Hexavalent chromium compounds are widely used in chrome plating, stainless steel welding, ferrochromium alloy production, and wood. Although hexavalent chromium is toxic and carcinogenic at levels far below those permitted by the consensus standards adopted by Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 1971, OSHA has delayed revising the standard to protect workers in these industries.
In February 2002, Public Citizen Health Research Group and PACE International Union filed a petition with the Third Circuit requesting that the Court direct OSHA to initiate a rule making to protect workers from the adverse health affects of hexavalent chromium. On December 24, 2002, the Court granted the petition after finding that OSHA had unreasonably delayed taking action to protect workers from this dangerous substance.
On April 2, 2003, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ordered that OSHA issue a proposed standard for hexavalent chromium no later than October 4, 2004, and a final rule no later than January 18, 2006. The court, over OSHA’s objection, adopted the recommendation of Senior Judge Walter Stapleton, whom the court had appointed to conduct a mediation among the parties over the proper schedule for implementing the court’s earlier directive that a rulemaking proceed on an expedited basis. The agency had taken the position that it should be allowed another four years to issue a rule, a view that Public Citizen opposed, the mediator disagreed with, and the court has now rejected.