WASHINGTON - The compliance date for the main provisions of the new Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) standard for hexavalent chromium is Nov. 27, 2006 for employers with 20 or more employees, and May 30, 2007 for employers with 19 or fewer employees. If necessary, engineering controls to maintain air-monitoring results below the permissible exposure limits, such as modified ventilation systems, are not required until May 31, 2010.

Hexavalent chromium is a chemical by-product generated when welding on stainless steel, and to a lesser extent, galvanized steel and chrome-coated metals. In addition, low levels of hexavalent chromium may be an ingredient of the welding rods and wires used in the welding processes.

The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractor's National Association (SMACNA) has developed compliance information that is posted on the SMACNA Website. A recent addition to the compliance information is a checklist of air monitoring variables that can be taken into consideration when conducting personal air monitoring for hexavalent chromium exposures in the workplace.

The purpose of the checklist is to evaluate and document the environmental conditions in the workplace at the time of the air monitoring. With multiple variables in a typical welding activity, it is critical that the surroundings are documented so that the sampling effort can be replicated if needed.

Contractors across the board are being encouraged to evaluate their welding processes and related activities, identify which processes may generate excessive hexavalent chromium fumes, and implement a compliance plan. Initial air monitoring may be needed and can be done in-house by an insurance provider or an outside consultant.

Mike McCullion, SMACNA's safety and health director, is available prior to air monitoring activities for any assistance he can provide. SMACNA is requesting that contractors forward McCullion any air sampling results so an industry-wide database of results can be collected. All company names will remain anonymous, but participants must follow the checklist. The database will be used to evaluate the overall scope of the issue on an industry-wide level and help with developing control strategies.

For more information and to forward sample results, call 703-995-4027, or e-mail mmccullion@smacna.org.

Publication date: 09/25/2006