Effective June 15, 2010, employers are required to notify their workers when there is any hexavalent chromium present in the workplace, even when it is below the permissible exposure limit (PEL). In the past, companies only had to inform employees when exposures exceeded the PEL. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) changed its rule in response to a lawsuit and U.S. Appeals Court directive.
Under the previous rule, companies were directed to monitor employee exposure and notify affected workers when levels exceeded the permissible level of five micrograms per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour, time-weighted average. Employers are required to perform periodic monitoring at least every six months if initial monitoring shows exposure at or above the action level (2.5 micrograms per cubic meter of air).
Hexavalent chromium is a naturally occurring heavy metal frequently used in paints, electroplating or as an anti-corrosion agent for metals such as stainless steel. Exposure can occur when workers spray paints containing chromates, operate chrome-plating baths or weld/cut metals containing chromium. OSHA contends the toxic chemical may irritate or damage the skin, eyes and respiratory tract, among other concerns. OSHA has established a webpage on the topic.
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