OSHA fined a Warren County auto parts manufacturer $188,329 for exposing employees to hexavalent chromium.
The company reached an agreement with OSHA after a July 2019 inspection resulted in various health & safety hazards. Along with the fines, the businesses was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, who demonstrate indifference to the health and safety of their employees through willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations.
What is Hexavalent Chromium?
Hexavalent chromium is a toxic compound that’s widely used in many different industries.
It’s often found in anti-corrosive agents added to paints, primers, and surface coatings. If inhaled, hexavalent chromium may cause severe damage to the respiratory tract.
It can also cause irritation of the eyes and skin, if they come into contact with the compound in high concentrations.
How to Reduce Exposure
Under the terms of the agreement with OSHA, the manufacturer must take the following steps to limit airborne exposure:
- Implement a consistent and effective monitoring program;
- Establish feasible work practice controls; and,
- Train employees on the hazards of hexavalent chromium.
“Employees at [the company] will be safer, healthier, and better trained as a result of this agreement,” said OSHA Area Director Ken Montgomery, in Cincinnati.
“Employers must continually evaluate their facilities for hazards, and use proper safety controls and equipment to protect workers.”
Other ways to reduce exposure include:
- Limit hexavalent chromium exposure to an eight-hour time-weighted average of 5 micrograms or less per cubic meter of air;
- If initial monitoring shows employee exposure at or above the action level, perform periodic monitoring at least every 6 months;
- Provide appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment when there is likely to be a hazard present from skin or eye contact;
- Implement good personal hygiene and housekeeping practices to prevent exposure;
- Prohibit employee rotation as a method to achieve compliance with the exposure limit (PEL);
- Provide respiratory protection as specified in the standard;
- Provide employees with medical examinations who are within 30 days of initial assignment, exposed in an emergency situation, exposed at or above the exposure level for more than 30 days a year, or to those who are experiencing signs or symptoms of hexavalent chromium exposure
Signs & Symptoms of Hexavalent Chromium Exposure
Symptoms of hexavalent chromium exposure include: Runny nose, sneezing, coughing, itching or a burning sensation in the nose, throat, or lungs.
Prolonged exposure can cause sores in the nose and may result in nosebleeds. Some employees may also be allergic to the compound, which leads to asthma symptoms, such as wheezing or shortness of breath.
If hexavalent chromium comes into contact with the skin, employees may also develop allergic skin reactions called allergic contact dermatitis.
On-Site Medical Surveillance Testing
Establishing a solid medical surveillance testing program is the best way to keep workers safe and healthy. It’s also required when working with certain materials, such as heavy metals.
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