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October 14, 2004 8:14 AM CDT

More on Proposed Rulemaking for Hexavalent Chromium

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The scope of the proposed rule on Hexavalent Chromium, as currently drafted, does NOT apply to occupational exposures to Portland cement in construction. IT DOES, HOWEVER, APPLY TO WORKPLACE EXPOSURES TO PORTLAND CEMENT IN GENERAL INDUSTRY. Therefore, if the standard is finalized in its existing form, concrete plants and block producers, etc. could be impacted and cost increases incurred as a result of compliance with the new standard could well filter down to the end users ? contractors.

OSHA is seeking data and soliciting comments on whether or not Portland cement should be included in the scope of the rule as it pertains to construction and it is without question that the Laborers will go after OSHA with evidence supporting their claim that dermal exposures to wet Portland cement warrant coverage under the rule for construction. We will be working with PCA and NCMA and others to prepare testimony and evidence for the public hearings expected on the proposed rule in February to further justify the Portland cement exclusion. I will also be preparing comments on behalf of MCAA members expressing general concerns with other provisions in the proposed rule for general industry because I believe they could set a terrible precedent for silica.

In proposing to exclude exposure to Portland cement from the scope of the construction rule, OSHA notes that ?the amount of chrome 6 in American cement is generally less than 20 micrograms per cubic meter. While the chrome 6 in cement may represent a dermal hazard, the evidence obtained by OSHA thus far indicates that the chrome 6 concentration is generally so low that the proposed PEL cold not be reached without exceeding OSHA?s current PEL for Particulates Not Otherwise Regulated (PNOR).? It is further stated that ?because airborne exposures to chrome 6 during cement work in construction are expected to be minimal, and because of the economic burden of applying the ancillary provisions of the proposed standard to workers exposed to Portland cement in the construction environment, OSHA has preliminarily concluded that exposures to chrome 6 from Portland cement are best addressed by providing guidance to employers rather than including Portland cement in the construction rule.?

OSHA has also NOT proposed a requirement for regulated areas in construction and shipyards. The proposed construction standard also DOES NOT include provisions for exposure monitoring. THESE ARE TWO BIG VICTORIES FOR US BECAUSE IT MEANS THAT JOHN HENSHAW AND OTHERS AT OSHA ACTUALLY PAID ATTENTION TO OUR CONCERNS!!!

OSHA recognizes that in many instances the results of exposure monitoring required under this proposed standard would not be available until after operations involving chrome 6 exposure have been completed. OSHA has therefore proposed a performance-oriented requirement for construction employers. Rather than include specific requirements for exposure monitoring for these employers, OSHA proposes to allow employers to address chrome 6 exposures in any manner they choose, including the use of historical data, objective data or employee monitoring to determine employee exposures.

The primary exposures to chrome 6 in construction will come from abrasive blasting of materials coated with chrome 6, welding, cutting or torch burning of stainless steel or spray application of chrome 6 containing paints or coatings. OSHA estimates that 43 percent of the exposures in construction come from welding. Because exposure days are likely extremely limited in construction the agency has recommended a 30-working-day exclusion to make the standard more flexible. In other words, if employees are exposed to chrome 6 at or above the PEL fewer than 30 days over 12 consecutive months, employers could use any combination of controls to prevent exposure, including respirators alone. However, EMPLOYEE ROTATION IS PROHIBITED as a means of compliance with the PEL.

The proposed standard would require that the employer provide protective clothing and PPE at no cost to employees where chrome 6 hazards are present (skin or eye contact). There are also provisions for removal and storage of protective clothing and equipment, change areas, wash facilities, laundering of or disposal of contaminated clothing and requirements for employers to keep eating and drinking areas free of contamination. If the exposures are such that protective clothing and equipment are necessary, then change rooms and wash facilities must also be provided. Medical surveillance also kicks in when exposures exceed the 30-working-day threshold (at no cost to the employee and at a reasonable time and place).

Employers are also responsible for training of ALL employees who are potentially exposed to chrome 6 ? initial training, annual training ? which is understandable, informs them of the health hazards associated with chromium exposure, location, manner and use and release of chromium in the workplace and specific nature of operations that could result in exposure, engineering controls and work practices, emergency procedures and purpose, proper selection, fitting, proper use and limitations of respirators and protective clothing as well as a few other items. Medical surveillance records must be kept along with training records (maintained for three years after completion).

In terms of the rule?s impact on construction, OSHA estimates compliance costs to be $35 million per year. Keep in mind, however, that the agency?s economic impact analyses are usually off by at least a factor of 2. I would imagine that the majority of these costs come from PPE and protective clothing. Change rooms and wash facilities could get interesting ? and costly.

If you have questions about any of this, please let me know.


About the Author

Marian J. Marshall was the Director of Government Affairs for the Mason Contractors Association of America.

 

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