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RR963 - Exposure to hexavalent chromium, nickel and cadmium compounds in the electroplating industry

This research was conducted by HSE in partnership with the Surface Engineering Association (SEA). The aim was to investigate whether repeat Biological Monitoring (BM) over a period of time could be used to help drive sustainable improvements in exposure control.

Fifty-three companies engaged in nickel, hexavalent chromium and/or cadmium electroplating were visited. An occupational hygiene assessment of relevant tasks and exposure controls was conducted at each visit. BM (post shift urine sampling) was used to quantitatively assess nickel, chromium and (where used) cadmium exposures. Other measurements, such as levels of contamination of worker’s hands and workplace surfaces with nickel and/or chrome, were also made to provide further information on exposure paths.

A detailed insight is provided into nickel, hexavalent chromium and cadmium exposures in electroplating. The extensive measurement programme employed allows identification of a number of tasks and worker groups with potential for exposure and provides a clear picture of the standard of exposure control achieved. This provides an improved understanding of exposure routes and allows exposure control to be better targeted.

Sustainable statistically significant reductions in exposure were achieved at the companies with the highest initial levels of urinary nickel and/or chromium. This was as a direct result of developing a better understanding of exposure pathways and implementing repeat Biological Monitoring (BM) over the lifetime of the project to provide evidence of exposure control. Reductions were in the range 30 to 40% for nickel, and 20 to 30% for chromium.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2013-02-01