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NIOSH Posts Draft Control Banding Document for Public Review & Comment


NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 245-0645
May 14, 2008

On May 13, 2008, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) posted a draft document about Control Banding on its web page for public review and comment.

The draft document, Qualitative Risk Characterization and Management of Occupational Hazards (Control Banding [CB]): A Literature Review and Critical Analysis, describes the evolution and concepts of control banding, a qualitative approach for assessing and managing hazards associated primarily with chemical exposures in the workplace. The draft document is posted at

The comprehensive literature review is intended to inform employers, workers, safety and health practitioners, and other audiences about the concepts of control banding and to stimulate further dialogue about its potential usefulness in the United States by providing the appropriate background information and resources.

As background to the topic of control-focused chemical hazard strategies, NIOSH recognized that the number of chemicals in commerce is far greater than the number of occupational exposure limits (OELs, roughly 1000). Setting additional OELs for new and existing chemicals, and monitoring to ensure exposures are maintained below the OELs, are important but resource intensive activities. In addition, if the majority of chemical substances in commerce have no established OELS, employers and workers often lack the necessary guidance on the extent to which occupational exposures should be controlled.

Consequently, to fill this gap, control banding evolved as an approach to address these challenges, drawing upon mature knowledge and practices in occupational hygiene practice regarding exposure assessment, chemical hazard assessment, and control technology options. The conceptual basis for control banding is a framework for 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).

The promise of such a qualitative risk assessment and management approach is further increased given appropriate consideration for evolving developments in international chemical commerce, including the globally harmonized system of classification and labeling of chemicals (GHS), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed-rulemaking for the Hazard Communication standard, and European Union regulations (i.e., Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances, or REACH). These and other factors are discussed in the document, which evaluates the state-of-the-science of control banding as reflected in research and practice. Information was gleaned from the published scientific literature, proceedings of recent international workshops, symposia, and conferences to ensure a broad and comprehensive treatment of the topic.

Among the conclusions, NIOSH indicates that control banding is a potentially valuable tool for risk management of some chemical agents and other occupational hazards; however, continued research and validation efforts are needed. Control banding is not meant to reduce the need for OELs but to serve as a supplemental risk management tool. If control banding is to be useful in the United States, NIOSH recommends in the draft document that the following actions occur:

  1. Increase the awareness and standardization of control banding concepts;
  2. Ensure validation of qualitative risk assessment and management strategies, tools, and the control-focused solutions;
  3. Coordinate efforts for developing, implementing, evaluating, and disseminating qualitative risk assessment and risk management approaches to improve awareness and utility of task specific hazard control guidance;
  4. Foster national and international coordination and collaboration in focusing on applications for control-focused solutions for high-risk tasks, industries, and small business enterprises;
  5. Consider control banding models for broader applications to address additional workplace hazards (e.g., more complex chemical exposures, dermal exposure hazards, ergonomic hazards, and other physical hazards).

The draft document is posted for viewing until July 11, 2008. Public comments on the content of the draft document may be submitted in writing to Diane Miller at, or NIOSH Docket Office, Robert A. Taft Laboratories, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Mailstop C-34, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226.

Contact Person for Technical Information: Thomas J. Lentz, Ph.D., Lead Health Scientist, NIOSH, CDC, Robert A. Taft Laboratories, 4676 Columbia Parkway, MS C-32, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45226-1998, Telephone (513) 533-8260, E-mail