Mitigate the Manufacturing Risks from Hexavalent Chromium Exposure
Hexavalent chromium or Cr(VI) is an airborne carcinogen that is regulated by OSHA for manufacturing and general industrial operations. If you run a manufacturing facility, you probably don’t need regulatory watchdogs to tell you that hexavalent chromium, also known as “hex chromates,” can wreak havoc on your production operations.
This toxic form of chromium is released into the air during manufacturing processes such as:
- Metal finishing and welding: Welding stainless steel, nonferrous chromium alloys, or other similar “hot work” can release hex chromates and other toxins.
- Painting and coating: Hexavalent chromium is also released from priming, painting, and other surface prep work and is often found in dye pigments, paints, and inks.
- Metal cutting and grinding/blasting: Laser and plasma cutting, grinding and sanding, and working with stainless steel and other metals can also increase exposure to hex chromates.
The Health Risks of Hexavalent Chromium
Hexavalent chromium can irritate the skin, nose, or even cause stomach ailments. Long-term exposure can lead to asthma, lung cancer, or nasal and sinus cancers. From priming and coating aircraft components to welding and cutting metal fabrications, manufacturing processes can pose significant health risks for employees.
According to OSHA, these health risks include:
- Dangers to the nose and throat: Minor effects may include a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, or itching and burning sensations. Long-term exposure can increase the risk for nosebleeds, sores, or even perforations in the nasal septum (wall separating the nasal passages).
- Dangers to the skin: Brief skin contact with hex chromates can cause allergic swelling with a red, itchy rash, and repeated skin contact can result in a more severe, longer-lasting dermatitis. Contact with non-intact skin can even lead to chrome ulcers.
- Dangers to the lungs and stomach: While most people do not develop respiratory tract irritations from airborne hexavalent chromium, some employees can become allergic and develop asthma wheezing and shortness of breath. In extreme cases, workers can develop lung cancer or stomach conditions such as gastritis or gastrointestinal ulcers.
Of course, when employees become sick, manufacturing quality suffers. If enough workers miss work due to hexavalent chromium induced illnesses, production can come to a grinding halt. Compromised safety leads to a compromised bottom-line.
The Bottom-Line Risks of Hexavalent Chromium
If enough employees miss work due to hexavalent chromium related illnesses, there are fewer workers to ensure quality control and safety best practices. Just a single accident on the shop floor can cost thousands or even millions of dollars in potential fines and legal fees.
That doesn’t even factor in skyrocketing healthcare expenses to treat an injury and the indirect cost for each project that has to be stopped midstream due to illness or injury.
Other bottom-line risks include:
- Reduced productivity: With fewer healthy employees working the shop floor, both quality and productivity suffer.
- Increased downtime: HEPA filters can mitigate some contamination risk, but overhead filters don’t eliminate all hex chromates, and changing filters can drain valuable man-hours.
- Greater risk of regulatory fines: Unless you’re in the pesticide industry, OSHA requires all industries to take protective measures to shield their employees from hexavalent chromium exposure, per the Chromium (VI) standard 1910.1026.
Clean Air Solutions for Safeguarding Your Facility
Fortunately, you don’t have to limit your painting and coating, grinding, welding, or metal fabrication operations in order to reduce your hexavalent chromium risks. With Duroair retractable enclosures and industrial clean rooms, manufacturers have cost-effective clean air solutions to mitigate exposure dangers.
Modular industrial air filtration can even increase your facility’s floor space to accommodate large workpieces without disrupting your cellular workflow processes. Plus, Duroair filters surpass NESHAP 319 requirements for hexavalent chromium, ensuring both compliance due diligence and effectively protecting your work environment.
The operational advantages of Duroair hexavalent chromium containment solutions include:
- Easier quality control and oversight of finishing procedures
- Fewer opportunities for project damage due to transport mishaps
- Reduced lead time for transporting pieces offsite
- Fewer project delays due to off-site setbacks
- Lower material handling costs and reduced labor for transporting large pieces to subcontractors
By combining our retractable, portable enclosures with our vented or non-vented filtration systems, we can customize a clean air solution to safeguard your valued employees and reduce the air filtration cost burden.
Contact our industrial clean air experts today for a free consultation on how to mitigate hexavalent chromium risks while improving operations.