Regulation Update - Hexavalent Chromium
Updated: Aug 28
Hexavalent Chromium (CrVI) is a toxic compound that can be found in a number of industrial activities including painting and surface coating, chromic acid electroplating, welding, steel and iron foundries, construction and many more. Its various forms can cause a wide variety of adverse health effects from allergic reactions to cancer.
In recent years, OSHA’s regulation of CrVI has been significantly revised. This in turn, resulted in numerous settlement agreements with interested parties. Below is a brief description of the activity in the last few years. If you are interested in finding out more, links are provided at the end of the article.
The most significant change is the reduction of the federal Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) from 52 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) to 5 μg/m3.
Revised Regulation: The regulation promulgated in February 2006 modified multiple sections of 29 CFR: 1910, 1915, 1917, 1918, and 1926. It separately regulates general industry, construction and shipyards and did not cover exposures during application of pesticides or use of portland cement. The regulation addresses the following areas: PEL, exposure determinations, defining regulated work areas, engineering and work practice controls, respiratory protection, personal protective equipment (PPE), hygiene area requirements, housekeeping, medical surveillance, training, and recordkeeping. Employers must already be in compliance with all the requirements of this standard except the engineering controls which have a deadline of May 31, 2010.
Surface Finishing: In October 2006, an agreement was reached between OSHA and the Surface Finishing Industry Council. In exchange for relief on the schedule for some respirator requirements, facilities must implement engineering controls on an accelerated schedule. Interested parties had to sign up for this option by the end of November 2006. Therefore, it is a bit late to investigate this option.
Portland Cement: In April 2007, a settlement agreement was reached between OSHA and the Building Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, Laborers’ International Union of North America, and International Brotherhood of Teamsters. This agreement was related to Portland Cement. OSHA felt that existing regulations adequately protected employees from the low levels of CrVI found in Portland Cement. The agreement provides specifics on how these regulations should be applied during the manufacture and use of Portland cement. This includes guidance on PPE, washing facilities, total dust PEL, hazard communication training, and recordkeeping. An inspection checklist is provided that OSHA inspectors will use to ensure companies are following the requirements. Several links are provided at the end of this article which provide more details on how to protect your employees from exposure to CrVI in portland cement.
Welding, Housekeeping and Waste Disposal: In May 2007, a settlement was reached between OSHA and the National Association of Manufacturers, the Specialty Steel Industry of North America and several other interested parties. The result of the agreement was that OSHA issued a letter of interpretation to clarify the regulation. OSHA agreed that it would be difficult to achieve the PEL for CrVI through engineering and work practice controls when welding stainless steel in confined areas. They agreed that respirators may be used to supplement these controls to comply with the PEL. They also verified that the housekeeping and waste disposal requirements in the standard do not apply in situations where it is shown through objective data that exposures above the 0.5 μg/m3 threshold are not possible. Finally, there was concern about disposal of waste that does not easily fit in an impermeable container. OSHA states that using a pallet to hold the waste and encasing the pallet and waste in plastic would be acceptable for these situations. However, if an OSHA inspector does not agree that the waste could be put in an impermeable container, then the employer could be subject to a citation.
Hopefully this summary has helped you better understand all the regulatory activity that has occurred in the past few years regarding hexavalent chromium. For further information, please see the web-sites below or contact EES.
Portland Cement Links: Center for Disease Control US Department of Labor – Occupational, Health & Safety Administration
Number 42 part 1