OSHA's Rulemaking to Protect Workers from Beryllium Exposure

NEW August 28, 2020 Trade Release. U.S. Department of Labor Issues Revised Beryllium Standards for the Construction and Shipyard Industries

OSHA has issued two final rules revising the beryllium standards for general industry (29 C.F.R. § 1910.1024), construction (29 C.F.R. § 1926.1124), and shipyards (29 C.F.R. § 1915.1024). On July 14, 2020, OSHA published a final rule revising the beryllium standard for general industry to clarify certain provisions and to simplify or improve compliance. The final rule is designed to maintain or enhance worker protection by insuring that the standard is well understood and compliance is more straightforward.

On August 31, 2020, OSHA published a separate final rule revising the beryllium standards for the construction and shipyard industries. The changes in that rule will more appropriately tailor the requirements of the construction and shipyard standards to the particular exposures in these industries (i.e., exposures to materials containing only trace amounts of beryllium) and will avoid inconsistency, where appropriate, between the construction and shipyard standards and the general industry standard.

The final rule for construction and shipyards amends the following paragraphs in the beryllium standards for construction and shipyards: "Definitions," "Methods of Compliance," "Respiratory Protection," "Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment," "Housekeeping," "Hazard Communication," "Medical Surveillance," and "Recordkeeping." In addition, the "Hygiene Areas and Practices" paragraph has been removed from both standards.

About 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium in their workplaces, including approximately 50,500 workers employed in general industry and approximately 11,500 construction and shipyard workers who may conduct abrasive blasting operations using slags that contain trace amounts of beryllium.


Key Provisions of the Beryllium Standards for General Industry, Construction, and Shipyards

  • Set a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium of 0.2 µg/m3, averaged over 8-hours.
  • Set a short-term exposure limit for beryllium of 2.0 µg/m3, over a 15-minute sampling period.
  • Require employers to: use engineering and work practice controls (such as ventilation or enclosure) to limit worker exposure to beryllium; provide respirators when controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high-exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan; and train workers on beryllium hazards.
  • Require employers to make available medical exams to monitor exposed workers and provides medical removal protection to workers identified with a beryllium-related disease.

Compliance Schedule

All three standards took effect on May 20, 2017. OSHA has been enforcing most provisions of the general industry standard since December 12, 2018. The agency began enforcing the provisions for change rooms and showers on March 11, 2019, and engineering controls on March 10, 2020. The effective date of the revisions in the general industry final rule is September 14, 2020.

OSHA is currently enforcing only the PELs in the construction and shipyard standards at §1926.1124(c) and §1915.1024(c), respectively. The compliance date for the remaining provisions of the construction and shipyards standards, as modified, is September 30, 2020.