Australia will introduce new Workplace Exposure Limits (WEL) as of December 1, 2026, marking a substantial advancement in occupational health and safety regulations. Transitioning from the existing Workplace Exposure Standards (WES) to WEL is expected to bolster worker protection against airborne contaminants. These revised limits will encompass a wide range of substances, including dust, fumes, gases, mists, and vapor forms, aiming to mitigate health risks elicited even at low concentrations. Here’s what businesses should keep in mind to gear up for these upcoming changes:


Key Changes and Implications

  1. Renaming and International Alignment

The terminology will shift from Workplace Exposure Standards (WES) to Workplace Exposure Limits (WEL) to underscore the importance of adhering to these limits. This change also brings Australia’s standards in line with international norms, fostering consistency and cooperation.

  1. Adjustments to Exposure Limits

The new regulations will include changes to the exposure limit values for various substances. This encompasses both stricter limit values in some cases and more lenient limits for other chemicals, as well as the introduction or elimination of specific limits.

  1. Enhanced Health Protection

The new WELs will be strictly enforced to ensure that no worker is exposed to harmful levels of airborne contaminants. Even at low concentrations, many substances that workers interact with can pose significant health risks.


Types of Exposure Limit values

The WEL framework includes three types of limits designed to protect workers from exposure to hazardous substances.

  1. Time-Weighted Average (TWA): This is an average concentration measured over an 8-hour workday, taking into account normal working hours. It represents the permissible exposure level for a worker over a standard workday.
  2. Short-Term Exposure Limit (STEL): This refers to an average concentration measured over a 15-minute period. STELs are set for substances that can cause acute effects from short-term exposure, allowing for brief periods of exposure that exceed the TWA, provided they do not occur more than four times a day and there is at least 60 minutes between exposures.
  3. Peak Limitation: This is the highest concentration of a substance that a worker can be exposed to over a very short duration, not exceeding 15 minutes. Peak limitations are particularly relevant for highly toxic substances that can cause severe health effects even with brief exposures.

In addition to these limits, the WEL framework addresses specific categories of substances:

  • Non-Threshold Genotoxic Carcinogens (NTGCs): Chemicals like acrylamide and benzene fall into this category. These substances are recognized as having no safe level of exposure due to their potential to cause genetic mutations and cancer. As such, any exposure must be minimized as much as possible.
  • Ototoxic Substances: These are chemicals that can exacerbate hearing loss when combined with noise exposure. Substances in this category include solvents, heavy metals, and certain pharmaceuticals. Employers must consider both chemical and noise expo sures together to effectively manage the risk of hearing damage.

These detailed exposure limits and categories are essential for ensuring comprehensive worker protection.


Preparation and Compliance

To ensure compliance with the new WELs, businesses need to prepare adequately during the transitional period ending on November 30, 2026. Employers must ensure that workers are not exposed to chemicals in amounts that exceed the new WELs for any airborne contaminants by conducting thorough risk assessments and implementing effective control measures. It is advisable for businesses to work with occupational health professionals, such as occupational hygienists, to accurately assess the potential impact of airborne contaminants and develop appropriate control measures. Additionally, businesses should use this transitional period to make necessary adjustments to Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) and ensure full compliance by the deadline.

To ensure compliance with the new Workplace Exposure Limits (WEL) effective from December 1, 2026, companies need to:

  • Understand the new limits and how they apply to their operations.
  • Perform comprehensive risk assessments to identify potential exposures.
  • Implement necessary control measures to manage and mitigate these risks.
  • Engage with occupational health professionals to ensure accurate assessments and appropriate safety measures.
  • Utilize the transitional period up to November 30, 2026, to make required SDS adjustments and ensure full compliance by the deadline.


Updating Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for New WELs

A crucial aspect of preparing for the new Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) is updating Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) to reflect the revised exposure limits. During the transitional period, businesses should review and update their SDSs to ensure compliance. This process may involve:

Identifying Chemicals: Catalog all chemicals used in operations and obtain the latest SDSs from suppliers or manufacturers.

Reviewing and Updating Sections:

  • Section 1: Ensure chemical names and identifiers are current and ensuring version numbers and revision dates have been updated accordingly.
  • Section 3: Revise ingredient disclosure, if necessary based on new workplace exposure limits.
  • Section 8: Update exposure limits and adjust PPE recommendations.
  • Section 15: Ensure regulatory references are up-to-date.


Communicating Changes: Share the updated SDSs to employees and provide necessary training on the changes.

The new WELs for airborne contaminants can be found on the Safe Work Australia website: Safe Work Australia – Workplace Exposure Limits for Airborne Contaminants:

By proactively preparing for these changes, companies can protect their employees’ health and ensure a seamless transition to the new regulatory requirements. For detailed information and updates, businesses should refer to resources provided by Safe Work Australia and other relevant regulatory bodies. Safe Work Australia plans to publish additional guidance to assist with the transition, so keep checking back for more information.


Contact Nexreg to ensure your Australia SDS information is up to date and compliant!