Week 05: Welding/Hexavalent

Hexavalent Chromium


To reinforce operational awareness of hexavalent chromium, a toxic metal coating on certain welding metals.

Hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) is a known carcinogen that many workers in different industries are regularly exposed to. For those who breathe it in over the course of many years, hexavalent chromium is associated with an increased risk for lung cancer. The immediate side effects of exposure include eye and skin irritation or damage to the nose, throat, and lungs. These effects range from moderate to severe, depending on exposure. While many industries have tried to move away from the use of chromates, they are still found in certain materials.

Sources of Cr(VI) include the following:

  • Hot work on materials containing chromium, such as stainless steel
  • Inks and paints
  • Pigments or coatings containing dry chromate

Hexavalent chromium exposure occurs through inhaling dust particles, mist, or fumes, or through skin contact.  

Organizations are required to do the following:

  • Encourage employees to report work-related health concerns and hazards. Managers must respond immediately to such reports.
  • Conduct a hazard assessment and determine controls needed to limit exposures. Engineering controls, which include ventilation and equipment modification, are the most essential type of control. Additionally, teach employees proper workplace procedures to minimize exposure.
  • Perform air monitoring for employees initially and periodically as required. Air monitoring results and any changes in operations determine the exact monitoring frequency. Inform employees of the results of air monitoring tests and maintain records of results.
  • Provide required personal protective equipment (PPE) for affected employees. Your hazard assessment and exposure monitoring results will guide what PPE is needed, which may include respiratory protection.
  • Make medical surveillance programs available at no cost to employees if they experience emergency exposures, symptoms of Chromium VI exposure, or are exposed to workplace levels at or above the action level of 30 or more for multiple days a year.
  • Do not rotate employees to meet exposure guidelines — this practice is strictly prohibited.

Work Practices:

  • Practice good personal hygiene. Shower and change into street clothes before leaving the worksite.
  • Don’t eat or store food and drinks or use or carry tobacco products or cosmetics in Chromium VI exposure areas.
  • Immediately report any suspected exposure, conditions, or any other safety concerns to your supervisor.
  • Complete all training for the hazardous materials you work with.