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Hexavalent Chromium (Hex Chrome) Control During Welding-Protecting Welders

If you need hexavalent chromium (hex chrome) testing/sampling as discussed in this article, call us at 1-800-344-4414 or e-mail us at info@atlenv.com for details and a free estimate.

Written By:  Robert E. Sheriff, MS, CIH, CSP, President
February 27, 2020

Hexavalent Chromium (Hex Chrome) Control During Welding-Protecting Welders

Welders have the potential to be overexposed to Hexavalent Chromium, also called Hex Chrome, or Chrome 6 during welding especially if its production welding, or full shift welding on stainless steel.  Overexposure to Hex Chrome can also occur on many forms of carbon steel since many steel alloys contain chromium.  Also, welding rods may also contain chromium that can form into Hexavalent Chromium when heated/melted during welding activities.

OSHA has identified Chrome 6 (CrVI) as a carcinogen and now has a specific regulation related to worker exposure.  It is 29CFR1910.1026 (General Industry) and 29CFR1926.1126 (Construction).  The hexavalent chromium regulation went into effect on May 31, 2010.

OSHA Standards

This OSHA Standard requires initial worker sampling in any activity that could contain Chromium and thus potentially overexpose that person to Hexavalent Chromium.  The most likely workers exposed are welders and those assisting the welders or in the immediate area.

If initial sampling identifies welder’s overexposure to hex chrome, the standard requires an effort to engineer out the exposure.  Several possible ways are available to “engineer out” the exposure.  They include:

  1. Automate the welding if possible—this separates the worker from the direct exposure to the welding fume—and thus—the Hexavalent Chromium.
  2. Change the welding method. Often the heaviest exposure potential exists with “stick welding.”  Possibly change to MIG or TIG welding which will likely reduce the amount of welding fumes.  TIG releases the least amount of fume including hexavalent chromium.
  3. Local Exhaust Ventilation – Often an “elephant trunk” exhaust system can be used where welding is relatively stationary. Care must be taken not to locate the exhaust close enough to the weld point to interfere with the inert gas shield at the weld point.
  4. General Exhaust Ventilation – This simply involves air movement to carry the welding fumes away from the welder’s breathing zone. This can only be done in a generally open space so the welding fumes do not expose other workers to the fumes.  Floor fans or general air flow using wall or ceiling fans can be considered.
  5. Work Practice Controls – This involves the control of welding fume exposure through the welder rotating to non-exposure tasks. This may involve the use of two or more rotating welders or ensuring that one welder works no more on a “hex chrome” task during a single shift so that they do not exceed the ACTION LEVEL EXPOSURE (in this case 2.5 ug/M3) for hexavalent chromium.
  6. Respiratory Protection – In an overexposure situation, OSHA only allows respiratory protection. 1) As a temporary control while engineering controls are being implemented.  2) As a supplement to engineering controls.  3) When engineering control is not feasible or not sufficient to control exposure.  The minimum protection for hex chrome and other welding fume components is an N-95 respirator or half-face respirator with HEPA filters.

If the initial sampling of a welder for hex chrome exceeds the PEL, re-sampling must occur within 3 months and 2 consecutive samplings must be below the Action Level to discontinue sampling.

In the event sampling of a worker for hex chrome exceeds the ACTION LEVEL, re-sampling must be done within 6 months until 2 consecutive samplings is below the ACTION LEVEL.

The conditions during welding involving Hexavalent Chromium can vary radically from welder to welder and day to day.  It is best to seek the assistance of an experienced Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) where overexposures have occurred—or are likely to occur—to provide guidance and exposure reduction assistance.  You should also access a copy of the applicable OSHA Regulation which can be found at www.osha.gov–go to “Regulations” select “Industry” or “Construction” and scroll down to the applicable provision, Industry is 1910.1026 and Construction is 1926.1126.

Hexavalent Chromium (Hex Chrome) Sampling & Control

We can provide sampling and assistance in compliance with the hexavalent chromium standard including re-sampling and control measures—including local exhaust ventilation and general ventilation.  Contact us for additional information and a free quote.

Our primary service areas for Hexavalent Chromium Control During Welding sampling/testing are: for New Jersey NJNew York NY, (New York City)Pennsylvania PAConnecticut CTDelaware DEMassachusetts, (Boston) MARhode Island RIWashington DCWisconsin WIMaryland MDMichigan MIIllinois (Chicago) ILVirginia VAIndiana INGeorgia (Atlanta) GAAlabama ALNorth Carolina NCSouth Carolina SCTennessee TNTexas (Dallas, Ft Worth) TXOklahoma OKDCArkansas AR, Florida FL. We can service most other areas of the U.S. but with some added travel charges.

For more information regarding Hexavalent Chromium Control During Welding, contact Atlantic Environmental.

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