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Chromium VI In Cement: New COSHH Regulations

HSE InfoLine : 17 January, 2005  (New Product)
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (Amendment) Regulations 2004 (COSHH 2004) will prohibit the supply or use of cement which has a chromium VI concentration of more than 2 parts per million.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (Amendment) Regulations 2004 (COSHH 2004) will prohibit the supply or use of cement which has a chromium VI concentration of more than 2 parts per million. As well as cement itself, the restriction will apply to a wide range of products that contain cement such as mortars, grouts, tile adhesives etc.

This legislation is being introduced to help prevent allergic contact dermatitis, a potentially serious condition that can lead to permanent disability, which can occur when wet cement containing chromium VI comes into contact with the skin. While construction workers such as bricklayers, tile layers, and workers laying concrete floors are likely to be at most risk, this condition can occur in members of the public who use cement or products containing cement without taking proper precautions.

From 17 January 2005 manufacturers will have to add a reducing agent to their products to bring chromium concentrations down to permitted levels (2 parts per million). In addition, they must provide information on safe shelf life, as the reducing agent is only effective for a limited period.

Although virtually all uses of cement are covered by this ban, cement and cement products produced and used in controlled and closed systems are exempt from this restriction.

Manufacturers and suppliers will be taking urgent steps to comply with the new law as soon as practicable, in order to eliminate the risks from allergic contact dermatitis. However, it may take time for all 'undosed' products to work their way through the supply chain. In any event, even cement that is properly dosed with reducing agent will continue to have the potential to cause ill health due to its irritant effects and highly alkaline nature. Users are therefore being reminded how important it is to continue to avoid all skin contact with cement and cement products, using the correct PPE at all times.

HSE has worked closely with industry, including the British Cement Association (BCA), the British Adhesives and Sealants Association (BASA) and other company representatives on the new Regulations. Recently, HSE and BCA set up a Task Force representing a broad range of stakeholders to develop agreed approaches to the new chromium VI restrictions, and also on the other hazards of cement.

Bill Macdonald, HSE's spokesman on skin disease reduction said: 'By the simple step of reducing the levels of chromium VI in cement and cement products, these Regulations should make allergic contact dermatitis, caused by skin contact with wet cement, a thing of the past. But the fact remains that wet cement can still cause serious burns if it comes into contact with the skin. So, whilst this change is good news, it doesn't mean that cement is now 'safe'. Our message to users is: treat this material with respect if you value your skin'.

* The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) aim to protect workers and others from the harmful health effects of substances used at work. COSHH obliges employers to assess the risks
arising from their use of substances hazardous to health and to take steps to prevent or adequately control exposure.

* The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (Amendment) Regulations 2004 (COSHH 2004) make a number of amendments to COSHH 2002, and some other Regulations. These are needed to implement a European Directive on cement. Directive 2003/53/EC (the 26th Amendment of the Marketing and Use Directive) introduces an EU-wide restriction on the placing on the market and use of cement and cement preparations, which contain high levels of soluble chromium VI. In particular, the Directive:
prohibits the placing on the market or use of cement or cement preparations which contain, when hydrated, more than 2 parts per million of soluble chromium VI;
requires that where cement or cement preparations have a soluble chromium VI content of 2 ppm or less, when hydrated, due to the presence of a reducing agent, their packaging should be marked with information on the
period of time for which the reducing agent remains effective (i.e. packing date, suggested storage conditions and suggested storage period); and
permits the placing on the market and use of cement and cement preparations not meeting the two requirements above only when it is for use in totally automated and fully enclosed processes, where there is no
possibility of contact with the skin.
The HSC consulted on draft proposals to implement the Directive and for amending COSHH 2002 in CD195. The Consultative Document (CD195) was published in March 2004 with 3 months for comment. It proposed:
(a) a ban on the supply and use of high chromium VI cement and cement reparations, and a package marking requirement for reduced chromium VI cement and cement preparations, stemming from an EC marketing and use irective (2003/53/EC);
(b) extending the existing disapplication of COSHH and the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 (CLAW) from sea-going merchant ships to all merchant ships, in line with a recommendation of Lord Clarke's Thames Safety Inquiry; and
(c) revised wording of COSHH and CLAW to clarify that the duty to maintain exposure control measures extends to working procedures and not just machinery, as recommended by HSE occupational hygienists.

* Thirty responses were received to the consultation exercise. There was overall support for the cement proposals with some reservations on the detail. There was good support for the other two proposals. HSE put the
results of consultation and draft regulations to the HSC's meeting on 9 November 2004 (HSC/04/89) and the Regulations were subsequently made on 20 December 2004. Certain provisions of the Regulations come into force on 6 April 2005.

* The Joint Chromium VI Communications Task Force held its first meeting on 5 January 2005, with the next meeting being arranged for 4-6 weeks time. Its remit covers the smooth introduction of the changes in the COSHH Regulations 2004 and publicising the continuing risks of cement. Task Force members will be publicising the new Regulations via their own networks; most members have already issued information to their customers/membership to alert them to the changes. The Task Force's current membership currently comprises:
Bill Macdonald, Chair/HSE;
Michael Langdon, British Adhesives and Sealants Association
Michael Taylor, British Cement Association
Martin Casey, British Cement Association;
Carole Green, Builders Merchants Federation;
Cyril Potter, Contract Flooring Association;
Tom Dibaja, Federation of Master Builders;
Steve Miller, Hanson Building Products Ltd, representing packed products producers;
Richard Kerr, Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services;
Sean Bussey, Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians.

Statistics on dermatitis and other skin disorders is at

* Copies of 'The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (Amendment) Regulations 2004', S.I. 2004/3386, ISBN 0110514076, price 3.00 are available from HMSO; see
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