- 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.
February 22, 2007
Mr. Stephen Skarvinko
2000 Day Hill Road
Windsor, CT 06095
Dear Mr. Skarvinko:
Thank you for your letter 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: Your company has determined a number of its employees have airborne exposures to hexavalent chromium, or chromium (VI), while welding stainless steel. These employees are using welding hoods, hard hats, safety glasses, leather gloves, long sleeve shirts, and long pants. You ask how you can determine what level of chromium (VI) exposure poses a health risk for absorption through the skin. Specifically, you ask how can an employer determine "where a hazard is present or is likely to be present from skin or eye contact with chromium (VI)" in order to provide appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment, in compliance with the Chromium (VI) Standard, 1926.1126(g)(1).
Reply: Paragraph 29 CFR 1926.1126(g)(1) of the construction industry standard, as well as paragraph 29 CFR 1910.1026(h)(1) of the general industry standard and paragraph 29 CFR 1915.1026(g)(1) of the shipyards standard, require employers 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)." However, these standards do not specify any criteria, such as a threshold airborne 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 its workplace(s). This performance-oriented requirement is consistent with OSHA's generic standards for the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in general industry, construction, and shipyards. 29 CFR 1910.132 for general industry, 29 CFR 1915.152 for shipyards, and 29 CFR 1926.95 for construction currently have requirements for provision of protective clothing and equipment that are essentially equivalent to the requirements in these Chromium (VI) Standards.
Additional requirements contained in the Chromium (VI) Standards address practices associated with the use of protective clothing and equipment, e.g., removal and storage, cleaning, and replacement. All of these requirements are intended to prevent the adverse health effects associated with dermal exposure to chromium (VI) and the potential for inhalation of chromium (VI) that would otherwise be deposited on employees' street clothing. The requirements further serve to minimize exposures to chromium (VI) that may occur as a result of improper handling of contaminated protective clothing or equipment.
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 appendices providing guidance on hazard assessment in 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I Appendix B; 29 CFR 1915 Subpart I Appendix A). 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 or if skin conditions were reported which may have been linked to chromium (VI) exposures, as well as a review of any exposure determination(s) for operations involving chromium (VI).
OSHA is aware of instances where exposure to chromium (VI) in welding fumes has been associated with development of dermatitis. However, these situations appear to be infrequent, and additional protective clothing and equipment may not generally be required to protect employees from skin contact with chromium (VI) during typical stainless steel welding operations. 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 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. Again, the point of this performance-oriented requirement is to prevent or eliminate skin exposures to chromium (VI), where feasible, and to reduce the inhalation hazard from chromium (VI) that might otherwise be deposited on employees' street clothing if appropriate protective clothing and equipment were not used.
OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov provides further information on the subject of hexavalent chromium, air sampling, and protective clothing and equipment. Since the promulgation of the Final Rule for Occupational Exposure to Hexavalent Chromium, OSHA has updated its web pages on this subject, as well. See the OSHA website's Safety and Health Topic Page on Hexavalent Chromium for more information on chromium (VI) health effects.
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