December 29, 2004
Jonathan Snare Acting Assistant Secretary
Docket Office, Docket H054A, Room N-2625,
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue,
NW Washington, DC 20210
RE: Comment on Proposed Rule Concerning Occupational Exposure to Hexavalent Chromium
Dear Mr. Snare:
On behalf of its 30,000 member safety, health and environmental (SH+E) professionals, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) provides the following comments on the proposal of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to amend its existing standard for employee exposure to hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI), or HexChrome]. ASSE commends OSHA for its thoughtful and considerable work in addressing the demand to update this standard through a performance-based approach. ASSE agrees that Hex Chrome is a risk to employees at the current permissible exposure limit (PEL), and an update is needed to reduce the risks employees exposed to Hex Chrome face in developing lung cancer, asthma, and damage to the nasal epithelia and skin. Despite OSHA's diligence in this matter, however, ASSE does not believe that enough scientific evidence exists at this time to support the 8-hour time-weighted average permissible exposure limit of one microgram of Cr(VI) per cubic meter of air 1 mcg / m3 for all Cr(VI) that this rulemaking would set. While our members fully agree a new, more stringent standard is needed, they believe additional research is needed before this or any specific standard can be supported. Nevertheless, ASSE looks forward to taking into consideration the viewpoints of other stakeholders on setting an appropriate Hex Chrome standard. As OSHA examines the responses to this rulemaking, ASSE respectfully asks that the following comments on issues related to protecting workers from Hex Chrome at any PEL be considered. Recognition of Appropriate SH+E Professionals
The proposed standard reflects what our members understand, that protecting workers from the risks of Hex Chrome requires establishing sophisticated engineering and work practice controls, ensuring proper provision and use of personal protective equipment (PPE), managing hazards communication, extensive recordkeeping and appropriate training. Each factor is vitally important to managing the difficult risk associated with Hex Chrome and should, at the very least, call for the oversight of an SH+E professional with appropriate experience and education.
Throughout industry, appropriate SH+E professional competence is demonstrated through the accredited voluntary certification process. ASSE urges that any future rulemaking include the mandate that these specific activities be administered under a required safety and health management plan prepared by an SH+E professional with a voluntary certification accredited by the industry-recognized and accredited certifying bodies Council on Engineering and Scientific Specialties Board (CESB) or National Commission on Certifying Agencies (NCCA). At this time, the appropriate SH+E designations that fit this requirement are the Certified Safety Professional (CSP), Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), and Certified Hazardous Materials Managers (CHMM). Individuals with these credentials are already widely accepted throughout industry for their professional capabilities and responsibility in managing safety and health risks like those posed by Hex Chrome.
While not every activity required by this standard may need to be performed by one of these professionals, their overall professional management and risk determination can be reflected in a safety and health plan under this standard for each work site where Hex Chrome is handled. The rulemaking reflects standards for health care professionals. No less of a commitment to SH+E professionalism should be accepted.Construction Standard
ASSE's members in the construction industry are deeply concerned that the proposed standard for Hex Chrome "has no teeth and therefore will not benefit our industry." They believe that the standard for the construction industry should have the same medical testing, exposure monitoring and training requirements as the general industry standard. As one member has said, "If the proposed construction standard remains unchanged there will be no compliance in the construction industry and therefore no benefit to the workers who are supposed to be protected." ASSE urges that, when the standard is reconsidered after these comments, every effort be made to make the provisions for construction as thorough in the protections it offers as for general industry.Water-Soluble Hex Chrome
ASSE is concerned that OSHA has overlooked the need to address exposure risks from water-soluble Hex Chrome. Medical surveillance procedures exist to help protect workers from water soluble Hex Chrome, and this standard should require employers to incorporate biological exposure monitoring for workers exposed to water-soluble Hex Chrome more than 30-days a year.
Employee Payment of PPE
It is ASSE's position that, in the case of dealing with the specific risks associated with HexChrome, employers must be solely responsible for providing protective clothing and equipment as well as laundering, cleaning, maintaining, and disposing of such equipment. ASSE's general position on employee payment of PPE is that in nearly all cases employers have the responsibility to ensure proper employee use of PPE, except where such protective clothing is considered by through the consensus of a specific industry as true tools of a trade, taken from one short-term job to another. That situation clearly is not the case here. The health risks require that employers ensure employees return all protective clothing and equipment and provide change rooms with separate storage facilities for street and for work clothing to prevent contamination outside the workplace.Training
ASSE commends OSHA for including training requirements so thoroughly and appropriately throughout the standard. As our members tell us, training could very well be the most important element in ensuring successful management of safety and health risks on a job site. Easily overlooked are ways to ensure the quality of training. Companies who invest in training should have some means to help measure the quality of the training for which they pay. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z490.1 Standard entitled “Criteria for Accepted Practices in Safety, Health, and Environmental Training” provides considerable assistance in making such determinations. Z490.1, for which ASSE is the Secretariat, sets accepted practices for safety and health training that gives employers guidance on how to select quality training materials, instructors and other program components. Z490.1 is also used to audit, monitor, evaluate and analyze the programs of training providers.
As OSHA fully knows, f ederal agencies were encouraged to utilize consensus standards by both Congress in Public Law 104-113, "The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995," and the Office of Management and Budget in its Circular A-119, “Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and in Conformity Assessment Activities." This rulemaking provides OSHA an opportunity to reference Z490.1 and, thereby, help ensure that in any future rulemaking on this issue succeeds.
Eye and Face Protection
The proposed standard also deals extensively with issues related to eye and face protection. As with training above, ASSE urges OSHA to reference in any future rulemaking on Hex Chrome the ANSI Z87 Standard entitled, " Safety Requirements for Protection of Faces and Eyes of Persons in Occupational, Educational, Recreational and Sports Activities. ASSE is the Secretariat for the standard and more information on it can be found at http://www.asse.org.
To assist OSHA staff in its deliberations on this rulemaking, we encourage you to contact Dave Heidorn, Manager of Government Affairs and Policy at 847/768-3406 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a complementary copy of both Z87 and Z490.1.
ConclusionASSE appreciates this opportunity to comment and, as always, stands ready to work with OSHA to ensure that a final rule is effective in preventing health risks from HexChrome in workers.
Gene Barfield, CSP
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