In Finland, there are two kinds of statutory occupational exposure limit (OEL) values, indicative and binding. The binding values derive from the binding limits set by the European Commission under EU legislation, and are confirmed in Finland by the Council of State by decrees according to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (738/2002, Section 38(3)). For the indicative OEL values, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health confirms a list of concentrations of impurities in workplace air known to be harmful (HTP values) and a list of corresponding limit values for biological exposure indicators by a Decree on Concentrations Known to be Harmful, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (738/2002, Section 38(4)). The HTP-values are intended to be taken into account when assessing the quality of workplace air, employees’ exposure and the significance of measurement results.
The HTP values are averaged over a reference period of 8 hours (time-weighted average) or 15 minutes (short-term exposure). Air concentrations corresponding to the short-term values should not occur more often than once an hour and altogether, at maximum, four times in an 8-hour work shift. It is also possible to set ceiling values for substances that may cause severe effects after very short exposures, including toxicity, irritation, drowsiness and narcotic effects. Exposure to these ceiling values should not occur at all during a work shift. The HTP values may be supplemented, as appropriate, by further notations (skin, noise).
The HTP values are derived by a tripartite committee, called the HTP Section, which works under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health’s Advisory Committee on Preparation of Occupational Safety Regulations (in Finnish: Työturvallisuussäännöksiä valmistelevan neuvottelukunnan (TTN) HTP-jaosto). Initially, recommendations for the limit values are prepared by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s scientific experts. The recommendations are based on the available toxicological-medical data and general human health risk assessment principles. Assessment (safety) factors are used on a case-by-case basis, when appropriate, to account for uncertainties in the data. The documents are then reviewed by the HTP section, where also socio-economic criteria and limitations of existing measuring technologies may be considered. There is no public consultation, but the background documents may be distributed for relevant stakeholders for commenting.
The background documents, which are written in Finnish, are published on the website of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Finland. In addition to the decrees, the current OEL value lists are enclosed as annexes to a publication, which appears in print in the publication series of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in the two official languages, Finnish and Swedish. The publication is also freely available online. New and revised OELs are published approximately every two years.