The Interdepartmental Commission for Maximum Admissible Concentrations and Intensities for Agents Harmful to Health in the Working Environment (Międzyresortowa Komisja do Spraw Najwyższych Dopuszczalnych Stężeń i Natężeń Czynników Szkodliwych dla Zdrowia w Środowisku Pracy) was set up in 1983 by the Minister of Labour and Social Policy together with the Minister of Health and Social Welfare in Poland. The secretariat of the Commission is based at the Central Institute for Labour Protection – National Research Institute (available at www.ciop.pl).
The Interdepartmental Commission includes representatives of the health and labour administration, various sectors of industry, trade unions, employers and research institutes in the fields of occupational medicine and occupational safety. The main responsibility of the Commission is to consider, evaluate and adopt exposure limits for chemical and physical agents in the working environment and to submit them to the Minister of Labour and Social Policy, who is responsible for introducing these values into legislation. Moreover, the Commission proposes methods for air sampling and analysis which are standardised by the Polish Committee for Standardisation and, if sufficient data are available, also the biological tolerance limits promulgated by the Minister of Health.
The Commission has appointed a Group of Experts for Chemical and Dust Agents, a Group of Experts for Biological Agents and a Group for Physical Factors. These groups consist of independent experts in the fields of toxicology, occupational medicine and occupational hygiene. These experts prepare health-based documentations for recommended exposure limits, supported by analytical procedures, recommendations with respect to pre-employment, periodical medical examinations and contraindications to exposure, and if possible, biological tolerance limits. Documentations prepared by the experts are thoroughly reviewed at the meetings of the Group concerned, during which the recommended values undergo careful scientific evaluation. For carcinogenic agents, the Commission has adopted the socially accepted risk at the level 10-4 to 10-3.
The proposed Maximum Admissible Concentration (MAC) and Maximum Admissible Intensity (MAI) values are then evaluated by the Interdepartmental Commission and adopted by the Minister of Labour and Social Policy. Following approval by the Minister, the MAC and MAI lists are published in the Polish law gazette Dziennik Ustaw. They are hygiene standards valid for all branches of the national economy. The MACs for chemicals and MAIs for physical agents are revised or reformulated every 2 - 3 years.
To date, more than 500 MAC values have been set for chemical substances, some 20 for dusts and about a dozen for physical agents (Ordinance of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy on the maximum admissible concentrations and intensities of agents harmful to health in the working environment, Dziennik Ustaw 2002, No 217, item 1833, changes Dziennik Ustaw 2005, No 212, item 1769; Dziennik Ustaw 2007, No 161, item 1142; Dziennik Ustaw 2009, No 105, item 873; Dziennik Ustaw 2010, No 141, item 950). MAI values exist for the following physical agents in the working environment: noise and ultrasonic noise, hand-arm and whole-body vibrations, hot and cold microclimate, infrared, ultraviolet and laser radiation and electromagnetic fields for all frequencies in the range 0 Hz – 300 GHz.
According to the type of effect, the following categories of MAC values are used:
In the Polish system, the MAC and MAI values are documented quarterly in the Interdepartmental Commission’s publication ‘Podstawy i Metody Oceny Środowiska Pracy’ (Principles and Methods of Assessing the Working Environment), which makes it possible for occupational physicians and sanitary inspectors to become acquainted with the problem.
The specified MAC and MAI values constitute guidelines for the designers of new and updated technologies and products, criteria for the evaluation of working conditions, and a basis for planned preventive activities in industrial plants. Industrial plants are obliged to assess concentrations of toxic substances specified in the list of MAC and MAI values on a scale and frequency required to determine the degree of workers’ exposure, and to keep records of these assessments. An improvement of working conditions is the aim of these activities.
The Interdepartmental Commission also proposes Biological Limit Values for exposure-related biomarkers; these serve only as recommended values, however. They are published in a Commission booklet ‘Czynniki szkodliwe w środowisku pracy – wartości dopuszczalne’ (Harmful agents in the working environment – limit values). The Commission has established Biological Limit Values for more than 30 chemical substances. In Poland, only workers exposed to lead in the working environment are required to undergo blood tests, to determine how much lead is present in their blood – this requirement is specified by the regulation of the Minister of Health and Social Welfare of May 30, 1996 governing medical examinations of workers, the scope of preventive health care and expert medical opinions for purposes provided for in the Labour Code.