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From the Editor

On Feb. 28, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published the final standard for occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium in its monthly newsletter, the Federal Register. As you may recall, this standard covers occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] in construction, general industry and shipyards. In a major victory for the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) and mason contractors across the country, Portland cement was excluded from the final standard.

OSHA proposed to exclude exposures to Portland cement in the construction industry because of data indicating that airborne exposures to Cr(VI) in construction activities involving Portland cement were very low and posed little lung cancer risk. They also surmised that existing OSHA standards already address risks from dermal exposure.

The standard was published in accord with the timetable established by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which, in April 2003, ordered OSHA to promulgate a standard governing workplace exposure to hexavalent chromium.

To further illustrate how potentially destructive this standard could have been for mason contractors had Portland cement been included, the following are the requirements for those involved in the chemical, welding and other affected industries. The new standard lowers OSHA's permissible exposure limit (PEL) for hexavalent chromium, and for all Cr(VI) compounds, from 52 to five micrograms of Cr(VI) per cubic meter of air as an eight-hour, time-weighted average. The standard also includes provisions relating to preferred methods for controlling exposure, respiratory protection, protective work clothing and equipment, hygiene areas and practices, medical surveillance, hazard communication and record keeping.

For those readers who have followed this tense battle over the last few years, you are aware of MCAA's tremendous involvement in getting the requirements for mason contractors under this standard lessened or excluded. Had this standard included Portland cement, it was predicted by industry leaders that it would have cost mason contractors an estimated $350 per worker per day to implement the monitoring, protection and record keeping required.

The exclusion of Portland cement in this standard is just one more way that the MCAA is fighting for your business and your industry. But the fight isn't over; silica, ergonomics and hearing conservation standards are still on the horizon. If you aren't a member of the MCAA, lend your support today. Call (800) 536-2225, or visit www.masoncontractors.org to join the one and only association that is fighting for you and your business.



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