compare South African list of OELs as contained in the Hazardous Chemical Substance Regulations (HCSR) to several developed and developing countries based on two aspects: (1) the number of substances that are selected and regulated by the lists of each country (2) and the overall level of the OELs set by the different countries and jurisdictions. Due to the nature and the large amount of data the study is divided into two parts. The first part is a comparison of South African OELs with nine developed countries and jurisdictions along with the Mine Health and Safety Act Regulation 22.9 (MHSR) of South Africa. The second comparison was conducted between South African and the four developing BRICS countries. BRICS is an acronym for: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, all are leading developing countries. Substance selection and coverage was compared by analysing the number of overlapping and uniquely regulated OELs that existed between countries. The over-all level of OELs was determined and quantified by using the statistical method, the geometric means of ratios. These ratios were compared in order to establish how the levels of OELs of the South African HCSR compare with the level of the various other countries. Results indicated that there are large and unsystematic differences between the selection of HCSs that are regulated by different countries and jurisdictions. Individual coverage and selection of HCSs between the various developing and developed countries and jurisdictions in the study was inconsistent and dissimilar. A high number of HCSs are regulated by only one of the various countries included in this study. Among the developed countries 20.8% of substances are uniquely regulated, whereas 46% of HCSs are regulated by only one of the various developing countries. According to the geometric means of ratios Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the only jurisdiction in a developed country that has a higher overall level of OELs when compared to South Africa as for the rest of the developed countries they all yielded a lower overall level of OELs. American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygiene (ACGIH) had the lowest overall level of OELs. When compared with the BRICS countries South Africa had a higher overall level of OELs. The average overall level of OELs differs substantially between the BRICS countries; Russia having the lowest, and Brazil having the highest overall limit when compared relative to South African HCSR. Strong similarities were found between South African HCSR and MHSR indicating national similarity. The South African OELs for HCSs have an overall higher level than the majority of developed and developing countries. Various factors may be responsible for these differences among countries and jurisdictions. These factors include, variations in scientific reasoning, the risk acceptance of the negative impact that various HCSs might induce and the time lags that countries have between updates. Further differences may be explained by the difference in consideration of socio-economical and practical feasibility of an OEL and the predominant industries in a country.
- Health Sciences