OSHA announced on March 2 that it will start enforcement of the final rule on occupational exposure to beryllium in general, construction, and shipyard industries on May 11, 2018.
This timeframe will ensure that stakeholders are aware of their obligations under the final rule, and that OSHA provides consistent instructions to its inspectors.
The start of enforcement had previously been set for March 12, 2018.
In January 2017, OSHA issued new comprehensive health standards addressing exposure to beryllium in all industries.
In response to feedback from stakeholders, the agency is considering technical updates to the January 2017 general industry standard, which will clarify and simplify compliance with requirements.
OSHA will also begin enforcing on May 11, 2018, the new lower eight-hour permissible exposure limit and short-term (15-minute) exposure limit for construction and shipyard industries.
In the interim, if an employer fails to meet the new PEL or STEL, OSHA will inform the employer of the exposure levels and offer assistance to assure understanding and compliance.
Why the New Standard?
OSHA's new rule is designed to prevent chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer in workers by limiting their exposure to beryllium and its compounds.
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.
Key facts about the rule include:
- Reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over eight hours.
- Establishes a new short-term exposure limit 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 medical exams available to monitor exposed workers and provides medical removal protection benefits to workers identified with a beryllium-related disease.
Steps Employers Can Take
- Develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers, and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.
- Use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL.
- Limit worker access to high exposure areas.
- Provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure.
- Provide medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and give them information about their lung health.