Workers Health & Safety : HSE Report on exposure to carcinogens in the electroplating industry [UK]

HSE has published supplementary  RR1042.pdf.pdf (322 downloads) in surface engineering. The report examines the practical efficacy of gloves in electroplating, the efficacy of surfactants compared to local exhaust ventilation (LEV) for controlling chromium exposures around plating tanks and the potential for transfer of contaminants outside the workplace.

HSE report findings

The report found that:

  • Workers who solely wore “reusable (chemically resistant)” gloves had more than three times the hand contamination of those solely wearing “single use, splash resistant” (also known as “disposable”) gloves.
  • Reusable (chemically resistant)” PVC gloves do not offer the same degree of hand protection as other types of glove commonly used in the surface engineering industry.
  • No real difference in urinary chromium levels in electroplaters can be attributed to the use of surfactants or LEV to control mist emissions from plating tanks.
  • The major route by which occupational contamination is transferred outside the workplace is on work clothing. There is clear potential for this to occur in the surface engineering industry when contaminated work wear is taken home for laundering.

HSE report conclusions

The report therefore concludes that gloves should be worn for splash protection only and not used as a primary barrier to protect the skin from exposure to hazardous substances. Regarding the use surfactants compared to LEV, both approaches can adequetely control exposure provided they are properly implemented and maintained.

The report was based on work undertaken for RR963 on exposure to hexavalent chromium, nickel and cadmium compounds in the electroplating industry.

Red-on-line EHS Legal experts


RR1042 Exposure to carcinogens in surface engineering: Supplementary report, published on the HSE website on 13 February 2015

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