OSHA Update: Final Rule on Beryllium Exposure

OSHA's final rule went into effect May 20, 2017 - Are you compliant?

Beryllium Exposure, OSHA Beryllium Exposure Final Rule

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule to prevent chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer in workers. Although beryllium is widely used in many industries because of its electrical and thermal conductivity, hardness, and good corrosion resistance, it’s a highly toxic metal. When workers inhale beryllium, they’re at an increased risk of developing chronic beryllium disease (CBD) or lung cancer.

Every year, approximately 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium in their workplace. 11,500 construction and shipyard workers conduct abrasive blasting and welding operations using slags that contain trace amounts of beryllium.

OSHA estimates that the final 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 implemented. The rule is anticipated to provide net benefits of about $560.9 million, annually.

Key Provisions:
  • Reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over 8-hours.
  • Establishes a new short term exposure limit for beryllium of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air, 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.

2017 – 2020 Compliance Schedules

The final rule goes into effect on May 20, 2017 and will replace a 40-year-old permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium that was outdated and did not effectively protect workers health.

  • Employees must comply with most elements of the rule starting March 12, 2018 – one year from the original effective date.
  • Provide required change rooms and showers – March 11, 2019
  • Implement engineering controls – March 10, 2020

Responsible employers have been protecting workers from harmful exposure to beryllium for years by placing effective signs and labels, using engineering and work practice controls, and providing personal protective clothing and equipment (PPE).

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