Cadmium exposure safety and training

January 1, 2013

Cadmium is a soft, malleable metal that, according to OSHA, can cause serious health problems for workers exposed to it. When using this metal, proper personal protective equipment must be worn because cadmium is highly toxic. Exposure to this metal is “known to cause cancer and targets the body’s cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, neurological, reproductive, and respiratory systems,” the administration states.

Cadmium is used today in batteries, alloys, plastic stabilizers and solar cells. OSHA estimates that 300,000 workers are exposed to the metal in the United States. Cadmium exposure can occur in all industry sectors, but construction and manufacturing have the highest exposure rates. The following workplace activities can lead to exposure:

  • Smelting
  • Metal refining
  • Battery manufacturing
  • Plastics manufacturing
  • Workers involved in the processes of landfill operations
  • Recycling of electronic parts or plastics
  • Compost working and waste collecting (due to exposure to dust, which may contain cadmium)

OSHA offers the following advice for training workers on cadmium:

  • Explain the health hazards associated with cadmium exposure.
  • Provide information about where and how cadmium is used, stored and released at the worksite, including processes or operations that involve potential cadmium exposure, especially above the permissible exposure limit.
  • Explain engineering controls and work practices for the employee’s job assignment to control exposure to cadmium.
  • Describe the measures employees can take to protect themselves from cadmium exposure, such as modification of smoking, personal hygiene precautions and appropriate work practices.
  • Explain emergency procedures.
  • A copy of OSHA’s Cadmium Standard (1910.1027) and its appendices should be readily available to employees.