Hexavalent Chromium Notification Mandates for Excess Exposure

In response to a court order, OSHA has amended its February 28, 2006, final rule on occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) by requiring that employers notify employees of the results of all Cr(VI) exposure determinations.

As originally promulgated, the Cr(VI) rule required employers to notify affected employees of any determinations indicating exposures in excess of the permissible exposure limit (PEL). The employer could satisfy this requirement either by posting the determination results in a location accessible to all affected employees or by notifying each affected employee in writing of the results.

Under the General Industry Standard, notice has to be provided within 15 workdays; in the construction and maritime sectors, employers have 5 workdays to provide the required notice. The final rule departed from the 2004 proposed standard, which would have required employers to notify affected employees of all exposure determinations, irrespective of the results.

Public Citizen and other parties petitioned for review of multiple aspects of the final Cr(VI) standard. Regarding notification, the petitioners argued that OSHA’s decision to depart from the proposed rule and limit employee notification to exposures above the PEL was arbitrary and unexplained.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit agreed with the petitioners, finding that “OSHA failed to provide a statement of reasons for departing from the proposed standard and past practice in other standards.” The court remanded the notification provision to the agency and said it expected OSHA to “act expeditiously in either providing an explanation for its chosen notification requirements or taking such further action as may be appropriate.”

The amended provision requires employers to notify affected employees of all exposure determinations above or below the PEL. OSHA states that it is not changing any other requirements in the exposure determination or notification provisions.

For example, the number of workdays employers have to provide notice to employees is unchanged.

The amendment was issued as a direct final rule effective June 15, 2010, unless significant adverse comment is transmitted, postmarked, or delivered to OSHA by April 16, 2010.

From the Enviro BLR

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