OSHA has established a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) focused on identifying and reducing or eliminating the health hazards to workers posed by occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium (CrVI) and a number of other toxic substances often found together with it, according to a post on the web site of ORC Worldwide, an EHS global consultancy based in Washington, DC.

The purpose of the NEP is to reduce significantly the number of workers who are exposed to hexavalent chromium and toxic substances associated with is use, including antimony, arsenic, cadmium, calcium oxide, cobalt,copper fume, lead, iron oxide, manganese, nickel, silver, tin, and zinc oxide, at levels that exceed applicable OSHA permissible exposure limits (PELs) and that are causing (or are capableof causing) occupational illnesses.

OSHA will use inspection targeting, outreach and compliance assistance to carry out the NEP. The Agency aims to increase the level of compliance with standards by targeting inspections to workplaces known or likely to perform tasks associated with Cr(VI)over-exposures. OSHA has used the extensive data on hexavalent chromium exposures compiled during development of the Chromium (VI) standard to establish its targeting program. Industries selected for targeted inspections include: electroplating, aircraft painting, ship and boat building and repairing, chromate pigment producers, chromium catalyst producers, plastic colorant producers, steel mills, iron and steel foundries, chromium dyeproducers, and superalloyproducers, because these industries are known to have high numbers of employees involved in operations such as welding that can create exposures above the PEL.

Each OSHA rregion will be required to conduct at least five hexavalent chromium NEP inspections each year, although the regional offices are free to conduct more inspections if warranted. The Agency will conduct NEP inspections concurrently with site-specific targeting (SST) for recordkeeping or other programmed inspections whenever possible. Compliance officers will conduct on-site sampling, and will not rely solely on employer data in making a decision as to whether or not to conduct full-shift monitoring.

To ensure abatement and measure NEP effectiveness, follow-up inspections will be conducted in all cases with documented exposures above the action level where the employer was cited for failure to comply with requirements triggered by those exposures. Employers cited for violations tied to documented exposures above the applicable PEL for hexavalent chromium or any of the toxic substances listed above also will be subject to follow-up inspections. Follow-up inspections will be conducted within three months after the final abatement date.

Establishments with fewer than 10 workers are included in the NEP. States in which hexavalent chromium exposures are prevalent are being strongly encouraged to participate. Federal agencies that are subject to inspection and have employees exposed to hazards covered by the NEP are included as well.