October 7, 2019 Trade Release. U.S. Department of Labor Proposes Revisions to OSHA's Beryllium Standards for Construction and Shipyards.
In 2017, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule to prevent chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer in American workers by limiting their exposure to beryllium and beryllium compounds. The rule contains standards for general industry, construction, and shipyards.
OSHA estimates that the rule will save 90 lives from beryllium-related diseases and prevent 46 new cases of chronic beryllium disease each year, once the effects of the rule are fully realized. The rule is projected to provide net benefits of about $560.9 million, annually.
About 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium in their workplaces, including approximately 11,500 construction and shipyard workers who may conduct abrasive blasting operations using slags that contain trace amounts of beryllium. The majority of workers affected by this rule are exposed in general industry operations such as beryllium metal and ceramic production, non-ferrous foundries, and fabrication of beryllium alloy products.
- Establishes a new, lower permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium of 0.2 µg/m3, averaged over 8-hours.
- Establishes a new short-term exposure limit for beryllium of 2.0 µg/m3, over a 15-minute sampling period.
- Requires 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.
- Requires employers to make available medical exams to monitor exposed workers and provides medical removal protection benefits to workers identified with a beryllium-related disease.
All three standards contained in the final rule took effect on May 20, 2017. On December 12, 2018 OSHA began enforcing most provisions of the beryllium standard for general industry, except for engineering controls (March 10, 2020).
OSHA is currently enforcing only the PELs in the construction and shipyard beryllium standards at §1926.1124(c), and §1915.1024(c), respectively.
Please see the corrected Updated Interim Enforcement Guidance Memorandum for the Beryllium Standards for the most current compliance information.
Issuance Follows Years of Study and Public Input
The final rule replaces a 40-year-old permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium that was outdated and did not adequately protect worker health. OSHA formally asked for public input on a possible beryllium rule in 2002, and rulemaking specialists visited work sites, performed risk assessments and calculated potential impacts on small businesses. In 2012, the effort received a boost when a major beryllium manufacturer and a labor union representing many beryllium workers jointly submitted a model for a new rule.
OSHA issued a proposed rule in 2015, followed by a months-long public comment period and several days of public hearings. The final rule reflects input from industry and labor stakeholders, small business representatives, subject matter experts and partner agencies.