The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will publish a final standard for occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium in the Feb. 28 Federal Register. The standard covers occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) in general industry, construction and shipyards.
"OSHA has worked hard to produce a final standard that substantially reduces the significant health risks for employees exposed to hexavalent chromium. Our new standard protects workers to the extent feasible, while providing employers, especially small employers, adequate time to transition to the new requirements," said Jonathan L. Snare, acting assistant secretary for occupational safety and health.
The standard will be published in accord with the timetable established by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit which in April 2003 ordered OSHA to promulgate a standard governing workplace exposure to hexavalent chromium.
The new standard lowers OSHA's permissible exposure limit (PEL) for hexavalent chromium, and for all Cr(VI) compounds, from 52 to 5 micrograms of Cr(VI) per cubic meter of air as an 8-hour time-weighted average. The standard also includes provisions relating to preferred methods for controlling exposure, respiratory protection, protective work clothing and equipment, hygiene areas and practices, medical surveillance, hazard communication and recordkeeping.
Hexavalent chromium compounds are widely used in the chemical industry as ingredients and catalysts in pigments, metal plating and chemical synthesis. Cr(VI) can also be produced when welding on stainless steel or Cr(VI)-painted surfaces. The major health effects associated with exposure to Cr(VI) include lung cancer, nasal septum ulcerations and perforations, skin ulcerations, and allergic and irritant contact dermatitis.
Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health.