- Standard Number:
OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot 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 http://www.osha.gov.
January 25, 2007
Mr. Daryl E. Crawmer, FASM
Thermal Spray Technologies
515 Progress Way
Sun Prairie, WI 53590
Dear Mr. Crawmer:
Thank you for your June 2, 2006, request to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). You have questions regarding OSHA's new Final Rule for Occupational Exposure to Hexavalent Chromium (Federal Register, Vol. 71, No. 39, February 28, 2006). This reply letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not detailed in your original correspondence. Your paraphrased question and our reply are below.
Question: You question whether your employees can wear short-sleeved shirts while performing a thermal spray operation that exposes them to a fume containing hexavalent chromium or chromium (VI). This is a concern in your workplace because temperatures during the summer months typically exceed 90 degrees. You state that the particulates in this fume are spherical and sub-micron in size and similar to those in welding fumes with regard to size, chemistry, and morphology and that relevant industry studies have not documented any abnormal problems associated with chromium (VI) exposures from fumes generated by thermal spray processes. You also represent that you have not observed any skin abnormalities related to chromium (VI) exposures from this thermal spray process during your professional experience of over 34 years.
Reply: Paragraph 29 CFR 1910.1026(h)(1) requires the employer to provide appropriate protective clothing and equipment where a hazard is present or is likely to be present from skin or eye contact with chromium (VI) but does not specify criteria or a threshold concentration to be used for determining when a hazard is present or is likely to be present. To make this determination, the employer must conduct a hazard evaluation of his workplace(s). This performance-oriented requirement is consistent with OSHA's generic standards for the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in general industry (29 CFR 1910.132 for general industry), which has a requirement for provision of protective clothing and equipment that is essentially equivalent to the requirement in this Chromium (VI) Standard.
OSHA stated in the preamble to the Final Rule for Occupational Exposure to Hexavalent Chromium that chromium (VI)-related skin effects have been reported from welding (71 FR 10171). To determine whether there is a hazard (or potential hazard) from skin or eye contact with chromium (VI) in a particular workplace, the employer should use appropriate expertise in assessing hazards. (See non-mandatory appendix providing guidance on hazard assessment in 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I Appendix B). The recommended approach involves a walkthrough survey to identify sources of chromium (VI) hazards to workers. Also recommended are reviews of occupational illness records to determine if past skin exposures have been recorded which may have been linked to chromium (VI) exposures, as well as a review of any exposure determination(s) for operations involving chromium (VI).
Exposures must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the physical aspects of the process or operation and any control measures, the chemical and physical properties of the compound or mixture and the magnitude and duration of exposure. The employer should select the clothing and equipment that is most suitable for a particular workplace and operation. Other factors such as size, flexibility, and cut-and-tear resistance should be considered in the selection process, as well. Based on the information in your letter, you may have performed an adequate hazard assessment of dermal exposures from your thermal spray process, which is the intent of these standards.
OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov provides further information on the subject of hexavalent chromium, air sampling, and protective clothing and equipment. The website provides an OSHA News Release, Oct. 2, 2006, notifying the public about OSHA's new Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Hexavalent Chromium Standards, with a link to this useful guidebook. Also see the OSHA website's Safety and Health Topic Page on Hexavalent Chromium for more specific information on chromium (VI) health effects. In addition, because you reported that high summertime temperatures add heat stress to your workplace operations, you should also note our Safety and Health Topic Page on Heat Stress.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot 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 http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs
[Reviewed; consistent with current policy 3/28/08]