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A brief guide to the chrome plating process

The Surface Engineering Association (SEA) is dedicated to making sure their members’ interests are represented, both at UK and EU governmental levels. Legislation governing environmental and health and safety has a big impact on the day-to-day operations of companies working in the surface engineering industry. We ensure our members get the right advice to help them comply with the often complicated legislation.

Here, we take a look at the chrome plating process and the latest joint guidance production by the SEA and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

What is chrome plating?

The chrome plating process is a method of applying a thin layer of chromium onto a substrate (metal or alloy) through an electroplating procedure.

In simple terms, electroplating is achieved by passing an electric current between two electrodes which are immersed in an electrolyte bath comprising of chromic acid. One of the electrodes will be the substrate which is to be plated. During the flow of electricity between the two electrodes, chromium atoms are deposited in a layer on the electrode to be plated.

Health & safety requirements for the chrome plating process.

Some chemicals used in traditional chrome plating processes are classified as carcinogenic and must therefore be strictly controlled. The SEA has produced a series of guidance notes in conjunction with the HSE to ensure that members are aware of the issue and how to control any risks from the process.

There are essentially two types of plating processes for chrome:

· Hexavalent chromium. This is the most toxic form of chromium and is a known human carcinogen. Toxic waste produced from the hexavalent chromium bath is a hazardous waste material and must be treated prior to disposal.

· Trivalent chromium. This has a much lower toxicity than hexavalent chromium. However, its use and disposal of any waste material is also strictly controlled.


All companies are legally required to carry out strict monitoring when carrying out any electrolytic chromium processes.

For more information and guidance on the chrome plating process and the related health and safety implications, or if you would like to know more about membership of the trade association, please contact the SEA at info@sea.org.

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E: info@sea.org.uk