Hexavalent Chromium Compliance – Helping Industry Comply with the OSHA Standard

Insight IH Consulting assists clients with services that help compliance with the OSHA hexavalent chromium standard. We perform baseline and periodic monitoring. We can also help you establish or modify a program, and have conducted on-site training.


Hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] is a valence state of the element chromium. Cr(VI) is usually produced in industrial processes and is known to cause cancer. In addition, it targets the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes. Chromium metal is added to alloy steel to increase both hardness and corrosion resistance. A major source of worker exposure to Cr(VI) occurs during “hot work” such as welding on stainless steel and other chromium-containing alloys. Cr(VI) compounds may be used as pigments in dyes, paints, inks, and plastics. Hexavalent chromium is also used as an anti-corrosive agent added to paints, primers, and other surface coatings. The Cr(VI) compound chromic acid is often found in electroplating, where chromium is applied onto metal parts to provide a protective coating.

Estimates reveal that 558,000 workers are potentially exposed to Cr(VI) in the United States. Workplace exposures occur mainly in the following areas:

– Welding and other types of “hot work” on stainless steel and other metals that contain chromium
– Pigments, spray paints and coatings
– Chrome plating baths

Stainless Steel and Food

Stainless steel is also ubiquitous in the food industry due to a desirable property. A protective oxide layer on this metal prevents the formation of rust that could contaminate foodstuffs.  Nearly all food facilities have a maintenance department. Typically, these maintenance departments will contain one or more welding machines and a supply of stainless steel wire or rods.  Many facilities choose to subcontract large jobs to firms that specialize in large-scale welding operations.  However, employers often overlook the small repair and fabrication processes which still occur. 

Insight has measured concentrations capable of exceeding full-shift PELs in fifteen minutes samples.  As such, Safety Professionals should ensure maintenance personnel are sufficiently protected with the proper PPE. Additionally, to ensure compliance, firms should look to implement proper controls (exhaust hoods and fresh-air supply) and provide training to affected employees.

Additional Information, Links

Applicable OSHA Standard: 1910.1026 – Chromium (VI)
Selecting processes to minimize hexavalent chromium from stainless steel welding.
Clearing the Air: The Importance of Filter Replacement for Welding Fume Extraction Systems

Assessment Methodology

The Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for hexavalent chromium is 5 ug/m3 and the Action Level (AL) is 2.5 ug/m3. Personal sampling using a pump and a PVC filter cassette is the preferred means of determining personal exposures.  Periodic monitoring (>PEL = quarterly, >AL = semi-annually) may be necessary, based upon the results. Additional OSHA-established requirements for effected employers include training, medical monitoring, regulated areas, respiratory protection, engineering controls, etc.

Insight IH Consulting has extensive experience in personal sampling for hexavalent chromium, and in compliance with the OSHA Standard. 

Contact us for assistance with hexavalent chromium compliance today!