Hexavalent Chromium Hazards Add Up to Pa Firm's $82,000 Fine

OSHA found that employees performing welding work in the main fabrication area were exposed to airborne concentrations of hexavalent chromium in excess of the permissible exposure limit.

OSHA has cited Cranberry, Pa.-based Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC for alleged willful and serious violations of workplace health standards at its Newington, N.H., stainless-steel component manufacturing facility. The company faces a total of $82,000 in proposed fines following an inspection by OSHA's Concord Area Office that was initiated in response to a complaint.

OSHA found that employees performing welding work in the main fabrication area were exposed to airborne concentrations of hexavalent chromium in excess of the permissible exposure limit, and engineering controls or work practices to reduce the exposure levels were not in place. Additionally, employees were wearing respirators even though they had not been medically evaluated to determine if they could safely do so; initial monitoring to determine hexavalent chromium exposure levels had not been conducted; medical surveillance was not made available for all potentially exposed employees; and dry sweeping and brushing, rather than other methods that would minimize the likelihood of exposure, were used to clean work areas. These conditions resulted in citations for five serious violations with $27,000 in proposed fines.

Westinghouse also was issued one willful citation with a $55,000 fine for failing to establish a regulated work area around employees exposed, or reasonably expected to be exposed, to excess levels of hexavalent chromium.

"Workplace exposure to hexavalent chromium may cause irritation or damage to the eyes and skin upon contact and to the nose, throat, and lungs if inhaled. Inhalation could also lead to lung cancer," said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA's area director in New Hampshire. "That's why it is critically important that employers such as Westinghouse take effective steps to monitor, identify, and reduce exposure levels, and other necessary steps to safeguard their employees' health."

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