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Qualitative risk characterization and management of occupational hazards: control banding (CB): a literature review and critical analysis.

NIOSH 2009 Aug; :CD-ROM
The majority of chemical substances in commerce have no established occupational exposure limits (OELs). In the absence of established OELs, employers and workers often lack the necessary guidance on the extent to which occupational exposures should be controlled. A strategy to control occupational exposures that may have value when there are no relevant OELs is known as control banding (CB). CB is a qualitative strategy for assessing and managing hazards associated with chemical exposures in the workplace. The question about the utility of the CB strategy for workplaces in the United States has been raised, warranting a critical review of its concepts and applications. This report is the result of a review of the published literature and related proceedings on CB. The conceptual basis for CB is the grouping of chemical exposures according to similar physical and chemical characteristics, intended processes/handling, and anticipated exposure scenarios (amount of chemical used and how workers would be exposed). Based on these factors, appropriate control strategies (that is, risk management options) are determined for each of these groupings. In one of the least complex forms, a four-level hierarchy of risk management options for controlling exposures to chemicals includes: 1. good occupational hygiene practices, which may be supplemented by use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) 2. engineering controls, including local exhaust ventilation (LEV) 3. containment 4. seeking specialist advice To determine the appropriate control strategy, one must consider the characteristics of a particular chemical substance and the potential for exposure (based on quantity in use, volatility [for liquids], or dustiness [for solids], and the relative hazard as described in what is known as a risk phrase, or R-phrase). Determining potential exposures for airborne particulates or vapors involves characterizing the process or activity in which the chemical substance is used. Work processes help in assigning the chemical substance to a CB. These CBs provide guidance for various control options and recommendations for PPE based on a qualitative assessment of the chemical exposure. The published literature on CB revealed different models, each with varying levels of complexity and applicability. The utility of qualitative risk management strategies such as CB has been recognized by a number of international organizations. Widening interest in this strategy can be gauged by the growing literature describing elements of qualitative risk assessment and management strategies and in some cases, very well-developed models of practice. This report attempts to capture the state-of-the-science of CB as reflected in research and practice. From the published literature and information gleaned from proceedings of recent international workshops, symposia, and conferences on this subject, the following major themes related to CB have emerged: 1. Factors influencing the evolution of qualitative risk characterization and management of occupational hazards. 2. Strategies of practice. 3. Applicability and limitations of practice. 4. Needs for future research, evaluation, and validation These themes are based on interpretations of current studies and an understanding of the topic. By providing the appropriate background information and resources, this literature review can serve as a means to educate employers, workers, safety and health practitioners, and other audiences about the concepts of CB and to stimulate further dialogue about its potential usefulness in the United States. The scope of this document includes CB strategies, presented within the context of qualitative occupational risk management concepts. The risk management strategy associated with CB is characterized by selection and implementation of appropriate control solutions, often in the absence of OELs, to reduce work-related exposures that may lead to occupational disease, illness, and injury. The use of R-phrases or their equivalents in the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for Classification and Labeling of chemicals in CB is a useful practice, but it is not intended to replace OELs, exposure assessment, or classic Industrial Hygiene protocol (i.e., hierarchy of controls) on which CB is based. This review indicates that CB is a potentially valuable tool for risk management of some chemical agents and other occupational hazards; however, continued research and validation efforts are needed. Investigation and application of CB principles to other hazardous agents also appear warranted. If CB is to be useful in the United States, it is recommended that the following actions occur: 1. Increase awareness and standardization of concepts associated with CB. 2. Ensure validation of qualitative risk assessment and management strategies, tools, and control-focused solutions. 3. Coordinate efforts for developing, implementing, evaluating, and disseminating qualitative risk assessment and risk management strategies to improve awareness and utility of task-specific, hazard-control guidance. 4. Foster national and international coordination on applications for control-focused solutions for high-risk tasks, industries, and small businesses. 5. Consider CB models for broader application to address additional workplace hazards (e.g., more complex chemical exposures, dermal exposure hazards, ergonomic hazards, other physical hazards). The CB process should be expanded to include occupational safety components to address injury and illness prevention. 6. Incorporate economic analyses into the process of selecting exposure control methods, with the goal of developing a more complete understanding of the relationship between the hierarchy of controls and their cost effectiveness. In summary, this review and analysis have led to recognition of the following key messages: 1. Control banding is a potentially valuable tool for risk management of source chemical agents and other occupational hazards. 2. Despite limitations, in the absence of OELs, CB may be a useful strategy for assessing and controlling occupational hazards as part of a comprehensive safety and health program. 3. CB is not meant to be a substitute for OELs. 4. The use of CB does not alleviate the need for environmental monitoring and industrial hygiene expertise. 5. CB strategies may be useful for providing hazard control guidance to small and medium size enterprises (SMEs); larger businesses may find CB strategies of greatest utility for prioritizing hazards and for hazard communication. Additional development, evaluation, and discussion are required before widespread implementation of CB in the United States can be recommended. This document is intended to set the stage for that discussion. At this time, the existing toolkits for CB may not be appropriate for the United States and will need modification before being applied. Critical is the need for a dynamic system that incorporates changing factors over time for both control implementation and managerial oversight. It is recommended that a taskforce of safety and health professionals, labor and management, and government representatives be established to advance the research and development needs for CB in the United States.
Chemical-properties; Chemical-structure; Risk-analysis; Industrial-hygiene; Personal-protection; Personal-protective-equipment; Protective-equipment; Engineering-controls; Control-technology; Ventilation; Exhaust-ventilation
Publication Date
Document Type
Numbered Publication
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
(NIOSH) 2009-152c
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Construction; Healthcare and Social Assistance
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health