In recent safety news, OSHA fines a business over $280k for exposing workers to unhealthy work conditions. Not only were they cited for failing to properly train employees, they were also cited for one willful violation, 18 serious citations, and two “other-than serious” citations. It was reported that they were exposing employees to hexavalent chromium fumes and other health hazards.

What is hexavalent chromium and why is it dangerous?
Hexavalent chromium is a toxic form of the element chromium. These compounds are man-made and used in a variety of industries. Examples of this compound can be found in, but not limited to, the following:

• chromate pigments in dyes, paints, inks, and plastics
• fume from welding stainless steel or nonferrous chromium alloys
• Impurity present in portland cement

Hexavalent chromium is very harmful to the human body. It can affect the eyes, nose, throat, lungs, and skin. Exposure can cause health effects such as lung cancer, damage to the respiratory tract, and damage the eyes. Workers can also develop sores in the nasal passages and if the damage is severe, develop nasal passage perforation. Some have also experienced allergic skin reactions called allergic contact dermatitis.

It is important that you have the health of your employees in mind and ensure that their training is aligned with OSHA’s health and safety standards. The OSHA hexavalent chromium standard outlines specific requirements that employers must follow to ensure the health and safety of their employees. A few of OSHA’s safety requirements are listed below:

• train employees on the proper work practices and protective equipment to use when working with or around hexavalent chromium.
• assess employee exposure to hexavalent chromium and limit eight-hour time-weighted average exposure to 5 micrograms per cubic meter of air or less.
• provide respiratory protection if exposures exceed the permissible exposure limit.
• provide appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment when there is likely to be a hazard present from skin or eye contact.
• implement good personal hygiene and housekeeping practices to prevent hexavalent chromium exposure.

For more information about OSHA’s safety requirements, visit  or contact our industrial hygiene and safety division at