Safety and OSHA News

Hexavalent chromium PEL upheld, with one exception

Companies won’t be facing a new, stricter permissible exposure limit (PEL) for hexavalent chromium.

A federal court has ruled against a challenge of the rules by three safety groups. Public Citizen Health Research Group (HRG) and a steelworkers union had argued that the 5 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) PEL is insufficiently protective of workers. The two groups had sued to get a stricter standard for welding, aircraft painting, electroplating and some other tasks.

The Edison Electric Institute also sued and lost. It said OSHA shouldn’t have applied its hex chrome standard to maintenance and repair employees at coal and nuclear electric power plants.

The court did rule in favor of HRG on one point.

OSHA has been ordered to defend its employee notification requirements in the hex chrome standard.

But in the meantime, the employee notification requirements will stand until OSHA studies them.

The standard requires employers to notify workers when monitored exposures exceed the 5 ug/m3 PEL.

HRG wants employees to be notified of all monitoring results, which was part of OSHA’s original hex chrome proposal.

OSHA had originally proposed a 1 ug/m3 PEL but adopted the 5 ug/m3 standard instead. It concluded that the lower limit wasn’t feasible for all industries.

Cite: Public Citizen et al v. U.S. Dept. of Labor, OSHA, U.S. Circuit Crt. 3, Nos. 06-1818 and 06-2604, 2/23/09.

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