New Workplace Exposure Limits (WEL) to Apply from 1 December 2026

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People working in a workplace after workplace exposure limits

Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) ministers have announced new Workplace Exposure Limits (WEL), which will be applicable from 1 December 2026.

The Workplace Exposure Limits (WEL) an upgrade to the existing Workplace Exposure Standards (WES), which are currently applicable in Australia, to control the level of airborne contaminants.

Workplace air quality is a serious concern as it is known to impact workers’ health and quality of work. It is tightly regulated globally, and appropriate steps are taken to maintain it within certain limits that should not be exceeded. Employers must show compliance with these standards to ensure the safety of their workers and environment. Australia also follows the same practices. 

While WES has sufficiently served for nearly 30 years, WHS ministers have now realised some limitations. They have done extensive work and consultations with experts to revise the WES and propose WEL.

WES or WEL are very important for employers and persons conducting business or undertaking (PCBUs). They must comply with the mentioned exposure limits to avoid regulation issues and maintain the safety of the work environment.

This article will discuss all the necessary details regarding WEL, such as why it is necessary to establish WEL, how WEL and WES are different, and why employers need to stay updated about WEL. 

What Are Exposure Limits?

Exposure limits are the highest point of medically safe limits for airborne contaminants, and when exceeded, they are dangerous for health and the work environment. Employers must take account of these exposure limits, regularly monitor air quality, and ensure the levels don’t exceed the limit within their workplace.

Whether indoor or outdoor, workplaces possess a risk of airborne contaminants, which impact worker’s health and the quality of work. The list of airborne contaminants includes mist, gas, fumes, dirt, or dust from substances used in workplaces or produced during the work process. To control the levels of airborne pollutants, maintain air quality, and ensure workers’ health and safety, countries worldwide set chemical exposure limits on an administrative level. Persons conducting business or undertaking (PCBUs) must comply with these limits and take measures to ensure air quality standards in their workplaces.

PCUBs formulate various workplace strategies to maintain airborne contaminant exposure limits, whether by changing the working process or cleaning the airborne contaminants to comply with government regulations.

Quick Insight Into History And Role Of The Workplace Exposure Standards (WES), Australia

As for any other country in the world, Australia designed standards set limits to manage airborne contaminants. Safe Work Australia in Australia has a comprehensive document enlisting more than 600 hazardous chemicals that pose a safety hazard to the workplace environment. Click here to access the WES pdf

WES was introduced in 1995 to control hazardous airborne contaminants. Scientists and WHS ministers periodically updated the list of chemicals and set the exposure limits based on scientific knowledge and best practices applicable in the region.

For years, the values have provided a guideline for workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants, saving workers from potential health risks. WES has successfully offered safer working environments for employees in various commercial and industrial sectors, keeping them from negative health effects.

After decades of using the document, the WHS ministers realised the need to revise the standards, add new contaminants, and rename WES to WEL to align with the internationally used terms. The WHS ministers made these decisions after extensive work and consultations among WHS ministers.

The New Workplace Exposure Limits (WEL) In Australia

WHS ministers announced that the new Workplace Exposure Limits (WEL) would replace the existing WES from December 1, 2026. WEL is an upgrade to WES, and it will be adopted throughout the country following its implementation into the WHS laws of the Common Wealth, states, and territories. All PCBUs will follow the WEL to ensure that no person in the workplace is exposed to airborne pollutants above the exposure limit. 

Implementation of WEL

The WHS ministers decided to upgrade WES to WEL in April 2024, but implementation will begin on December 1, 2026, after a transition period of almost two years. On December 1, 2026, WEL will become part of WHS law, after which all PCBUs will follow it to keep their workplaces safe. 

During the transition period, PCBUs will continue to follow the WES list as a reference to set the maximum exposure list for hazardous chemicals or substances. 

The Change In Name

The most noticeable change is the name WES, which is changed to WEL: Workplace Exposure Standards to Workplace Exposure Limits. WHS ministers did it to emphasise that there are no standards but exposure limits that mustn’t be exceeded.

The Difference Between WES And WEL

Although most of the content between WES and WEL remains the same, WHS ministers have introduced a few changes. The changes include increasing and reducing exposure limits for a few chemicals, adding a few chemicals, and removing some from the existing WES list. You can see changes between WES and WEL here.

As the WHS ministers base these changes on extensive research, they have requested an impact analysis from Work Safe Australia on the proposed changes of some chemicals/ substances before updating their limits in WEL. The names include:

  • Respirable crystalline silica
  • Benzene
  • Formaldehyde 
  • Chlorine 
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Hydrogen sulphide
  • Hydrogen cyanide
  • Titanium dioxide 
  • Copper (fumes, dusts and mists) 

What Employers Need To Do About WEL Update?

If you are an employer, you must understand the importance of WEL in the workplace. WEL will be implemented on December 1, 2026. Employers must familiarise themselves with the updated WEL list, check if the current exposure limits at their workplace are in accordance with it, and, if not, take measures to comply with it. They must view the WEL list before implementation so they will not face any problems afterwards.

You must consider a few things as an employer before the transition period ends. 

1. Prepare to Adopt WEL

Employers must prepare to adopt WEL in their workplaces. They must monitor their workplace’s chemical or substance level and update the monitoring and control measures to stay aligned with the WEL. They must also meet with air quality maintenance experts to develop strategies to minimise exposure to airborne contaminants.

2. Identification of the Hazard 

If you are a new employer or, for any reason, aren’t aware of the airborne contaminants within your workplace, it’s crucial to identify them during the transition period. You must refer to the WEL list to see if you are using or generating any of the hazards mentioned. If you know the hazard, you must check the WEL list to see if its limits have changed. 

3. Assessment of the Hazard 

You must conduct air monitoring to assess the levels of hazards in the workplace. This is necessary to ensure no exposure risks for any worker to airborne contaminants in a concentration above the WEL list. 

4. Controlling the Hazard 

If any airborne contaminant levels exceed the WEL, you must implement appropriate controls. You must seek to eliminate airborne contaminants, but if this isn’t practically possible, the employer must minimise the risk by following control measures.  Reviewing and testing the control measures to check their efficacy is also necessary. 

5. Maintaining Hazard Levels 

You require continuous monitoring of the hazard levels and testing of control measures to maintain hazard levels in the workplace. Maintaining the chemicals within the set limits protects the workers and saves the employer from regulatory issues. 

As an employer, you must be updated regarding the changes in WES and implementation of Workplace Exposure Limits (WEL) to ensure your workplace meets the new criteria. The steps are required to ensure safe working conditions and the safety of workers at the workplace.

Euromate Pure Air is here to assist and guide you during the transition. Talk to us today for cost-effective business solutions that comply with the latest Workplace Exposure Limits.