PA Employer Accused of Exposing Workers to Hexavalent Chromium Fumes

Source: Praphan Jampala - 123RF

OSHA has cited Cleveland Brothers Inc. (doing business as CB HYMAC) for exposing workers to hexavalent chromium fumes and other safety hazards at the company’s Camp Hill, Pennsylvania site.

The company, which provides hydraulic service and repair, machining and chroming services, is facing one willful violation and 18 serious and two other-than-serious citations from OSHA.

The penalties total $280,874.

OSHA first conducted an investigation on the company in July 2019 after receiving a complaint of overexposure to the toxin. OSHA also cited the company for failing to train employees on hexavalent chromium’s hazards and maintain a satisfactory respiratory protection program.

According to OSHA, Hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] is one of the valence states (+6) of the element chromium. It is usually produced by an industrial process. Cr(VI) is known to cause cancer.

In addition, it targets the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin, and eyes. Chromium metal is added to alloy steel to increase hardenability and corrosion resistance. A major source of worker exposure to Cr(VI) occurs during “hot work” such as welding on stainless steel and other alloy steels containing chromium metal.

Cr(VI) compounds may be used as pigments in dyes, paints, inks, and plastics. It also may be used as an anticorrosive agent added to paints, primers, and other surface coatings.

The Cr(VI) compound chromic acid is used to electroplate chromium onto metal parts to provide a decorative or protective coating.

Workplace exposures occur mainly in the following areas:

  • Welding and other types of “hot work” on stainless steel and other metals that contain chromium;
  • Use of pigments, spray paints and coatings; and
  • Operating chrome plating baths.

Requirements to protect workers from Cr(VI) exposure are addressed in specific OSHA standards for general industry, shipyard employment, and construction.