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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.
March 13, 2018
Mr. Thomas Enger
Clemco Industries Corp.
One Cable Car Drive
Washington, Missouri 63090
Dear Mr. Enger:
Thank you for your letters to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letters were referred to the Directorate of Enforcement Programs for a reply to your questions regarding OSHA’s Chromium (VI) standard, 29 CFR 1910.1026. 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 or addressed during your subsequent discussions with a member of my staff. Your paraphrased question is below, followed by our response.
Background:Prior to repainting aircraft or aircraft ground support equipment, the original paint coatings may need to be removed. Such paint removal or stripping may be performed inside abrasive stripping booths, which are similar to paint booths.
Question: Does the provision at 29 CFR 1910.1026(f)(1)(ii), which applies to the painting of aircraft or large aircraft parts in the aerospace industry, also cover paint removal operations on aircraft or ground support equipment that are performed inside abrasive stripping booths?
Reply: No. Paragraph (f)(1)(ii) does not apply to paint removal operations on aircraft or ground support equipment. OSHA’s hexavalent chromium (Chromium (VI)) standard establishes a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for chromium (VI) of 5 µg/m3 [micrograms per cubic meter of air], calculated as an 8-hour time-weighted average. See 29 CFR 1910.1026(c). Employers generally must use engineering and work practice controls to maintain employees’ chromium (VI) exposures at or below the PEL. If feasible engineering and work practice controls are not sufficient to reduce exposures to or below the PEL, the employer must use them to reduce exposures to the lowest levels achievable and then supplement those controls with the use of appropriate respiratory protection. See 29 CFR 1910.1026(f)(1)(i).
In promulgating the Chromium (VI) standard, OSHA determined that employers can achieve the PEL of 5 µg/m3 using feasible engineering and work practice controls for most operations in the aerospace industry. These operations include sanding Cr(VI)-coated parts, assembly, and most spray painting operations. Exposure data provided to OSHA’s rulemaking docket showed that spray painting operations in paint booths or paint rooms using optimum engineering controls can generally achieve worker exposures below the PEL. However, exposure data on spray painting of large aircraft parts or entire planes in hangars indicated, for those specific operations, that ventilation may not be effective to reduce exposures below 25 µg/m3. See 71 FR 10100, 10263 (February 28, 2006). Therefore, paragraph (f)(1)(ii) of the standard contains unique requirements for “methods of compliance” in these operations, stating: “Where painting of aircraft or large aircraft parts is performed in the aerospace industry, the employer shall use engineering and work practice controls to reduce and maintain employee exposure to chromium (VI) to or below 25 µg/m3 unless the employer can demonstrate that such controls are not feasible. The employer shall supplement such engineering and work practice controls with the use of respiratory protection that complies with the requirements of paragraph (g) of this section to achieve the PEL.”
Paragraph (f)(1)(ii) applies only to the operations specifically listed, and does not extend to other operations, such as paint removal, for which controls exist to achieve the PEL in most cases. Furthermore, paragraph (f)(1)(ii) does not cover any work performed on aircraft ground support equipment. It covers only the painting of “aircraft or large aircraft parts,” a term that “refers to the interior or exterior of assembled aircraft, and to wings, tail sections, control surfaces (e.g., rudders, elevators, and ailerons), or comparably sized aircraft parts.” See OSHA Instruction CPL 02-02-074,Inspection Procedures for the Chromium (VI) Standards, Ch. IX.F.1.b, p. 29 (Jan. 24, 2008). Accordingly, employers conducting abrasive blasting operations on paint coatings containing chromium (VI) on aircraft or ground support equipment must comply with 29 CFR 1910.1026(f)(1)(i) by instituting feasible engineering and work practice controls as the primary means of maintaining employee exposures at or below the PEL of 5 µg/m3.
OSHA recognizes that engineering and work practice controls may not be feasible to use during some maintenance and repair operations or during emergency operations. OSHA also recognizes that feasible controls may not be adequate to reduce chromium (VI) exposures to or below the PEL for some operations in enclosed workspaces. See OSHA letter to Kathryn M. McMahon-Lohrer, May 31, 2007. In such cases, the standard requires the employer to institute feasible engineering and work practice controls to reduce exposures to the lowest achievable level and then supplement those controls with respiratory protection to achieve the PEL. See 29 CFR 1910.1026(f)(1)(i). For additional information, you may find this OSHA publication informative: Controlling Exposure to Hexavalent Chromium in Aerospace and Air Transport Painting, OSHA Fact Sheet (Publication 3650), 2013.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA’s requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our letters of interpretation do not create new or additional requirements but rather explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances. This letter constitutes OSHA’s interpretation of the requirements discussed. From time to time, letters are affected when the Agency updates a standard, a legal decision impacts a standard, or changes in technology affect the interpretation. To assure that you are using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA’s website at www.osha.gov. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.
Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs