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Packaging, formulations and systems for exposure reduction to hazardous substances in the workplace

Project number: F 2484 Institution: Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) Status: Ongoing Project Planned end: 2026-01-16


For some chemical substances and mixtures it has to be demonstrated that they are safe to use before their marketing is allowed. This is why biocidal products, for example, are subject to an authorisation. Mandatory registration under REACH is also intended to ensure that the risks substances pose are adequately controlled. In both procedures, it is observed again and again that manufacturers and importers regard personal protective equipment (PPE) as the key occupational risk management measure. However, the hierarchy of protection and prevention measures that are to be implemented is clearly specified in occupational safety and health directive (98/24/EC). The use of PPE is only admissible if the substance cannot be substituted with a less hazardous or non-hazardous substance, and safe handling cannot be guaranteed by technical or organisational means.

In principle, workers’ exposure to hazardous substances can be reduced by the following safe-by-design measures.

  • Packaging: Suitable packaging prevents hazardous substances from reaching the skin or respiratory tract, or reduces any such exposure to an acceptable level
  • Formulations: Products’ characteristics are modified, for example by adding chemical components, in order to reduce their exposure potential.
  • Systems: Contact with the hazardous substance is prevented by technical systems or by delaying its release.

So far, it has not been determined how much exposure can be reduced by packaging, formulations and systems. This aspect has consequently not been taken into account when substances are assessed by the authorities.

The aim of this project is to identify state-of-the-art solutions to the problem and evaluate how effective they are at reducing exposure. It will examine the extent to which selected examples of the use of packaging, formulations and systems are able to reduce exposure via the respiratory tract and skin in comparison to conventional uses. Based on the results obtained, quantitative predications about protective effect of these approaches are to be derived in the form of a reduction factor for each safe-by-design solution investigated.

The reduction factors that are calculated are to be as representative as possible for different workplaces and shall be incorporated into European guidelines in future. They will allow a European-wide consideration of packaging, formulations and systems during risk assessments according to chemical regulation. This will support the safe handling of such products over the long term. Workers will therefore not need to wear burdensome PPE as frequently. In addition to this, manufacturers and importers will be encouraged to design safe chemical products.


Unit 4.1 "Exposure Scenarios"

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