OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has issued a final standard 1910.1026 Chromium VI. In the crane and rigging industry the final standard affects welding, burning or cutting metals such as stainless steel. Metals containing Hexavalent Chromium with a valence of positive Chromium VI in any form or compound are covered under this standard. Stainless steel when heated may release a highly concentrated airborne exposure of Chromium VI.
The new standard reduces the permissible exposure limit from 52 micrograms per cubic meter to 5. This is calculated as an eight hour time weighted average. Air monitoring employee exposures by sampling their personal breathing zones will give you accurate data. A certified industrial hygienist or qualified person can advise you in compliance with the scheduled monitoring option or the performance-oriented option. Ventilation when welding or cutting is a key engineering control that may be used to limit employee exposures.
Chromium VI exposure to employees above the permissible exposure limit of 5 micrograms per cubic meter, or 2.5 micrograms per cubic meter for 30 days, requires employee notification of the results within 15 working days by either posting results in an appropriate location that is accessible to all affected employees or notifying each employee individually in writing of the results.
Employers are not permitted to rotate employees to meet the requirements. If employees are exposed above the limits, methods of compliance must be used to meet the standards. Engineering and work practice controls, a respiratory protection program, medical surveillance, protective work clothing and equipment, hygiene areas and practices, record keeping and communication and training of employees of Chromium VI hazards must be established.
The employer must make a copy of the information and training readily available to affected employees without cost. Medical records shall be maintained and made available in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.1020.
Health hazards related to Cr VI compound include cancer, kidney and liver damage, ulcers, allergic reactions, irritation of the gastrointestinal tract, convulsions and death.