Following the publication by the European Commission (EC) of its proposal for the revised benzene Occupational Exposure Limits (OEL), the industry has already started to develop implementation plans to comply with the value and the Cefic Aromatics Producers’ Association (APA) and Concawe have written guidelines to help refineries and petrochemical sites do so.

The EC proposal sets a revised benzene OEL of 0.5 ppm within two years and 0.2 ppm within four year following its publication in the official journal of the EU. It is now being discussed for adoption by the European Council and Parliament. Nowadays, the exposure level to benzene is already in most areas and during most tasks below the binding OEL of 1 ppm.  In the Netherlands, a 0.2 ppm OEL is already in force and several European countries apply an OEL of 0.6 ppm or 0.5 ppm. The guidance document will help companies implement extra measures to ensure an exposure level below 0.2 ppm in all areas and for all tasks. It will require both significant investments and operational changes to comply with the revised OEL and some of them will only be possible during turnarounds that take place once every 4 to 6 years. The document provides guidelines on how to develop an implementation plan.

The implementation of a lower OEL will better protect workers’ health as benzene is a carcinogenic substance. Benzene is key to many industrial processes as it is used as an intermediate in the production of plastics, resins, synthetic fibers, rubber lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides.

For more information, please read the APA guidance document HERE.