Hexavalent Chromium requirement goes into effect on June 15, 2010

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set the date of June 15, 2010 for the direct final rule requiring employers to notify their workers of all Hexavalent Chromium exposures. Under the old rule, employers were only required to notify employees when they experienced exposures exceeding the permissible exposure limit (PEL).

Exposures to Hexavalent Chromium can occur among works handling any of the following: pigments, spray paints and coatings contain chromates, operating chrome plating baths, and welding or cutting metals contain Chromium, such as stainless steel.  Hexavalent chromium is considered a potential lung carcinogen. Effects on the respiratory tract can range from irritation of the nose, throat and lungs to damage in the mucous membranes of the nasal passage. Increased rates of lung cancer have been shown in workers in the plating, pigment and chromate production industries. Direct contact with chromate dust or chromic acid can cause permanent eye damage. Prolonged skin contact can result in dermatitis and skin ulcers and some cases of kidney damage have been linked to high levels of skin exposure. 

The Standard and Revisions Overview

On Feb. 28, 2006, the Department of Labor published the Hexavalent Chromium Standard addressing occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium (General Industry standard 1910.1026). OSHA determined that the new standard was necessary to reduce significant health risks posed by occupational exposure to Cr (VI). In order to tailor requirements to the unique circumstances found in general industry, construction and shipyards, OSHA has established three separate standards for governing occupational exposures to Cr (VI): general industry (29 CFR 1910.1026), shipyards (29 CFR 1915.1026) and construction (29 CFR 1926.1126).

The revised standards also address:

  • Requirements for exposure determination
  • Preferred exposure control methods (including a compliance alternative for facilities where compliance with the new exposure limit is not feasible)
  • Respiratory protection
  • Protective clothing and equipment
  • Hygiene areas and practices
  • Medical surveillance
  • Recordkeeping
  • Start-up dates that include four years for the implementation of engineering controls

Exposure Limits Revised

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has revised the standard limiting occupational exposures to hexavalent chromium, Cr (VI). The final rule, which went into effect in May 2006, establishes the Cr (VI) eight-hour time-weighted average exposure limit at 5 micrograms per cubic meter of air. 

The new standard provides greater protection by lowering the permissible exposure limit (PEL) from 52 micrograms of Cr (VI) per cubic meter of air (52 µg/m3) to 5 µg/m3 and the action level for the standard where requirements such as medical surveillance, may be required is 2.5 µg/m3. 

The previous limit was 1 milligram per 10 cubic meters of air reported as CrO3, which is equivalent to 52 micrograms per cubic meter of air as Cr (VI). Based on the best evidence available, OSHA determined that at 52 micrograms per cubic meter of air as Cr (VI), workers were faced with a significant risk to “material impairment of their health.” 

Occupational exposures to Cr (VI) may result in asthma, damage to nasal tissue and skin, and an increased risk of developing lung cancer.

 

Monitoring

 

Monitoring for Cr(VI) is accomplished with a sampling pump and filter. Results are obtained from a laboratory; you cannot use a direct reading badge type monitor for Cr(VI). Consult an American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) accredited laboratory for assistance on filter selection and sampling methods. You can find accredited laboratories at www.AIHA.org

 

PPE

Unlike other OSHA substance-specific standards, there is no respirator selection table in this standard. The standard refers you to the 1910.134 for respiratory requirements. The level of respiratory protection depends on workplace conditions and contaminant levels.

For further information, follow the OSHA Federal Register on Hexavalent Chromium at:http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=FEDERAL_REGISTER&p_id=18599