A Wisconsin plating company faces a $74,500 fine and 53 citations as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration continues to tighten its focus on Hexavalent Chromium, a carcinogenic chemical used widely in primers, paints, and protective and decorative coatings.
Wisconsin Polishing and Plating Inc. of West Allis, WI, is accused of allowing its workers to be overexposed to chromium and chromic acid, violating federal workplace health standards. The company performs chrome plating and polishing for metal parts,
Applications and Standards
Chromium Hexavalent compounds, often called Hexavalent Chromium or Chromium VI (CrVI), have many industrial applications, including chromate pigments in dyes and paints; chromates added as anticorrosive agents to paints, primers and other surface coatings; and chromic acid electroplated onto metal parts to provide a decorative or protective coating.
Hexavalent Chromium fumes can also be created by performing "hot work" such as welding on stainless steel or melting chromium metal.
Exposures to Hexavalent Chromium (Cr(VI)) are addressed in specific—and increasing—standards for general industry, rules concerning OSHA access to employee medical reports, shipyard employment, marine terminals, and the construction industry.
In the Wisconsin case, OSHA issued one willful, 50 serious and two other-than-serious violations after an inspection in February 2010.
The willful citation, with a proposed penalty of $7,000, is for allowing an employee to be exposed to Chromium VI above the permissible exposure limits, OSHA said.
The 50 serious citations, with proposed penalties of $68,100, include failure to provide protective equipment for employees working with extremely dangerous dust and chemicals; failure to develop or implement a hazard communication program; and allowing employee exposure to open circuit breaker panels and improperly marked electrical panels.
The two alleged other-than-serious violations, with a proposed fine of $300, are lack of properly marked load rating signs and failure to inform employees of their right to access medical or exposure information and records.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference, or contest the findings.
"Overexposure to lead, Chromium VI and chromic acid is extremely dangerous, and there is no excuse for a company to disregard the safety and welfare of its workers by not following OSHA safety standards," said OSHA area director George Yoksas in Milwaukee. "Those who ignore safe practices and OSHA regulations are inviting tragedy into the lives of their workers."
OSHA has been giving more and more attention to Hexavalent Chromium in recent years.
In 2006, the agency issued updated health standards regulating exposures to the compounds in general industry (29 CFR 1910.1026), construction (29 CFR 1926.1126), and maritime (29 CFR 1915.1026).
In January 2008, OSHA released inspection procedures for Hexavalent Chromium standards.
On Feb. 23, 2010, the agency launched a new National Emphasis Program (detailed in a 51-page Instruction document) “to identify and reduce or eliminate the health hazards associated with occupational exposure to Hexavalent Chromium.”
In June, OSHA issued a final rule revision requiring that employees be notified of all Hexavalent Chromium exposures. Formerly, notification was required only when workers they experienced exposures exceeding the permissible exposure limit.
OSHA offers details on chromium’s risks, standards and more at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/hexavalentchromium/index.html.