February 23, 2011
Hamlin & Harris, Inc.
1728 Cloverdale AVe.
Baton Rouge, LA 70808
Dear Mr. Harris:
Thank you for your November 11, 2010, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP). You requested OSHA's interpretation of requirements related to the protection of employees who perform welding and are exposed to hexavalent chromium. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence. Based on the discussion we had, your paraphrased question and our responses are below.
Question 1: Do welders who are exposed above the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) have to follow the requirements in the Cr(VI) standard for protective work clothing and equipment (29 CFR 1910.1026(h)) and hygiene areas and practices (29 CFR 1910.1026(i))? If they do not, what are the applicable exceptions?
Response: Section 1910.1026(h)(1), which addresses the provision and use of protective work clothing and equipment, states:
"Where a hazard is present or is likely to be present from skin or eye contact with chromium (VI), the employer shall provide appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment at no cost to employees, and shall ensure that employees use such clothing and equipment."
Section CFR 1910.1026(i)(1), which contains general requirements for hygiene areas and practices, states:
"General. Where protective clothing and equipment is required, the employer shall provide change rooms in conformance with 29 CFR 1910.141. Where skin contact with chromium (VI) occurs, the employer shall provide washing facilities in conformance with 29 CFR 1910.141. Eating and drinking areas provided by the employer shall also be in conformance with §1910.141."
Both 29 CFR 1910.1026(h)(1) and 29 CFR 1910.1026(i)(1) are based on the evaluation of the employees' potential skin and/or eye exposure, not the type of job or whether exposures are above or below the PEL. (Please note that there are some provisions in 29 CFR 1910.1026(i) that apply irrespective of skin or eye exposures. For example, 29 CFR 1910.1026(i)(4)(i) contains requirements for the cleaning of eating and drinking areas at worksites where Cr(VI) is present.) There are no general exceptions for welding in either paragraph (h) or paragraph (i) of the Cr(VI) standard. For further information on OSHA's Chromium (VI) standard, we are enclosing a copy of our pamphlet, Hexavalent Chromium, OSHA 3373-10, 2009.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA requirements are set by statue, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they can not create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at www.osha.gov
If you have any further questions, please contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.
Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs