Most of the U.S. workers who are exposed to hexavalent chromium compounds while on the job are welders, according to OSHA.

HexChrome Change: Employees to Learn All Exposure Results

An appeals court told OSHA to explain why it decided to require disclosure to workers only when the PEL for hexavalent chromium was exceeded, and now the safety agency has changed its mind. Most U.S. workers who are exposed to Cr(VI) compounds on the job are welders, according to OSHA.

OSHA published its Occupational Exposure to Hexavalent Chromium final rule on Feb. 28, 2006. The Public Citizen Health Research Group and others challenged it before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that OSHA had to explain why it had decided to require disclosure of exposure results to workers only when their exposures exceeded the PEL for hexavalent chromium, Cr(VI). In a Federal Register notice published Tuesday, the agency announced it has changed its mind and will require disclosure of all exposure results.

OSHA also published a companion direct final rule Tuesday. Unless a significant adverse comment is submitted on the companion direct final rule (Docket No. OSHA-H054a-2006-0064, www.regulations.gov), the change will be in effect. Comments may be submitted until April 15.

Most of the U.S. workers who are exposed to hexavalent chromium compounds while on the job are welders, according to OSHA.

OSHA said it re-examined the rulemaking record after the 3rd Circuit ruled and found no comments or testimony on the issue of whether employees should be notified of all exposure determinations, and it also confirmed that all of its other substance-specific health standards, including standards for lead, arsenic, and methylene chloride exposure, require employers to notify employees of exposures even below the relevant exposure limits.

The Cr(VI) standard lowered the PEL by 90 percent from its previous level, 52 micrograms per cubic meter of air, to 5 micrograms, which means over the course of an eight-hour shift, the worker's average exposure cannot exceed 5 μg/m3.

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