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 https://www.osha.gov.



September 2, 2011
MEMORANDUM FOR: CINDY COE, Regional Administrator
Atlanta Regional Office
Directorate of Enforcement Programs
SUBJECT: Clarification of the Chromium (VI) Standard - Change Rooms and Hygiene Practices



This is in response to your e-mailed request for clarification of the Chromium (VI) standard, 29 CFR 1910.1026. In particular, you inquired about the provisions of the Chromium (VI) standard that address change rooms and hygiene practices.

Paragraph (i)(l) of the Chromium (VI) standard states, in part, "Where protective clothing and equipment is required, the employer shall provide change rooms in conformance with 29 CFR 1910.141." The general sanitation standard, at 29 CFR 1910.141(e), provides that, "[w]henever employees are required by a particular standard to wear protective clothing because of the possibility of contamination with toxic materials, change rooms equipped with storage facilities for street clothes and separate storage facilities for the protective clothing shall be provided." The preamble to the Chromium (VI) standard explained: "OSHA intends the requirement for change rooms to apply to all covered workplaces where employees must change their clothes (i.e., take off their street clothes) to use protective clothing and equipment. In those situations where removal of street clothes is not necessary (e.g., in a workplace where only gloves are used as protective clothing), change rooms are not required." 71 Federal Register 10100, 10356 (Feb. 28, 2006).

Notably, paragraph (h)(l) of the Chromium (VI) standard provides that where a hazard is present or likely to be present from skin or eye contact with hexavalent chromium, the employer must " provide appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment" (emphasis added). It is not appropriate for workers to wear protective clothing over street clothing if doing so results in contamination of the worker's street clothes. (Please note that such contamination can occur both during the work operation and at the time the worker removes the protective clothing.) In situations in which it is not appropriate for workers to wear protective clothing over their street clothes, the employer must select and ensure the use of protective clothing that is worn in lieu of (rather than over) street clothing. In those circumstances, the employer must provide change rooms in accordance with 1910.1026(i)(1).

Irrespective of whether a change room is required, the employer must comply with, among other provisions, the following OSHA requirements:

  • The employer must ensure that workers remove all contaminated protective clothing and equipment at the end of the work shift or at the completion of their tasks involving chromium (VI) exposure, whichever comes first (1910.1026(h)(2)(i)).
  • When contaminated protective clothing or equipment is removed for laundering, cleaning, maintenance, or disposal, the employer must ensure that it is placed in sealed, impermeable bags or other closed, impermeable containers (1910.1026(h)(2)(iii)). Waste containers must be labeled as required by the Hazard Communication Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1200.
  • The employer must clean, launder, repair, and replace all protective clothing and equipment required by the Chromium (VI) standard as needed to maintain its effectiveness (1910.1026(h)(3)(i); see also 29 CFR 1910.132(a), 1910.134(h)(l)).
  • The employer shall inform any person who launders or cleans contaminated protective clothing or equipment of the potentially harmful effects of exposure to chromium (VI) and that the clothing and equipment should be laundered or cleaned in a manner that minimizes skin or eye contact with chromium (VI) and effectively prevents the release of chromium (VI) in excess of the permissible exposure limit (1910.1026(h)(3)(iii)).
  • The employer must prohibit the removal of chromium (VI) from protective clothing and equipment by any means that disperses chromium (VI) into the air or onto a worker's body (1910.1026(h)(3)(ii)).
  • The employer must provide readily accessible washing facilities capable of removing chromium (VI) from the skin and ensure that affected workers use these facilities when necessary (1910.1026(i)(3)(i)).
  • The employer must ensure that workers who have skin contact with chromium (VI) wash their hands and faces at the end of the work shift and prior to eating, drinking, or engaging in certain other personal activities (1910.1026(i)(3)(ii)).
  • The employer must ensure that workers do not enter eating and drinking areas with protective work clothing or equipment unless surface chromium (VI) has been removed from the clothing and equipment by methods that do not disperse chromium (VI) into the air or onto a worker's body. Also, the employer must ensure that eating and drinking areas and surfaces are maintained as free as practicable of chromium (VI) (1910.1026(i)(4)(i) and (ii)).
  • The employer must ensure that all surfaces are maintained as free as practicable of accumulations of chromium (VI) and that all spills and releases of chromium (V1) containing material are cleaned up promptly (1910.1026(j)(l)(i) and (ii)).

Therefore, even when a change room is not required, the compliance officer must determine if the employer is complying with the above-mentioned provisions. Moreover, OSHA recommends the following additional practices and procedures for removing contaminated protective equipment when there is no change room:

  • The employer should designate a change area outside and adjacent to the work area. This change area should be covered with an impermeable drop cloth, and equipment and supplies should be prepositioned in the change area for decontamination and for the washing of the worker's hands and face.
  • Workers should remove protective coveralls by carefully rolling down the garment to reduce exposure to dust. Workers should remove respirators afterwards, along with any other reusable protective equipment (e.g., safety goggles). Workers should remove shoe covers and gloves last.
  • Contaminated protective equipment may be placed in an impermeable bag or container for later cleaning and maintenance.
  • Workers should wet-wipe contamination from shoes, or walk over a sticky mat, when exiting the change area.

If a compliance officer observes potentially hazardous worker exposures to dust or residues, and finds that the employer is providing inappropriate protective clothing, using improper hygiene practices, or failing to follow necessary housekeeping procedures, the compliance officer shall collect a wipe or bulk sample to confirm the presence of chromium (VI) in the dust or residue.1 CPL 02-02-074, Inspection Procedures for the Chromium Standards (Jan. 24, 2008) contains guidelines for wipe and bulk sampling and for the proper use of sampling results in enforcement actions.

If a dust wipe or bulk sample confirms the presence of chromium (VI), any citation for a violation of the Chromium (VI) standard shall include that finding in the alleged violation description (AVD). For protective equipment, hygiene, or housekeeping citations, it is sufficient for the compliance officer to indicate in the AVD that he or she confirmed the presence of Cr(V1). These types of violations do not depend on the numerical value of the wipe or bulk sample result. Therefore, the numerical value of the wipe or bulk sample does not need to be included in the AVD.

We hope this clarification has been helpful. If you have further questions, please call our Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.

1  If the bulk or wipe sample does not confirm the presence of chromium (VI), the Agency will not issue any citations under the Chromium (VI) standard. In such circumstances, the Area Office will need to determine whether to cite another substance-specific standard (e.g., the Lead standard at 29 CFR 1910.1025) or the general standard(s) for personal protective equipment, hygiene practices, or housekeeping. [Return to Text]