Hexavalent Chromium Rule Now Effective
On June 15, 2010 OSHA’s final rule on hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] became effective. This rule requires employers to notify employees of any exposure to hexavalent chromium, as opposed to the previous provision in the standard which only required notification of exposure to levels over the permissible exposure limit (PEL).
Hexavalent chromium is a carcinogen. Exposure to high concentrations or for prolonged periods of time can cause lung cancer, and damage to the nose, throat and respiratory tract. It can also cause irritation to the skin and eyes if direct contact is made in high concentrations. Occupational exposure to Cr(VI) can occur when working with products that contain chromates, such as certain pigments, dyes and powders. Chrome electroplating and welding or hotwork with stainless steel are also common ways of being exposed to the chemical.
Engineering and work practice controls, such as proper ventilation, should be used to minimize exposure to hexavalent chromium. If such measures are not enough to lower levels, PPE and a respiratory protection program should be instituted to protect employees. These measures only need to be in place if Cr(VI) levels are above the PEL (5 µg/m³), however the final rule states that all employees must be notified if they are exposed to hexavalent chromium in any amount.
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