“After its court-ordered review of the workplace dangers of hexavalent chromium earlier this year, OSHA directed its inspectors to ensure that construction workers are properly protected from the hex-chrome hazard when working with Portland cement,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “Though LIUNA signatory contractors consistently comply with OSHA standards, I asked the Fund’s Occupational Safety and Health Division to summarize the duties on which employers will now be checked so that no LIUNA contractors will face the risk of an OSHA citation.”
Laborers and contractors are aware that exposure to Portland cement can irritate and burn the eyes and skin. Less recognized and more serious, exposure to the hex-chrome in the cement can also cause allergic skin reactions that are serious enough to force some workers to leave the industry. Yet, in most cases, simple and inexpensive efforts can prevent these problems.
OSHA’s requirements are not new, but the recent compliance directive is focusing more attention on their enforcement. To meet the requirements and avoid citations, LIUNA signatory contractors should review their practices and procedures to make sure that the necessary precautions are taken. You must:
- Supply boots, gloves and eyewear to limit skin and eye exposures.
- Supply onsite clean-up facilities (see below).
- Ensure that exposures to airborne cement dust are below Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs).
- Train your workforce about the hazards of Portland cement and its hexavalent chromium content.
- Keep OSHA 300 log records of any dermatitis, allergies or illnesses related to the use of cement products.